This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
Following is the method of veneering the base of drawers by having the grain of the veneer running in the same direction as the grain of the groundwork. The body or groundwork of the base is made exactly as described, and the 2 blocks are made and sized for veneering. The face of the base is covered with veneer, except at the 2 ends where the blocks are to be stuck on. This veneer should be laid with a caul. When properly hard, it is planed and finished up with sandpaper; then the 2 blocks are fitted exactly in their places against the ends of the front veneer, and glued down without being previously veneered, as in last example.
The task of veneering the blocks and base ends with 1 piece of veneer is shown in t. A yellow pine caul is made the length of the base end, not including the semicircular blocks; then a piece of No. 12 zinc is procured, long enough to reach from the small block of wood at the inner edge of the circular block, round the block itself, along the base end, and round the ends of the caul, as indicated by the double line in the cut. The caul should be 6 in. broad, and the zinc fixed on with tacks along the edges.
A piece of veneer has now to be cut long enough to go round the block and along the base end, with a little margin both in length and breadth. The portion that goes round the block must be well toothed, and scraped on the outside, before putting on. This is to thin it somewhat, as it has to be bent round the block. The next step is to glue a thin piece of cotton cloth on the scraped side of the veneer. This is to prevent it splitting across the grain of the wood while bending. A cut is made with a dovetail saw, close to the inner edge of the block, about 1/4 in. deep in the face of the base. The end of the veneer is squared and fitted into this cut.
It will be seen, by reference to t, that a cramp and 5 hand-screws are brought into use. There are really 10 hand-screws, another 5 being placed exactly opposite those shown in the drawing. All being in readiness, the zinc caul is well heated, and a copious supply of glue applied to the groundwork to be veneered, and a thin coat to the veneer. The end of the latter is fitted into the saw cut above mentioned.
The hot caul is applied by placing the end with the block close to the circular block, and applying 2 hand-screws. Then the zinc with the veneer is bent gently round the block, and when laid along the base end several hand-screws are applied, and lastly the cramp, using a small block of wood at the back to keep the paw clear of the caul end. The exposed portion of the zinc round the block, which cools very quickly, must be heated with a smoothing iron and more pressure applied to the cramp, when the glue should run out at the edges. The hand-screws are then tightened up, when, if the whole thing has been managed properly, the veneer will be lying perfectly close. This caul should stay on for at least 10 or 12 hours, when the same operation may be performed with the other end of the base.
This method of veneering is much more difficult than the slip-shod method of banding with scraps of veneer, but it is a much more tradesmanlike manner of doing it. In short, it is the method of making a first-class piece of furniture, if veneering of any sort can be called first-class work. When the glueing of the base is properly hard, the over-wood at the edges is cleaned off, the upper side is planed level, and veneered as before described.
The veneers for the drawer fronts are bought in sets of 5 or 6. They are cut from each other, and are all of one figure, being numbered by the sawyers; care being taken to place them on the fronts all in the same way, the various markings will appear almost alike in the whole fronts.
The sets of veneers may be so narrow that they will not entirely cover the 12-in. drawer in the surbase, in which case a piece has to be added to the breadth; the joint thus made is easily concealed beneath one of the mouldings to be planted on the face.
If the veneers are of the feathery curl sort, 2 pieces to each front, the butt joint must be exactly in the centre of each, passing through the centre of the keyhole. In order to make this joint properly, the whole of the veneers are placed together exactly as they were when cut at the mill, and held together by 2 pieces of board and 2 hand-screws. The ends to be jointed are squared across, and cut with a dovetail saw all together, and afterwards planed with the iron plane. Then, being taken separately, each pair is carefully fitted to each other. This done, they are laid on a flat board with the joint placed close, and a few tacks driven in at the edges. A piece of thin calico, about 2 in. broad, is now glued along the joint. When this is dry, the veneers may be laid as one piece. Cauls of zinc, 1/4 in. thick, are best for this job, but very good work may be done with well-oiled pine cauls.
If wooden cauls are used to these fronts, they should remain in the screws not over 2 hours, as any glue adhering to the caul makes it difficult to remove, and some of the veneer is apt to peel off in the removal.
It is usual to veneer 2 of these drawers at a time, the caul being heated on both sides. The hand-screws require to be pretty large, with long jaws. They should be free from hard glue on the jaws, as it makes an unsightly mark on the inside of drawer fronts.
Help must be obtained to heat the caul while glue is applied copiously to the drawer fronts. The veneers must be previously toothed on the glueing side, and marked as they are to be laid. When laid upon the glued front, they are rubbed all over with the hands, and should project over the front 1/4 in. or so all round. At the places to be afterwards bored for the knobs, 2 tacks are driven through the veneer into the front to prevent them slipping under the hot caul while the hand-screws are being applied. These latter should be set to about the size before glueing, so that no time may be lost afterwards; 6 large hand-screws for the front or inside, and 6 smaller for the back, are necessary to lay veneers on 2 fronts. Those inside the drawers should go quite to the bottom, so that the jaws require to be at least 8 in. long, u gives a clear idea of this part of the work. It shows the 2 fronts with the caul and veneers between, and the hand-screws as applied. In applying the hand-screws to work of this kind, it is to be observed that the whole length of the jaws must bear equally on the breadth of surface pressed between them, as if they press only at the points, or at the heel, they are comparatively ineffective.