Lacewood Veneer on MDF or Plywood

Thoughts on the practical and cost issues of applying lacewood veneer to an MDF or plywood panel. February 12, 2009

I am going to glue paper-backed lacewood veneer to a base to use for cabinet door panels. Should I use plywood or MDF? It seems like MDF would have less movement, but perhaps this would be a problem with the lacewood veneer. I plan to use contact cement to glue them together.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor T:
Contact cement is for laminate. Use MDF for flatness and use Titebond for glue. If the doors are small enough you could glue both sides, let dry, then iron them together.

From contributor B:
I would definitely use MDF with a PVA (Type I or Type II) adhesive if at all possible. It will be flatter, smoother and offer a better bond after finishing, solvents from staining and finishing soak through the paper back and eat the contact adhesive and create looseness and bubbles. You could try it if you were using a phenol backed veneer. Based on my experience, I would go with MDF and PVA.

From the original questioner:
Will I be able to use weights as a press or should I use a vacuum press? There is a shop nearby that allows you to rent out their vacuum press. I'm a little leery of the whole glue up process, but lacewood plywood costs a fortune.

From contributor B:
You could use weights if you got everything flat and the weight evenly distributed. You might try a test piece first with some old veneer. But, I'd vacuum press it if it were me, that way you would know that there is equal pressure on all surfaces to help eliminate any voids or pockets. Just make sure to spread the glue evenly. Use a paint roller or the like. Too much glue is as bad as not enough.

From contributor T:
Yes, use the vacuum press if available. What is the charge for rental? I have a 4x8 bag and the Venturi type vacuum. It works great, and only costs about $500.

From contributor J:
Two sheets paperbacked lacewood = $256 ("Premium" = $384)
One sheet MDF = $30
Adhesive = $8
Your labor = ? (hint: it will probably take you more than four hours start to finish)
One 4 x 8 sheet lacewood = $294 (our price, others may vary).

There are good reasons for shops with veneering capabilities to lay up their own panels. Economy is not one of them, and I fail to see how using paperbacked with contact cement or a rented vacuum bag is cost effective.

From contributor R:
Contributor J's information is right if you need a full sheet. If you only need a pair of small panels for two doors, then vacuum veneering your own is probably cost effective. Vacuum does give amazingly better results than weight, and the larger the panel, the more vacuum excels since the pressure is uniform even in the center.

From contributor J:
Self-Correction: labor is probably more like two hours with paperbacked.

From contributor F:
If I recall correctly a vacuum bag pulls something like 1800 lbs psi, don't think you'll be able to stack enough weights to get there. Vacuum bag is the way to go. I use Titebond Coldpress for veneer work and have had very good results with it. Regular Titebond would probably work ok, but Coldpress is designed for what you want to do, and it's only a few extra bucks for a quart of glue.

From contributor C:
Cauls and clamps with a cover sheet over the veneer also work. Remember those? The math does not work with weight alone. A few units of plywood will not come close to applying the necessary psi (pounds per square inch). At 384 sq inches per sheet, if you had 100 sheets at 50lbs each (5,000lbs.), you would only exert 13psi. PPR (plastic powdered resin) is a well tested adhesive for veneer.