JoeWoodworker
JoeWoodworker Veneer
The Official Website of this Non-Professional Woodworker ™

Part 1
Introduction

Welcome
Veneering Basics

14 Good Reasons
Vacuum Press Uses
Vacuum Press Options
Overview

Questions & Answers
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Part 2a (Option 1 of 2)
Project: V2 Venturi Press

About Project: V2
Parts List
Build the Manifold
Build the Reservoirs
Assemble the Venturi
Make the Carrier
Wire the Press
Testing and Adjusting
Mods and Options
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Part 2b (Option 2 of 2)
Project: EVS Pump Press

About Project: EVS
Parts List
Pump Selection
Build the Manifold
Build the Sub-Manifold
Build the Reservoirs
Make the Carrier
Final Assembly
Wire the Press
Testing and Adjusting
Mods and Options
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Part 3
Vacuum Bagging

Vacuum Bag Basics
Polyurethane vs. Vinyl
DIY Vacuum Bags (A)
DIY Vacuum Bags (B)
Connect the Bag
Bag Closures
Platens/Cauls
Breather Mesh
Maintenance
DIY Frame Press

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Part 4
Veneer Information

About Veneer
Veneering Myths
Backer Veneer

Veneer Glues
Veneering Tips
Substrate Materials
Flattening Veneers
A Sharp Veneer Saw
Jointing Veneers
Taping Veneers
Dealing with Defects
Curing Glued Panels
Veneering w/o Vacuum
Hammer Veneering
Iron-On Veneering
Veneer Storage
Amazing Bookmatches
Copper Veneer Guide
Paperbacked Veneer

Edgebanding Guide
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Part 5
Miscellaneous Info

Vacuum Forming
Vacuum Chucking
Vacuum Clamping
Vacuum Clamp Matrix
Vacuum Infusing
DIY Vacuum Manifold
JWW Visitors' Vacs
Veneer Quality
Veneering FAQ
Veneer Glue FAQ
The Vac FAQ
Copper Veneer FAQ
Downloads (PDF's)

VeneerSupplies.com

Vacuum Veneering - Tips, Tricks, and More

All About Veneer

Burl Veneer Table
What is Wood Veneer?
It is a thin slice of wood cut from a log with a slicing, peeling, or sawing machine. It is used on plywood, fine furniture, and laminated shapes for decorative and architectural purposes.

Before a log is cut into veneer, it is often steamed or soaked in a bath of very hot water. This "cooking" process softens the log so that veneers can be sliced without tearing and splitting. After the veneer is sliced, it's pressed flat between heated platens and bundled into stacks in the same order that it was removed from the log.

Veneer opens a whole new world of woodworking to even the most experienced craftsperson. With an exotic veneer, simple projects can be turned into works of art. In fact, a highly figured veneer can often be the qualifying characteristic that makes one project stand well above the rest. Veneer gives you a unique opportunity to work with some of the most beautiful and exotic woods in the world without having to dip into your retirement account.

Wood veneer has several distinct advantages over solid lumber that can't be overlooked. It is these advantages that have brought the art of veneering into most professional cabinet and furniture shops. The good news is that with the right tools, veneering is relatively easy and it's now becoming a mainstream technique used by weekend warriors to turn even the most mundane projects into heirloom quality masterpieces.

The True Beauty of Veneer
Stability - Some species of wood are simply unstable in lumber form. The unorganized grain in burl wood is beautiful but horribly prone to warping and splitting. By slicing a burl into veneer, wood movement is kept under control by the adhesive and substrate. Even the most unruly woods can be sliced into veneer and used to make a stunning, yet stable panel.

Economy & Availability - Many wood species are so rare and valuable that in lumber form, are simply unaffordable. There's a marked scarcity of fine logs available world-wide. Couple this with the idea that there is an ever-increasing demand for fine wood and you have a formula for a log that is worth ten times what it was 5 years ago. By slicing a log into veneer, the square foot of "face" material is increased by over 4,000% and a new economy is created for these forest products.

This increase in value is certainly not limited to straight grain wood. Figured wood is subjected to almost unimaginable increases in value and as these logs are sliced and exported, wood users are going to see prices rise, quality drop, and large sizes become extreme rare.

Practicality - If you've ever seen a classic serpentine dresser, you probably understand the practicality of using veneer for curved work. But it's certainly not limited to fancy projects. Oak, cherry, walnut, and other hardwood plywood are more than just practical. They're often considered indispensable for many woodworking projects.

Layup Options - You can create some of the most beautiful kaleidoscope designs with a keen eye and a few sheets of sequenced veneers. Learn more about cutting veneers and getting a perfect seam by clicking here.

Quad Matched Burl Veneer

A Bad Wrap, Literally
The term "veneer" often brings to mind an idea of inferior quality. This is especially true of projects created in the early to mid 1940's when fine lumber was scarce. Because of World War II, there was also a dearth of good craftsman and the adhesives used for veneering during this difficult time were less then perfect. Twenty years later, the worst of these veneer pieces became obvious and by the mid-70's, the term veneer became synonymous with shoddy quality.

