Cutting this piece was much harder than it was for the small drawers. I just took it nice and slow. When the piece was fully cut out, I repeated the steps from earlier: glue, cling film, scrap wood (this time a piece of maple), and clamp.
Like an idiot, I forgot to take a picture when I unclamped it. Like a bigger idiot, I forgot to take a picture after I sanded it down. But I have the following pictures which show the drawer after several coats of poly.
It’s a beautiful veneer and shows incredible three dimensional depth.
The next piece to be veneered was the front of the pull-down desk. Remember it looked like this when we bought it:
I pulled out the four circles with a pair of pliers. They were just glorified thumbtacks. I pried off the rectangular trim and sanded the diamond. It was a glued-on piece of veneer. After filling in some damage from removing the trim, it looked like this:
In the top of the frame you’ll notice that walnut veneer, already bookmatched, joined and trimmed. I applied glue and repeated the process I used for the other drawers. This one was harder since it was so much bigger. I had to make some cauls to lay across the top of the scrap wood, so I could evenly apply pressure with the clamps. The difficulty of gluing this piece made me start to get nervous about gluing the big top piece. How the hell was I going to do that?
Well, that was a question for another day. The pieces I had done so far all came out pretty good. I was so curious how they would look when finished that I decided to put some polyurethane on. I used several coats of Minwax Clear Gloss Wipe-On Polyurethane. I lightly sanded with 1500 or 2000 between coats, applying just enough pressure to smooth the surface. The results were pretty awesome.
I love how this turned out. I think the shape in the center looks like some sort of bird-man.
I sanded them once again starting with 600 grit and going up through 2000, then finished with some automotive polishes.
With the drawer faces nearly done (in typical fashion, I would sand and re-poly those pieces a few more times in that elusive hunt for perfection), it was time to turn my full attention to the desk body. This was the part I had been dreading since we bought the piece months before. While I was confident in my ability to apply veneer to a small area, that confidence splintered like…well…like veneer when it came to larger areas not easily clamped. But I had a job to do and a blog post to finish, so up with the mainsail and into the eye of the storm.
I decided to use two types of veneer on the desktop: a walnut burl (American walnut this time, not European) and cedar bosse (pronounced boss-SAY). Using a long straight-edge and a pencil, I marked out where the pieces would go. This would require a lot of precision cutting. Gulp.
Fortunately Handan suggested I try her Fiskars Rotary Cutter. What a life-saver this became!
I started work on the largest panel which would be made from two bookmatched pieces of the walnut burl.
Once I found a pattern that I liked, I cut the pieces and joined them with blue painters tape. I then taped the outline of the final shape of the piece. Taping the underside of veneer to be cut helps prevent unwanted splintering of the wood. Thus, in the photo below, I would flip this piece over and cut the veneer tape-side-down.
I marked the outline with pencil.
As I’m a feeble forty-something, I enlisted the aid of my Magnifying Headset. This is a must-have if you work with small things and are over the age of 30.
I brought the finished piece over to the desk to see how well it fit into its assigned spot. It didn’t, so I took the opportunity to hurl invectives at the desk in general and the piece of veneer in particular. Once I regained my composure, I started over. This time, I cut the piece in its place on the desk. I cut the top edge, aligned it with my pencil-marked line and taped it down. I also taped the sides, then cut the piece to the proper length using the rotary cutter and a straight edge.
To cut it down to its proper width, I used a drywall T-square and taped it down so it wouldn’t move.
I repeated this process for the two side panels, each also made from bookmatched walnut burl.
With the walnut panels finished, it was time to move on to the cedar bosse stripping. This was the part I was really dreading. The cedar has a very pronounced grain, and cutting across that grain tends to leave a splintered mess if not done carefully and slowly. I again employed the technique of cutting in place. The corners were a pain in the butt. I’m pretty sure I broke them all off while trimming them. Fortunately, I left enough overhang that I could salvage most without having to start over.
Click on ‘Next’ to continue.