Monday, 28 April 2014

Veneering experimentation

I have a large amount of veneer that I have accumulated over the years. I have occasionally used my stocks in smallish projects doing edge-banding or fixing flaws. I'm currently working on a keepsake box for my nephew and his fiancée for their forthcoming marriage in June.

I had some sapele veneer in strips about 6 feet long 10" wide and also some oak burr veneer so decided to try flattening the veneer and veneering the top of the box. This is essentially a piece of 9mm MDF cut to the size of the rabbets I had cut in the box upper sections.

I enquired on Woodtalk Online forum if anybody had any recipes for a veneer softener as the commercial softeners are not available here in the UK. The commercial ones in use in the US are SuperSoft 2 Veneer Softener or the other one "Veneer Softener/Tamer". The mailing costs were prohibitively high or there were export restrictions.

A few of the good folks on WTO advised a few different recipes:

  • water/glycerin 
  • water/mineral spirit/glycerine
  • white glue/water. 

I even emailed Joe Woodworker for his advice. Again it appeared that various concoctions of water with mineral spirits glue and glycerine were the way forward. I mulled the thoughts about it for a week or so and found I was getting nowhere. The wedding is only 6 weeks off so I decided to experiment.

Plain water as a "softener"

I first started with water spritzing both sides of the veneer with water and laying it down on shop paper towels after wiping off the excess. I built up a layer of veneer/towels and then placed a 18mm piece of plywood on top. There was also a piece of ply on the bottom making up a sandwich. Onto this I place some heavy stage weights. I changed the towels after 12 hours and after 24 hours had a look. Wow!! absolutely flat veneers.

However I wasn't hanging around to wait for it to potato chip again so using some Titebond cold veneer adhesive I veneered a piece of MDF substrate for the top and left it to cure overnight. This morning -boom- dead flat veneered MDF and I couldn't see the join between any of the veneers.

One of the slightly alarming things I observed was when I applied the top veneer to the glue coated MDF. I then rolled it down with a veneer roller and then almost immediately the veneer started to curl across the grain. Essentially the glue hadn't started to grab at all. Maybe this is a feature of cold veneer glue. Anyway as soon as I put upper plastic coated platten in place and a few clamping cauls everything flattened out. Like Marc with the humidor project I clamped the hell out of the assembly. After curing as I said previously the end result is a perfectly flat piece of veneered MDF :) . I veneered both sides BTW and didn't notice any curl on the lower piece as I put the MDF straight onto it.

I left the veneer oversize to allow for shrinkage and will wait a while before I trim to size.

So panic over I have no need for a veneer softener for this project at least. If I have any bigger projects I shall certainly consider importing SuperSoft

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