I am restoring a desk and the drawer pulls were all made of wood, all but about two are gone and they are badly damaged. They have veneer on them and they are only about 1.25 wide by 7 long. I have a vacuum press and have done veneer work but not with burls or crotch. I cut some pieces off the burl and sprayed them with softener, and then I placed them in tissue paper and then clamped them between two boards. I waited 12 hours, replaced the paper, and repeated. I really don't know much about working with burls or crotch. How can I tell when I get them dry enough? Also do I need to cross-band this? I would think not considering it is so small of a piece.
From contributor D:
We may be overkilling it, but when we flatten burl veneer we change the paper twice a day for five days. Our results have been good. The cross-banding shouldn't be necessary unless the veneer is so fragile that you need to stabilize it prior to pressing to the substrate.
Only when the veneer is flat can accurate matching happen. Once the veneer is taped in to the larger pattern, it will dry on its own. This may or may not cause further problems depending on the amount of curl in the dry veneer. Sometimes this larger sheet will need flattening prior to pressing. Veneer with the softening solution still damp can be adhered to the substrate in your normal way. Why wait five days or even 12 hours? Moisture content in veneer is not nearly the problem it is in solid lumber.
How fragile the burl veneer is should be a factor in whether to cross band or not. I would press the cross band and hand apply the cross banded veneer to the pulls using hide glue and a hammer.
8 oz. water
5.5 oz. of white glue
4 oz. of glycerin
3 oz. of denatured alcohol
Stir before using.
I use white butcher paper that is coated on one side with some film that does not stick and does not transfer to the veneer surface. I buy it in rolls from a local paper wholesaler equal to the width of my typical bottom caul. For me that is 30". The width is not important; you may have a 36" or whatever. I don't like seams in the paper, so I might have sized my caul to accommodate standard paper width. It is usually a one time use, any wrinkles in the paper will telegraph into the veneer. That is why I flatten one sheet only at a time, no stacking.
Early on I had been veneering directly on white melamine cauls until I nearly lost a chestnut burl top when a quarter of it, in random places, stuck to the melamine. Although I still use melamine cauls, I have never veneered without protection since.