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Using a fancy, natural veneer is a quick way to give an ordinary piece of plywood a "facelift."All you have to do is follow a few simple steps.

I've worked with veneers quite a bit (mainly the paper-backed variety on small projects). So when I came across some large pieces of curly maple veneer, I thought it would be a good chance to try natural veneer on a large project. (Like the sideboard featured on page 6.)

FLATTENING. Natural, solidwood veneers are so thin they "memorize" the way they've been stored. So before actually working with veneer, you want to make it as flat as possible. Of course, you might get lucky and find some pretty flat sheets. But many times the pieces ofveneer will be curled and cupped, especially the highly figured varieties.

Fortunately, it's not very difficult to flatten veneer. Youjust have to change its memory. To do that, I'll use a little water. The key word being "little." Just wipe the back of the veneer with a damp sponge.

The veneer will react almost immediately. But probably not in the way you'd expect. My pieces started to curl and roll like bacon in a frying pan. But that's okay. It means the veneer can now be "trained" to lay flat.

To do that, simply sandwich the veneer

Flattened Veneer

Use carpet tape to attach auxiliary-fence to jointer

Veneer pieces Jj

Position veneer flush with edges of boards


Flatten veneer between two sheets of plywood

Flattening veneer. Pressing the veneer between two weighted sheets of plywood will usually flatten the veneer overnight.


Flatten veneer between two sheets of plywood between two sheets of plywood and weigh down the top, see Fig. 1.

Note: To help absorb any excess moisture, I used brown paper (like grocery bags) between the pieces.

TRUING THE EDGE. Natural veneer comes in varying widths, usually nothing wider than 12". That means you'll need to join (splice) pieces together to cover wide areas (like the top on the classic sideboard).

The goal is to end up with a tight-fitting, nearly invisible seam between the pieces.

Clamp veneer sheets between two straight boards to square up edges

To do that, you need to square up an edge on each piece ofveneer. I tried using a sharp utility knife and a straightedge. But halfway through the cut the knife "decided to follow the veneer grain instead of the straightedge.

Then I switched to the jointer. The secret to using this method is making sure the veneer doesn't move during the entire cut. To do that, I used a couple scrap 1x6s and clamped the veneer between them, see Fig. 2.

But I couldn't just run the boards through the jointer. The clamps holding the boards together hit the fence. So I carpet-taped an auxiliary fence to the jointer bed for clearance, see Fig. 2.

With the auxiliary fence in place, I ran the boards and veneer over the jointer, checking for chipout after each pass. One of my pieces had a small knot located on the jointed edge. So I used a knife to cut off a strip ofveneer removing the knot. Then finished squaring up the pieces on the jointer.

JOINING THE VENEER. Once the veneer edges are square, they can be joined together. But there was a problem. I planned on using contact cement, and it bonds im-

Use carpet tape to attach auxiliary-fence to jointer

Veneer pieces Jj

Position veneer flush with edges of boards

Clamp veneer sheets between two straight boards to square up edges

Arbor Press Stand Plans

Flattening veneer. Pressing the veneer between two weighted sheets of plywood will usually flatten the veneer overnight.

Square up the edges. Square edges are needed to join veneer pieces for an invisible seam. Run the scrap boards with ve neer in the middle across thejointer. Make as many passes as needed until thejointed edges are free from chipout.

mediately. That makes it difficult to butt the pieces together for an invisible seam without getting them stuck to the core. (The core is what the veneer will be glued to.) So I tried something a little different. I edge glued the veneer pieces together first.

The pieces of natural veneer that I was using were ^8"-thick. Now I know you're probably thinking that the veneer is too thin to edge glue. But there is a wide enough surface for the yellow glue to hold the pieces together, see Fig. 3. I also used several pieces of tape to hold the seam tight until the glue dries, see Fig. 4. By "walking" my fingers down thejoint, I closed the seam while taping the pieces together. Note: Using clear strapping tape made it easy for me to check for a tight seam.

PREPARING THE CORE. While the glue on the edges dried, I got the core piece ready. There are several materials that will work for a core piece as long as they're flat, smooth, and stable. (I used maple plywood, but medium density fiberboardor nigh density particleboard will also work.)

To prepare the core, I simply cut it slightly larger than the piece of veneer. But you need to keep one thing in mind. When adding veneer to plywood, what you're really doing is adding another ply. So it's best to cut the plywood core so the grain of the veneer will run across the grain on the plywood when it's glued down. This keeps the panel stable.

Note: If your veneered panel won't be held in a frame (like the sides of a cabinet), it's also a good idea to put veneer on both sides to keep the core from warping. But if you veneer both sides, you'll have to cut the core to finish size now. The overhanging veneer will be trimmed flush later.

GLUING UP. Now I was ready to glue the veneer to the core. I used a contact adhesive so I could eliminate all the clamps and fixtures thatyou need with other kinds of glue. Contact adhesives come in two types: solvent-based and water-based.

I tried the water-based adhesive first. It looked promising: no fumes and easy cleanup. But there was a problem. The water in the adhesive made the veneer expand. Then as the water evaporated and the veneer dried, the pieces shrank back to original size. So my nice tight seam would always open up.

To solve this problem, I switched to a solvent-based contact adhesive. The solvents don't expand the veneer which eliminates the problem with shrinkage. Applying the adhesive is easy. Just use a foam brush and spread an even coat on both the core and the veneer. After it's dry (usually 15 minutes), I applied a thin second coat over the first.

INSTALLATION. Once the second coat of glue is dry, the veneer can be attached to the core. The thing to keep in mind is that con

Veneer Glue Rocking Chair
spread a thin film of glue along thejointed edges to hold the veneer pieces together.
size on the table saw. A fine tooth blade reduces chipout — especially on crosscuts.

tact adhesive bonds instantly. So you want to position the veneer exactly where you want it the first time.

To help me get things lined up, I put sheets ofwax paper between the veneer and core. That way, you can slide the veneer around until it's in position. Then slip the sheets out from under the veneer as you press it into place.

For a good bond, the veneer needs to be pressed down firmly. To do that, I used a hard rubber roller and rolled the entire veneer sheet. By starting at the joint line and working toward the sides, any air bubbles under the veneer get squeezed out.

CUTTING TO SIZE. Once the veneer has been attached to the core, you can immediately cut the panel to size. I used the table

are butted together, use clear strapping tape to "clamp" them until the glue dries.
Veneer Teeth Unfinished
trim the overhanging veneer flush with the core. Rout in a counterclockwise direction.

saw to cut my oversize panel to finish size, see Fig. 5.1 found using a blade with at least 50 teeth kept chipout to a minimum.

Note: If both sides of the panel have been veneered, the table saw method won't work. Instead, use a flush trim bit in your router. That way you can trim both sides without breaking the veneer that overhangs the edges, see Fig. 6.

FINISHING. The veneer can be finished like solid wood. I sanded my panel first to make sure any contact adhesive or fingerprints were removed. But remember not to sand for too long in one spot (especially with a power finish sander). It doesn't take much to sand through the thin veneer.

Finally, stain and varnish the veneer like you normally would for any project.

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