Google Lens and Thrifting


“Google Lens is a powerful tool that can enhance your thrifting experience by providing valuable information about items you come across.” – (AI definition)

I love thrifting and repurposing items that I find, but Google Lens has provided another layer of interest to this hobby. Here’s how it helped me with my latest project:

The Find:

When I was out and about, I met a woman who made a living cleaning and preparing abandoned homes for sale. Anything she found at the sites and thought she could sell or use, she was allowed to take home. She had 2 nightstands that she was selling. They were dirty, weathered, and looked like they were ready for the dump. She was selling both for a total of $15.

My husband and I use CPAP machines, and the top of our nightstands are crowded with the machine, a clock, light, and anything else we put there. I thought it would be wonderful to place our machines on the sub-surface of these stands,  while still having room on top for other things.

I didn’t know anything about these nightstands, but for the reason I mentioned, I wanted them. If I couldn’t make them look decent, it wouldn’t be a great financial loss, so I bought them and carted them home.



The Process:

When I got home, I used Google Lens to see if I could find out anything about them.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a quality furniture manufacturer made these nightstands. Also, they were quite expensive, so my $15 was a good investment. Still, they were thrashed, but knowing they had good “bones” was helpful information.


It’s still quite cold here, so after putting a dropcloth on the kitchen floor, I brought one of the nightstands in the house to give it a good cleaning and evaluation.


The veneer was peeling in too many places for me to want to repair it. And I wanted to stain the tops anyway, so the veneer had to be removed.

One of the easiest ways to remove veneer is to soak a towel in hot water, place it on the veneer, and let it sit for an hour or so. Then press the wet towel with a hot iron; the steam and heat will help loosen the glue. Ideally, the veneer will easily peel away with the use of a scrapper. Not so with this piece. I think they were made to last forever.

(Tip: If you decide to try this yourself, do not use your good iron, as the glue will ruin it. I purchased one at a thrift store for $5 that I use for this purpose.)


It took about an hour to remove just the small amount of missing veneer you see in the above photo. Since the glue was so stubborn, I had to move on to Method #2, which is the use of a heat gun.  Working in small areas, I held the heat gun in place to loosen the glue and then pried up the veneer with my scrapper. Even using this method, the veneer came off in tiny bits.

Once the top layer of veneer was removed, I had to scrape the glue off with my trusty metal scraper. It took hours of scraping. And at times I wondered if it was worth it. But I remembered what I had seen with Google Lens and kept working.


When the piece was ready to sand, I braved the cold and took it outside. The dropcloth would protect the kitchen during the veneer removal process, but the sawdust would go everywhere.


The End Result:

It was interesting to see the “bones” of this piece. While the manufacturer did use a beautiful veneer, they apparently glued pieces of wood together to create a thicker top surface, and the wood on the side was slightly green in places. I’m not sure why that would be. I just found it interesting, and it changed the ultimate staining/painting plans I had. I elected to stain just the top of the nightstands and paint the rest, and I found the perfect knobs at Hobby Lobby that matched the paint color of the drawers.


So all in all, I’m happy with this piece. And I’m glad that I had Google Lens to let me know that I was working with a quality piece of furniture and that any time I invested in it would be worthwhile.

The next time you go to a thrift store, try using Google Lens to get information about what interests you. But don’t stop there! Google Lens can identify plants, animals, and text too. (Google: “What can Google Lens do?” to find out more information about this amazing tool).






Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I am a creator of digital scrapbook kits and Photoshop tutorials. Someone needs to hear your story, and I will help you tell it.

Comments (6)

  1. Stephanie Barry

    You always amaze with what you (and a lot of sweat equity) can do with a sad looking piece. I had been seeing the ads about Google lens a lot recently. My husband had just downloaded the app yesterday to try to identify something. I can’t wait to give it a try.

    March 21, 2024 at 10:03 am
    • Thanks, Stephanie. 🙂 Let me know what you think of Google Lens. I use it a lot when thrifting, but also to identify plants and flowers. I read that you can use it to scan a QR code to see where you can purchase an item; but I haven’t tried tht yet.

      March 21, 2024 at 10:10 am
  2. oscla

    What a great story and great restoration. I also use a CPAP so I get the struggle trying to find space totally. You should be very proud of your hard work and lovely end result!

    March 22, 2024 at 8:17 am
    • Thanks so much, Oscla.I hope you’re able to find a good solution to the space issue. I totally understand!

      March 22, 2024 at 9:42 am
  3. linda.ireland

    What a great story. My Dad loved to go to the dump and retrieve items that were thrown away. He found an old rocker that my Mom thought was ugly and in VERY bad shape. I was expecting my first child, and he turned that old piece into a work of art for the baby’s room. He built custom cabinets for a living. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get his building gene. I am so envious of you and your talent.

    March 25, 2024 at 9:49 am
    • Oh, I hadn’t thought of going to the dump. What a talent your dad must have had. I’m sure he FAR surpassed me, building custom cabinets. What a talent!

      March 25, 2024 at 11:16 am
Leave your thought here