Making a Veneer Hammer
One of the most basic tools used in veneering is a veneering hammer. These are used not like a hammer, but more like a squeegee - pressing the veneer down into place using back and forth and zig-zag motions. These also work best when using traditional hot hide glue, as it is sticky enough to hold down the veneer, where aliphatic resin glues will not always do so. I won't get into big detail on the process here, but generally you first coat the substrate then the veneer, and press the veneer into place with the hammer. Some methods of hammer veneering also have you coating the top (exposed) part of the veneer - the glue on top of the veneer helps to lubricate the hammer and stabilize the veneer so it doesn't warp.
Rough dimensions aren't that important. Size can be a factor, as too big and the veneer becomes too hard to press down... Too small and it doesn't cover enough area. These are the sizes generally recommended in most of the old texts that I've read:
Now - there are many that prefer a smaller hammer, about 3" or so - for most of their work. That is a good size for doing smaller veneers, like when doing drawer fronts... I think most commercial hammers you buy today are about 3-1/2" or so. 6" can be a bit large for some work - but just right for larger panels so it's a good idea to make a couple different sizes.
I dug around and found some scrap hickory for the head and ash for the handle. You should use a wood for the head that is not prone to splitting - as working it will put a bit of pressure on it over time. Ash always makes for a good handle, but just about any good handle wood will do - I shaped this one on the lathe to make it feel good in my hand:
The brass is 1" x 6" (or the length of your hammer head) and should be about 1/8" thick or so, though I think 1/4" would be better. The bottom face of it should be rounded off and polished smooth - it can be rounded off using a belt sander, then polished with some emery or tripoli on a buffing wheel. Brass can be purchased online from several sources, including McMaster Carr and MSC Direct.
I had an old brass back for a back saw that I had screwed up, and couldn't get myself to throw it away - so I thought I could make good use of it in one of these - a solid bar of brass would undoubtedly be better as the glue will probably work it's way into the fold, but I don't see it being a big issue:
I turned the tenon of the handle to 3/4" on the lathe, then used a backsaw to cut the slot for the wedge. A little glue, some test fitting, and a small wedge were all that were necessary to insert the handle into the head:
I made the tenon about 1/4" too long and assembled it that way - then used a dozuki to cut the end off flush with the face of the hammer. A bit of sanding, some boiled linseed oil, and a quick coat of shellac, and the hammer is complete. About 1 hr. invested.
A fun little project!