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Trimming Veneer
by Sal Marino

The two most commonly used tools to cut and trim veneer are a veneer saw and a craft knife. I will cover the use of both these tools in this document.

Veneer Saw
The veneer saw is a neat little tool. Its teeth have no set and therefore it cuts straight and resists the pull of stubborn grain which is very important especially when you are ripping (cutting with the grain) veneer. When used properly, the saw will also produce a relatively clean cut. Because it has no set, it will leave a very narrow kerf.

Sharpening The Veneer Saw Blade

While most veneer saws work fine when first purchased, we can re-sharpen the blade to make the saw cut cleaner. The blade is held onto its handle by two screws.  Remove these screws and separate the blade from the handle. Sandwich the blade between two pieces of soft wood and then place this in a vice.

First, You will need to bevel the top side of the saw blade using a smooth cut mill file. Position the file at a 15 degree angle to the blade and push the file across the teeth.  When using a mill file for this operation, do not pull the file back, but rather lift the file after each pass and return to the leading edge to start a new pass.  Continue making passes until you have an even width bevel across the entire length of the blade. Repeat this process on the other edge of the blade.

Once both edges are beveled they should be sharpened using a small triangular jeweler's file.  File each tooth 60 degrees to the surface of the blade with no back or front, this way you can use the saw in either direction.  This will make the saw cut a little slower but much cleaner.

Mill File Triangular File

Filing the teeth

File at 60 degree angle

Use smooth cut file to
cut the bevel
Use triangular needle file to
sharpen the teeth
Sandwich blade between two pieces of soft wood and then place this in a vice. File each tooth 60 degrees to the surface of the blade

After the teeth are filed, both the beveled and back sides of the blade need to be honed to remove any burrs created by the mill file and refine the edge of the teeth.  I like to use a hard Arkansas stone for this operation but any stone should work fine.  Lay the blade on the surface of the stone at approx. a 15 degree angle matching the angle of the bevel you cut with the mill file.  Move the blade across the stone several times.  Finally flip the blade over and lay the back side flat on the surface of the stone and make several passes on the back of the blade.

Crosscutting With The Veneer Saw
Cutting VeneerTo cut veneer to length you must cut against the grain of the wood. The grain usually runs parallel with the length of the veneer, therefore you must make a cut that is roughly 90 degrees to the grain direction. Place a backing board on your workbench so you when you cut through the veneer, you will not damage your workbench surface. Now lay your veneer on top of the backing board. If your cut has to be exactly square, use a try-square or other accurate square. Use a pencil to mark your cut line on the face of the veneer. IMPORTANT NOTE: Always cut veneer slightly oversize, then after it is glued down, trim it flush to edges of work piece. Lay a metal or aluminum straightedge along the pencil line and place the back of the veneer saw against the straightedge. make sure the saw will be cutting on the waste side of the veneer, this way if you make a mistake, it will not ruin your good stock. Refer to photo to the left for proper position of saw against straightedge. When cutting against the grain, always cut from both edges toward the center of the piece. If you attempt to cut across the grain from one edge to the other, the veneer will most likely split of on the trailing edge. Do not try to cut through the veneer in one pass, take light passes until the saw cuts completely through the veneer. Some thicker and harder veneers may take longer to cut.

Ripping With The Veneer Saw
Basically, ripping (cutting with or parallel with the grain) is preformed the same way as crosscutting with the exception of a few things. Fist, unlike crosscutting, you don't have to cut from one end into the center to avoid splitting. The trailing edge will not split out when ripping. Second, extra care should be taken to keep the saw from pulling away from the straightedge. When ripping, the tool has a tendency to pull away from the straightedge because alternating hard and soft areas in the grain pattern, the tool can catch in a soft area and pull away from the straightedge or hit a hard area and skip over the straightedge. Other than these two points, the method is the same as crosscutting.

Craft Knife
One of the best ways to achieve a clean, sharp cut is to use a craft knife. Commonly used by artists and hobbyists, this tool has a metal handle with a slit jaw at the top which accepts razor sharp blades of many shapes. The shape best suited for cutting veneers is a #11 type blade. This blade has a very sharp point that will score as well as cut through veneer leaving a clean edge with no chipping.

Using The Craft Knife
The craft knife is used in a similar manner to the veneer saw. Make sure you take very light scoring passes with the tip of the craft knife. Once again, when crosscutting, cut into the center from both edges. The craft knife has more of a tendency to pull away from the straightedge than the veneer saw does, so be careful.

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