In woodworking, veneer refers to thin slices of wood, usually thinner than 3 mm (1/8 inch), that typically are glued onto core panels (typically wood, particle board or medium-density fiberboard) to produce flat panels such as doors, tops and panels for cabinets, parquet floors and parts of furniture.
Veneering wood was once thought of as a painstaking and time-consuming task, but it has come a long way recently. There are now many varieties of veneer, with applications that have evolved for convenience. Nonetheless, when you want a high quality job, you hire a high quality craftsman like us at Littlefield & Sons.
Veneering plays a big role on how your piece looks and feels.
So the decisions made here have a massive impact and we don't make them on impulse. We utilize our decades of experience in judging how best to proceed.
- First, we choose between a rotary or sliced veneer. Rotary veneers are what plywood is made out of and generally produce an appearance that many people don't like. However, they can also come in larger sheets and may be the only option for very large projects. Sliced veneer looks like normal lumber, and allows us to get really beautiful grain detail.
Next, we deliberate between a random or book-matched veneer. In book matched sets, we get the pieces that were cut one next to the other, so that the grain patterns match up. This can be used to create beautiful designs. However, unmatched random sets may look more "natural."
There a number of methods of applying veneer to the piece. We can get veneer sheets that have adhesive already applied to one side (which can be carefully applied like a sticker), or we can get regular veneer which requires separate adhesives.
Veneers are attached to a substrate, or base material. Usually this is either another wood or it is a cheaper material altogether, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF). These man-made materials are probably the best option, since they usually allow you to save the most money.
Last, we choose a glue. We use a professional high strength wood veneering glue that prevents your veneer from wandering and bubbling in humid environments. Only the best will do.
Applying the Veneer
- We cut our veneer to the size required, making sure to leave as little overhang as possible.
- Using a very short nap roller, we apply contact cement to the substrate where we are placing our veneer. We roll in both directions in order to guarantee 100% coverage of the substrate surface.
- We go through the same motions to apply contact cement to the veneer, also making sure to get 100% coverage. We double check to ensure that there are no dry spots.
- You can't rush perfection, so patience is a key part of our process. We allow some time to pass, enough for the adhesive to dry slightly until it feels somewhat tacky, but not enough to hold a sheet of paper or your hair. This generally takes 5-10 minutes.
- We place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on the substrate. This will go between the substrate and the veneer while we align the veneer, to help us get it as straight as possible without joining the pieces until they're ready.
- We start aligning the veneer with the corners first, then the edges. We begin pressing it down so that the two glued sides touch, removing the wax paper as we go.
- Applying the finishing touches by hand, we smooth out the piece of veneer, starting from the center and moving out toward the edges, applying firm pressure to ensure that full contact is made. Next, we'll use a flat smoothing tool to apply pressure in one direction and then the other, just like the adhesive was applied.
- Last, we trim the edges using a utility knife, and then sand the edges using high grit sandpaper to give it the smooth, beautiful feeling it deserves.