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How To Apply Iron On Wood Veneer Sheets & Edging

When applying Iron On Veneer Sheets it is important that you follow some simple steps in order to make sure the process goes smoothly.

Any surface that iron on wood veneer or edging is being applied to should be completely stripped of everything including paint, varnish, paper, tiles or other veneer. A clean, sound flat, heatproof and dry (damp or a high moisture content can cause de-lamination) surface is required for good adhesion. New MDF is a good substrate.

To apply, iron on with a medium to hot setting, using a normal domestic iron (do not use steam). Irons vary in specification, so, for example medium on one could be hot on another. Too much heat can cause the wood to crack (too hot or too many/slow passes). However, these can be filled afterwards with a stopper or wax. Please also bear in mind that wood can shrink once heat has been applied to it. Allowances should therefore be made for this and tolerances adjusted. Any joins that open can be filled with an appropriate product, prior to applying a finish.

A cloth or sheet can be used between the veneer and iron for protection. Starting at one end, run the iron up and down the grain several times until the veneer is bonded using as much pressure as is safely practicable. Then immediately, using a block, rub along the grain using quite a lot of pressure to try and ensure a good bond. For larger projects, it is possible to bond multiple pieces side by side. Sometimes sheets can be slightly buckled or creased. These normally iron out with a little extra pressure. Joints can also open between sheets, please see above.

For edging, the process is fairly simple, because of the limited widths involved. However, sheets should be treated with a similar principle to wallpaper, in that one tries to avoid bubbles. It is therefore not good practice to iron from the outside towards the middle, as air can become trapped.

In all cases, we would strongly recommend to practice with an off-cut before moving on to the main project.

Edgings and sheets are meant to be wider than the panel(s) they are being applied to. This is to allow for the edges to be fully covered. Also, shrinkage can occur as moisture is removed from the veneer during the ironing process. Once bonded, there are several ways to clean up the edges. If the edges are only slightly proud, then a sanding block with very fine sandpaper could work quite well. If there is more material overlapping, it can be trimmed with a special edge trimmer, or gently knocked with a block. The idea is for the edging to break off lengthways, only to the point where it is bonded. Once this has been done, the edge should be smoothed with a sanding block and very fine sandpaper. This method does take some practice, so again a trial run is a good idea. It is also essential that a good bond has taken place otherwise the edging could break off on the actual decorative edged area.

Particularly for the sheets, I have found that applying a coat of PVA to the substrate and letting it dry seems to generate greater adhesion. Also, if any bubbles appear later on this method helped bond the affected area back down.

Normal wood finishes (eg. varnish, lacquer, wax, oil) are necessary for a durable finish and to achieve a desired shade/colour. These veneers can be stained after application (before applying a finish as above). They will never be truly waterproof and are not suitable for applications such as worktops in a kitchen or sink surrounds in a bathroom. We would also be reluctant to recommend their use outside where they would be subjected to the elements. A sample should always be tested for de-lamination before full application. There are so many finishes available, it is inevitable that some will interact with the adhesive, veneer or substrate. We have found that lighter coats work better. Heavy coats can wet the veneer and cause it to bubble/delaminate.

Raw veneer is normally quite a bit lighter than treated wood. Also, the grain structure in untreated wood tends not to be as pronounced. Dampening a piece very slightly, will give a representation (though maybe still a little lighter) of the final shade/colour/structure, i.e. once a finish has been applied. If there is still a marked difference, it is probable that the existing wood is aged and/or stained. As wood is a natural resource, even the same species will vary in colour, shade and structure from log to log. Final shades/colours are typically determined by the finishes used, this should be borne in mind when matching.

The edgings/sheets should be used within one month of arrival otherwise they can dry out and may delaminate, especially when a finish is applied. They should be stored in a dry and cool environment.

The aforementioned is offered as general guideline only and is not exhaustive. If you are unsure, have any problems, queries or would just like some advice, please contact us.