Upcycling with PSA Veneer

Posted by Jaclyn Baldwin on

It’s that time of year again. Students are going back to school, and for many that means moving into a college dorm or apartment. Maybe you have just finished school and are moving into your first apartment. 

With that comes the fiscally daunting task of furnishing your space. If you are anything like me, you look to family, friends, and yard sale strangers for hand-me-downs and second-chance offerings. Sure, maybe that desk has seen some better days, but since I’m currently actually using my lap for my laptop, it doesn’t look half so bad. 

Same goes for the mismatched end tables and dressers. Maple and oak and an indescribable shade of brown all look the same, right?

Since you are also time-strapped, it doesn’t really matter. You’ll save up and buy something nicer one day.

But, why not give it a second chance with minimal tools and supplies required. We have a solution that doesn’t involve stripping old varnish, sanding through layers of finish, or applying stain and poly. (Those are options. But I’ll save those for another day.)

I’m talking about veneer. And not just any veneer. PSA veneer. The easy peel and stick option. Think Command strips. They revolutionized picture hanging. No hammer or nails needed. Here comes PSA veneer. No contact cement, glue, or vacuum press required. (PSA Veneer does not adhere to bare wood; if you want to cover the beauty of natural hardwood, an additional adhesive is required.) 

What is Veneer?

Before I knew anything about veneers, I shared some common misconceptions about it. That it was somehow inferior and why would anyone use it. It wasn’t “real” wood. Veneer was just a cheap way to disguise an unsavory or poorly made piece. And I’m the first to say I was wrong, and that while I do love working with hardwood, there is a place for veneer, and it is REAL wood.

Veneer is created from thin slices of wood, called “leaves,” approximately 1/40” thick, or less. The leaves are then pressed, glued or laminated onto core materials, such as MDF or plywood. They are also formed into paper backed sheets. 

These paper backed sheets are not only flexible, they are eco-friendly, producing far less waste than rough sawn lumber planks, as even the smallest “leaves” are used. 

Paper backed veneer also lends an amazing degree of flexibility to all projects, allowing wood workers to achieve shapes and forms not otherwise possible. In addition, as veneer sheets are glued and pressed together, they are not prone to the same warping or splitting as solid wood panels. Instead, you have a product that is stronger and with proper application, will last much longer. 

Most importantly, in the context of our time saving, it is easy to apply, with minimal tools required.

Applying PSA Veneer Step-By-Step Guide

  • Straighten the sheet. PSA Veneers come in rolls and should be placed between two pieces of plywood to acclimatize before application. We recommend doing this overnight before you plan on using the piece.
  • Clean the surface of your work piece. You can use denatured alcohol to remove any grease, flaking paint, dust, etc. 
  • Scuff sand the piece using a piece of 120 grit sandpaper.
  • Remove sanding residue and anything you missed the first time through with denatured alcohol.
  • Position veneer over piece and trim, allowing ¼” to ½” overlap for further trimming after application.
  • For the best results, position your veneer in place before peeling the backing. Mark the centers of both the veneer and the piece you are refinishing. Once you peel back the veneer, apply at the center line and smooth outward. 
    • Once you apply pressure, you will be unable to reposition the veneer.
  • Use a veneer scraper, or a DIY plexiglass scraper, to smooth out the veneer and remove any bubbles.
    • Always scrape in the grain direction.
  • Trim any overlap with a utility knife.
  • Sand any sharp edges with a fine grit sandpaper.
  • Wait 24 hours before using.

Additional Notes

While additional adhesives are not needed for covering lacquered, varnished, painted or enamel surfaces, contact cement is recommended for bare wood, and other finished surfaces. 

Veneered surfaces can be finished with a stain or sealer, but for best results, wait 24 hours after application. Before applying stain or sealer, sand the veneer with fine grit sandpaper. 

Project Ideas

  • Reface speaker surrounds
  • Uplift laundry room or utility room cabinets and shelves
  • Reface large picture frames
  • Uplift desk tops 

Comment below and let us know how you have used PSA veneer!


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