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Anyone worked with really thin veneer for guitars?


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Hi!

Today I got two impressive looking bookmatched sets of veneer. One is quilted Sapele and the other is a very special figured walnut veneer. I just ordered these veneers on ebay, because they were very cheap and looked interested. I did not really want to use them as a guitar top but for smaller veneering tasks. No that I have them here I think I have to use them as guitar tops, because they look so incredible. I never worked with that thin veneer(2-3mm) and therefore I have some questions:

1. How to get the veneer really flat? At the moment it is kinda "bubbly", but I guess it is best to flatten it during gluing it on. Is that right?

2. How does such a veneer impact the sound of the guitar? I suppose that it shouldn't change the sound at all because it is so thin, but maybe I am wrong and it has bad influences?

3. Is it possible to stain that thin veneers or would you sand through them immediately?

Thanks,

MK!

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1. How to get the veneer really flat? At the moment it is kinda "bubbly", but I guess it is best to flatten it during gluing it on. Is that right?

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Get yourself a spritzer bottle, fill it with water, get 2 boards, oh, about 1/2" thick, some kind of solid stock wood. Quickly 'spritz' (not soak) BOTH sides of the veneer and then sandwich it between the 2 pieces of wood. Clamp them together if you want. Don't 'force' it at first, give the water a minute or two to wet the veneer before you clamp down hard. Be ready for it to start curling on you, but when it's wet, it'll behave once you lay it between the two pieces. Kind of spritz both sides at once, going back and forth. If you spritz one side totally, then the other, it will start curling like mad on you due to the grain on the wet side expanding rapidly while the other side is still dry...

Should be flat and dry by the next day. If you didn't get it all, you can just repeat the process again.

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2. How does such a veneer impact the sound of the guitar? I suppose that it shouldn't change the sound at all because it is so thin, but maybe I am wrong and it has bad influences?

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Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.

The veneer 'V' I posted a week or two ago, that veneer didn't affect the tone one single bit. I could rap on the wood and it sounded -exactly- like it did before I applied the veneer. Other times I did notice a bit of difference, but I think folks get a bit 'too' wrapped up in possible slight 'tonal' changes, I wouldn't sweat it at all...just go with it.

PS, Figured Walnut will go very very dark a lot of the time, you might want to do a scrap test before committing that piece to a guitar top. I've had to bleach, then re-dye Walnut before to get it light enough to be presentable enough for a top. It might have beautiful figure, but if it's so dark when finished that no one can even see the figure anymore, not a good thing...

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3. Is it possible to stain that thin veneers or would you sand through them immediately.

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You'd be surprised how much you can flat-sand veneer and still not go thru. You do have to be on the lookout for it to happen, it can happen, but it's thicker than you might think at first glance.

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Very good advice on flattening Drak but let me add a couple of things. Put a little glycerin in your water, it will help soften the fibers as well as help them hold their shape for a little longer. This is done all the time with burls and crotches but any figured veneer will warp to some extent. I apply the mix somewhere between a light mist and a full soak depending on the wood but it really doesn't take much either way.

I do have to disagree with your clamping time. Every time I have tried to rush the process I ended up with a mess. Any slight unevenness in drying will cause warping, bubbling and even splitting when you pull it out. The sapele probably won't be a problem but walnut can be a bugger. Let that puppy sit in the clamps for a few days to a week depending on the weather. Make sure it is bone dry! I had heard that advice many times and ignored it only to kick myself for being in such a rush. Sometimes you can get by with it but it's not worth the gamble to me.

The clamping advice is right on the money, go slow!!! I start with nothing more than the weight of the top board (and sometimes my hand if it is pushing the board off) and as it settles I start adding more weight. First a phone book or two, then a tool box and then I throw the clamps on making sure I get even pressure especially in the middle. On a really big piece you could get by without the clamps and just put the refrigerator on top of it. :D

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I use Glycerin too :D

...but didn't think it was critical for someone just starting out with veneers to go into that much detail about it.

Probably should have mentioned it I guess. :D

Doesn't everyone have glycerin around the house? :DB)

You could get by without but if it was a nasty burl or some multi directional warp I think it's worth the trip to the drug store. With just a curl, hell, spit on it and throw it under the matress.

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When you apply it to the top, you need to be REALLY careful to get a very even and thin application of the glue; if you have high spots in the glue you'll get ridges in the veneer, and that's where you'll sand thru (at least that's what happened to me).

Now I go with nothing thinner than 1/16" for the top; it leaves room for re-sanding due to momentary finishing madness.

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Thanks for the warning erikbojerik!

Yesterday i tried a blue dye on the veneers for testing and it seems they both are way too thin for dyeing. On both test pieces the dye was nearly immediately soaked through the veneer and visible on the underside as well, so I guess it will only be possible to stain them in one color and then let it as it is. It doesn't seem possible to bring out the grain with black dye first, because it goes through the whole thickness of the veneer and you can't sand away the black then....:D

Any ideas?

Thanks,

MK!

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