How to Properly Apply Wood Veneers

Wood veneering is the process of gluing thin pieces of wood to thicker, more solid pieces of wood, often called base wood or substrate. This base wood is usually made of particle board or plywood. Veneers are frequently made from expensive wood such as mahogany or maple. Veneers also give the appearance of expensive decorative wood but are less costly compared to crafting the furniture from solid pieces of lumber.

Steps To Apply Veneers Properly

Learning how to apply wood veneers properly is not difficult; veneering does, however, require care. Methods vary slightly depending on which form of veneer is used.

  • Start by preparing the substrate. The substrate should be as flat, smooth and free from blemishes as possible. If needed, plane and sand the surface to make sure it is smooth.
  • It used to be necessary to roughen the substrate after sanding in order to provide a foothold for the glue. This is not as important today because modern glues have greater adhesion, although it is still a recommended precaution. Use a toothing plane or 150-grit sandpaper to roughen the surface; wipe away any residue left by the sanding.
  • If using knife- or saw-cut veneer, spread the glue quickly and evenly on the substrate with a large brush or glue roller. Place the veneer in position and gently stroke it down flat, using the side of your hand. With knife-cut veneers, use a veneer hammer to more firmly press the veneer onto the substrate. Hold the hammer by the handle with one hand while pressing against the back of its blade with the other. Work in several directions, beginning in the center and moving outward to squeeze out air bubbles and excess glue. Let the glue dry completely, usually 24 to 48 hours.
  • If the veneer is saw-cut, use wood or metal pads and clamps to press the veneer onto the substrate rather than a veneer hammer. After positioning the veneer, gently press it in place with your hand, working outward. Lay the pad across the entire piece of veneer; the veneer will be sandwiched between the pad and the work table underneath the substrate and held in place with clamps. Tighten the clamps in the center first and then those at the edge.
  • Paper-backed veneer does not need glue. Simply peel the backing away, position the veneer on the substrate and gently pat it down; again, work from the center outward.
  • Don’t forget to trim and cut the edges of the wood veneers. This is an important step that is necessary and adds to the beauty of the furniture piece.

With care, veneers can last a long time. Dust regularly with a soft, damp, lint-free cloth; wipe dry with a soft cloth in the direction of the wood grain. Every six months use a soft cloth to apply a good-quality furniture polish; do not use oil-based polishes or polishes that contain abrasives or waxes. Keep veneered surfaces away from sunlight.

*Credit for images goes to caroslines.