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Exotic plywood or veneer

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Forum topic by Rink posted 02-20-2019 04:07 PM 531 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Rink

96 posts in 337 days


02-20-2019 04:07 PM

I want to build a cabinet using plywood with solid wood trim, and the only plywood that I can find available in my area (Northern New Jersey) is Oak, Maple, Pine, Walnut, Cherry, Birch or Sapele. I’d like something different – I’m thinking possibly Zebrawood or Teak. Maybe Rosewood.

First of all, does anyone know a supplier of exotic plywood within driving distance of me?

Secondly, I’ve built a bunch of furniture, but I’ve never veneered and I have no veneer tools, no vacuum press, and no veneer knowledge. I have no problem learning from Youtube on the fly, but is doing such a large scale project (probably about 66” x 18” x 28”) as my first veneer project a mistake? does the “peel and stick” veneer make the process much more use friendly?

Found VeneerSupplies.com. Any experience with them?

Any advice appreciated.

David


16 replies so far

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shipwright

8249 posts in 3098 days


#1 posted 02-20-2019 04:35 PM

Veneering is a skill like any other. Starting large on an important project with valuable (or endangered in the case of Rosewood) veneer is not likely wise.
If you do decide to go that way, even if you use commercial 1/42” veneer, it will be thicker and therefore more forgiving than what comes on plywood. Thicker veneer can be found if you search.
If you learn to hammer veneer with hot hide glue you don’t need a press or vacuum. You can even veneer after assembly.

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

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jmartel

8384 posts in 2450 days


#2 posted 02-20-2019 04:40 PM

I would have the dealer special order you the plywood. I don’t think I would test out veneering on a large project first.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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jonah

2036 posts in 3598 days


#3 posted 02-20-2019 06:35 PM

I’ve found veneering with the thick commercial stuff (~1/32nd of an inch I think) to be relatively painless. You can use normal contact cement and just use a nice stiff j-roller to press the air bubbles out.

I wouldn’t necessarily do it for my first project, but maybe you can start with a couple small pieces and go from there. I was using curly maple veneer and it was surprisingly affordable.

I wouldn’t go near really exotic plywood, since you’ll likely pay a heavy premium to get it.

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jmczaja

2 posts in 30 days


#4 posted 02-20-2019 08:36 PM

Hey David! I’m from North Jersey as well (not far from Boards and Beams) and have just begun to tackle my first veneer project. I’m building fairly large stereo speakers (approx. 25” x 16” x 36”) built out of 3/4” Baltic Birch ply and covered with Zebrawood veneer. I bought a vacuum press/bag and just pressed four of my side panels this past week and had 100% success so far. I haven’t done any book matching or any advanced veneering techniques yet but pressing a panel with a face and backing veneer using vacuum press was easy for a novice like myself.

I used the peel and stick veneer on a smaller project years back and while it turned out fine, i found it was a more stressful technique than using cold press glue and a vacuum press.

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CaptainKlutz

944 posts in 1794 days


#5 posted 02-21-2019 12:05 AM

1) Exotic plywood is really expensive, and used in very small volumes commercially.
Most lumber yards are not going to order you a couple sheets of exotic veneer plywood. They will order you an entire stack of exotic plywood. Expect to pay several hundred $$ per sheet, and 25-50 times that for entire stack. I.E. You probably can’t afford to buy an entire stack of exotic plywood, unless you have a use for large number of sheets.
Folks located in area where high end boats, RV, or aircraft interiors are made can sometimes find exotic plywood ‘laying around’. When I lived in northern Indiana, < 1 hour from 100 different RV fitters, could pick up exotic plywood scraps from a high end bus outfitter. They would also sell an excess sheet occasionally if you asked nicely. Had a buddy who lived in MA, that was able to buy teak plywood stocked locally to supply several local boat mfg. He could not get other species, only teak. Expect to spend considerable time hunting for these random commercial sources.

2) Veneer work is relatively easy.
Not to say there are some tricks to learn, but applying veneer is no harder than trying to glue a paper to a poster board when you were a kid. hehe
If you doubt your hand skills or want to try it first, buy a cheap sheet of reconstituted veneer and laminate some panels for small shelf rack. You will quickly learn if you want to do more, OR want to run away screaming.
Hammer veneer method with hide glue is very forgiving. If cabinets are intended to be used over hot/steamy stove top, use the cold press PVA glue, otherwise hide glue can be great way to start out. Hide glue allows veneer can be removed/repaired with splash of water and hot clothes iron.
Easiest method is vacuum press method, using cold press glue. Stay away from solvent based contact cement methods, as they have zero tolerance when applying veneer, not something you want when spend couple hundred dollars on sheet of veneer.
Woods can behave differently in veneer sheets, especially woods with large open grains. Use of veneer softener can really help on large grain woods like zebrawood to stop cracking if you accidentally bend it too sharply on small parts. But for medium-large panels in vacuum bag, it is usually not needed. Using thicker (1/32) or paper backed veneer helps reduce handling damage during process; and can help make job even easier.
In summary, While I recommend you give veneer work a try on something cheap and simple before starting a large exotic project, you can start with large project first if you are careful.

Best Luck.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

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Rink

96 posts in 337 days


#6 posted 02-21-2019 04:36 PM

Thanks for the responses.

It turns out that I can get my hands on some teak plywood a couple of hours away, but it’s expensive and there’s no guarantee that I’m going to like what I see when I get there. Seems like I need to learn a new skill.

Based on your advice, I think what I’m going to do is do a “pre-project”. Get some moderately priced veneer and do a moderately sized project and see how it goes. I don’t have a compressor, so investing in a vacuum press system doesn’t make sense for me right now. I think the hide glue method is an easier entrée into veneering.

