Simple Veneering Without a Press

Ideas for veneering without a press, and ideas for easily-rigged press setups. September 6, 2010

I am pricing up a pulpit for a church that is a very simple design. All parts are flat, though they are all too big for a vacuum system (well, I don't have a vacuum system anyhow). Essentially it is a 2 1/4" thick base (4'X2') veneered on all sides (except the underside), two tall columns (10" square) and a top to match the bottom.

Normally I would not think twice about doing this with wood-backed veneer and Northstar contact adhesive (solvent based aerosol style that we use for laminate). However, I want to try something new. Sometimes the contact adhesive leaves us with a slightly rippled surface. I would like to avoid this.

Here are my options, so far as I can tell.

1) Use Elmer's or TBIII, roll it on, and use some other pieces of plywood stacked on top to hold the veneer flat as the glue cures. Does this hold the veneer flat with few/no surface defects/dimples?

2) Roll on some TBIII or iron-on type glue on both surfaces, and let them dry. Then iron the veneer into place. Sounds like fun, but a potential mess and hassle.

Since I have no vacuum press, what would you suggest? These are simple, flat pieces, fortunately.

Forum Responses
(Veneer Forum)
From contributor J:
Find somebody with a press you can use. Short of that, I'd say build your own press with curved cauls and a top and bottom torsion box for platens. 2'x 4' is not very big. You could make a bag that size for $20.

From the original questioner:

I gave that some thought, but decided against it due to the small amount of veneering I do. I would only use it once or twice a year on jobs 1/4 this size (most of them being playtime and not work related anyhow).

From contributor T:
Search the Knowledge Base on this site for FSV glue.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I had forgotten about FSV glue. I haven't used it yet but that's probably what I'll use if the customer decides to go with veneer instead of hardwood.

From contributor M:
For flat lay-ups, in the absence of a veneer press, use hide glue with a veneer hammer and a hot iron. For curved sections, easier than shaped cauls, try using a sand box.

From contributor X:
In my travels, I ran across large pieces of one and a quarter inch thick aluminum in various sizes. They made excellent flat presses. Extra weight added. EBay sometimes sells this material. Placed even pressure.