Renting a steam roller seems excessive.
May 14, 2011 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions on straightening a sheet of warped wood veneer?

I have an old bar I've done over; it came with a sheet of wood veneer, meant to slide over the surface of the drinks-prep area and help protect it from spills. But it was stored in a dusty basement for years before I got to it, and now it's pretty severely warped. Any ideas on how to straighten/flatten it out?

The sheet's about 1/8th of an inch thick and coated with a poly finish (which I've since painted over and sealed on one side). I tried dampening the back of the sheet and pressing it flat while it dried --- after removing the weights it was a bit flatter, but within a day or two had reverted back to its old curved shape.
posted by Diablevert to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
You didn't state the size, so I'm not sure if this is practical. But...if you could build some sort of fairly waterproof enclosure that it would fit in, try putting it in, setting up a teapot with a spout hosed into the enclosure, and steam that sucker for a couple of hours.. then, put it in some sort of press for a week or so.

We used to bend cedar strips to build canoes by sticking them in PVC tubing with a teapot sitting on a wood stove attached via a tube from the spout into the PVC.
posted by tomswift at 8:09 PM on May 14, 2011

Nothing you can do to fix this will be cheaper or easier than replacing it.
posted by mhoye at 8:17 PM on May 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

You might try glueing the veneer to a stable flat substrate like mdf. You would sandwich the veneer between two pieces mdf , glueing the back of the veneer to one of the mdf pieces with contact cement and clamp the whole thing up.

Some lengthwise slices to the back of the veneer with an exacto knife would help it lay flat.
If you're using weight to clamp it you need something heavy and conforming like a sand bag.
posted by PaulBGoode at 9:15 PM on May 14, 2011

What mhoye said.
It's next-to-impossible to straighten a warped piece of wood for less than it would cost to simply replace the piece. Proper (and permanent) straightening really requires industrial-sized things like a steam cabinet and/or vacuum table and/or extremely large clamping systems.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:50 AM on May 15, 2011

Response by poster: Aw, nuts. I was quite pleased with the effect I achieved on the painted side. Thanks guys!
posted by Diablevert at 6:13 AM on May 15, 2011

An old timer once told me to put it outside on some grass for a couple of days to get it to revert to it's original form. Never tried it, but it couldn't hurt.
posted by Max Power at 7:01 AM on May 15, 2011

Also, if it is warped just from sitting around, it probably isn't going to be a very good surface for wet areas. Even if you are able to get it back into condition, it will warp back on its own relatively quickly after a small amount of usage.

This is a situation where a good looking formica would probably be advisable.

Or build a new veneer and substrate sandwich, with a more substantial backing. At least a 1/4 inch. They make plywood with a finish veneer already on it, like oak or maple. (That's probably what your piece was, actually.) Then put about 1000 coats of polyurethane on it. Maybe not 1000, but whatever the do-it-yourself books say to do for a high traffic floor.

Another option would be to get a box of pre-finished hardwood flooring, lay out your top, and then use something to seal the seams so moisture doesn't get in. I would probably use clear exterior grade silicone caulk. Smear it on the edges, put the pieces together, and then wipe the excess off that smushes out. Or some kind of exterior glue like they would use on a boat.
posted by gjc at 8:05 AM on May 15, 2011

Best answer: For the future, it's never a good idea to finish a piece of wood on one side only. This will almost make the wood cup toward the finished side. It will even bend something as thick as a door - it's guaranteed with a piece of veneer.

Even with the warp, you might be able to use the piece. Cover the substrate with contact adhesive. Cover the back of the veneer with contact adhesive. Let both pieces dry. Then put them together. Make sure everything is lined up before the two pieces touch - as soon as the contact adhesive touches you won't be able to readjust anything. ( You can lay dowels or window blind slats across the bar, set the veneer on top, line everything up, and then pull the dowels out one at a time.)

Also, use flammable contact adhesive if you can find it - but follow all the precautions. Flammable contact adhesive seems stronger than its non-flammable cousin.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:49 AM on May 15, 2011

I keep reading you question - is this just a 1/8th inch think piece of wood not glued down to anything? I think warped is pretty much the default sate for veneer in that situation. Check out the blue and white cabinet on this page. In fine woodworking he described at length all the work he had to go to with layers on counter-veneer and so on to keep the bulges on the side panels bulged the way he wanted them to.

That may be an approach here - get another piece of similarly warped wood and glue them back to back. Then seal everything.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:31 PM on May 15, 2011

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