Full Chisel Blog

April 18, 2010

Hammer Veneering – paper backed veneer with liquid hide glue

I recently ran into a problem when I attempted to lay some paper backed veneer with liquid hide glue using the hammering technique.  The technique is simple, put a coat of hide glue on the substrate [that to which you are applying the veneer] and a coat of glue on the veneer on both sides to equalize moisture to prevent curling.  The sheet of veneer is then placed on the substrate and a veneer hammer is used to pressure squeegee the veneer to the substrate by close adhesion caused by the thin blade of the veneer hammer and the gripping power of hide glue.  And when hide glue dries of course it shrinks and holds the veneer tight.

I had to conduct a workshop to teach a half a dozen woodworkers how to hammer veneer.  I was assured that they had the substrate material and some veneer to work with.  The veneer was a sheet of hickory and white oak, both with resin paper backing.  Rolled up for storage, the hickory had a real memory and proved difficult to handle.  The white oak was better but after my first attempt it failed.  Fortunately this was discovered before the class and we had time to pick up some un-backed alder veneer, un-backed veneer is getting harder to find.  While alder is not the best wood and this stuff had knots, it worked out well and that is what I used in the workshop and all had success.  Because of some extra time on the last day many built their own veneer hammers and plan on using them.

The upper veneer hammer is the one I made about 12 years ago, hickory handle, maple head and boxwood blade.  The lower one is typical of the hammers made in the class, it has a maple handle, mahogany head and lignum vitae blade

I mentioned that some old examples had turned heads and one of the fellows in the class made this one with a mahogany handle, walnut head and lignum vitae blade.

I however was not about to let this paper backed veneer get the best of me.  Upon examining the veneer I discovered that it was a resin coated paper, something new to me, but then most modern innovations are.  The hammer veneering technique just didn’t work, while it went down, it soon curled up on the edges of the long grain of the veneer.  So following tradition and heeding my own advice, I toothed the paper back of the veneer and scratched the hell out of the paper until it was completely toothed.

I sold my other steel glue comb so I had to make one for the class, it is about 2″ by 3″ , made of pure zinc sheet with the notches filed with a triangular file.

I used a notched glue comb [like a notched mortar trowel] to apply a uniform layer of glue on the substrate and spread glue on the rosin/paper and smoothed it with the flat edge of the comb to make sure it was wet.  I also spread glue with a bit of water on the top of the veneer to prevent curling of the veneer from uneven moisture and to provide some lubrication for the hammer.

And after hammering down the paper backed veneer and allowing it to dry, it worked well.  So if you are going to use rosin paper backed veneer, make sure to tooth or key the paper before hammering the veneer down.



  1. Stephen,

    Showing my ignorance, I must ask: what is the paper-backed veneer used for?

    This is not a product we see over here in Denmark. All the veneer we use at the school comes in packs of 24 or 32 sheets matched in the order they were cut from the flitch.

    Also, the alder sounds pretty interesting. This is not a species we use so much over here.

    Cheers from Copenhagen, Jerome

    Comment by Jerome Weijers — April 18, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

  2. Jerome,

    Paper backed veneer is quite common here in America, they are available in 4 by 8 foot sheets [or longer] and is usually very thin, 1/64th inch. I actually never use the stuff because I have access to unbacked veneers that are much thicker.

    Alder, especially knotty alder is quite popular for kitchen cabinets,etc., a softer wood that is easy to work.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — April 19, 2010 @ 6:58 am

  3. Hi Stephen,
    I always find your posts informative. I hope it’s OK to pose a question about a wood working topic unrelated to this post. If not, feel free to delete. I have been looking for a wood finish I can use for toys and furniture in my home and not worry when my children suck on them. I have used Boiled Linseed oil but then I discovered that it’s not really boiled but rather “contaminated” with drying agents which sound like things I don’t wish to bring into my house in great quantities. Here’s the question, can I buy raw linseed oil and boil it? Will that decrease drying time enough so that it becomes a practical wipe on finish? How long does it need to be boiled? Will it spoil after boiling or before? Thanks for all the work you do in putting your knowledge out here for the benefit of all.

    Harlan Barnhart

    Comment by Harlan Barnhart — April 20, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  4. Harlan,

    Welcome and you ask a very good question. I am working on a book on traditional nineteenth century finishes and have discovered a great deal about ‘boiled linseed oil’. Modern blo is chemically boiled with driers. You probably don’t want to boil your own raw linseed oil, by actually boiling it, called kettle boiled oil.

    I think you might try walnut oil, an edible salad oil available in most stores. It is not as durable as linseed oil and takes a bit longer to dry but it is completely safe.

    If you want to experiment buy some raw linseed oil from a health food store [you have to keep it refrigerated] and add the juice of garlic to it, this is a traditional way to ‘boil’ the oil. You can also bubble air through raw linseed oil to make ‘blown oil’ which makes it a drying oil. You can also add sun thickened linseed oil or stand oil [providing they are pure, artists use them] you can add that at about 2% and it will in effect make the raw oil ‘boiled’ and it will dry.

    Hope that helps.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — April 20, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  5. […] while back I taught a workshop on hammer veneering and the class made veneer hammers, it was a fun class at the Nevada […]

    Pingback by Traditional Veneer Hammer in Wrought Iron « Full Chisel Blog — October 30, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

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