Veneering in woodworking is not new, it has been around in one form or another for centuries. It has been practiced by woodworkers in many different parts of the world, often as smaller pieces, for inlays, accents and other features. Today, we have an amazing breadth of wood species to choose from, from almost any exotic hardwood you can imagine, to figure woods and burls that are spectacular. With all the varieties and figured wood veneers that are available now, anyone who wants to take the time to learn veneering can turn out wood projects that are truly works of art.
There are basically three kinds of veneering, the oldest form and the one we are going to spend the most time on here, is called cold veneering, where veneer strips are glued to a substrate or base. Also becoming quite popular are is veneering where a glue has been applied to the back of the veneer and it can be attached to the substrate by simply by peeling off a plastic or waxy backing and then sticking the veneer on to the substrate. This is called Pressure Veneering and only requires a type of blade or edge to smooth the veneer out over the substrate and is ideal for smaller projects. The third kind of veneering is done by using a veneer with a heat activated glue pre-applied to the back of the veneer, and is called Heat Activated Veneering. In this case the veneer is laid on the substrate material and something a simple as a household iron is used to attach the veneer to the substrate.
All of these methods of veneering work well, not all of them in the same situations, and that is why there are different kinds ... because some work better in one instance while another works better somewhere else. Any of the pre-applied glue veneers are more costly than raw veneers and the choices of veneers is far less with the pre-applied glue types. For larger veneering projects and where ongoing veneering is the norm, the cold veneering with raw veneers is easily the most effective and preferred method. Other types are normally more suited for smaller projects.
Getting started in veneering is not difficult but there is a lot to learn and the first thing is to learn how to identify veneers. There are 2 kinds of veneers, Rotary Veneers and Sliced Veneers. Rotary veneers are most often used for manufacturing plywoods, but are also sold from time to time as veneer sheets. Sliced Veneers is the most popular veneers for cold veneering because they look like thin slices of board, which in fact they are. Check out this site for a sampling of veneers http://www.certainlywood.com
There are a few substrate materials that can be used for veneering, but MDF products are easily the most popular because they are flat, have no knots, are smooth with no bumps and lumps, come in a variety of thicknesses and lend themselves perfectly to veneering. Good quality plywoods can also be used but you need to make sure they are very smooth, otherwise the texture of the plywood can telegraph through and show in your finished veneering. Solid woods can be used, but it is not recommended to veneer over large areas of solid wood, such as tables, desks and similar large areas. The reason for this is because, as we all know, wood movement is a constant concern and when you have a veneer glued top and bottom there is a very good chance the solid wood, during it movement will either wrinkle or slit the veneer. Smaller, narrower solid wood projects can be used for veneering.
Cold veneering requires the use of a vacuum press and a vacuum bag. You can purchase the parts and pieces to make your own vacuum pump system, or you can simply purchase one. If you are mechanically inclined and enjoy making things, it's very rewarding to make your own vacuum press. You can find some very good information and most of the parts through places like ebay.ca , joe woodworker.
You can also make your own bags, but I highly recommend purchasing them. They are not expensive and the glue that you need to use to seal the vinyl material together requires the use of a Vapour Sensitive face mask, which means the mask either filters our the vapours or more than likely has it's own air supply. Either way these masks are in the $75.00 (seventy five dollar) price range which make the whole exercise of saving money rather redundant when a finished 2 foot by 2 foot bag only costs $50.00 (fifty dollars) depending on size of course, the larger the more expensive. Here is another good source for veneering products http://www.veneersystems.com/ and also check out Oakwood Veneer for more supplies
There is a small selection of glues available for cold veneering, and we don't recommend the normal yellow woodworking glues that you normally use. The problem with many of these glues for veneering is the glue never really hardens, which means the veneers can actually move a bit on the substrate they are glued to. We call the "creep". I some cases it is impossible to see, but in others where 2 veneers have been glued together such as bookmatched veneers, they can "creep" apart, and when we spend this much time and effort doing something, we don't want to have to re-do something just because we used the wrong glue. We highly recommend Titebond Veneer Glue, avalable at Rockler.
Rockler also has a very good supply of veneering woods and the tools that go along with veneering, including a vacuum press system, if you don't want the fuss of piecing out your project, you can purchase the whole thing in one package.
For those who are interested in starting out with a more simple method of veneering, the pressure veneer sheets work well, and come in surprisingly large sizes. We suggest starting with small projects with the pressure type veneers because if you get them on askew, they are not much fun to take off and re-apply.
Pressure Sensitive Veneers
For more information on Veneering products, zip over to the online Rockers store ... look for the Search box, type in veneer and have a look at all the different woods, tool and supplies that are available in veneering.
Burl Veneer from Rockler
Veneering can open up a whole new world of woodworking, with all the different woods that are avaialble and the techiques and uses, veneering can make a ho-hum woodwork project and turn it into a WOW project, all it takes is a bit of patience, some new woodworking knowledge and motivation to try something new. You will not be disappointed you tried it.
Copyright - Colin Knecht