In this article I will explain how you can improve the appearance of a simple oak panel that is available in almost any big store. The panels consist of short thin strips of oak wood, glued together to form a panel. They are not, in my opinion, the best looking panels, but they definitely look better than a simple melamine board.
Even though I like the panels made of whole boards, a friend of mine asked me to upgrade these 18 mm thick panels that he bought from the store: he wanted them to look thicker. I usually use the method in which I cut strips from each end, and then glue them underneath, mirroring them to match the end grain pattern. I used this method for the concrete and wood coffee table that I did a few years ago.
This time I was asked to make the panel look thicker, by gluing 45 degrees strips to the ends. Obviously, this would change the final look entirely.
The first step was to choose some boards for the long edges of the panel. I straightened them on all their faces and made a few passes through the thickness planer until they were 22 mm by 20 mm in size. I left them slightly longer, to make sure there was enough room to make the cuts. I used polyurethane to glue them on the long edges of the panels. I used plenty of clamps, to make sure the two pieces were tightly pressed together. I sometimes choose to glue the strip on the side of the panel (in this case the strip should be wider), but for this job I chose to glue strips underneath the panel (since the panels were already cut to their final width). Once the glue dried, I planed the edges to make the glue line look seamless and cut the excess at the ends.
I then cut a strip from one end of the panel, strip that I was going to use as edge when thickening the panel. The length of this strip should be equal to the final thickness of the panel. I used a sliding miter saw for this job, but it can easily be done using a handheld circular saw (with the blade tilted at 45 degrees) and a straight edge as a guide to have a perfectly straight cut.
I then did another cut, still 45 degrees tilted, but the other way compared to the first one. I was now able to fit the strips that I first cut from the ends of the panels. This is the way the back of the panel looks, after making all the necessary cuts.
I then glued both ends to the panel. This was a little trickier, since, in order to tighten it well, I had to use a combination of clamps and screws. if i wouldn’t have used screws, the strips could have slid away since they were cut at 45 degrees. I also predrilled the holes for the screws, because there was an increased risk to break the small strips.
After the glue dried, I moved on to finishing the panel. I started with 50 grit sandpaper (to straighten the joint line of the edges to the panel. I then filled all the holes and small cracks using wood putty. Finally, I sanded the whole panel again using 120 grit sandpaper.
The final step was to seal it with polyurethane primer and scratch resistant lacquer. Of course, I didn’t skip the light sanding between layers, in order to obtain a smooth finish.