Wood Veneer Substrates: A Useful Guide

A substrate is the material that a wood veneer is bonded to. In this post we’re going to look at the most popular materials used as substrates together with expert tips on applying veneers to each of them.

Medium density fibreboard (MDF)

MDF is one of the most commonly used substrates and is regularly the choice of fine furniture makers thanks to its excellent stability and uniformity.

MDF needs to be thoroughly sanded before a veneer can be applied to ensure a good grip for the glue. You can test it by dropping a little water onto the surface. If a bead shape forms and remains for at least 10 seconds then you’ll need to sand a little more. If however the water flattens out and is absorbed by the substrate than you are ready to proceed with your veneer glue application.


Light, sag resistant and with excellent gripping capabilities, plywood doesn’t tend to need any sort of surface preparation ahead of applying your veneer glue.

There is something very important to consider however when using plywood as a substrate for wood veneers, and that is quality. Not all plywood is made equal, so be sure to choose wisely. Check that the face of the plywood is not loose or peeling; if it is, then your veneer will never bond properly.

Particle board

Whilst it is not as good as MDF, particle board still makes a good veneering substrate.

You’ll need to lightly sand the surface to improve the grip for the glue. Use the same water droplet test as with MDF to check whether you have sanded your particle board enough before applying the glue.

Hardwood or softwood

Solid wood, whether hardwood or softwood, is always going to pose the issue of expansion and contraction as environmental influences take effect.

If you have no choice other than to use solid wood, try to opt for quarter-sawn or rift cut. These types have less seasonal movement than others. Glue wise you’ll be best advised using a hard-setting PPR adhesive, and you’ll need to use a vacuum press to hold the veneer in place whilst the glue dries over a period of around four to six hours.

Natural wood veneers

Whatever substrate you decide to use for your natural wood veneering project, the team here at Read Veneers is able to assist you across all aspects of veneer application including cutting, preparation, stitching and pressing. We can work from your drawings and have a wide range of the latest machines to enhance our capabilities and turnaround options.

To discuss your individual project, and to request a no-obligation written quotation, please get in touch.