Advice on Making Custom Panels from Veneer and MDF-Gluing Up

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Forum topic by gerrym526 posted 12-15-2009 01:51 AM 2834 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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266 posts in 3231 days

12-15-2009 01:51 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip

I’m planning to build a low flat screen TV cabinet, which will have frame and panel side panels, and a frame and panel top. Have some beautiful 6/4 figured maple that I’d like to resaw and plane down to 1/2 inch to create veneer. Would try to get down to a 1/4 inch thickness, but don’t think my portable planer would handle the wild grain patterns down to something that thin without significant tearout.
I would then like to glue book matched maple panels onto either 1/2 or 3/4 inch MDF as a substrate.
Don’t have a vacuum bag setup (although it will be next on my “must have” list), so need advice on how to glue up the maple pieces to the substrate.
Anybody able to help? Will I need to create cauls for pressure? Need to use lots of clamps, etc.?
If you’ve done this before, I’ll follow your instructions.
Thanks in advance for the help.

-- Gerry

9 replies so far

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3308 days

#1 posted 12-15-2009 02:10 AM

How big arwe the pieces!

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View gerrym526's profile


266 posts in 3231 days

#2 posted 12-15-2009 03:07 AM


Side panels will be aproximately 15”x16”, top panel will be approximately 60”x22”.

-- Gerry

View papadan's profile


1166 posts in 2791 days

#3 posted 12-15-2009 03:24 AM

With the thickness of your wood and MDF. I would cover the glueup with wax paper and cover with bricks for weight. Your pieces are already stiff and heavy.

-- Carpenter assembles with hands, Designer builds with brains, Artist creates with heart!

View gerrym526's profile


266 posts in 3231 days

#4 posted 12-15-2009 03:49 AM

Wow-what a great idea! I’ll try it with some test pieces-hadn’t even thought about bricks and waxed paper, but your point about the veneer and substrate materials being stiff already is right on target.

-- Gerry

View SKFrog16's profile


661 posts in 2623 days

#5 posted 12-15-2009 03:50 AM

I agree withe papadan. I have a milk crate filled with some old free weights for just such jobs. I went to the UPS store and bought bubble wrap. I wrapped the free weights with the bubble wrap and tape them with clear packing tape. They range in weight from 10 to 25 lbs. and work great. They leave no marks and are just heavy enough to do a good job.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View Alan 's profile


51 posts in 3340 days

#6 posted 12-15-2009 04:10 AM

There are several issues involved here and, as a disclaimer, these are things based on my experiences. Others may have equally valid points of view that contridict mine, but here goes anyway.

First is the thickness of the veneer you plan to make. 1/2” is way too thick to work as a veneer glued to a substrate like MDF. I made a table a few years ago with 1/8” hand sawn veneer over MDF and it moved and separated. In order for veneer to stay put on a substrate, it needs to be pretty thin, 1/16” or less, especially if you don’t have a veneer press.

Since you’re making frame and panel sides and top, you could use the maple as a solid panel, letting it float in the frame- don’t glue it in. For the top you could make the panel so that it sits flush with the frame and support it underneath with cross members. That way you can uses as much of the thickness as possible, depending on how you cut and plane it. If you spray the wood with water before running it through the planer, you reduce the chance of tearout. Let the water soak in for a couple of minutes. It won’t hurt the planer to do that. Got that tip form Fine Woodworking- I think.

A better solution might be to use commercial veneer, which you can get from a variety of online sources. I get mine usually from The trick is getting the edges straight for bookmatching and of course gluing it down. I used to use a bunch of slightly curved cauls clamped over a sandwich of MDF, veneer, and more MDF. Make sure you put some kind of non-stick material in between so the glue doesn’t stick to the MDF. Don’t skimp on the cauls or clamps. You want the pressure spread as evenly as you can. Titebond makes a glue specifically for veneer so you may want to check that out. I can give you hints about cutting and gluing veneer if you want to contact me directly.

The reason I mention using commercial veneer is that if you have a 6/4 piece of killer figured maple, cutting it in half and planing it down seems like a waste of great wood, especially for a cabinet top that’ll be covered by a big flat screen.

The other issue with figured maple is that when you bookmatch it, the light reflects differently one one side than it does the other and you don’t get the full bookmatched effect when you look at it from certain angles. Birdseye or quilted seems to work better in this regard.

Yikes! Sorry if I’ve overdone it, but the last thing you want to have happen is a veneered panel blow up on you. Even if you’re watching the latest Transformers flick.

-- Alan Carter,

View WhittleMeThis's profile


125 posts in 2796 days

#7 posted 12-15-2009 04:27 AM

Alan’s first point is very valid, if you must use your figured lumber, I would chose plain maple lumber as a substrate, but a commercial veneer as Alan suggest would be the best solution for a mdf or plywood substrate.

I would also check out this site if you haven’t already, a lot of great info on veneering.

View gerrym526's profile


266 posts in 3231 days

#8 posted 12-15-2009 04:47 AM

Well-I wanted advice from you LJ”s who’ve already done this, and as usual, I’m not disappointed. Alan-you make a great number of valid points about the advantages of using commercial vs. shopmade veneer. I also appreciate the comment on saving a fine piece of figured maple. It was left over from the blanket chest I made a few years ago, where the panels weren’t covered by anything and showed beautifully. Not sure I want to begin working with commercial veneer yet on this project, using the cauls and clamps method, but will rethink the approach and maybe opt to add a new skill into the mix. Otherwise, this project may get by with figured maple plywood panels.
Thanks again to all for the input.

-- Gerry

View Ger21's profile


1047 posts in 2554 days

#9 posted 12-15-2009 06:24 AM

I spend a bit of time on a veneering forum, and from what I’ve read, 1/8” is the max thickness you can usually get away with.

I wouldn’t attempt using commercial veneer without a vacuum setup, unless the panels were very small. You need a lot of pressure to prevent the veneer from bubbling.

I also highly recommend the JoeWoodworker site. You can build a vacuum setup from his plans very inexpensively. That’s what I did.

-- Gerry,

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