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I'm trying to glue two panels of wood together at a 90 degree angle (the project is to make a box). I have veneer w/ adhesive on the back that I can iron on.

My question is, what is the best order of operations for assembling and veneering?

Specifically :

  1. Should I apply veneer to each panel first and glue the panels on the veneered surface?
  2. Should I apply veneer to each panel first avoiding the gluing surfaces and then glue?
  3. Should I apply veneer to each panel first and use a router or other tool to remove veneer from the gluing surfaces and then glue?
  4. Glue it together and then apply the veneer and hope it fits perfectly?

I just used cheap 2X4s for the core. I have MDF but I wanted to see if I could make the 2X4s into a good sized panel for fun and as practice.

The veneer is red oak (search on amazon: "WOOD-ALL Red Oak Wood Veneer Sheet, ‘A’ Grade Plain Sliced/Flat Cut, 24” x 96” with a 10 Mil Paperback/PSA Peel and Stick – Easy Application for Any Restoration").

For equipment, I'm pretty well setup: mitre saw, small table saw, router (table, fixed base, plunge base, dovetail/boxjoint jig), planer, jointer, vice, clamps, etc. My jig-saw is out of service, though.

As for my skill level: I'm a beginner. I'm trying to tackle more and more advanced projects.

For this project, it's a box.

Well, specifically a baby changing table. The box has no top, and there is a divider in the middle. I'm also hoping to do box joints where the 4 sides meet. I attached a practice box joint that I cut with the veneer applied prior. It was my first attempt at a box joint.

The other picture is the roughly cut core material forming the overall shape. The pieces are planed to 1/2 inch; just not cut to length/width yet.

BTW, if the core material is a poor choice I'm ok with it to learn. But if I'm wasting fancy veneer let me know if it's a terrible choice and I can paint this one and use MDF and veneer next time.

box joint made from pre-veneered pieces

current state of the project

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  • Hi, welcome to Woodworking. Generally boxes to be veneered are constructed first, then veneered. But if we think about a similar thing made from plywood (which has a surface veneer, even if it might be of low quality) that's put together post-veneering and the results can be very good if care is taken. In case it needs to be specified, this latter case would need to use a mitre joint so the veneered surfaces meet at the corner.
    – Graphus
    May 17 at 7:57
  • We could do with knowing a few more details to help answer for your situation, specifically the tools you have access to and the planned material for the body of the box. The available tools, and possibly your experience as well, may prevent you from doing case mitres (e.g. they're tricky to do if not cut by machine; not every table saw can cut them accurately enough; you might not have a suitable router). And re. the material, a corner joint made from MDF (q.v. many modern speaker boxes) can be built differently than would be preferable if using solid wood.
    – Graphus
    May 17 at 8:05
  • A drawing of your plan, or a picture of your dry-fitted pieces would go a long way toward helping people see what you're trying to do.
    – FreeMan
    May 17 at 17:44
  • @Graphus I updated the question w/ more detail to address your comments. Thanks!
    – Tucker
    May 17 at 23:36
  • same for @FreeMan
    – Tucker
    May 17 at 23:36
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After looking at your pictures and seeing what you're after, I think I've got a better idea of what you're doing.

If it were me, I'd cut all the box joints first. Your heavy power tools that you'd be using to cut them are far more likely to tear up your nice veneer layer if you were to apply it prior to cutting the joints.

Usually veneer is applied last, once the project is assembled. You apply a slightly oversize piece so that your cuts don't have to be 100% accurate and because you usually adhere it with a contact cement that will stick on touch. I see you're using a preglued veneer, but the process should be the same. By being oversize, it's not fatal if you don't get it aligned 100% accurately, you just trim to fit.

Glue up your bottom panel. If you're veneering the inside of it, apply your veneer before attaching the sides to it, otherwise, you'll have to have a 100% accurate cut, dropped 100% accurately in place.

Once your bottom panel is ready to go, prepare your sides to attach it. If you're cutting dadoes for the bottom to fit in, make them to fit the thickness of the bottom plus the veneer, if you're simply making a butt joint, you're already good to go.

Once you've got the bottom on, you can then veneer the sides as normal.

You seem to be concerned about gluing wood together once the veneer is on it. You're gluing up a real wood veneer to wood, so this shouldn't be an issue, no matter what kind of glue you're using to attach the wood to wood. There's possibility that the PSA holding the veneer on could detach, leaving the veneer behind. I'm not sure how significant this possibility is, but since your child may be laying on the table at the time of disengagement, I'd suggest adding some mechanical fasteners, just to be safe. Screws or nails (I'd go with screws) up through the bottom and into the sides will take some/most of the stress on the joint, meaning that the PSA on the veneer won't be taking it.

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    This is exactly answering my concerns - and yes i was planing a butt joint to attach the sides to the bottom. Thank you so much @FreeMan. One quick followup - I was thinking of doing a box joint for looks, not strength. I was even thinking to stain them different colors too because that'd look awesome (in my head). If I veneer over the box joint entirely, I loose that look. What if I cut the box joint first, veneer, trim excess veneer around the 'tenons' or 'fingers' ,and then assemble? How can I trim around the tenons/fingers/not-sure-the-term-for-it cleanly? Router trim bit? Chisel?
    – Tucker
    May 18 at 17:36
  • To stain in different colors, then yes, you'd want to veneer and finish prior to final assembly. Just be sure to keep the finish off the surfaces to be glued! Be sure to thoroughly and accurately mask prior to staining. A sharp chisel from the back side should cut the veneer with no problem, just put the flat of the chisel against the flat of the finger and push down. The veneer should split when you're cutting with the grain, and cut when going across the grain.
    – FreeMan
    May 18 at 17:52
  • This is your project, so whatever looks good to you is the way to go! I agree that some different color stains could look really good. You'll want to be sure to veneer the ends of the fingers of the box joints, too, and, I'd assume, stain them the same color as the side - that way you'll end up with squares of different colors showing through on each side. You may want to do a small piece for testing purposes, first. ;)
    – FreeMan
    May 18 at 17:53
  • FWIW I wouldn't even think about staining this unless you post-veneer it like is most typical. The ends of fingers are exposed end grain, which doesn't take stain at all like face grain. And unless you have essentially perfectly cut fingers on all four corners (pretty much only achievable by an expert, or if they're cut using a perfectly aligned box-joint jig for the router or table saw) you're going to need to do some filling.... with filler typically not staining at all like face grain, but in the opposite way.
    – Graphus
    May 18 at 19:38
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    "I'm actively trying to avoid anything that requires a steady hand." @Tucker says, reaching for his 15th cup of coffee...
    – FreeMan
    May 19 at 11:29

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