JoeWoodworker Veneer
The Official Website of this Non-Professional Woodworker ™

Part 1

Veneering Basics
14 Good Reasons
Vacuum Press Uses
Vacuum Press Options
Questions & Answers
Part 2
DIY Vacuum Press Plans

Vacuum Press Chart
Project: EVS™
Project: EVS-2™
Project: V4™
Project: CRS™
Excel 1™
Excel 3™
Excel 5™
Part 3
Vacuum Bagging

Vacuum Bag Basics
Polyurethane vs. Vinyl
DIY Vacuum Bags
Connect the Bag
Bag Closures
Bag Platens
Breather Mesh 
DIY Frame Press
Part 4
Veneering Information

About Veneer
Veneering Glossary
Veneering Myths
Balancing a Panel
Veneer Glues
Veneering Tips
Substrate Materials
Flattening Veneers
A Sharp Veneer Saw
Jointing Veneers
Taping Veneers
Dealing with Defects
Curing Glued Panels
Veneering w/o Vacuum
Hammer Veneering
Iron-On Veneering
Veneer Storage
Amazing Bookmatches
Edgebanding Guide
Paper-Backed Veneer

Part 5
Miscellaneous Info

Vacuum Press FAQ
Veneering FAQ 
Veneer Glue FAQ
Vacuum Forming
Vacuum Clamping Pedal
Vacuum Clamping Jigs
Vacuum Clamp Matrix
DIY Vacuum Manifold
Vacuum Press Gallery 1
Vacuum Press Gallery 2


Vacuum Veneering - Tips, Tricks, and More!

Veneer EdgebandingThe What and Why of Edge Banding

It's almost always easier and more practical to build a project with plywood. The drawback to using this type of "sheet good" is that the edges of the plywood must be covered so that panel will look as close as possible to a piece of hardwood lumber. The two most common solutions are hardwood edging and veneer edge banding.

Hardwood edging can be a simple as gluing a wood strip to the edge of the plywood and flushing cutting the top edge to the plywood surface. This method allows the builder to use a wide array of router bits to create a pleasing edge design. The downside is that it's more time consuming than using an iron-on edge banding material.

If the project calls for a basic straight edge on the plywood, veneer edge banding may be just what the doctor ordered. Edge banding is real wood veneer that is pre-sanded and available in a 7/8" width. This is ideal for 3/4" thick sheet goods such as plywood and MDF because it allows a bit of overhang and makes it easy to trim it to a flush edge.

Ho to Apply Veneer Edge Banding

Edge banding is very easy to work with. The only tools required are a clothes iron and an edge-trimming tool. Any cheap clothes iron will work but I've found that the smaller travel size versions are the easiest to work with. For goodness sake, you might consider buying one instead of "borrowing" the one that your spouse uses to iron your Sunday best. There's nothing quite like the look of confused disgust when there is hotmelt glue coming off the iron and spreading onto a clean pair of pants. Especially when you're already late for work or church!

Getting Started

Cut a piece of edge banding about 1" longer than the length of the panel that you are banding. You can use scissors to cut it or simply fold it in half and it will snap apart. If you're planning to use a dye or any high-penetration stain, you'll want to pay attention to splice lines in the edge banding. These zig-zag lines occur randomly throughout the roll and are mostly invisible if you are only applying a clear coat but some dye stains can make them more visible.

Edgebanding Splice Lines

If you are applying the edge banding to two joining sides, its best to work with the least visible side first. For example, if you are placing the edge banding around the four side edges of a rectangular piece of plywood, then start by edge banding the back side edge. Then move on to the left and right sides, and finish up by applying the banding to the front side of the material. This will help to hide the corner joints in an easy and eye-pleasing way.

Heat It Up!

Iron-On EdgebandingTurn on the clothes iron and set the temperature to the "high" or "cotton" setting. The ideal temperature is 390°F. Consider clamping the panel in a bench vise in the upright position so the clothes iron can be held horizontally. Start by placing the edge banding near one end of the panel and center it on the edge. The banding is slightly wider than the panel thickness so it is not critical that it is lined up perfectly with the edge. You can make minor adjustments to keep the banding straight as you go along.

