Slicing Your Veneer(s)
(Yes, still Without a Drum Sander or Vacuum Press!)
In Part 1 of this series, I covered why anyone would cut their own veneer. Here in part 2, we’ll get to the heart of the process for how you actually get it done. So without any further ado, let’s slice some veneers!
Mill Your Lumber
Have you heard the saying “Start square, end square”? That definitely applies here, so get comfortable with your jointer and planer and make sure they’re tuned up. It’s important to start with flat and square stock in order to cut veneers of a consistent thickness. And you’ll usually want to start with the thickest board you can, within reason for what you need to yield.
Unfortunately, you’ll have a bit more waste with this method. Repeated trips to the planer will remove lots of material, but will give you the best possible results. It’s also important to leave your rough stock oversized in both length and width. After all your veneer is glued to the core, then is the time to cut it to its final dimensions.
Before You Resaw
Now that you’ve got square stock, it’s time to take it to the bandsaw.
Unless you change your setup in the middle of your cuts, your flat side and resawn side will always be on the same respective sides of each piece you cut. Depending on the grain orientation you want to end up with, it can change your desired setup. You need to be conscious of your stock orientation, and which side of the blade your veneer comes from.
For a blade, you’ll want the widest blade your bandsaw can handle with a low tooth count. The wide blade will help keep it tracking properly for a straight cut, while the low tooth count makes an aggressive cut with plenty of room in the blade’s gullets to evacuate sawdust. I recommend the Laguna Resaw King, which is a 3/4” wide, 3tpi carbide tipped blade made specifically for resawing. It’s pricey, but this is a great example of “you get what you pay for”. The cleaner the initial cut, the less waste you’ll have and less work you’ll have to do to get your veneer sanded flat. All that means is that your end product will be much finer and more uniform.
I setup my bandsaw so that the veneer I’m keeping is between the blade and the fence. This leaves the waste piece is away from the fence. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, depending on who you ask. There’s some debate on whether the veneer should come off to the left or right of the blade, but keeping it between the blade and fence worked for me. Using this method, I got consistent cuts with almost no drift.
If you’re attempting to bookmatch two veneers, this setup won’t work. because the pieces resaw the same in all cuts, you’ll end up with the flat side up on one piece and down on the other. This will happen no matter which way you rotate or feed the stock through the bandsaw. The easiest way solution is to run the sawn side of the veneer through a drum sander. Since that’s not a tool that most of us own (including me!), I’ll cover some alternate methods here.
Bookmatching Your Veneer Slices
In order to get a bookmatched panel when all is said and done, you have two options:
First, you can Missy Elliot (“flip it and reverse it”) your bandsaw setup. And by that, I mean flip your workpiece around and reverse between the veneer coming off the outside versus the fence side of the blade. This will alternate which faces of the veneer are flat and resawn. Using this method, you risk getting inconsistent thicknesses in your veneer slices. I was not OK with that risk, so I went with option #2: sand the sawn side of one piece of the bookmatch flat before gluing it to the substrate. Luckily, a well-tuned bandsaw with the Laguna Resaw King blade made that possible for me.
Resaw Your Veneer
Be sure to tune up your saw and check for proper blade tracking. It’s also critical to check your fence, table, and blade for square. A flat table square to a tall fence (and your blade) are important. If your bandsaw didn’t come with a tall fence, I’d recommend taking the time to make a tall auxiliary fence. To resew veneers, I also use a tall featherboard to help hold the stock firmly against the fence as you push it through the blade. Depending on the size of the piece, it’s good practice to push the stock through the saw until you get close to the end of your cut, then walk around the backside of the saw and pull the rest of the board through to finish the cut.
I set my bandsaw to resaw at 5/64”, which I estimated would leave me with about 1/16” pieces after gluing and sanding. You can go much thinner than that if you want, but for my first attempt I wanted to leave myself some wiggle room.
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All this for one drawer, but I think I’m getting my money’s worth from this single piece of 4/4 Bolivian Rosewood. Two things: • • 1. I ended up putting the piece on the bandsaw waste side out rather than in so I could keep the fence locked at 5/64”. Is there a better way to do this for repeated cuts? • • 2. Any recommendations on a push stick design for the bandsaw? I know I need something for the last few inches of the cut, especially as the stock gets smaller. #butiwascareful #notasbadasitlooks #isaythatalot
Keep on Slicing
After your first cut, your remaining stock will have a flat side and a resawn side as well. Send the reason side through the planer to take a smidge off the top and re-flatten that side to parallel. Once your piece is flat again, you’re ready for another cut on the bandsaw. Be sure to keep the orientation in mind as you cut each of your veneer pieces to ensure you get the layout you want with the flat sides down on the substrate.
Now you’ve got a whole stack of nice, thin veneer slices; store them on a flat surface with some weight on top until it’s time to do something with them. Stay tuned for part 3, where we’ll talk about gluing the veneer to the substrate.