Kitchen Remodel #5: Vacuum Veneering for the Buffet / Hutch

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Blog entry by Karson posted 06-05-2007 05:19 AM 3620 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Cutting the Tenons for the Stiles and Rails Part 5 of Kitchen Remodel series Part 6: I just installed the first cabinets for the kitchen in Delaware »

Well it’s been a weekend, not a lot of work done, but enough to make you think that you’ve accomplished something.

Two screw-up’s, two corrections, one modification. Only had to recut two pieces of wood, not too major. Could have been a lot worse, and re-planed 6 boards that were too thick.
I left off with the making of the lower case for the Buffet / Hutch. I stated that I needed to do some veneering and also some engineering for the mid drawer slides. I’ve done the veneering and done no engineering yet.

So these are the pictures of the veneering. It’s going to be a long blog with lots of pictures.
These are the tools that I use for doing my veneering,

The yellow item toward the top is a 4’ ruler with 150 grit sandpaper glued to the back

The items in order are from top left Straight edge ruler, you could also use a long straight piece of wood for edge work on cutting veneer. Next is an X-acto knife set. Put it back in the storage closet, you can’t use it for veneering. The blade is too flimsy and will follow the grain of the veneer – Very Bad -. Below that is a 2” chisel, sharpened like you wouldn’t believe. (It can never be too sharp). Beside that is a knife that I picked up at Harbor Freight, I don’t know the product number, I just know it cost only a couple of bucks. It’s great for cutting veneer and I use it more than the chisel because it’s easier to hold. Also ultra sharp. A rotary cutter from your wife’s seamstress basket, or a craft store that sells fabric. It is used to cut veneer, very effective for course cuts. They are all lying on a 2’ X 3’ cutting mat. It also is from the fabric store. You can cut into the top surface but will not go through both surfaces. This protects the cutting surface on you chisels. Below them are two veneer saws. They have a saw cutting edge. Do not use them on the mat use them on scrap plywood.

To the left is a block of wood with sandpaper glued on it. It’s used for cleaning up the edge of veneer after it has been cut. Two smaller rulers. Lower left is a piece of cherry, planed smooth, with chromium oxide polishing compound rubbed on it like a crayon. To the left is red rouge, also rubbed on the cherry.
I believe that the chromium Oxide is the finer grit of the two. It is used to polish the cutting edge on the chisel and the knife. The polishing compound is in a stick form and is made with wax and polishing compound. You will note the black marks on the chromium oxide side. That is metal that was rubbed off as I polished the cutting edge and the back. Then there is a piece of veneer, this one is walnut burl. Then tape. I use packing tape and I’ll tell you why later. I also use blue tape but not as much as I used to use. I also tell you why later. (If I forget to tell you remind me and I’ll update the blog.)

Here I’m sanding the edge of some veneer that has been cut. I use a sheet of plywood on the bottom to slide the block upon. The veneer overhangs a straight piece of wood. (Straight is not relatively straight – but critically straight) The ruler is placed on top of the veneer with the sandpaper down. You press down on it as you sand the veneer flat to the bottom board (Don’t sand your ruler, have it 1/16” back from the edge. You could also put a strip of sandpaper on the bottom board if your veneer want to slide as you are sanding it. You don’t want it to move because you want a long straight edgr. You will know you have succeeded when you can put the sanded edges together from two pieces of veneer and you can’t see any gaps.

Note: Veneer matching can be done three ways: 1) Book match, 2)Slip match, and 3) Random. When you purchase veneer you should get a bunch of sheets that are matched as they came from the log. Meaning all of the pieces are very similar, and when you do book matching it means that you take two sheets and open them like the pages in a book and they look like mirror images of one another. Slip matching is where you take two of more sheets and you lay them down side by side with the left on the left and the right on the right. They are being slipped off like pages off your printer. They look the same, but they are not mirrored. Random is where you take sheets of veneer that are from different trees but are the same wood. If you work in an office you might notice that some of the doors are slip matched and others are book matched. You could also have rotary cut, which is what your construction grade plywood is made of. They cut the veneer on a lathe and you end up with a big sheet 8’ wide and 100’ long. You cannot buy big sheets of rotary veneer. You may find rotary veneer but it could be 20” to 30” wide.

Here I am sharpening the knife prior to cutting veneer

You can see the reflection on the back of the chisel.

I tend to slide the cutting tools sideways on the sharpening block.

Here is a book matched veneer that I took to a class taught by Jeff Jewitt on finishing. I won best in class with this. It was all done with French Polishing.

You need to get your veneer and lay it out, so you can measure width and length. You might need 1 sheet or multiple sheets, depending on what you are covering. In my case I need 17 ½” wide by 23” long. The veneer was 11” wide so I needed to use 9” on 2 sheets and book match them. I’m using Cherry Burl Veneer of this Buffet, with cherry lumber.

So I needed a total of 4 sheets for both ends.

You will note that all 4 sheets look the same on the visible edge. I lay the veneer on the cutting mat with one edge lined up on a line of the mat, the ruler is now lined up on another line. This will give me an approx. 90 deg edge.

I’m cutting the veneer to 24” so I have a little extra. I then separate the piece.

The sandpaper on the ruler keeps it from moving around as I drag the knife down its edge. The mfg cut on the original veneer was straight so I didn’t need to sand it straight.

I use small pieces of packing take to hold the edges together. You press the tape on one sheet of veneer and pull the tape tight to the other sheet of veneer and then place the tape on its surface.

I then use the roll of tape and completely cover the entire seam. Press it down firmly to hold the surface together.