Starting at one end of the banding and work towards the opposite end with the iron. Move the iron slowly along the banding while applying downward force. Keep your fingers away from the heat and exercise case to avoid getting stuck by splinters on the edges of the banding. The hot melt adhesive requires roughly 20 seconds of time under the hot iron. Some suppliers suggest pressing the edge banding in place for 20 seconds and then taking up the clothes iron and moving further down the edge and repeating the pressing. I don't think that is necessary or even ideal, so I press the iron down on the first section of banding and wait 10 seconds. Then I continue moving the iron along the edge slowly so that every inch of banding has been under the iron for about 20 seconds.

Edge DetailYou should be able to see a small bead of adhesive expand out from the underside of the banding if the adhesive is activating. To get the best bond possible, go over the edge banding with a block of wood or MDF (held at a 45° angle) immediately after each side of the panel is ironed down. For the most part, the hot melt adhesive can be worked for about 45 seconds after it has been heated.

If the side edges of the banding lift slightly from the substrate, simply use the block of wood or MDF to press the edge back onto the substrate while the adhesive is still warm. You can also reheat the banding if needed.

Helpful Ideas
Leaving the iron in one place too long can result in burning the edge banding so be certain to keep the iron moving.

If you are using a pre-finished edgebanding, place a cotton or flannel cloth over the edgebanding to prevent the heat from marring the finish.

End Trimming

Trim the EndsTo trim the ends of the banding, it's easiest to stand the panel with the banded edge against a workbench. Hold a 1" chisel tightly against the side edge of the panel and strike the chisel handle with a mallet. This should cleanly slice off any banding that overhangs. There are a few hand-held "end chopping" devices on the market. Don't waste your money on them. A chisel and a mallet are all you need.

Trim The Edges

When the edge banding has cooled off, you can flush trim the top and bottom edges of the banding with any of several methods.

  • Fine Tuning the EdgeA sharp chisel can be used to trim the edges. Be sure to skew the chisel so that the pressure forces the banding against the wood edge as shown. This method often leaves a bit of tear-out on the banding but in the next section called "Finishing Up" this rough area will be easily smoothed out.
  • Edge TrimmingA flush trimming tool is inexpensive and definitely makes the trimming process easy and 99% fool-proof. This tool is designed to trim fleece-backed wood veneer edge banding only. Don't use it to trim paper-backed or two-ply wood veneer. Simply press the trimmer against on to the face of the panel and slide it forward so that the blade cuts off the excess banding.
    To get a clean edge, you must pay attention to the direction of the grain. Most edge banding has a reasonbly straight grain but there is always a slight angle.
    The best cut comes from sliding the trimmer in the direction of the grain as shown below. Cutting in any other direction will cause tear out.

    Direction of Cut
    The white arrows above show the slight angle of the grain direction.
    The blue arrows show the correct direction that the flush trimming tool is used.

  • A flush cutting router bit will do a fine job of trimming the edge banding but to use it, you'll need to stand the project panel on its edge which can be tricky for larger panels.

Finishing Up

You can now lightly sand the top and bottom faces of the plywood where it meets the edge banding. This will smooth out any irregularities left from the edge trimming tool or chisel.

Finished PanelTo finish up, lightly sand the corner edges of the project panel. Use your hand to conform to the edge if you want a soft rounded edge. Or if you prefer a micro-beveled edge, you can use a sharp block plane or sandpaper wrapped around a wood block.

Veneer edge banding can be stained and finished with any conventional wood finishing products including lacquer, danish oil, and oil based stain and polyurethane.

Don't Forget
Be sure to unplug the clothes iron when you have finished the edge banding process.

Make Your Own Edgebanding?

It can be hard to find some species of edgebanding. When this happens, the best option is to make your own. Use scissors (for paper-backed veneers) or a veneer saw (for two-ply and raw wood veneer) to cut your own edgebanding from the veneer stock used on the other parts of your veneered panel. Then use Heat Lock glue to bond the banding to your project. With heat from a clothes iron, you can bond any non-glued edgebanding, including one cut from a piece of veneer to any porous substrate.

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