Fortunately, this stigma has faded and veneering has become one of the top interests among woodworkers. This is largely due the costs and scarcity of exotic wood. However, there's no denying that veneering techniques have become much more mainstream. The processes which were once considered to belong to an exclusive group of craftsman, are now readily available on the Internet, at the library, and through woodworking classes.

Veneer adhesives have improved by leaps and bounds too. By the late 70's, veneer adhesives had been nearly perfected. No earth-shattering improvements have been made since then but several tweaks have been introduced to make these veneer glues more affordable, durable, and easy to use.

It's All In The Grain
There's a multitude of words to describe the various figures that are found in veneer. Here's a brief list of what you'll find when searching for exotic veneer.

Burl Veneer
Burl
The most sought after figure; burls have circles of random cell growth
Quilted Veneer
Quilted
A "high-end" figure with rolling iridescence in distinguished clusters
Curly Veneer
Curly
Cross-grain ripples of shimmer where cell orientation is uneven
Spalted Veneer
Spalted/Ambrosia
Dark lines often caused by fungus or insects; very rare in veneer form
Birds Eye Veneer
Birds Eye
Dots of dense wood cells typically found in maple but can occur in others
Crotch Veneer
Crotch
Very high shimmer; sliced where the tree has forked in two directions
Mottled Veneer
Mottled
Angular rays of shimmer with sharp edges; highly iridescent and creates a bold statement
Fiddleback Veneer
Fiddleback
A higher density of the same figure found in curly woods; highly sought after
Pommele Veneer
Pommele
'Pom-el-ay'
Resembles rain drops cascading down a window; has a very eye catching effect when finished
Blistered Veneer
Blistered
Similar to pommele but with a slightly larger figure and marginally less shimmer; common in sapele, rare in other woods
Quartersawn Veneer
Quartersawn
(Type of cut)
Sliced to yield a very straight grain; some veneer species such as oak show shimmering flecks of light
Flat Cut Veneer
Flat Cut
(Type of cut)
This traditional cut creates a "cathedral" grain which is often compared to the look of solid lumber

More About Burls - Often considered the holy grail of fine woods, burls are the knobby wart-like growths that often grow on the lower parts of various trees. Some believe that the growth is caused by disease or damage to the tree during its early years. Every tree contains "dormant buds" which have all of the genetic information that a tree needs to grow a new tree. When the tree is damaged, many of these dormant buds are called to action and they create a chaotic grain pattern that effectively patches the damage. A burl is often just nature's way of making a band-aid. If you've ever tried to split a burl with a wedge, you know how strong the interlocking grain can be. Clearly, a stress induced burl is an effective means of patching... courtesy of Mother Nature.

Some burls such a madrone, redwood, maple, and buckeye grow below ground level or at the root crown (right at the ground surface). The most common underground burl is walnut which is a burl that is created by grafting European walnut to American walnut for the purpose of growing nuts on tree plantations. These trees have a limited production life and when this span of time has concluded, the trees are then harvested for their burl growth.

Burls veneers will show any one of three orientations in grain.

  • The most common is frequently referred to as "cat's paw" because of the circles of grain which sit side by side. This figure is the result of slicing the veneer from the outside face of the veneer on a rotary slicing machine.
  • The same burl can also be cut to what appears to be "rays" of grain. This is done by slicing from the side of the burl.
  • Cluster burl is sometimes considered a lesser quality veneer. In this case, the veneer has patches of burl figure which are rotary sliced from the log. These veneers can often be used to on projects where a true full-figured burl veneer would be too outlandish. When a subtle grain variation is required for a project, cluster burl will often do the trick.

Types of Veneer
Raw Wood Veneer - This is the most common veneer for exotic wood species and figures. It can be applied to a substrate with cold press veneer glue with a vacuum press or clamping press. If you prefer the traditional approach, raw wood veneer can be applied with hot hide glue and a veneer hammer. Raw wood veneers are considerably less expensive the backed veneers and of course, they are available in practically every species and grain pattern.

Shop-Sawn Veneer - With a simple bandsaw set up, some woodworkers prefer to cut their own veneer. These veneers are often thicker than mill-sawn veneers which have as many advantages as they have drawbacks. See the chart below.

Backed Veneers - Though not as widely available as raw wood veneer, these are usually available in large convenient sizes. Some backed veneers have foil, wood, or phenolic backing which are used for specialized applications (usually in industrial facilities) but the most common are those which are backed with paper. Paperbacked veneers are usually available in 10 and 20 mil thickness. This measurement is a reference to the thickness of the backing, not the wood face. In most professional shops, the 10 mil backed veneer is used on vertical applications and the 20 mil is used for horizontal projects. To apply a backed veneer, you can use a cold press veneer glue in a vacuum press for a very durable bond. Contact cement can also be used. Paperbacked veneers are typically available in 4' x 8' sheets and consist of several veneers matched side by side to make up the full width.

