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How to Build VALANCE BOX-103 Part 3: How to Apply Appliques Using a Steam Bath

compo applique onlay

The key to steaming the appliques until they are soft is to cover them while they are steaming.

This is the traditional method for installing compo appliques on a porous surface.

The technique worked really well for my intended purpose of softening up these old appliques so that they would lay flat.

As expected, however, there was little glue left in the compo to be of any use, so I just added some additional wood glue to the back of each applique.

Below  I filled one of Jennifer’s bread pans with water topped with a cooling grate.

how to install compo woodworking appliques

The basic setup for steaming compo appliques.

A layer of cheesecloth goes between the grate and the applique.

compo applique installation

First Try, Not So Good

I let this thick acanthus leaf applique steam for about five minutes, but that didn’t soften it up enough to make it pliable.

how to install moldings and appliques

This one wasn’t warped much, so I added some wood glue and laid it on top like I usually do.

acanthus leaf compo onlay

It’s plain to see how useful it would have been to make this applique soft so that it would lay completely flat.  Now I’ll have to meticulously fill this gap with caulk.

Put a Lid On It

I don’t know why I didn’t think about putting a lid over the applique while it’s steaming during my first try, but it worked perfectly on the second applique.

After a few minutes this delicate scroll ornament was soft and pliable.  I added some glue to the back and then pressed it onto the center panel.

architectural ornament

The left side of the scroll ornament lay down nice and flat.

Below  This is the right side of the ornament, and it was very warped before steaming it (see just how warped it was in Part 2 of this series).

compo applique decorators supply

I wanted to work quickly, moving the applique from the steam bath over to the work surface before it cooled, so I didn’t take pictures of the flexible applique.  But the technique worked perfectly.

how to install moldings

Lessons Learned

Next time I’ll wear a pair of thin cotton gloves to protect my fingers from the heated appliques, not that I burned my fingers, but it will help remove timidity so I can work more quickly.  I’ll also cover the appliques with a lid to retain heat and moisture.

Other than that it was a simple process.  So don’t be shy if you want to add this level of detail to your own valance box, because it’s just not that hard to do.

Related Posts

The Best Place to Buy Woodworking Appliques

Architectural Ornaments (The category showing a growing list of the appliques I use on my molding patterns.)

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