Regretably, there is a lot of bad information about all sorts of things on the Internet, in magazines, and on TV. Whether it be related to health, finances, or even woodworking, myths are everywhere and they grow like wild-fire. Let's take some time to set things straight about the most common veneering myths.
Myth 1: Veneered projects look cheap and fake.
I've heard this from a lot of woodworkers. None of them have seen a properly constructed veneer panel. Instead they are thinking of particle board covered with melamine or some other thin plastic that looks like wood. Take a look at the projects on this page and tell me they look cheap or fake!
Myth 2: Ripples in a finished veneer panel are caused by water-based glues.
Not true at all. Ripples are only caused by the use of too much glue or not using enough pressure on the panel while the glue cures. This is discussed in detail on this page.
Myth 3: Yellow glue is fine for veneering.
Despite the dozens of comments I have received about this over the years, I can honestly say that yellow glue is far from ideal for veneering. This is largely because it does not dry hard. Instead, it stays rubbery and semi-flexible. Have you scraped a glue drop off your shop floor after it has hardened? Did you notice it was still bendable? Glue-line flexibility is not good for a veneered panel. "Cold creep" is a phenomenon in which the veneer expands and contracts from seasonal humidty changes on the substrate material often causing delamination problems. A yellow glue can allow the veneer to move around or creep on the substrate and will eventually lead to delamination. And since yellow glue dries with a soft glue line, it is also very difficult to sand the edges of the panel.
Myth 4: Contact cement is fine for use with raw wood veneers.
This myth has been around for decades. Contact cement doesn't dry hard. It stays more flexible than yellow glue so it will clearly create problems with cold creep and delamination. Contact cement is only suitable for backed veneers.
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Myth 5: Shop-sawn veneers (thick veneers) can be applied with any veneer glue.
Not true. There are a lot of woodworkers out there who are painfully aware of this. A thick veneer has a greater tendency to expand and contract with seasonal moisture changes. Because of this, it requires a much stronger adhesive. In this case, I highly recommend a plastic powder resin (PPR) glue.
Myth 6: A thicker veneer is easier to work with than a thinner veneer.
While a thicker veneer may seem easier or less risky to sand smooth, the truth is that thicker veneers are very hard to keep flat in the shop environment. A thick veneer is also highly prone to "cold creep". If you must use a thick veneer, you need an adhesive that is stronger than an ordinary veneer glue. A plastic powder resin (PPR) glue is ideal because it is strong enough to overcome seasonal veneer movement.
Myth 7: If a veneer is not perfectly flat, it must be softened and flattened before being pressed to a panel.
Veneers that have very slight "bubbling" can be glued to a panel without flattening. The key is to lightly mist the top side of the veneer with water or veneer softener after it has been placed on the freshly glued substrate. If you do spritz the veneer face, it's a good idea to mist the balance veneer as well (even if it is not bubbly). I've written a short but informative article about veneer flattening on this page.
Myth 8: You don't have to veneer the back side of a panel if you use plywood for a substrate.
This is partially correct. Yes... you don't have to. But you should. Why take a chance on ruining a nice piece of veneer and wasting all that time and money? Just get some backer veneer and do the right thing!
One of the most common problems is the tendency of the panel to warp after it is removed from the press. There are two easy ways to eliminate this. Be sure to veneer both sides of the panel. A backer or balance veneer should be used on the reverse side of the substrate. This will even out the stress placed on the substrate as the glue dries and the veneer settles onto its final position.
Myth 9: Oily veneers require special adhesives.
I don't give it much thought when it comes to oily woods. I just wipe down the glue-side of the veneer with naphtha and apply the glue as usual. I've veneered many panels with rosewood, teak, and bubinga and I have never had any troubles.
Myth 10: A vacuum press is a difficult project to build.
I've been known to lurk on many of the woodworking forums around the Internet and every once in while, I see a post from someone who says that a vacuum press is too complicated to build. What can I say? I estimate that as of January 2008, over 3300 vacuum presses have been built using the instructions found on the JoeWoodworker website. I don't think many of these people found it terribly difficult to build their press. This page will show you some of the many fine examples of DIY vacuum presses that have been made over the last few years.
Myth 11: Sequentially cut veneers are identical from sheet to sheet.
Many websites make it seem that sequential veneers are identical. In other words, each veneer sheet from the log will look exactly the same. This is not true at all. Veneer that is kept in the sequence in which it was sliced will have slight variances from one sheet to the next. A log is not a single-patterned block of wood. It has various grain patterns throughout. If you were to cut a tree into 15 boards of wood, each would like slightly different than the next. Veneer is the same; though the variances can be much less obvious. In a lot of 20 veneer sheets from the same bundle, the top veneer may show a bark patch
and the bottom veneer may be flawless or the grain may shift from one side of the veneer to the other.