I'm making a mantel for our comtemporary fireplace. The Mantel is made
up of MDF and is 3" inches thick. It sits in between two sheet rock
wing walls and is essentially an elongated oval. You don't see any
sides, nor does it have anything that goes down to the floor. It is
just a thick shelf to set stuff on. What you will see is the Top the
Bottom and the front edge. 1
My question is do I veneer the top and bottom first, trim flush and
then glue the front edge on or do I glue on the front edge and then the
top and bottom? Does it make a difference? I'll be resawing my own
veneer and will make the top and bottom between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch
thick and I will make the piece for the edge thin enough to bend
arounbf the curve. I tested a piece of maple and it bent fine at 1/8
of an inch thick. SWMBO and I are still trying to decide on the actual
wood for the veneer.
I'm planning on using a good epoxy to glue the veneers on unless the
collective advice is to use another glue. ( I have the epoxy left over
from a strip built canoe project and thought this was a good place to
use some of it up.)
Thanks in advance for for any advice or comments.
I would think the thing to think about is what will be showing when you
look at the mantle. If you are looking at a standard mantle that is
about 5' or so tall, then I would put the edge over the top and bottom
so that it would look like solid wood.
If you have the top of the shelf/mantle lower, I would put the top over
the side/edge, and the edge over the bottom.
I wouldn't want to look at the edge of the veneer any more than I had
to, no matter how thick. Even thick (especially thick?) veneers like
you are talking about will have a tendency to make the exposed edges
look like nice plywood.
Consider something like this (saw this at a woodworking show): put the
top over the side/edge surface, and the side/edge over the bottom for
trimming purposes. After flush trimmin, paint the edge grain of the
top black (taped off as the one in reference was only about 1/8"), and
it will look like it has a nice black accenting pinstripe along the
edge. Did wonders for hiding the endgrain edge of the top.
Bottom first, then the edge, then the top. This minimizes the possibility
of an object being slid off the mantle catching the veener on the edge.
Because the veneer is thick, if the piece is wel-crafted you won't see any
glue lines anyway.
IMO, epoxy is a really bad idea, and will result in a mess and the need to
start over from scratch.
I've never glued up thick veneers like that, but have done a lot with
standard veneers. The way I would approach it is to use urea formaldehyde
glue (Titebond Plastic Resin, Constantines Veneer Press) or Titebond
Coldpress. Yellow or white glue would be a far distant 3rd choice, and only
a choice at all because the veneer is so thick. Contact cement is rubbery
and creeps a lot & just imagine how much the top veneer will move over
I'd also use crossbanding. You can buy 1/16" poplar crossbanding from
constantines for cheap. Crossband the mantle first, then veneer, so you
don't see the crossbanding edge. Keeping all the top veneer at 1/8" seems
like a good idea, and make sure you use balanced construction (same veneers
and thicknesses top and bottom). Even with the thick veneers, I'd use the
I wouldn't recommend this project for a first attempt at hammer veneering
with hide glue, and I'll bet those big thick top and bottom veneers would be
a bugger to veneer hammer down once they got wet with the glue.
OK, I'll bite. If the veneer is as he says, 1/8" thick, how will the
veneer NOT show? Are you thinking that he will 45 this edge to hide
the joint? That would do the trick, but on a curved oval that he
described, that could be a real task without the right tools. I was
also thinking placement (and holding!) to make sure that the veneered
edge... I assumed in my mind, perhaps incorrectly, that he would be
laying up something as big as a mantle with 1/8 veneer like a laminate
project, and minimizing the view of the edge material would be the most
important thing to me. Since it is not a working shelf like a cabinet,
I am thinking in my mind that most things that go on a mantle only move
every few months; at 1/8" thick, I didn't think about chipping or
picking up the edge.
Like your glue choice.
Best idea of all. Since he doesn't need much, springing for the maple
to match (if that is the final selection, would be an easy choice.
Still not getting the picture over here. Especially with thick
veneers, if you were going to edge band, wouldn't you want to veneer
the top and bottom, flush cut with a bit, then edge band to cover the
end grains (1/8" top and bottom) with the banding?
Do you have a press that big? One that will fit a fireplace mantle?
