Adding a stunning piece of veneer to a shelf or tabletop is a way to “take your woodworking to the next level.”
But some woodworkers hesitate, because they think it will require a bunch of special supplies and equipment to properly apply veneer. That may be true if you are talking about large complicated panels. But if you keep the pieces small, like in the table shelf example below, veneering can be as easy as using an iron. (Yup, a clothes iron.)
Start by preparing the substrate that you will apply the veneer to. In this case, the shelf is 1/2" plywood. If the edges of the substrate will be exposed after veneering, glue hardwood edging to match the veneer species (here, its mahogany). Then select appropriately sized veneer pieces (you must apply it to both faces of the substrate). Using a glue like the Titebond® product shown here, roll out a thin coating onto the veneer and the substrate. Allow it to dry completely. Then, with a standard household iron set to its hottest temperature ready to go, position the veneer on the substrate (glue face to glue face) and then just iron the veneer down. Be careful: once you start, there is no moving the veneer.