Veneering Marquetry with Hide Glue

Advise on gluing up a complex marquetry panel with hide glue. June 11, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I need help trying to figure out the procedures for gluing up a marquetry panel. I have the full design taped together and ready to go. Initially, I would get some Franklin Cold Press Veneer glue and press it. No problems.

However, this panel is larger than my pressing abilities - roughly 40" by 18".
Without making a serious investment in either a vacuum press or building a large screw press, both of which I do not want to do I am leaning completely towards the benefits of hammer veneering with hide glue. I like the idea of being able to repair the marquetry damn near infinitely.

My problem is that I see loads of info on the techniques to glue veneers that aren't marquetry pictures but, no info (unless I'm missing it) on how to hammer veneer a design that is taped together. (There is a lot of tape holding this thing together)!

So does anybody know the techniques or any resources from which I can learn? Are the hammer veneer techniques the same between hide gluing a plain veneered panel and a marquetry design or will the veneer tape get in the way since both sides are to be glued simultaneously? I have way too much time cutting and assembling the design. My timeline for completion is coming quick (the beds are a gift). My last attempt with a cold press glue and a panel was disastrous (bubble and ripple city)! Any help or assistance would be greatly appreciated!

Forum Responses
(Veneer Forum)
From contributor C:
If you have never used hide glue to hammer veneer, I would not suggest learning it on a marquetry panel. Buy a vacuum bag and pump and learn that (I know you said you donít want to) or find a shop that will press it up for you. 40 by 18 is not a big panel at all.

From contributor B:
You don't hammer marquetry panels with hide glue. If you want to use hide glue you can do it with old brown glue (room temp hide glue) in a press (either vacuum or a bunch of clamps). Or pony up a bit of cash and buy a small vacuum bag and used pump and use Titebond 1 - easier and faster. Personally I've never understood the need for Cold Press Glue as Titebond 1 works so well. The bubbles and ripples you experienced the first time probably came from too much glue and not enough pressure in the press.

From contributor O:
You guys mentioned bubbles and ripples with marquetry panels. I had that problem due to different thickness veneers in the glue-up. Try lining your top platen with cork sheet. I suppose some type of industrial rubber would work as well. No more ripples, etc.

From contributor S:
I have been gluing marquetry panels with hot hide glue for many years with consistent success. On gluing a large panel I would locate a sheet of clear 1/4" plexi-glass a little larger than the panel, wax paper, table salt (a small amount will slow the drying time of the glue), two sheets of 3/4" plywood or particle board, the faux veneer pieces used in furniture work extremely well, several 2x4ís the width of the panel. Very important is to have deep throat clamps that will reach the center if the panel. If there are floor joists above the bench obtain several 2x4ís 1" longer than the distance between the bench and the joists, and hammer. The relative humidity and the ambient temperature will dictate your working time.

I use flake hide. The advantages of hide glue are many, although there is a steep learning curve. Hide glue tacks immediately which hold veneers in place. It is non-toxic, after forty years of restoring antiques the accumulated damage caused by some synthetic adhesives can cause health problems. It is reversible, which is a must for antique restoration. Once the work is secured, the clamps can be removed to check for alignment, and if there is shifting, heat and a little moisture will loosen the glues grip, (be careful not to use too much moisture in that it could damage veneer), the piece can then be realigned, this can be accomplished for a day or two depending on the climate.

The higher the humidity and the warmer the climate the more time you have, although curing will take longer too. Cold and dry conditions hasten curing but provide a shorter work time, although the workplace must be above 70 degrees. I use a heat lamp for local heating in the winter. The glue, which is thinned to a warm syrup consistency, (very little strength is required to hold veneer to a substrate), is brushed onto the pre-moistened substrate and spread thin with a spatula, too much glue will cause puddles which will show under a raking light, too little glue will result in dry spots that won`t hold veneer. Place the glue side of the panel onto the glued surface, spread out the wax paper enough to cover the veneer, place the plywood on top of the sandwich, ant one 2x4 in the center. Using deep throat clamps start applying pressure on the 2x4 from the center and work outward until the end; repeat the process moving out from the center. Place the boards next to each other and apply pressure, after five seconds loosen the clamps and spread the boards out a few inches wider until there is a four inch gap between boards, (use your own judgment).

The next morning remove the clamps but leave them handy. Remove the plywood, then remove the Plexiglas slowly, being careful not to lift any veneer with; the wax paper will have alleviated this possibility. Examine your surface and all angles looking for air pockets, commonly known as bubbles. Use your fingertips and tap over the entire surface listening for high pitched sound of a tiny echo between the substrate and the veneer. This often will occur. Locate a hair drier or a lamp, without panicking, time is not of the essence at this point. Apply some, not too much heat to the offending area then press the area down with your thumb, if it sticks then there is glue present. If it springs back without delay then more glue will have to be introduced. Either drill a 32nd of an inch hole over the area, (a finish nail filed to a thin point is sufficient, or slit the spot with a scalpel or an X-Acto knife, force in some thin glue and work it around with your thumb. Apply more wax paper and a smaller flat board to the area. Wait long enough for the glue to cure before beginning your finish work.

Good luck. If I were using a porous substrate I would wet the surface so the glue to water percentage is not altered by the substrate absorbing water.