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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > How-To Articles > Veneer & Edge Banding

Veneer & Edge Banding

Veneer is an excellent, inexpensive alternative to solid wood. Today, most veneer is rotary cut with pressure from a broad cutting knife against a rotating log. The log is placed between centres of what is basically a huge lathe, and the veneer is peeled off as if the log were a giant roll of paper towels. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

More on Veneer & Edge Banding

Veneer is an excellent, inexpensive alternative to solid wood. Today, most veneer is rotary cut with pressure from a broad cutting knife against a rotating log. The log is placed between centres of what is basically a huge lathe, and the veneer is peeled off as if the log were a giant roll of paper towels. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Typical thicknesses for veneer range from 1/100" to 1/28". The thinner material is used to make flexible, or reinforced, veneer. The thicker (often called common or natural veneer) has no backing and is available in many species and sizes. Sold by the square foot, it comes in random widths and lengths. Even thicker veneers (1/10" to 3/16") are used as inner cores in the manufacture of plywood.

A variety of species in veneer and edge banding is available by special order at Lowe's.

Flexible veneer rapidly is becoming more popular than common, and for good reason - it is significantly easier to work with. Because flexible veneer is thinner than common, it's reinforced with a backing that allows it to bend around a smaller radius without breaking. As a matter of fact, it's so flexible that it is sold in rolls. This type is available in 12", 24", 36" and 48" widths and in 4' or 8' lengths. It's cut from domestic woods, such as ash, maple, cherry, walnut, pine, red and white oak and birch. Some exotics, such as mahogany and teak, also are available.

Another useful veneer product is edge banding, which is essentially strips of veneer packaged in rolls. You quickly can turn a standard piece of plywood into a solid wood board by applying edge banding. Rolls are available in 5/8", 3/4", 7/8" and 2" widths and in 8', 25', 50' and 250' lengths. They usually can be found in the same species as flexible veneer.

Flexible veneer and edge banding are so thin that they easily can be cut with a utility knife or pair of scissors; just make sure to cut oversize pieces. This allows a margin of error in positioning, and it lets you trim the veneer to fit perfectly. Because flexible veneer is so thin, it's easy to sand through it, so avoid power sanders. Instead, use a light touch with a sanding block.

The secret to successfully applying both veneer and edge banding is to apply it to a smooth, clean surface. Vacuum the surface thoroughly to remove all dust and sanding grit. Even the smallest speck on the surface will prevent a good bond. Sanded plywood takes veneer well, but medium-density fibreboard (MDF) works even better because it's super smooth and flat. Particle board often is used as a base for veneer, but its porous surface isn't as smooth as MDF and, thus, it tends to result in a weaker bond.

Both veneer and edge banding can be attached in one of three ways. The easiest method is to use a self-stick pressure-sensitive adhesive (peel and stick). Just peel off the protective backing, and press the veneer in place. Iron-on products have a heat-sensitive adhesive applied to their backs. Hold in position, and remelt the glue by pressing the veneer with a household iron, typically on the wool setting. (Tip: Keep melted glue off of the iron's face by covering it with aluminum foil.)

Finally, apply plain paper-backed veneer or banding by coating both the material and the surface to be covered with contact cement. Once that has dried, press the two pieces together with a roller to form an instant bond. Placing a piece of wax paper between the veneer and the surface will allow you to position the veneer accurately without the potential for mis-bonding. (Note: If your pieces bond crookedly, you can remove the veneer by dissolving the contact cement with lacquer thinner. Allow both surfaces to dry, reapply the cement and try the process again.

Originally published in Lowe's Wood Post magazine. Copyright (Fall 2003) SPC Custom Publishing.

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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