Veneering, a Primer Course
The top photo is a couple sample packs of sequenced matched veneers from Woodcraft supply.
The secong photo is bookmatched Camphor veneer.
The third photo is Bruce holding a sample of Avodire Crotch veneer, with No Finish on it.
Some of you may have noticed my slight addiction to working with veneers.
When you start to investigate the available veneers on the market, it becomes very difficult for me to understand the resistance to it that some people have. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown.
Maybe it’s the fact that some of the woodworking rules are invalid for using this material. Or maybe the cost of investing in a new facet of an already expensive hobby.
Or the fear of buying the equipment, and ending up not using it. Only the individual can answer these resistances to a new method of woodworking. Or maybe they feel like they haven’t mastered basic woodworking skills, so this needs to be attempted after learning those.
I would like to offer an easy, inexpensive way to “test the waters”, to find out if it is for you. Notice I didn’t say, if your capable of it. You are.
First off some materials needed, which are inexpensive. We can start with a simple project, which could be used for a number of thing, and even that can be decided after completing the veneering part.
Using a small piece of M.D.F., either 1/2” or 3/4” thick, and whatever size you have laying around. Plywood will work for this too, be is not as stable as M.D.F. For those of you that aren’t aware, thers is an ultra lite version of M.D.F., that weighs half that of the regular product. The working properties are almost identical.
The next thig needed would be some veneer. woodcraft and Rockler both sell small packs of sequence matched veneer. This means the pieces in the packs were cut from the log, and kept in the order in which they were sliced. This ensures there will be very little difference in the grain pattern from one piece to the next. These packs come in various sizes, and vary in price from $ 25.00 to about $ 70.00. One thing to keep in mind when removing them from the pack, is to number them with a pencil. This will help you keep them in the same order as they were removed from the log.
The next item to buy would be veneer tape, which is available in varying thicknesses, and also in a solid, two hole, or three hole version. The most common is a medium weight, three hole tape. This tape must be moistened and applied to the face side of the veneer. All of my cutting and matching is done on the back side of the veneer.
Cutting can be done with a table saw, wood chisel, veneer saw, or scapel. When I cut veneer, I usually tape at least one side of the veneer with blue painters tape, where it is to be cut. If only taping one side, it is the back side. This way, the tape will help keep the cutting device from following the grain of the veneer. If it is a difficult veneer, like a burl, I always tape both sides. This make chip free joints possible.
When cutting the veneer with a table saw, sandwich the pre taped veneer between two pieces of plywood, which are screwed together. The best way to do this is to make the plywood longer than the veneer to be cut. Keep the veneer paralell to the edge of the plywood. Keep the screws within the width of the finished width of the veneer. (Just to prevent you from cutting thru the screws). Using your table saw, rip one edge of the veneer. Now spin it around and rip the other pre taped edge.
At this point you can remove the screws on one end of the plywood. Using your miter gage, you can square up one end of the sandwich. Assuming you did tape the veneer before putting it in the sandwich.
Once that end is cut, spin it around, hold it against the miter gage and remove the screws. It is unlikely anything will move in this fashion. Now cut that end. I can do this in less time than I could type it.
Now the veneer is free of the plywood. Carefully remove the blue tape, by pulling it with the grain. If you go against the grain, it will chip the edges.
You know have a perfectly uniform pack of veneer, which is ready to be joined. Decide on the pettern you want. To make a four way book match, open the pieces like a book. The four identicle corners will be in the center of the panel. See the photo of the Camphor veneer. These pieces are just lying next to each other, so dont inspect the joints.
Now, working from the back side, line up the ends of two pieces. using small pieces of blue tape, hold the joint tightly together, and place the tape acrossed the joint. Pulling on the tape will stretch it slightly, and when released will pull the joint tighter together. Repeat this every four inches or so.
Now flip it over and apply the veneer tape in the same fashion. Once you have applied the veneer tape acrossed the joint, run a piece down the entire length of the joint. Using a screen roller, or veneer roller, or even a soft brass wire brush, work the tape into the veneer.
Now do the other two pieces the same way. When you are finished this, join the two halfs, using the same technique. Now, gently flip it over and remove the blue painters tape. Never veneer a substrate with either masking tape or blue painters tape in the glue. The veneer will be crushed around the tape, and show forever.
The next deision to be made is the glue type, and method of fastening the veneer. In order to keep it simple, we’ll consider the three most popular methods.
The first would be a urea resin glue. The best clamping method would be a vacuum bag. Another possibility is a caul, with a platen. The platen applies pressure over a greater area. The cauls are spaced evenly and clamped tightly. Be sure to use a piece of wax paper between the veneer and the platen, to prevent them from sticking together.
The next method, which is almost identical to the first one, except for the use of Tite Bond Cold Press Veneer Glue. The glueing appliction method is the same for all three types of glue. That would be a short napped roller, spreading a light even coat to both surfaces.
The third method may be the easiest for some, and that would be to apply Tite Bond Type II, P.V.A. glue.
This method requires coating both surfaces, letting them dry, and ironing them on, with a house hold iron, set to a medium high setting.
After the glue has cured, dampen the veneer tape, and let it sit. after a couple minutes, dampen it again, again waiting a couple minutes. Then using a putty knife or cabinet scraper, gently remove the veneer tape.
Resist the temptation to sand the panel for a couple days. This allows the moistyre to escape the veneer at the joints. Install an edge treatment as desired, and sand the entire top at the same time. Remember, standard veneer is 1/40” thick. It doesn’t take much to sand thru.
Also, do not use your hand, to sand, without some sort of pad. Otherwise, you’ll end up with grooves in your top.
Now finish as desired.