Veneering without a vacuum bag?

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Forum topic by Sprung posted 02-06-2015 01:22 AM 891 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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94 posts in 1711 days

02-06-2015 01:22 AM

I’m currently in the planning stages of a desk build. I’m torn between using some 4/4 walnut I’ve got on hand for the top or using a good quality piece of plywood as a substrate and veneering with some curly walnut veneer I can get at a price that’s pretty much too good to pass up – if I want to go that route.

My question is: How easy or difficult is it to veneer a desk top – about 2’ x 6’ – without a press or a vacuum bag? The veneer I would potentially be buying is long enough – and then some – and is in 9” wide pieces.

Is this doable – and doable well – without a vacuum bag setup? If so, how would I go about doing the veneer work? I’ve never done any veneer work, and the google searches I did on the topic led me in a number of different directions and didn’t yield me any good answers.


-- Matt, SW MN,

5 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


7882 posts in 2145 days

#1 posted 02-06-2015 01:44 AM

You can hammer veneer it with hot hide glue.

You could also probably do it if you use cold press glue, use a few sheets of ply on top to distribute the load, and put a LOT of weight on it.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4983 posts in 2488 days

#2 posted 02-06-2015 12:13 PM

Well, my experience with the lot of weight approach has been a terrible disaster. There’s pretty much no way in the world you could get that to work. But you might be able to do it with some cauls and a lot of clamps. That’s a fairly large surface for this, but it might still work.Here’s the thing: you indicate this is curly walnut, you probably don’t want to ruin it, so do a practice run with the bottom of the and some “backer” veneer and see how it goes. If that works you have a plan, if it doesn’t you can try a couple of other ways: the hammer veneer method would be a good one, or try putting PVA on both surfaces, let it sit, and then iron it on (I’ve not done this, so can’t offer hands on advice).

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2793 days

#3 posted 02-06-2015 03:21 PM

There are ways to do this with other glues but really the best is to use hot hide glue and a veneer hammer. It has been done that way for centuries and still works best. I have a vacuum bag that big and would still hammer it by choice.

The only problem is that there is a learning curve to both HHG and hammer veneering.

If all you want to do is one desk top it may not be worth the bother but if you want to discover why the oldest glue is still the best glue and open new doors to woodworking possibilities then the learning will be worth the time and effort.

If you are still reading this, check out this blog . In segment four it discusses hammer veneering including a video but if you are considering this at all, read all the segments.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View willie's profile


533 posts in 2449 days

#4 posted 02-06-2015 10:12 PM

When I worked in a few cabinet shops it was standard practice to use contact cement applied with a spray gun. The main problem was that you only get one chance to place it right. The last shop I worked in, we used Titebond II applied to both surfaces, completely covering both. Allow both pieces to dry completely. Now you can place your veneer where you want it and using an old clothes iron apply heat directly to the top of the veneer. It will adhere as the glue is heated.

We did quite a few large pieces without problems. We never had any calls about any problems with the veneer lifting. If there were any problems while working on something you can heat up the glue and it will release but you will have to recoat it to put it back on. You will want to practice this on some scrap first but it is an easy process.

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View Sprung's profile


94 posts in 1711 days

#5 posted 02-08-2015 12:22 PM

Thanks for the input, everyone!

Paul/shipwright – that’s a great blog series there! Very useful, especially since I’ve not yet used hot hide glue.

From what you guys have said, I think that if I go this route, hot hide glue and hammer veneering is the way I’d go – with some practice first on scraps and smaller pieces, working my way up to giving a go on the backer veneer before going at the top.

Thanks again, guys!

-- Matt, SW MN,

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