Replace veneer edge banding is a must have skill for furniture refinishers. It is a simple, non-expensive method to up the overall finish on your piece of furniture. The veneer edging is normally the first area of furniture that starts to fail. Rather than fix the missing edging with fillers and paint, or gosh forbid, bondo, you can replace the edging within minutes, with pre-glued veneer and an iron.
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What is Veneer Edge Banding?
Veneer banding or veneer edging is a wood veneer that is created to cover the exposed edges in furniture. Think of the edge of drawers and doors. It is essentially trim to finish off the look of solid wood. By adding this trim around the edges of cabinets, doors and drawers, it provides a finished look and covers any exposed substrate, such as particle board.
Veneer banding is usually found in a paper backed version, which makes it more flexible the standard sheets of raw veneer. While it can be be found with or without glue backing.
The glue backing is heat activated and makes for very easy application. It’s as simple as applying a warm iron to the material to heat up the glue, which cools quickly and holds in place.
I highly recommend iron-on edge banding for anyone starting out.
Removing the Previous Veneer Banding
In most cases the veneer starts splitting as it dries out over the years. You will need to remove all the splitting veneer banding before you can apply a new piece.
The easiest method to remove split banding is to reactivate the glue with your heat gun. Warm the veneer and then slide a putty knife under the veneer. You want to glide the putty knife along the edge of the substrate, pulling the veneer up as you go.
If there is residual glue on the wood after this step, you can clean it up with sandpaper, lightly sanding the old glue off and ensuring the substrate is smooth for re-application.
More indepth instructions can be found in my earlier post “removing damaged veneer”.
Veneer Banding Types and Styles
Veneer banding is available in nearly every type of wood available. You can also find laminated versions, so read carefully when picking out your veneer and try and match the veneer edging wood type to the cabinet you are working with. The more similar the new veneer is to the original, the easier you will be able to blend the new in with the old.
Secondly, veneer banding is available in several different widths. Therefore, measure well the width of the area you will be repairing.
TIP: consider the depth of the replaced veneer. Especially when replacing it on a drawer or door. Not all veneers are the same thickness, so when you replace one veneer banding for another, you may actually be adding a fraction of a mm on the overall thickness in that area. Perhaps not an issue for a cabinet edge but it could be an issue for that tightly fitting drawer.
Pro and Con of Iron on Veneer Edging with Glue
I recommend that everyone starting out with veneer edge banding to use veneer that comes pre-glued. With the glue backing, you can simply iron on the veneer and the glue will adhere to the substrate. It’s simple! great for beginners. The downside to edge banding with glue? The glue is white or grey in colour and it can seep along the edge when heated. After sanding you can sometimes still see the glue against darker wood types. You will need to cut and sand very straight in order to minimize seeing the glue.
An Iron – Preferably a dry iron without steam function. Over the years, the iron will likely have glue and other residue burnt on, so you will not want to re-use for clothing.
Veneer Edge Banding – I recommend always purchasing the glue backed version for beginners. Ensure you match your wood types.
Scissors – Sharp scissors are unmissable in your workshop.
Putty Knife – For removing split veneer
Heat Gun – Required to remove damaged veneer without ruining the substrate. Also handy if you need to apply your veneer banding to a concave curve. I use my heat gun for so many different tasks. I highly recommend having one.
Glue – Such as Wood Glue, Contact Cement or hide Glue, depending on your preference. This is handy for gluing down older veneer banding that is loose but not split. Why replace if it only requires re-attachment?
Sand Paper – 120 and 180 grit is usually sufficient for edging
Utility Knife and replacement blades – you need a sharp tool for removing the overhang.
Applying Veneer Edge Banding
Firstly, measure out how much veneer you will require. It is best to apply in a single piece rather than multiple cuts of veneer. Then, you can use scissors to cut this veneer with a glue backing. It will not split or rip like raw veneer can.
- Hold the piece of veneer in place, allow for some overhang on the sides which we will cut off later.
- Iron at a medium temperature while holding the veneer into place.
- Check that the veneer is flush with the existing veneer (if applicable).
- Once set into location and ironed, do not touch further and allow to cool. I normally permit a minimum of an hour for the glue to set and hold.
- Trim the overhand of the veneer banding with a sharp utility knife. Cut at a slight angle, to blend the edges of the veneer in.
- Sand the new veneer edges lightly using a high grit sand paper.
Removing the Overhang in Veneer Banding
This part is the crucial step in the whole process; so I will provide more information.
Once the veneer glue is cured, you can remove the excess edging. I tend to use a utility knife with a new blade. A dull blade will tear at the veneer and potentially rip it.
Tip: Always work your utility knife in the direction of away from yourself.
Start by cutting/ sliding the utility knife along one side of the veneer. It is better to start removing the overhang in smaller, shallower cuts, rather than cutting in to deep and leaving a noticeable mark. Once you have carefully cut away the majority of the overhang, you can use a high-grit sandpaper (I usually use 180 or even 240 grit) to sand along the edge until flush.
Matching Colour Differences
I once read that if the finish is the same, small colour differences will go unnoticed to our eyes. That being said, it is still important to get the colour tone as close as possible to that of the rest of the project you are working on.
If you find that your new veneer does not quite match any old veneer next to it, you may need to consider staining or dying the new veneer to match the old one. This can take some practice if you are new to staining and dying.
I always recommend to firstly look at the undertones. Is it red, orange, brown or another colour? Try and match the undertone first. I find it easiest to use left over veneer to make swatches and colour match until it matches the old veneer on the cabinet. Also consider the final effect of topcoat or oil. The final finish should match over the whole piece. This will help to blend any differences further. The overall finish on a piece is very important to create a unified look.
Applying Veneer Banding in a Concave Curve
A concave curve is a curve that moves inwards rather than outwards. Ironing in a concave curve can be tricky as your iron may not actually be able to sit flush in the curve. In a situation of a concave curve, I switch to my heat gun for applying the veener edging.
Video: Replacing Veneer Banding on Curves
Veneer banding is a great way to start working with veneer and making repairs. It’s relatively easy to remove split banding and it’s even easier to add new. The tools you most likely already have at home (an iron and sharp cutting tool). It’s a simple fix which can create huge impact on what was once a damaged piece of vintage furniture.
Found this interesting but looking for more information on how to tell if your piece of furniture is Veneer? Check out this handy checklist to determine if you have solid wood or veneer.
Sure that you have veneer and looking for ways to remove it? Check out these two methods. One will surely work for you!