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Veneering Scalloped Doors

Veneer will conform to a gentle curve across the grain. Here's more information and advice. June 18, 2013

I am bidding a job where large veneer doors and panels are scalloped on the face. I have not been given a veneer spec yet. I'm wondering if I can do this work in a vacuum press.

My questions are:
1. Will veneer on 10 mil paper backer crack at the peaks of the scallops?

2. Is there some way to tenderize the veneer to help it flex?

3. Will I need cauls or will the bag pull the veneer to the surface contours?

4. Would it make more sense to just do this out of solid wood and if so is there some method of keeping the doors flat (maybe scallop the back?)

5. If we mill the door substrate from a single piece of MDF will it stay flat or will we have to mill individual segments and then glue them up?

6. If we do have to glue up the substrate in segments it would seem to be easier to do this before milling the scallops. Is there any advantage to gluing up after the scallops are milled? Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated as I have never done something like this before.

Forum Responses
(Veneer Forum)
From contributor O:
Shape your MDF as separate pieces, slightly over width - across the scallop. Each scallop will be one piece. Lay up with raw veneers, a male caul, and a loose vacuum bag. As the vacuum is pulled be sure to have the caul in place and loose bag at the perimeter of the piece(s). A few pieces of tape to locate the edge of the accurately sized veneer on the substrate will help keep things in place as they are pulled together. Once they are pressed, then you can final size and join them or band them as needed.

From the original questioner:
Any reason not to use paper backed? Also, any thoughts on using a veneer softener like Super Soft 2?

From contributor O:
I don't think you need to soften the veneer at the broad radius you show. I prefer regular old veneer since it is thicker - (sanding) and will conform just fine with the grain parallel to the curve. We bend things like this all the time, and use paperback only if the grain match is not important or there are large sheets that must be handled. Paper back will sand through at those peaks in a second or two, therefore the reason to use separate pieces and plain veneers.