Veneer tape applied to bookmatched cherry veneer pieces

Bookmatching Veneer: a How-To

Mastering veneering is an important step for any serious woodworker. Well-selected and prepared veneer can transform a basic project into something exotic and beautiful on its own. Many of the beautiful old highboys and other pieces of furniture of old with wonderful grain patterns made use of veneers. There’s only so much beautiful grain to go around, so it makes sense that the wood is sliced into veneer layers to make it go further. If you have a single large piece of veneer for your project it makes it a hell of a lot easier. Quite often however, you will find yourself needing to put together several pieces to make a larger piece, or for aesthetic reasons. Putting together 2 (or more) pieces of veneer such that they reflect each other in perfect symmetry is called bookmatching. This post will detail the process I use for bookmatching veneer.

Cherry veneer bookmatching

Painter’s tape on the underside of the veneer after jointing

The veneer I used for this project was cherry, and I decided to put 4 pieces together for the top of a table I was building at the time. The first step of course, is to select the pieces you will be using. This is a little more complicated than it sounds if you are using 4 pieces, as you have to be very finicky when arranging them to make sure all the grain patterns will line up. Any odd or mismatched grain will look very bad in the finished piece. The veneer pieces are not jointed at this point (the ends and sides are not straight and square to each other), so account for that in your dry fit.

Veneer tape applied to bookmatched cherry veneer pieces

Veneer tape applied along the seams of the show-side of the veneer


With the pieces chosen, it’s time to joint them. Unless the mating edges are straight and square, the finished veneer will have gaps, and even a small gap shows quite a bit after finishing. Theres a number of ways to do this, you could use a jointer, a table saw (sandwiched between two solid waste pieces) or a router. I use a router with a straight edge. I lay out my pieces exactly as I would like them to be in the finished piece, and fold them up (so that if I were to unfold the pieces outward I would end up with the finished pattern). I then carefully clamp the pieces between two straight pieces of plywood, and route the mating edges along the straight edge.

Bookmatched veneer in cherry for table top

The veneer after application to the workpiece and scraping the veneer tape off

With the routing done, I lay the pieces out exactly as I want them, and use some painters’ tape along the edges to hold the pieces together. I then flip the now large piece over, and use veneer tape across and along the seams. Veneer tape is easy to use, just wet the pieces on a piece of wet paper towel and apply it to the piece. The  veneer taped side will be the show-side, which is worth keeping in mind. With the veneer tape applied, give the piece a minute or two to dry, and place a caul with a weight on top of it for around 30 minutes. This will pull the pieces together and tighten the seam. After 30 minutes, remove the painters tape, and you have your final piece of bookmatched veneer, ready to be applied to your project.

Beautiful bookmatched veneer

The bookmatched veneer after one coat of tung oil

There are a number of ways to apply veneer, from the basic cauls and clamps to a veneer press. Whichever method you use, once the glue has dried you can remove the veneer tape by slightly wetting them, or just using a cabinet scraper. If you were careful in selecting, jointing and taping the veneer, you should have perfect seams on your bookmatched veneer. Happy veneering!

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