Applying Wood Veneer Edge Tape
Give your Carpentry an Edge
By Rob Robillard
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could apply thin layers of skin to cover our aged, wrinkled and rough edges? For a pretty penny I’m sure some plastic surgery could accomplish this, but nothing covers rough edges as nice as applied veneer banding.
I recently was asked to build AC-grade plywood cabinets for a client. To finish the cabinets I covered the outer sides with rustic, rough sawn boards and matching overlay doors. The insides of the cabinet show the A side of the AC plywood. The only surface that was not addressed was the rough plywood edges.
This article shows how I covered the plywood edges with veneer edge-banding tape.
What is Veneer Tape?
In cabinet making and woodworking, veneer refers to thin slices of wood, usually thinner than 1/8 in., that typically are glued onto the edges of core panels, doors, shelves, tops and panels for cabinets and furniture.
Veneer is obtained either by “peeling” the trunk of a tree or by slicing large rectangular blocks of wood known as flitches. The appearance of the grain and figure in wood comes from slicing through the growth rings of a tree and depends on the angle at which the wood is sliced.
There are three main types of veneer-making equipment used commercially:
Rotary lathes turn the wood using a sharp blade and peel off continuous veneer rolls. Rotary-cut veneer is mainly used for plywood.
Slicing machines operate in a fashion that raises and lowers the flitch or piece of log against a blade. The resulting slices of veneer look like sawn pieces of wood, cut across the growth rings. This is often referred to as “crown cut”..
Half-round lathes manipulate the logs in order to obtain the most desirable parts of the grain for the best looking veneer.
Veneering is an ancient art, dating back to the ancient Egyptians 4000 years ago who used veneers on their furniture and sarcophagi (the ornate coffins they were buried in). In Egypt, wood was
a scarce raw material, and the veneering process allowed the precious wood to be used more economically by maximizing the available supply.
Veneer tape today can be purchased at a lumber yard and comes as a pre-sanded, ultra thin layer of wood or other material. This veneer tape can then be attached to the edge of plywood in order to make the plywood look like a solid piece of wood.
The veneer edge-banding tape we use has a heat-sensitive glue backing and applies quickly with an iron. Using veneer edge banding results in a clean and solid-wood look and is a fairly easy DIY project.
Real wood edge banding comes in several sizes and species of wood. The 7/8-in. edge banding is ideal for 3/4-in. thick plywood or veneered panels because it allows a bit of overhang, making it easy to trim flush with an edge-trimming tool. The tape is impregnated with hot-melt adhesive that creates a high-speed permanent bond once heated. The veneer is also pre-sanded and readily accepts stains and finishes.
Veneer edge tape is typically applied with an iron. I prefer to use furniture-grade birch tape that’s slightly oversized, like 25/32 or 13/16 inch. By installing a slightly oversized tape you can trim the edge banding to an exact fit.