Thinking about these items to get started:

Glue heater

Hide glue

Making a veneer hammer

Veneer# (it’s narrow, but that will help me practice bookmatching). It’s also inexpensive enough that I can use the less desirable bits as a balance veneer.

JMCzaja – I’ve been to Boards and Beams. It’s really the only local place I know of for good hardwoods. It doesn’t look like they sell veneer – where did you get your Zebrawood? I’d prefer to buy locally so I can see what I’m getting, but I doubt that will be possible. Can you post a picture of your speakers? My brother-in-law does some carpentry work and has an account with Fessenden Hall in West Caldwell. I can use his account to get veneer through them if they turn out to have good pricing. As far as I know, they don’t sell retail – they’re a distributor.

David

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SMP

476 posts in 205 days


#7 posted 02-21-2019 06:08 PM

I’ve done traditional with contact cement and I have used the new self adhesive. I have to say I am pretty impressed with the self adhesive one I last used. It’s 3M backed. It was on the expensive side, but the shop I get my wood had a small roll that someone custom ordered and then cancelled, so they clearanced it out. It happened to be the perfect size for what I was doing and they had it in stock. So I picked it up and rolled it on with just a regular laminate roller from the big box stores. Worked great and much less work and no cleanup.

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jmczaja

2 posts in 30 days


#8 posted 02-21-2019 09:07 PM


JMCzaja – I’ve been to Boards and Beams. It’s really the only local place I know of for good hardwoods. It doesn’t look like they sell veneer – where did you get your Zebrawood? I’d prefer to buy locally so I can see what I’m getting, but I doubt that will be possible. Can you post a picture of your speakers? My brother-in-law does some carpentry work and has an account with Fessenden Hall in West Caldwell. I can use his account to get veneer through them if they turn out to have good pricing. As far as I know, they don’t sell retail – they’re a distributor.

I bought the veneer from veneersupplies.com as i couldn’t find anything locally either. FWIW, the pics on their website were representative of what you get and the veneer actually looks better than their pics. I’m still working on the speakers but here’s a pic of 2 of the panels with the Zebrawood veneer. What you see is the unfinished raw veneer pressed on baltic birch ply.

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Rink

96 posts in 337 days


#9 posted 02-21-2019 09:39 PM

JMCzaja – looks great. I’m finding cheaper suppliers than veneersupplies.com online, but so far, they’re the only site that shows pictures of the actual veneer you’re getting. So I’ll probably go with them. I checked with Fessenden Hall, and they’re much cheaper, but it turns out that it’s “reconstituted veneer”, not the real thing.

SMP – the PSA veneer does look tempting because it looks so easy. And if I don’t do a lot of veneering, it’s not more expensive because then I don’t have to buy hide glue and glue pot. Too many choices!

David

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TungOil

1144 posts in 795 days


#10 posted 02-22-2019 02:05 AM

Good advice so far. Another good source for veneer is

https://www.certainlywood.com

I built the vacuum press from plans and parts from the Joe Woodworker site. Works really well.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

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shipwright

8249 posts in 3098 days


#11 posted 02-22-2019 03:14 AM

This series may be of use to you if you do go ahead with hide glue.
https://www.lumberjocks.com/shipwright/blog/series/5437

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

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splintergroup

2573 posts in 1522 days


#12 posted 02-22-2019 03:46 PM

I’ve used veeneringSupplies for years. A small mom/pop operation but all around excellent. Their website shows the actual product pictures which is great, but it makes thumbing through a long process 8^)

Veneering is easy enough but does require some practice to get past the usual learning bumps. zebra wood tends to let glue bleed through so getting the correct amount is more critical. Large panels like you describe really need a vacuum bag and associated equipment, but once you have those you can make any exotic wood project you want.

Good info for learning on the website and remember that your bag needs to be about 6” larger ior more) in each dimension since you need room for platens.

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Rink

96 posts in 337 days


#13 posted 02-22-2019 04:12 PM

Now I’m getting confused.

The information that Paul (Shipwright) provided is amazing and convinced me that hide glue is the right answer. Paul, would you say that hide glue can be used for anything that Titebond can do – curve laminating boards, biscuit joining, whatever?

But TungOil and Splintergroup both make the case that vacuum veneering is the way to go. I would like to do some bent lamination in my next project (the same project that I’m getting veneer for), and vacuuming seems like a good system for that also.

I don’t want to spend money and mental energy on both systems. I see more research and agonizing in my future.

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shipwright

8249 posts in 3098 days


#14 posted 02-22-2019 05:07 PM

There are lots of right ways to do most things but here are some thoughts.
Curved laminations will not spring back or certainly do so much less with hard setting glues like hide glues and urea-formaldehyde glues. PVA glues are not hard setting and will spring back.
Vacuum bags are great for general veneering. I have a large setup but haven’t used it since I started using hide glue because for marquetry a mechanical press has several advantages including the ability to use hot cauls and for flat areas of sheet veneer I prefer hammer veneering.
I have had PVA creep a little and hide glue does not do that. It is a small thing but when you want the best result …..
If hide glue does migrate through a thin veneer, it can be cleaned up with water and not block finishes.
Short version:
I used to use PVA all the time. Now I don’t.

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

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splintergroup

2573 posts in 1522 days


#15 posted 02-23-2019 12:11 AM

Pauls correct, there are many ways to go.

I like using the high solids veneer glues that have the longer open times and reduced bleed through (tight bond cold press is one, veneeringsupplys has others) I apply with an ink roller (only to the substrate( to get a consistent layer.

Large objects definitely require slow setting glues, the cold press requires 2 hours under vacuum before allowing to air dry.

Don’t forget that you need to veneer both sides or the object will warp. A “backing” veneer works well if the side is hidden so you don’t have to waste the special wood.

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