You now have a seamed joint.

Now as to why I don’t use blue tape. If you put blue tape into the veneer bag it is pressed so hard that it actually compresses the veneer and you see marks where the tape was. Plus it is a bear to get off. The packing tape is so thin it leaves no mark on the veneer and it pulls of without taking a lot of wood with it.

Now it’s a matter of cutting it to width.. You want the joint to be in the middle of the panel. Not an 11” on one side and 6” on the other. So I needed 17” so I’m cutting it to 18” wide. 9” from the seam

You then end up with a 24” long panel that is 18” wide.

Do be careful cutting veneer with surgically sharp tools. Flesh is real easy to cut sliding the knife down the ruler that is being held with fingers.

This veneer has a defect. As yours will probably have also. I will fill this hole with epoxy and cherry sanding dust and then sand it smooth to the surface. It will match the small void that is present.

When you get done you will end up with three panels, all the same size (these are for the back)

And some scrap. Don’t cry maybe you will find a use for it later, but you should probably trash it and consider that you got the best and leaving the scraps.

Now I get my plywood and mark the edges of the veneer sheets. Leaving a gap between the sheets, or you could tape them together for easy of aligning them on the base. I’m using big orange box plywood called sanding ply. It’s almost like Baltic birch (9 layers of wood in ¾”) and the face is being covered anyway so I don’t need the birch ply.

I also mark the center line of the base so that it can be aligned straight with the veneer. I start putting on the glue not too thick because with this veneer there are lots of pores for the glue to come through to the next surface.

I’ve also use a small 4” foam paint roller to spread the glue. The roller sucks up the glue from the first panel and gives it up on the second panels. So it’s harder to control the amount of glue that you need to put down.

I didn’t have a lot of time to take pictures and get this panel into the vacuum veneering bag.

What I did is I covered the veneer and the base with butcher paper. It has a plastic coating that keeps meat juices from running out. In my case I want to keep glue juices from running out all over my veneer bag and sticking everything together into a solid block of STUFF. I have covered the paper with a product call a fishnet caul. This caused problem #1. This is the veneer press sucking down the veneer and my base wood.

Four hours later out of the bag

Problem #1

The caul didn’t press down effectively on the veneer and I ended up with a big fold/bubble in the veneer at the seam.

What to do: Solution #1 Wet it down with water and put a piece of plywood on top to try and press it flat. #2 cut it out and put in a patch #3 leave it alone. (It’s handmade, a carpenters mark) #4 Put new veneer on the back and start again. Of the three panels, two had a problem and the third one was ok.
Since the glue was not fully cured I started with #1. I took a water bottle and covered the appropriate places with water. I put the butcher paper back on top, I then put another piece of Plywood on top of the paper, and I then placed the fishnet caul on top of that. Back in the bag

The fishnet caul softenes the edge of the plywood so that the veneer bag is not punctured by a sharp edge of the plywood.

I left it in the bag overnight and in the morning low-and-behold. It’s cured

The bubble is gone. I let it sit out while I glue up the next panels and the bubble didn’t reappear.
The veneer overhung the base by ¼” on one side and ¾” on the other.

Both sheets of ply glued up with veneer. The two ends and the back panels. You can see the glue that came through the pores of the veneer. I’ll use a scraper to take it off.

Now it’s a matter of cutting the separate panels from the sheet and cutting the rabbit on the back so that the panel will slide into the dado on the legs and the stiles and rails.

Dry fitting the 3 back panels into the stiles and rails.

Now separating the side panels from its sheet.

The end panels dry fitted.

The inside of the end panels

I mentioned earlier having to re thickness plane six pieces of wood. You probably see them on the previous picture. They were too thick and wouldn’t let the panel fit in. I had to make them 5/8 instead of ¾” thick.

Oh! Why not. Dry fit the base so far.


The inside

Now it’s time for engineering for the bottom and for the middle drawer slide.
We can talk later.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

7 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4550 days

#1 posted 06-05-2007 05:28 AM

Great post Karson. Thanks for all of the information.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4592 days

#2 posted 06-05-2007 06:48 AM

Karson -

I had to read this several times! Excellent post and very rich with information and learning points. I very much appreciate your step-by-step process and wonderful photos. Your panels turned out great and the project is really progressing nicely. This was a very timely post as I am just starting to work with a press in my shop. Much smaller scale than you – but as with most things, I am sure this skill will grow on me and I will start using it a lot. I will need to read your post again as I have made some notes and I am sure there is more to glean!

My first veneering project will be some cherry veneered panels for my cherry quilt chests. Later I want to try some panels with other species that will contrast nicely with a cherry frame.

Thank you for a very well written and illustrated posting. Excellent!


View Billp's profile


804 posts in 4653 days

#3 posted 06-08-2007 02:21 AM

I really enjoy reading your progress and watching the videos. You are convincing me to try veenering. Keep up the good work.

-- Billp

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4764 days

#4 posted 06-08-2007 04:40 AM

Very nice job and great post. Very detailed and informative. Try not to bleed for each project. My projects seem to require a little blood every now and then, no matter how careful I think I’m being. It really looks great.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View mot's profile


4926 posts in 4489 days

#5 posted 06-08-2007 04:52 AM

Wow! That’s a great description, karson! Thanks for the writeup. This is “Veneer Day,” at Lumberjocks!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 4547 days

#6 posted 06-09-2007 02:00 AM

Thanks, Karson. As always, a very information-rich blog post and has been added to my favorites.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4458 days

#7 posted 06-09-2007 02:10 PM

Very nice. Thats gonna be one handsome cabinet.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

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