Hot Hide Glue Experimentation #3: Hammering Veneer

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Blog entry by Lazyman posted 11-22-2016 04:25 PM 1336 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: First Project with Hot Hide Glue Part 3 of Hot Hide Glue Experimentation series no next part

So I finally finished hammering the veneer to my project. Not sure what I was thinking when for my first veneer attempt I chose a project where the entire front surface has no right angles in the veneer plus a curved cutout. A curved surface on the interior of the frame was also quite a challenge.

The first challenge was caused by the fact that the veneer is so thin. Because you basically saturate both sides of the veneer with hot glue before you hammer it down, the thin veneer had a tendency to curl a bit when it dried. Part of the problem is that because of the complexity of the angles of the front, I decided to allow the veneer to overhang the edges to be trimmed later. It was the places where it extended over the edges that curled and in a few places caused the veneer to pull away from the substrate near the edges, especially where there was any extra figure or knots in the grain of the veneer. I don’t think a thicker veneer would have been as bad. The solution was to get out an old iron, moisten and reheat the veneer and clamp it down with some small cauls. As I was dealing with this along the way I realized that an easier way to do this would have been to apply the veneer to the plywood face before attaching the face to the frame, cut the veneered plywood into the angled shape and attach multiple panels to form the pinwheel grain pattern I was shooting for.

The next challenge was the applying veneer to the inside curve. Again, cutting the veneer slightly wider than than than the surface made this even more challenging. Nearly every piece had to be clamped using a curved caul to prevent the veneer from pulling away somewhere in the middle of each piece. One theory on why this happened is that, because this veneer is so thin, I think that it might have stretched ever so slightly, or at least contracted a bit as it dried. As this happened, it started to lift in the middle of the piece and where it overhung on the back side, again the curling made that even worse. Again, reheating and clamping fixed most of the problems.

Applying the veneer to the sides was a breeze. First, because there are no complex angles, I was able to cut the veneer to so that it overhung the edge by less than 1/16”, eliminating the affect that curling of the thin veneer had near the edges. Once the veneer stopped crackling as I hammered it down, it didn’t move or warp.

Cleaning the glue off the surface is easy, especially if you don’t wait too long after hammering to get it off. I first used a putty knife to remove the glue that builds up around the edges and then used a 3M 000 abrasive pad with water. This is basically like wet sanding the surface. As I got more confidence that the glue was holding, I actually did the first pass almost immediately after hammering. I did this to remove as much of the glue as I could from the surface because of the spots I had to clamp down. Any glue that I didn’t removed immediately after hammering definitely took more scrubbing later.

The next challenge was trimming the overhang. I used a router and flush trim bit for the front surface and fortunately only had one spot where I had to repair some chip out. For the sides and interior curve, I had to use a knife. If I waited until after the glue was completely dry and set, this thin veneer was very brittle and pretty tough to cut in a straight line. I discovered that as I wet sanded the last bit of the glue residue off later, this softened the veneer and made it much easier to cut.

One surprise about this process is how wet and messy it was. I normally think that water on wood, especially veneer, is a bad idea but in this process, I spent quite a bit of time wetting and rewetting the veneer to clean it off. You need a work surface that you can get sloppy and wet. Fortunately, my assembly/outfeed table is made from an old melamine desk top. I chose this type surface specifically because it releases glue and drips from finishes with only light scraping so was perfect for this. Another surprise is how much glue I went through. Perhaps, I used more than is needed but I used about 13 oz of a 1 lb bag of dry glue. I did apply about 14 square feet of veneer so
less than an ounce per square foot doesn’t sound so bad.

Below is a a picture of the finished frame as well as a few pictures taken along the way. (As usual, the shop gets pretty messy during a project). I still have to do final sanding and apply a finish. With the wet sanding to remove the glue, the grain is a little raised and I will have to be careful not to sand through the thin veneer so I will do most if not all of the sanding by hand. There are plenty of little flaws on close inspection but overall I am happy with the way it has turned out.

Applied the front veneer and flush trimmed the edges

Part way through the process of applying the veneer to the inside curve. I applied the strips in 6 sections that lined up with the joints on the front.

Two angles that show with the mirror attached to the frame to see how it looks (still no finish). Difference in color between the 2 is due to lighting and camera exposure.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

6 comments so far

View robscastle's profile


7238 posts in 3012 days

#1 posted 11-23-2016 12:27 AM

From what I see thats a satisfactory result, very clever thinking on the joint methodology.
Remember veneer is always goiing to be thin hence the name.

You may benefit from vacuum bagging.

Here is a shot of a casket top with vacuum bagged veneer applied

And the finished products

-- Regards Rob

View shipwright's profile


8570 posts in 3606 days

#2 posted 11-26-2016 12:25 AM

That is a pretty ambitious “first try” at hammer veneering but you seem to have pulled it off very well. Many of the little problems you ran into (and overcame) will sort themselves out as you gain experience and you won’t need to iron and clamp as much.
I am curious …. did you overlap and cut together or joint and fit ahead of time On the face pieces?

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Lazyman's profile


5671 posts in 2195 days

#3 posted 11-26-2016 05:16 AM

Thanks Paul. Of course there are plenty of little flaws that aren’t visible until you look at it up close. I did the outsides last and it went on almost perfectly, probably partly because by that time I was getting the hang of it. It is very gratifying when it goes so well. The outside was also done with a different package of veneer that had much less interesting grain and figure. I noticed after I applied the finish that most of the problems I had with warping, curling and bubbles coincided with the figure in the grain of the first package of veneer.

I only tried the overlapping cuts on a couple of the square end-to-end joints on the inside and those turned out to be my worst looking joints. I had actually practiced this with a veneer saw using some thicker maple veneer that I resawed myself before starting with the walnut and it work very well. The walnut was so thin it was hard to cut across the grain, even when saturated with hot glue, without tear out so I actually got better results by filling a few minor gaps in joints with small slivers (some of the little flaws), The strips of veneer I purchased were about 5.5” wide and both sides of the strips were parallel to each other so I was able to butt them up against each other along their length to get nice clean joints. On the 60° angles on the front, I was able to cut them very consistently prior to laying them down and except for one piece that I didn’t realized moved about 1/32” while I was hammering it down, I was able to get the 60° end to butt up against the side of next section very well.

Thanks again for all of the advice. I should be posting the completed project in the next few days, once the final coat of finsh cures and I can hang it on the wall.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View shipwright's profile


8570 posts in 3606 days

#4 posted 11-27-2016 03:42 AM

Well done Nathan.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View hnau's profile


88 posts in 1350 days

#5 posted 11-30-2016 06:05 PM

-- Spammer in processed of being removed.

View bhuvi's profile


97 posts in 1349 days

#6 posted 12-01-2016 02:05 PM

-- Do NOT click links. Spammer in the process of being removed.

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