Here's an alternative to using contact cement when traditional press methods aren’t available. It uses white or yellow PVA glue and a standard household iron. This process will help you achieve a solid glue bond and can be done with 10 mil paperbacked or raw veneer. That can save you money. Follow these steps for best results:
The surface or substrate you are veneering must be clean and flat. MDF, particle board or cabinet grade plywood are all satisfactory substrates. If applying veneer over a hardwood substrate, be sure all finish is removed and repair any gouges or scratches that might telegraph through the new veneer. It is not advisable to veneer over old veneer as the heat and moisture generated in this process may actually cause the old veneer to de-laminate.
You can use either white glue or yellow woodworking glue. It is recommended when you use yellow woodworking glue to use a type of glue that has an extended open time. With a brush or roller coat the back of the veneer and the substrate with glue. If you are rolling the glue a foam roller applicator works well. In almost all cases you should apply two coats of glue to the substrate because some of the first coat will soak into the surface. Be very careful not to get any glue on the face of the veneer as this will surely be a problem during the finishing process.
Once applied, allow the glue to "skin up" or dry to the touch. A standard yellow glue will dry quicker so glues with an extended open time will greatly improve your end results . An important thing to remember is to apply even, thin coats of glue. Generally speaking, you want to end up with approximately 6 to 8 mils ( 1 mil = 1/1000” ) of glue thickness.
Ironing Veneer to Substrate
Place the veneer on the substrate and position it accordingly. Unlike contact cement which bonds on contact, the veneer can make contact with the substrate while positioning. You want to cover the face of the iron so it won't leave any marks from the metal surface of the iron. A brown paper bag between the veneer and the face of the iron works well. An old bed sheet or cotton t-shirt can also be used.
With your iron set on a high heat setting, begin to iron the veneer from the center out using a slow and deliberate pace. Keep moderate downward pressure on the iron as you move it across the surface. Make sure you have covered every square inch of surface and examine the veneer for any loose spots that may not be bonded. If there are any areas that appear they aren’t bonded to the substrate, go back over them with the iron. Allow this assembly to cool for 2 hours before trimming the veneer to finished size. Allow 24 hours for glue to fully cure before doing any finishing.
Veneer can be finished just like any hardwood. The first step is proper sanding starting with a medium grit paper followed by a fine grit paper. This can be done with an electric sander if you are confident enough or by hand if you are not. Remove all sanding residue with a brush or tack cloth. You can either stain the wood or apply a clear finish. For finishing tips and help, visit our online Veneer Workshop.
Download Iron On Veneer / PVA Glue Method - Microsoft Word document (28k)
If you are interested in applying peel and self-stick pressure sensitive adhesive veneer, consider 3M PSA products.