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Applying Parchment as a Laminate

Advice on adhesives, substrates, and sealers for parchment applied to a table top. April 29, 2010

I am attempting to make a top from genuine parchment for a simple deco style coffee table. I am looking for input on the best way to go about applying it to the wood substructure. Any info is greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Adhesive Forum)
From contributor J:
Regular carpenter glue and a squeegee might work just fine.

From contributor O:
I think that it would look fantastic. It occurs to me that it might look good on the inside and outside of instrument lids, or as framed panels on the sides as well. I am interested in the outcome of your trials.

My first thought would be like contributor J's, hide glue and a veneering hammer. I use it in small pieces with hide glue for instrument work, but the way I use it the shrinkage as it dries is an advantage. The stuff is basically rawhide and expands like crazy when it even thinks it sees damp, and then shrinks like crazy (and deckles) when it dries.

You might try one of the 3M spray adhesives. Spray both surfaces, wait a bit then use a brayer to roll the parchment down on the wood. That stuff is solvent based and you might get the vellum stuck before it sees any moisture and changes shape. I think you can also get contact cement (the stuff you stick Formica down with) in spray cans. On this approach, leather workers and shoemakers use a product called Barge cement, which is basically a strong form of rubber cement. It is also solvent based, but I have no guess if it can bite into the parchment surface sufficiently to get a good grab on it.

Vellum used to be used for bookbinding and a browse through a bookbinding text might be of use, if I remember correctly they used wheat paste (wallpaper paste) and shoved the whole book in a press for a few days till it dried.

You may need to consider the panel construction as well. Once you get it stuck to a surface the parchment will expand and contract as the humidity changes and you may encounter extreme warping of the table top unless you either embed the parchment in a finish that denies it access to the atmosphere, or you balance the construction by doing both sides. (The covers of old vellum covered books often curl up badly). You generally need to do the same with wood on wood veneer work, except that vellum is ever so much more hygroscopic.

From contributor W:
Sounds like a nice project. Keep in mind about the shrinking and expanding with moisture. I have had good experience with paper using high quality wallpaper adhesive. Regardless of how you attach the paper when it reaches the look you want to have it must be sealed with something or it will get very dingy no matter how clean your customer is. I have also had good luck with Shoji Paper from Misugi, and others. It comes in lots of different types and weights. The most durable application to laminate paper would be done by sealing both sides of the parchment or paper with lacquer based vinyl sealer (two thin sprayed coats on each side of the parchment) then adhere with contact cement like a plastic or metal laminate. Naturally de nib the parchment very gently after sealing. After the sealer dries thoroughly, the parchment will be very stiff and durable and easy to press and trim. Do the edges first.