I really, really didn't want to use contact cement to apply veneer. I read
all of the posts telling me why I should use contact cement. But, I
really, really didn't want to use contact cement! Contact cement is hazardous to
your health. It is messy to work with. It is unforgiving of positioning errors,
and there is some concern about its long term stability.
I use yellow glue, Titebond II to be exact. The
"Peerless Pipe" was the first
project I used this technique on. That cabinet is 45" tall and the
combined sides and baffle, around the 1 1/2" radius round-overs, is 32".
This would have been unmanageable without at least a couple of helpers if I'd
used contact cement. It went without a hitch using yellow glue. Here are some points of
One of the beauties of using Titebond II glue for veneering is that it does not fully
cure for days, possibly longer. This gives plenty of time to fix any bubbles that form,
and if you can't complete the veneering process in one day, it is not a problem. I
wouldn't wait beyond two days to compete the veneering. It probably would be fine, by
why press your luck?
- The Veneer: The veneer was 10 mil paperbacked red oak
from Tape-Ease. I cut the veneer
to size indoors, then took the pieces out to my shop area which is in
the open air. This is Memphis TN, The temperature gets to 95 and the humidity
follows. By the second day, unused pieces of veneer had curled badly because the
oak swelled like a sponge. I think that this contributed to the minor bubbling
problems I had. Next time, I will leave the veneer outside for a couple of days
prior to use.
- Surface Prep: While surface prep is not as critical as it
is for a paint job, significant blemishes can show through 10mil veneer. Light-weight
spackling compound is very good for filling screw hopes and minor gouges. If you need to
do build up a major thickness of material, water putty or bondo may be necessary.
Use a wood sanding block to back your sand paper. This will go a long way toward keeping
the edges square. Slight rounding of the edges of your cabinet will cause a lot of grief
when you apply the veneer. Go over the entire surface with 100 grit paper to break the
glaze on MDF or smooth the grain of plywood. Then sand the cabinet smooth with 220 grit.
If you use an electric sander, be very, very careful that you do not round the edges.
- Glue up: The key to making this technique work is proper
application of glue to the cabinet and veneer. Only work to opposite sides at one time.
Don't try to apply glue to all six sides
at once. You must trim and sand the edges of each piece of veneer prior to applying
adjacent pieces. If you apply glue to an adjacent surface, you will not be able to sand
the edge of the veneer level with the adjacent side. By far the easiest way to trim the
veneer is with a flush cut bit in a router. Finish with light sanding
- Thin the glue with 10% water. This will make the glue level better, and allow the
initial coat of glue to penetrate MDF better.
- Mask the edges of any previously applied veneer. Make every effort to avoid getting
glue on the good surface of the veneer. While you can sand errant glue off of the
veneer, anything that you miss will show up when you apply stain.
- Apply glue to the box and the veneer with a small paint roller. I use cheap foam
trim rollers, which I keep in Ziplock bags between applications. Make sure that
you get complete coverage and that the glue layer is reasonably thick. You want the
entire surface to be opaque yellow.
- The glue is dry once it becomes transparent. The change in obvious. Apply a second
coat to the box only. Look carefully for any areas that did not get covered in with the
first coat, particularly the "end grain" of MDF and Plywood.
- Make sure all of the glued surfaces are dry. If you attempt to mate a piece that is
still wet, it will grab just like contact cement. It's going to take at least a couple
of hours for the glue to dry, so go do something else. When the glue IS dry, pick
out any bugs and/or lumps.
- Applying the Veneer: The key to making this technique work is heat, lots of heat. Set the iron
to "Cotton". (Running the iron on "Linen", or full hot, will scorch the glue and the bond
will suffer. Keep the iron moving to prevent scorching, but, then, a little surface
scorching is no big deal, at least on red oak. It will sand off easily. Keep heat on each
surface for a couple of minutes to insure that the glue melts. The surface should be too
hot to hold your hand on. I attribute what bubbling I had to insufficient heat. If your
veneer is susceptible to scorching and this will be a problem, use a piece of parchment
paper (as used in baking) between the iron and the veneer.
Give some thought as to what surfaces to veneer first. This technique will leave a very
thin line that will not accept stain. Also, the end grain of the veneer may stain darker
that the flat surfaces. I usually do sides, front and back, then top and bottom. You
will need to trim each pair of pieces of veneer before applying the next pair.
- Bubbles and Edges: I got a few bubbles overnight the first day.
Since I gained some experience with veneering, I rarely have bubbles any more. Slit the
bubbles with a utility knife along grain features. Iron the bubbles down, almost to the
point of scorching the veneer. Check that all of the edges are secure. If not, heat the
veneer and then apply pressure with a scrap of MDF until the glue cools.