Laying Veneer: A Custom Woodworker's Project

By Jared Patchin | Posted: 03/28/2014 1:58PM


click image to zoomPhoto: J. Alexander We had a client contact us about building a maple table. The client saw the original in an Apple store being used as a display table, but he wanted to use the same design and turn it into a desk.

After creating the basic design, cutting parts and assembly, we finished the box joint and veneered the torsion boxes. First, we sprayed two coats of lacquer to every surface receiving veneer and used a peel-and-stick (PSA) backed veneer. We taped off all of the glue joints and sprayed on two even coats of lacquer and began the veneering process by cutting each individual piece from two 4×8 sheets of flat-sawn maple veneer. Every piece was cut roughly 3/8 inches oversized, giving us just a bit of breathing room.

To apply the veneer we first cut the protective backing into 3-4 pieces that could be removed individually, rather than trying to remove the entire backing all at the same time. The veneer was then set onto all of the surface, adjusted to ensure the overhang was even on all edges, and clamped in place. We then removed one of the backing strips and smoothed out the veneer using our veneer hammer. The clamps were then removed and the rest of the backing strips were removed and the entire piece of veneer was pressed into place.

We used the veneer hammer and, applying as much pressure as possible, pulled from one end to the other to smooth out and permanently adhere the veneer’s backing to the lacquered surface.

The desk is 78 inches wide, 29.5 inches high and 22 inches deep. The legs and top are 3 inches thick.

The veneer was then placed face down on a clean, flat, and smooth surface and the excess veneer was trimmed away.

The pieces of veneer were all applied in a very methodical manner. The undersides are always applied first, followed by the edges, and finishing with the top. This was to ensure that the seams overlap.

The only thing we had left to accomplish before spraying on a coat of sanding sealer was to sand every surface by hand using a block of wood and some 220 grit sandpaper. Some woodworkers may use a random orbital sander on veneer, but with as thin as veneer is, we prefer to play it safe, and spend a bit more time sanding by hand.


About the Author

Jared Patchin J Alexander Fine Woodworking Network

Jared Patchin

Jared Patchin started woodworking professionally in 2008 when he set-up J.Alexander Fine Woodworking in Boise, ID, where he builds custom crafted furniture and cabinetry. He started building furniture at the age of seven when his father bought Shutter Crafts. He has developed his craft since then, moving from making wooden swords for himself and his friends to building some of the finest furniture and cabinetry available. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two young sons, who have taken over the sword making side of things.

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Roger Muller    
Indianapolis IN  |  April, 22, 2014 at 09:12 AM

I have not used large sheets of peel and stick veneer. Is spraying down lacquer to give a nice smooth surface for the glue on the veneer to attach to considered a good procedure for a long-term bond? Do you use just a regular nitrocellulose lacquer or do you use the pre-cats and post-cats?

Jared Patchin    
Nampa, ID  |  April, 24, 2014 at 03:46 PM

Roger, Everything I have read about PSA veneer recommends a sealed surface. We would apply two coats of pre-cat lacquer, sand the surface, wipe off with a tack cloth, and then apply the veneer. This project was built about 4 years ago, and since then we have upgraded our veneering process to include vacuum bags and pumps. I think it is time for a new blog entry discussing the finer point of veneering using vacuum bags. Thanks, Jared


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