How to Use Wood Veneer

Updated July 20, 2017

Wood veneers are thin slices or flitches of wood cut from felled timber. Producing veneers from logs is more cost effective, producing less waste than converting logs into planks. The construction of furniture made from endangered exotic woods in solid form would be cost prohibitive, similar furniture constructed from veneered man-made boards is environmentally friendly and costs less. Unlike solid timbers, veneer covered boards do not split, twist or warp. Veneer can be applied to curved surfaces, allowing designs otherwise impossible to make using solid wood. Veneer is available raw, paperbacked, or ready glued for iron-on application.

Select your veneer. Raw veneer can be brittle, warped, twisted, with holes and splits so choose examples requiring the least preparation. If matching patterns of veneer, or "laying-up," select flitches cut in sequence from the log.

Prepare your veneer for gluing. Use a veneer softener to make the veneer more malleable, essential for flattening veneer or allowing it to cover undulating surfaces. Fill holes and splits with wood filler. Use masking tape to match and join pieces of veneer together to achieve coverage of the substrate board to be veneered. Lay masking tape on both sides along lines to be cut to prevent splitting. Cut using a Stanley knife guided by metal rule.

Glue the substrate surface to be veneered. Remove masking tape from the surface to be glued. Lay veneer on the substrate. Use a veneer hammer and roller across the veneer to remove any bubbles. Trim off excess veneer using a knife. Line a vacuum bag with newspaper to catch any surplus glue. Insert veneered substrate and cover with more newspaper. Seal the bag and operate. If no vacuum bag is available, lay the veneered substrate on a flat surface covered in newspaper. Cover the veneer with more newspaper. Lay heavy flat objects evenly over the glued surface. Allow to dry for 24 hours.

Remove weights from the bag. Remove the paper and masking tape. Smooth the veneered surfaces with fine-grade sandpaper.

Cut the veneer to size. Paper-backed veneer should not require laying-up, but should joining be necessary, apply masking tape only to the bare veneer side for cutting and joining.

Apply glue to substrate, lay the veneer in position. Roll out any bubbles and trim, if necessary. Use weights or a vacuum bag as for raw veneer above to apply pressure. Allow it to dry.

Remove the paper and masking tape. Smooth the veneered surfaces carefully with fine-grade sandpaper as backed veneer is thinner than raw veneer.

Cut the veneer to size. Use masking tape on veneer surface only if cutting is necessary. Remove the tape prior to gluing.

Lay the veneer on substrate, cover with cotton material to protect the veneer. Iron over the veneer to melt the glue and adhere to substrate with iron heated to "cotton" setting.

Smooth the veneered surfaces carefully with fine-grade sandpaper as pre-glued veneer is also thinner than raw veneer.

Draw your marquetry design or picture on tracing paper. Transfer your design on to your intended base using carbon paper. Copy and mark the shapes to be cut on pieces of veneer, in reverse, on the side to be glued, using carbon paper .

Apply masking tape to the veneer on the opposite side to where cuts are marked. Cut out all shapes needed to complete the design using a Stanley knife.

Apply impact glue to the largest shape and corresponding area on baseboard. Place the shape on the baseboard. Remove the masking tape. Dry fit the adjoining shape to test the accuracy. Trim or discard an ill-fitting shape. Glue the board and veneer and fit. Remove the tape. Repeat for all pieces until the design is complete.

Trim the edges with the Stanley knife. Smooth with fine sandpaper.


Take care when removing masking tape from veneer -- grain structure may be weaker in one direction making the veneer fragile.


Cover or retract the Stanley knife blade when not in use. Impact glue bonds on contact, allowing no adjustment. Avoid using blue carbon paper as it may permanently stain veneer.

Things You'll Need

  • Stanley knife
  • Metal rule
  • Masking tape
  • Veneer softener
  • Wood filler
  • Veneer glue
  • Newspaper
  • Vacuum bag (optional)
  • Veneer hammer
  • Veneer roller
  • Iron
  • Cotton rag
  • Fine-grade sandpaper
  • Tracing paper
  • Black carbon paper
  • Impact adhesive
  • Assortment of marquetry veneers
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About the Author

Ian Brown began writing in 1970. He has over 26 years of writing experience within the education system, including reporting, creating syllabi and formulating policy documents. He graduated from the University of London with his teaching degree.