Vermeers on veneers
June 18, 2010 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I just found out you can print on wood veneer! How can I prevent the wood from cracking along grain lines without laminating it into super-thickness?

I'm imagining a magic compound that can soak into the veneer and make it a bit more solid. Maybe you'd paint it on, let it soak/dry, then sand off the extra. And then, beauty!
posted by soma lkzx to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Certainly wetting the wood would make it more flexible and less prone to cracking, but that would mess up the printing. Perhaps cover the back with packing tape? That might alleviate some of the stresses during printing.

A different thing to try is t-shirt paper. Transfer the design to the wood veneer just as you would to cotton. I'd imagine there's a good chance it would adhere well enough.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, sorry, the printing part is fine - it's the afterwards I'm concerned with. If I wanted to, say, turn them into business cards they'd be super prone to falling apart.
posted by soma lkzx at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2010

Same thing. After printing, laminate them with perpendicular-grained wood, or something without grain like cardstock or a thin sheet of clear plastic. Wouldn't add too much thickness; double maybe.
posted by supercres at 12:53 PM on June 18, 2010

Or just a few coats of polyurethane if that's feasible. I imagine for something business card-sized you could just dip them to get a nice thick coat.
posted by supercres at 12:55 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

What kind of printing are you doing? My first thought was "use thicker wood" like bending birch or 1/8" luan, because I assumed screen printing.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:05 PM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: The printing is just sticking them in the printer, nothing fancy.

I like the idea of using another layer that's perpendicular-grained as a backing, as well as dropping some poly on it. If I can rustle up a can I'm going to try that one now.
posted by soma lkzx at 1:11 PM on June 18, 2010

Have made wood business cards before with various techniques (transfer print, screen print, laser engraving) and with wood that thin, it is going to crack along grain lines, period. Sure, you can make nice display pieces, but as soon as it gets handled or your snazzy business card goes in someone's pocket or wallet, it will break. On larger pieces, this is even more of a concern, as the larger size makes it so much easier to accidentally bend the piece to its breaking point.

The only way around it that I have found is to use a very thin plywood; most cabinetry suppliers can get you 1/16" or 1/8" 2-ply in various woods and finishes. It's a compromise, the edges don't finish out as well, but even the 1/16" is surprisingly durable and will bend without breaking.

Depending on your project, you may want to look into laser engraving. A nice Epilog will not only do a fine job of monochromatic imaging on 1/16" plywood, but is powerful enough to cut business cards from the master sheet as well; the edges are dark but not "burnt" charred, and require little additional finishing.
posted by xedrik at 1:20 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you do the perpendicular-grain thing, you're essentially making your own reeeeally thin plywood. I'm not sure if it applies to this sort of thing, but the phrase I always hear (and use) when talking about glue-ups is that the glue is stronger than the wood.

Of course, that applies to high-quality glue. I'm not sure if a polyurethane glue like Gorilla Glue would work for an application like this (you'd have to really clamp it down flat so it can't expand between the two plys), but it would definitely add some strength.
posted by supercres at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could try using model aircraft plywood, which is thin enough and surprisingly strong. I've used multiply wood from Bud Nosen for other projects and had excellent results.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:42 PM on June 18, 2010

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