ottacat

Veneered drawer front question

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I am making a bedroom dresser with veneered drawer fronts. I plan on attaching the drawer fronts to the sides with half-blind dovetails cut in a Leight jig. The veneer is commercial 1/40th of inch veneer and is quite splintery.

My question to the group is should I cut the half-blind dovetails first and then veneer the front or vice-versa?

I know I will get a nice edge on the veneer if I apply to the veneer to the drawer fronts when they are oversized and then after the veneer is dry, trim it to size on my table saw with a good zero-clearance insert and the veneer face down. However, I'm nervous about either damaging the veneer when I'm cutting the dovetails in the jig. Also, I have only exactly enough veneer for all the drawers so if I veneer the drawer first and then have a mishap while cutting the dovetails, I'll be in trouble. However, if I veneer after I've cut the fronts to final size and dovetailed them, I would need to apply the veneer slightly oversize (by about 1/8th inch) and then trim it off. The veneer is simply too splintery to trim to exact size. It is the trimming it off the bit that concerns me because the veneer is so prone to splinters. I was thinking of a good compression flush-trim bit.

However, I am of limited experience and perhaps folks in the group can share their thoughts. Thanks in advance.

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I'd have the drawer fronts cut to size with the dovetails done. It might be more tricky to get the veneer trimmed after the fact but you have a huge advantage of not having to worry about messing up the drawer front, which probably won't happen.

For trimming the veneer i wouldn't use a flush trim bit. That's like taking a 48" bar chain saw out to cut a twig. If you've used veneer you should be aware that it's thin and cuts very well with a utility knife. If you were unaware veneer cuts really well with a utility knife :D.

I'd do a practice board with maybe a similar veneer or a scrap piece. Attach it to the small board and then very lightly use the board as a strait edge and cut through the veneer. The key here is to NOT try and make the cut in one pass. For long grain work a fellow forum member taught me to use very very light pressure down and heavy pressure against the strait edge to score the veneer. The strait edge in your case is the drawer front. Then progressively apply a bit more pressure to cut the rest of the way through. This should take roughly 4-5 passes.  It sounds tedious but it goes quite fast. This helps prevent the splintering.

For end grain you want to try and prevent blowing out when you complete the cut. I suggests making the end grain cuts first. They are similar to the long grain cuts with the exception that you want to make partial length cuts starting towards the end of the cut working your way forward. So if you are pulling the knife towards you start on the corner closest to you and work your way away from you. Again with the light pressure down but good pressure against the strait edge or your drawer face. You again want to take about 5-6 passes. What this does is it severs the grain first in the place it's most likely to blow out allowing you to more forward more towards the area that there will be more grain support. If the veneer starts to split I'd stop and assess and proceed with even less downward pressure.

If the veneer ends up a bit proud of the surface at this point I'd call that a win and use some very light sanding to flush it up completely.

I don't think there is anything helpful, but this is a project i did with veneer.

 

 

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Could you not apply the veneer and trim the board to size, leaving a bit of extra length? The DT sockets would be cut deep, so the tails were slightly recessed, which allows you to trim the front to final length afterward.

Seems like a lot of effort. I'd probably do what @Chestnut said.

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Oh also big benefit to cutting them after the fact is you don't have to worry about tear out doing the cross grain cuts with a circular saw. There is no guarantee that veneering oversize and cutting to fit won't chip out.

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6 hours ago, Chestnut said:

Oh also big benefit to cutting them after the fact is you don't have to worry about tear out doing the cross grain cuts with a circular saw. There is no guarantee that veneering oversize and cutting to fit won't chip out.

Thanks for your detailed reply Chestnut, I'll try that out with a test piece. I was using a utility knife but I think I was pressing too hard and trying to cut too much at once. I'll try it following your advice of light cuts and I'll also follow your suggestion for handling the end grain.

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1 minute ago, ottacat said:

Thanks for your detailed reply Chestnut, I'll try that out with a test piece. I was using a utility knife but I think I was pressing too hard and trying to cut too much at once. I'll try it following your advice of light cuts and I'll also follow your suggestion for handling the end grain.

If you have questions please ask. I wish I could show you in person as it helped me a lot to learn but we don't live that close to each other.

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8 hours ago, ottacat said:

I plan on attaching the drawer fronts to the sides with half-blind dovetails cut in a Leight jig.

I am not absolutely positive, it has been a while, but I think both drawer front and sides should be the same thickness when using the Leigh jig for half-blind dovetails.  I glanced at the manual and it didn't specify, but I would call Leigh customer service before you do the veneer, and then cut the dovetails.

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