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Posted: Mar 03, 2008

Flattening Bucled and Warped Veneers

 
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Even brittle and fragile veneers that seem impossible to handle will become workable-- not to mention stronger more stable and flatter...

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I have veneer that is not flat, can I still use it?  Some of the very highly figured or decorative veneers like burls, burrs, and crotch veneers buckle and warp easily. A burl veneer will warp in all sorts of directions. It needs to be flattened before using. You will not be able to join or splice a veneer properly if it is not completely flat.

Why does a veneer buckle and warp? A veneer will buckle and warp because the wood has dried unevenly. In burl and crotch veneers, the grain patterns are in all sorts of directions. So when a piece of veneer is sliced, the plane of the veneer will be made up of a mixture of long grain and end grain fibers. These fibers will loose their water or moisture content at different rates. This will make the veneer warp.

My veneer (which is flat and is not a burl) keeps curling up? A veneer that has come from a roll of veneer might also tend to curl up, however this is less of a problem because it is curving on one plane only and should be easily flattened. If you cannot work with the piece of veneer because it tends to roll up, or you cannot flatten it without the veneer cracking along the grain, follow the directions below.

Won’t the buckled veneer just flatten when I put it in the press? The press will of course make the veneer flat, however it will most probably crack in all sorts of places as it is being pressed. Even if the veneer does not crack as it is being pressed, the glue beneath it will tend to pool up under certain areas causing hard bumps in the workpiece.

How do I flatten my veneer? To flatten veneer, moisten it well with warm water to make it more flexible. Use a spray bottle and mist the veneer on both sides as evenly as possible. Put the veneer between sheets of craft paper or paper towel. Then put the veneer between two cauls and in your press overnight. When you take it out, the veneer should be almost completely flat. If it is not flat enough to work with, repeat the process a second time.

My veneer is really buckled and dry, is there anything that will make it not crack? Besides spraying the veneer with water, there are solutions that can be made or bought to make the veneer more pliable. They are recommended to be used when the veneer piece is very warped and or very dry.  Mixing a 10% glycerine solution instead of all water should help. As well, don’t put the veneer in the press when flattening it. Put it between cauls, and just lay some heavy weights on it (i.e. books). This will flatten the veneer but not too much at once, avoiding it from being over stressed and cracked. Keep repeating this process until the veneer is flat enough to work with. (If you prefer to buy a veneer softening solution, please read and follow the instructions concerning their use as they are all different. Considering the price paid for some burl and figured veneers, it is money well spent to avoid ruining the veneer.)