Advice for veneering a mantel

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.
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brandom11 wrote:
SNIP

SNIP
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.
Robert
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"brandom11" wrote...

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 contact cement.
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 press.
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.
-- Timothy Juvenal www.tjwoodworking.com
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Juvenal wrote:

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.
Robert
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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 formaldahyde glue.
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 for.
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. snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

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-- Timothy Juvenal www.tjwoodworking.com
"brandom11" wrote...

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.

Either sounds very nice!
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nailshooter41 wrote ...

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.
-- Timothy Juvenal www.tjwoodworking.com
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

You've probably seen this site.
http://www.joewoodworker.com /
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 other projects.
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On 28 Nov 2006 12:13:21 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@aol.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:
http://www.artg.tv/fireplace-mantel-pix.html
--
Art Greenberg
artg at eclipse dot net
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