Staining and Finishing Veneered Projects
Since veneer is real wood, it will accept stains and finishes much like solid wood. The choices of stains and finishes are many and each combination can yield a different outcome. Ultimately, it is up to you or your customer to decide which stain (if any) is best for the project. As with any woodworking project, testing with sample boards is highly recommended.

  • Burls are typically not stained. The natural colors and patterns in the burls are usually so beautiful that applying a stain would be considered a travesty by some woodworkers. The only exception to this idea is walnut burl which can be stained with a medium to dark oil-based stain to enhance the richness of the walnut color without dramatically changing the tones.
     
  • Curly, mottled, quilted, pommele, and bird's eye figures will often display their best shimmer without a stain. However, some dye stains will bring the chatoyance to its peak. The drawback is that you'll be changing the wood from its natural color. For example, most people will not stain koa veneer. The natural colors are brilliant enough and the shimmer comes through with even a basic top coat of oil-based polyurethane.
     
  • Some wood species are a bit oily and this can pose a small problem for some water-based finishes. Oily species include bubinga, wenge, teak, and rosewood. With these species, consider using an oil-based stain and finish.
     
  • There are many good water-based stains and top coats available but for the most part, you will find that oil-based stains and finishes provide the best color, depth of grain, and durability. If you choose to skip staining and just opt for a top clear coat, you'll find that oil-based and lacquer-based finishes provide a nice natural color without obscuring the grain. These finishes are great for visually "popping" the grain in figured woods.
     
  • Regardless of which stain you choose, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions and allow ample drying time between coats. For more finishing techniques, I recommend Great Wood Finishes by Jeff Jewitt.

Veneer Characteristics

  Shop-Sawn Veneer Mill-Sliced Veneer Backed Veneer
Availability If you have a properly tuned bandsaw, you can slice any piece of lumber into a veneer. There are several good veneer suppliers across the country. Check the internet and be sure to visit my other website - VeneerSupplies.com There are several good veneer suppliers across the country. Check the internet and be sure to visit my other website - VeneerSupplies.com
Convenience This counts high as an advantage. If you have the lumber in your shop, slicing off a veneer is just a quick bandsaw project away. Also convenient as long as you have a good source for veneer. Convenient if you have a good source and very convenient if your project calls for a large veneer.
Cost Inexpensive or even free depending on how you acquired the lumber. Some species can be found for as low as 50 cents per square foot but many exotics can reach $20 or more. Plan on spending $2.75 to $6.75 for good quality burl and other figured veneers. More expensive per square foot than raw wood veneer but the convenience factor is especially high if you need a large sheet.
Opportunity If you have access to a figured board or burl, you'll find it very rewarding to cut a veneer of your own. It is nearly impossible to find a mill to privately cut veneers for you. The opportunity is as good as the source you buy your veneer from. If they have a wide selection of sizes and figure with reasonable prices, then you have a great opportunity to get your hands on mother nature's rarest woods. The opportunity is as good as the source you buy your veneer from. If they have a wide selection of sizes and figure with reasonable prices, then you have a great opportunity.
Thickness Most shop-sawn veneers are a bit thick. I suggest sawing no thicker than 1/8". Beyond that, you really do not have "veneer", you have thin lumber which requires a PPR glue to prevent veneer creeping. Mill-sawn veneers are usually 1/42" thick. This is the ideal thickness because it maximizes the yield from the log without sacrificing the usability, durability, and quality of the veneer. Backed veneers have a very thin face of real wood in which the actual thickness is not spec'd due to the sanding process that they perform to make the veneer perfectly smooth.
Sand-ability Since most shop-sawn veneers are thicker, they can withstand a bit more sanding than a mill-sawn veneer. Mill-sawn veneer allow some mild to moderate hand sanding. Since these veneers are sliced (not sawn), very little sanding is necessary. These veneers are pre-sanded so you shouldn't have to do any sanding. If you do have to sand the finish panel, proceed slowly with 180 grit or higher.
Size Shop-sawn veneers may be limited in size by the capacity of your bandsaw. Mill-sawn veneers range in size but are often larger than what the average bandsaw can cut. The most common size of a backed veneer is 4 x 8 ft. Some suppliers offer sheets as small as 2 x 8 and as large as 5 x 12 ft.
Adhesive PPR glue only. Other woodworking glues do not have the strength to keep a thicker veneer from delaminating over several seasons of humidity changes. Cold press glue
PPR glue

Cold press glue
PPR glue
Flex-Pro (FSV) glue
Contact Cement

Application Vacuum press or other means of clamping while the glue sets up. Click here for more information. Vacuum press or other means of clamping while the glue sets up. Click here for more information. Vacuum press with a cold press veneer glue or use a veneer scraper with FSV glue or contact cement .
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The Vac FAQ
Heat Lock Veneer Glue