Vinyl is made by mixing two chemicals, chlorine and ethylene, and comes in many forms from semi-liquid to rigid, thin to thick and flexible to breakable. Regardless of the form, gluing vinyl to wood requires specific types of glue. The choice for glue depends on the back of the vinyl, the part where the glue will go. Some vinyl has a woven back, meaning before sale, the vinyl had woven material attached to one side. The vinyl may have a non-woven back, making it shiny and smooth.
Vinyl with a woven back is rougher and porous. If the back of the vinyl has obvious fibers and is a lighter color than the other side, it has a woven back. The glue will move within the pores and create a stronger bond with the wood. Any strong carpenter's wood glue works for gluing vinyl to wood. Carpenter's glue is available for indoor and outdoor use, so choose the one that corresponds with where the finished project will go. Spread glue on both the vinyl and the wood, and press the two together. Wipe away any excess that squishes out. Carpenter's glue holds up to extreme cold and often claims to last longer than the wood.
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Without a woven back, vinyl is smooth and does not bond well to surfaces because it is nonporous. Stronger glue is necessary to attach non-woven back vinyl to wood. Choose strong water-based contact cement because it provides more coverage than solvent based. Apply the glue to both surfaces using a brush or paint roller. If the wood is very porous, use two coats to ensure the glue fills in all holes. Allow the glue to dry for 30 minutes before pressing the vinyl and wood together. The glue is ready for pressing when it has turned to a milky white color.
Clamping will help bond the two surfaces together after gluing but is not always a necessity. If using carpenter's glue, clamp the pieces together; if using cement, clamping is not necessary as it bonds tight right away. When using clamps, ensure they are not so tight that they leave an indentation on the vinyl. A small piece of wood between the clamp and vinyl will remedy this problem. Other ways to clamp vinyl and wood is to place something heavy on top of the vinyl, such as a few books. Wrap stretchy tubing or elastic bands around odd shapes to hold the pieces in place.
Another method is used to attach vinyl to wood besides glue. Whether making furniture or something else, attach the vinyl using upholstery tacks. Some tacks are plain and invisible once nailed into place while others are decorative, with flowers or some design. Stretch the vinyl over the wood, and place one tack close to the edge. Hammer the tack in place with a rubber mallet, taking care not to dent any of the design. Space the tacks as far apart or as close as needed. Tacking vinyl already glued to wood with carpenter's glue will guarantee it stays in place.