Veneering Inside Curves on Furniture

After considering several possible methods, a furnituremaker finds success with hot hide glue. September 6, 2007

For many years we have been contact cementing paper-backed veneer (up to 36" wide by 16" long) to an interior curve on a table base. It has never really worked well (we all know why). On most of our pieces, we either vacuum bag with PVA glue, or apply PVA glue, allow it to dry, and iron the veneer on. This piece is different because it is too massive for vacuum pressing. It is also quite wide and the inside radius is 4 1/2". An iron doesn't work well in there. I am leaning towards switching to real hide glue, hot pot and all. Does anyone have any comments on that? Will an FSV glue work here? I've read about new PVA glues that can be hammered like a hide glue. Is that an option? Are there existing methods for "pre-bending" the veneer (it needs to flex in the difficult direction)?

Forum Responses
(Adhesive Forum)
From Jeff Pitcher, forum technical advisor:
I hate to say it, but contact cement might be your best bet. The trick is to use 100% coverage on both veneer back and substrate and then really get on it with a block or a scraper. I understand there's a real art to using hide glue for veneering and you give up any heat or moisture resistance. PVA (FSV included) won't cut it for a tight radius.

From contributor E:
You mention having some vacuum capability. On boats in the past we have made a "bag" around a part like this with a bag piercer for vacuum hookup, bleeder cloth and good old plastic sheeting like visqueen or the like. The edges can be sealed with duct seal or tape. It will allow you to use your regular glues or something like Pro-tak, which I like even better for veneer.

From contributor G:
I believe it's possible to find a convex iron to get into such a tight radius with. And is it possible to make a male form for that tight radius, which you could clamp on over top of the bag? Or could you clamp in that corner, then iron the rest on?

From contributor W:
Hammer veneering hide glue is an excellent way to do curves like this. I don't agree with Jeff about lack of resistance to heat and moisture. Resistance is pretty good. It takes live steam to release it, and is easier when it's fresh. I've heard of adding mildewcide for use in tropical environments.

From the original questioner:
Thank you everybody for your responses. We were leaning toward the hide glue, and moved in that direction. With practice, the hide glue is not difficult to use. It is extremely forgiving - if it dries before you can get it all down, you can re-heat it and finish. I have no worries about this veneer lifting or reacting to finishes. This is a technique that is now in our repertoire. So often, the old methods are tried and true. Thanks again!