If so, please let me know if you made it or bought it. I am looking at
getting into veneering (look at the fall to you knees low pricing of
exotics on ebay) for different smalls object, but need to build the
press. If the small objects work out, I would like to build some small
tables, cabinets, etc. I have the gauges, a great Gast pump that pulls
about 25 inches, and the other valves, etc. But no bag... I need to
build the press. Homemade bags seem dicey, and many shop made bags
cost more than the pump, gauges, etc, combined.
Your thoughts sincerely appreciated.
Thanks to everybody for their input so far. from the comments I can
rule out using epoxy as the bonding agent. Although its not as messy
as you think. I've done a number of laminations with it before ( but
never to apply a veneer) and figured i'd just sand whatever drips there
were until i was at a smooth surface again. That was one of the
reasons for such a thick veneer on the top and bottom. I figured if I
glued on a thickness of 1/4 inch I could easily sand 1/8 off and still
be left with a pretty thick real wood surface. ( Often call MDF BEEN
WOOD, as in it's been wood once) I like the call on the urea
What has me puzzled is the call for the poplar crossbanding. Does this
help stabilize the veneer? is it a better glue surface than the MDF?
I thought the MDF alone would provide a stable surface for the veneer
to adhere to. I'd love some more information on this.
As I don't have a press or a vacumm press I was planning on using a
layer of mdf on top of the veneer with clamping cauls about every four
inches. I did this for the MDF lamination and the two pieces I had to
cut out so the whole mantle could slip into place seem rock solid. I
took a chisel and tried to open up the seam and was left with a nice
fuzzy surface where the mdf ripped apart rather than the glue line.
the glue used there was just regular yellow carpenters glue.
I shouldn't have much end grain at all showing. If the top and bottom
went on first and then the front I'd have no end grain to worry about.
The end grain on the ends of that piece would be hidden by the two wing
walls. I like the call on the 45 but agree doing this accurately over
a curved piece will be more tedious of a job than I want to sign up
So far the two choices my wife is approving is a nice piece of ribbon
mahogony and a piece of zebra wood.
I'll try to get a picture of the mantle posted to ABPW so you all can
take a look at the project.
I appreciate the advice and discussion so far.
The mdf is very stable across it's width, the wood veneer isn't. The poplar
crossbanding helps to prevent cracking of the veneer (the veneer shrinks and
the mdf doesn't) if you get a dry spell.
Cauls should work fine, especially with thick veneer.
If I understand correctly what you plan on doing, then you would have the
face grain of the mantel edge and the edge grain of the top veneer showing
on the front edge, and no end grain showing from the front. (providing you
veneer the top last)
Really think long and hard before running the front edge veneer up past the
top veneer. I think thats a really bad idea. Best is to run the top over
the edge, then hit it with 1/8" corner round bit (handiest bit ever made) &
it will look great & be able to take a few knocks to boot.
Since the veneer is 1/8 or 1/4 solid stock, the edge of the veneer top is
the same material as the face of the edgeband. Kinda like with colorcore
formica. As long as the glue line is nice and tight, it will be hard for
the eye to see that the mantel isn't all one solid piece, especially after
stain and finish.
My homemade press is maple and iron, with 1 1/2" mdf platens & 12 iron press
screws, all riding on four steel casters. A lot of plywood gussets also, to
keep the whole thing from flexing. I can add additional longer platens and
some bessey clamps if needed for longer work.
You've probably seen this site.
You can get a 4' by 8.5' bag for $225. I know that's not exactly cheap
though. I was toying with
the idea of doing veneering as well. Maybe in a couple of years when I
get caught up on
On 28 Nov 2006 12:13:21 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
I built a contemporary mantel using bent laminations and commercial veneers.
For that project, I needed a *big* bag - around 9 feet long, and about 2 feet
across. I made my own bag, using material purchased from Joe Woodworker.
Yes, gluing up the bag was difficult. The vinyl cement dries *really* fast,
and it was a mess trying to glue up the long seam. I did have to go back and
fix up some spots where the glue didn't "take" properly. But in the end, the
bag works fine.
I would do it again, if/when the need arises.
You can see some photos of the mantel project at:
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