The fine art of wood veneering is a simple, inexpensive way to use beautiful, exotic and rare woods in your woodworking projects. In fact, most of the world's most precious and rare woods are available only as veneers.
Wood veneer is generally sliced to a thickness of about 1-28th of an inch, although it's available in thicknesses of 1-16th, 1-40th and 1-64th of an inch, too.
Veneering requires no special skills and only a few basic hand tools: a veneer saw, utility knife, 2-inch veneer roller, glue brush and glue, 4-inch short-nap paint roller, thinner, veneer tape, push pins, combination square and a steel rule straightedge.
Any flat surface takes veneer easily, which is why projects like a Parsons table with its square legs and sharp corners make it ideal for learning the craft. Using a veneer saw and a steel rule straightedge, start by cutting the veneer for the inside leg surfaces. That's where any early mistakes will show the least. Always cut veneer slightly oversized so you can position it exactly and trim it for a perfect fit.
Next, apply veneer glue or contact cement to the veneer and to the inside leg surface with a 2 1/2-inch brush or a short-nap paint roller. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly, then apply a second light coat to both surfaces to ensure 100 percent coverage. Wait for the second coat to dry.
Now, cover the leg's glued surface with a strip of wax paper. The paper prevents the glued surfaces from bonding and allows you to shift the veneer accurately into position. Place the paper so that one-half inch of the glued surface at the top of the leg is exposed. Butt one end of the veneer strip against the apron between the table's legs, center it over the leg and press down over the exposed area. Before removing the wax paper, be certain that the veneer overlaps along both sides and the bottom edge.
Finally, remove the wax paper and press the veneer down firmly with a 2-inch wood veneer roller to ensure total contact for a good bond.
With a sharp utility knife, trim the overhanging veneer flush with the leg. Clap a back-up board on the veneered surface and cut against this board from the under side of the veneer. Do the other inside leg surfaces the same way.
The veneer on the outside leg surfaces should join that on the apron with a mitered angle. Make the leg veneer a little oversized and miter the apron veneer precisely. Slip the leg veneer under the apron veneer and mark the cut with a fine pencil line. Using a veneer saw and a straightedge, cut the leg veneer miter against a sheet of scrap wood to protect the workbench surface. Push pins hold the veneer strips to the apron and legs so you can align the joint accurately and secure it with gummed veneer tape.
Assemble and tape all three sections for the two legs and apron on one side of the table before applying glue. Let it dry and then locate the veneer assembly precisely over the wax paper before bonding it to the table and trimming as you did with the inside leg veneer. Do the other three sides of the table.
When veneering an area as wide as a table top, you'll have to join two or more sheets by edge-gluing. Or, as a timesaving alternative, you could use flexible paper-backed veneers commonly available in 24- and 36-inch widths. Adhesive-backed, peel-and-stick veneers and iron-on veneers are also available in 24-inch sheets.
If you edge-glue veneer sheets to widen them, ensure a tight-fitting, inconspicuous joint by planing the abutting veneer edges straight with a simple joining jig you can make. All it requires is two straight hardwood boards and two machine bolts with wing nuts. Clamp both veneer pieces in the jig and trim the edges simultaneously with a block plane. By holding the plane at an angle, the blade will cut the veneer but will not hit the jig because only the smooth, flat surface of the plane shoe bears on the guide. Then you can tape the veneer pieces together to form a wider sheet.
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