Laying Up and Attaching Wood Wall Panels

Woodworkers discuss how to fabricate and hang wall panels of grooved-out hardwood veneer on a plywood substrate. May 26, 2008

The project wants walnut wall panels 36" wide by 96" high with 3/4" wide by 1/16" deep coves milled into the face. The architect draws a 1/8" solid wood face on a ply core. Because this leaves 1/16" of wood left at the bottom of the cove, how do I balance this type of panel? Any good suggestions on how to glue a panel like this up? The CNC is great for doing the milling, which is the easy part.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor D:
You didn't say how many grooves there are in each panel. Is it possible to dado out at the locations and inlay solid wood, then machine the coves? I would think that a panel with a 1/8" thick face would check. I would glue up a solid wood piece before going that route.

From the original questioner:
There would be approximately 48 vertical flutes.

From contributor K:
The architect that drew up plans for the one I am working on now designed cabinets that would not even fit into the room. Just because he dreams it up does not make it a good idea. Sometimes it's best to pass on a project if it doesn't feel right. It's up to you, but this sounds like one of those times.

From contributor A:
It's not going to cost much more to stick a 1/4" skin versus a 1/8" skin. If you want it balanced, you will have to bond the same thickness skin on the backside. By the time this is all done, it's going to be way cheaper to do solid 3/4" walnut. But this obviously presents an expansion issue. Now that you are hanging tables on the walls.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
There are a variety of panel adhesives for fastening the panel to a wall. The secret of success is holding the panel in position until the adhesive cures enough so that the panel will not pull away from the wall. A few well located nails can do the trick, but often they leave unsightly holes. Another option is to use a panel adhesive in combination with a hotmelt. The holtmelt holds the panel until the panel glue sets. This is not a one person job, as once the hot melt is applied, the panel must be put in place quite rapidly (depending on adhesive and temperature). Once the panel is glued in place, I am not sure that you would worry about having a balanced panel. Can you explain your concern in more detail?

From the original questioner:
I was staying away from solid wood because the expansion would be so much greater than on a crossbanded panel (or so I think). The panel will be glued unto the wall with panel adhesive, but I didn't think this would prevent warping if unbalanced.

From contributor P:
Inlaying strips of hardwood into your substrate and using standard veneer should work fine for this application. I used this method on some wall panels about 10 yrs ago. They were particleboard with maple veneer on both faces, and then they had some 1/4" x 1/4" grooves that exposed black walnut. Some of the grooves in the upper panels were curved also. I recently visited the home and there were no problems.

From contributor C:
Your panels sound beautiful. Use a 1/16" maple veneer pressed on the back side. If you seal the surface with vinyl sealer and then finish your face you will never have any issues. Like Gene says, if the fastening system is good, then a good sealer job on the back will probably be adequate to keep things flat. The best low stress panel would have a veneer backer of thickness equal to the other side. I think maple has a lot of strength in use as a backer and it will overcome the varying walnut thickness.