Gluing veneers

Some tips for gluing down veneer. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

I have recently made a coffee table using an oak veneer top with mahagony veneer inlays. I used contact cement to glue the top down. I have a question and a possible tip.

Tip: When gluing the veneer (or counter top) use 1/4" dowels 6" from each other running along the width of the top after contact cement sets up. Position the veneer on the dowels and remove the dowels 1 by 1 as you stick the veneer to the table top. This works well with formica but you don't need as many dowels.

Question: What else can be used to glue the veneer? Contact cement is a little soft once it's finished and it's difficult to get a thin, smooth surface after gluing. This is more apparent when you use a knife to cut grooves for inlays. It's difficult to keep the inlay veneer even with the rest of the table's veneer due to the thickness and globbiness (that's a technical term) of the contact cement. Yellow wood glue can bleed through the surface as you mentioned in a previous question. I have no vacuum capabilities in my shop and probably never will due to it's size and expense. Is there an alternative to glue the veneer?

The other adhesive I like for veneers and inlays is a film adhesive--the glue comes in a sheet. This allows for even application of the glue--each sheet is very uniform. To soften the glue to get it to work, heat is required, which may mean that the film adhesives aren't for you. But thejob is outstanding. With no excess glue, squeeze through isn't much of a problem. And there is no water, so swelling isn't a problem either. And assembly time is as long as needed (compared to contact adhesives--don't ever move a contact adhesive joint).

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Click on Wood Doctor Archives to peruse past answers.

If you would like to obtain a copy of "The Wood Doctor's Rx", visit the Wood Education and Resource Center Web site for more information.