You’ll probably recall I ordered a painted console table with the hopes of removing the finish and exposing natural wood. However, after I started to sand the table, it became clear that part of the table top was a veneer and not solid wood. It was a total bummer! I knew the particle board under the existing veneer wouldn’t be very pretty, so I decided to re-apply a new veneer.
Veneer is an extremely thin piece of wood that can be attached to particle board (and other types of surfaces) to make it look like wood. I would prefer to have a solid piece of wood, but I had to make the best of the situation (I really like this console table). This was my first time ever using any type of veneer, so I definitely learned a lot and found some great resources. I ordered all my supplies from www.veneersupplies.com and read through the FAQs/information from www.joewoodworker.com to help guide me on what to do. I have no affiliation with these websites, I paid for all the products myself and they have no idea that I even exist!
When choosing veneer, I had to make two decisions. First, I had to decide what type of wood I wanted. Veneer comes in a variety of different wood species (seriously, you can basically get anything you want). The console table I ordered is Elm wood. So that seemed to be the most appropriate choice for the veneer top. If you don’t have any preference, you could look around for different types of wood that have a grain pattern and color that you like.
The second decision is the type of veneer. I’m not a veneer expert but from my understanding there are generally two types of veneer: paper backed and raw. Paper backed veneer is exactly as it sounds. It has some material/paper attached to the back of the wood. From what I could gather the benefit of this type of veneer is that it is easier to attach. For example, you could use standard contact cement that is readily available at most hardware stores and it’s possible to order the veneer with a peel and stick backing which would require no additional glue. Raw veneer on the other hand does not have a backing of any type (so the entire piece is wood). It requires special glue to attach it to the substrate (at least from my reading). The benefit is that it’s cheaper. I’m sure there are other benefits but that’s the most obvious one.
After deciding on the type of veneer, you need to understand how to attach it. Luckily, the veneer website had directions and guidance. I highly recommend checking out their guidance before purchasing anything. In general I would say, there are two main considerations when attaching it. The first is the glue you need to purchase and the second is how are you going to clamp it securely (basically, how are you going to put enough pressure on the veneer evenly, so that it fully attaches without air pockets). I watched this Youtube video to give me an idea of the process with standard glue.
As a novice, I wanted an attachment method that would be relatively easy and straightforward. I read about the Better Bonds Heat Lock Veneer Glue and I was intrigued. This glue allows you to attach the veneer with an iron (so you don’t need to clamp it down to create the pressure). I was really encouraged when I read the reviews and novice after novice noted that it was easy and they had success their first time. So, I ordered it and, spoiler, I have not been disappointed!
At this point, I had all my supplies and a general idea of how to attach it. I wanted to do a practice run, so I could work out a few of the details. For example, do I need to cut the wood to the exact size or can I trim it after it’s attached? Also, will the heat from the iron crack my veneer and attach it evenly? What is the glue application process like (will my standard foam roller work okay)? The practice run was helpful and I recommend it to everyone. We found that we should cut the veneer to size before attaching it (trimming seemed a little messy for this application–it could be totally different for your project). The heat did not crack the veneer and it produced a strong, solid bond! The standard foam roller was sufficient (although on hot days you need to work fast!). This gave us the confidence to attach the veneer to the table. I’ve included the step-by-step directions below.
Step 1: Prepare the Surface
Since there was already a veneer on the table, we sanded the entire thing off to give a flat and consistent surface to attach the veneer. We wiped down the entire surface with a wet rag and let it dry. The Heat-Lock glue directions tells you to sand the surface, but since we had just sanded off the old veneer we did not do it again.
Step 2: Gather Supplies
This project does not require many supplies and we only had to buy the veneer and Heat-Lock glue.
- Veneer: Heat-Lock glue works with raw and paper-backed veneer. I would recommend ordering a veneer large enough that you attach it as a single piece. If you watched the Youtube video I linked, you would have seen the woodworker attach two pieces of veneer together to make a larger piece for his demonstration, but this is not recommended when using Heat Lock.
- Iron: A standard household iron is all you need. We removed all the water, so that it didn’t have steam and would be “dry heat”.
- Heat-Lock Glue: I couldn’t find this at any local stores, so I had to order it online. It comes in two sizes. We just ordered the smallest size since we only have this one project. The directions are step-by-step and limited to a single page. It warns you to NOT let the glue freeze, so it’s probably not a good idea to store it in the garage.
- Old T-Shirt: Just grab a t-shirt from you closet that you don’t want anymore. We cut the t-shirt so we had a single layer of cloth. You could also use a piece of flannel. You’ll place the t-shirt on the veneer and then iron on the t-shirt (you will not put the iron directly on the veneer).
- Foam Roller: We used a left-over mini foam roller to attach the glue. It was designed for a smooth finish, but I’m not sure that is really required. The Heat-Lock glue directions said you could use a paint brush, foam roller or glue roller.
- Utility Knife: You’ll need a utility knife to trim your veneer to the correct size.
Step 3: Trim your veneer to the correct size
Carefully measure the space where you are going to attach the veneer and cut your veneer using a utility knife (my husband just used his pocket knife). My husband used a long level as guide and to ensure that he kept the cut straight.
Step 4: Apply the Heat-Lock Glue
You’ll apply the glue to both the back of the veneer and the substrate (my table top). We generally followed the directions that came with the glue. I squeezed the glue directly from the bottle on to the table top in a zig zag fashion. I recommend that you work in small sections if it’s hot outside because the glue will begin to dry and become tacky quickly! After you’ve got your glue on the veneer, use your roller to spread it out evenly over the surface. You will follow the same directions for the substrate (table top). If you get sloppy with the glue, clean it up immediately with a damp rag.
After both pieces have glue evenly applied, wait for the glue to dry and then apply a second coat exactly as described above. I estimate that it took ~20-30 minutes for the glue to dry completely.
Step 5: Bonding the Veneer
After the glue on the substrate and veneer has completely dried, you’re ready to iron it on! The directions warn you not to wait too long after the glue has dried–so watch your clock! I set my iron on “cotton” and waited a few minutes for it to warm up.
I placed the veneer (glue side down) on top of the table top and aligned it. When the iron was warm, I placed my t-shirt fabric down on the veneer and began to iron. The directions recommend that you start in the center. I actually started on the far right side and worked my way to the left and it turned out fine.
I ironed very slowly to allow the glue enough time to heat up and reactive. Although you’re moving slow you are moving, so don’t just let the iron stay in one place. I focused on a small area at a time and would slowly move to the next section. My advice is take your time and be thorough with this process. After I ironed the entire veneer board, I went over it again and went over the edges several times.
After you’re finished, the directions suggest waiting 1-3 hours to allow the bonding to fully cure. We just waited over night before moving forward.
Step 6: Inspection & Finishing
After the cure time, inspect the wood for unevenness and loose edges. If you find anything, you can try to iron it again. Luckily, everything looked good after our first application. Below is the finished product right after ironing.
Now the veneer is ready for finish. The directions says just about any stain or finish will work! We plan on putting a clear coat of poly on top and calling it a day.
I’m really happy with how the project turned out! Below are a couple of quick phone pics of the table in the entry. I’ll be sharing the entry reveal soon. There is just one more thing that needs to happen. I’m hoping to share the details next week!