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FAQ's - How to Apply Composition Ornaments?

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The hand-carved look of our composition ornaments has been popular in the woodworking industry since the early 1900’s, offering highly detailed designs at a fraction of the cost of hand carved pieces. Generally, our composition ornaments should be applied utilizing some type of adhesive. Decorators Supply follows the time-honored method of steam application but our ornaments can simply be glued onto your woodwork as well. Both methods are described below.

Non Steaming Method

For many projects, our composition ornaments can be simply glued onto your woodwork. In situations where the wood is unfinished, good quality Carpenters glue can be used. For situations where the wood is already finished (or even in cases of unfinished wood), we would recommend a panel or caulking adhesive such as Liquid Nails or DAP Kwik Seal Caulking Adhesive. Being a water based product, Kwik Seal is particularly easy to clean up – excess glue can be peeled away and any remaining residue wiped away with water. If your composition ornaments have sat for a while in the shipping box, you may experience warpage in some of the pieces. In these cases, dry heat will soften the pieces, allowing them to lay flat for gluing.


Dry heat sources include:

  • Hair Dryer applied to the bottom side – high setting
  • Heat gun applied to the bottom side – low setting
  • Oven Heating
    • Place items on a non-metal surface (i.e. MDF board)
    • Bring oven to 200 degrees for small items (1/2” thickness or less), up to 300 degrees for thicker items
    • Heat for approximately 10 minutes



Steaming Method

The traditional method of steaming our products has two advantages: first, steaming makes the compo very flexible; second, the compo material (which contains hide glue) is made self-adhering to unfinished wood through the steaming process. When heated and moistened, the hide glue infuses the wood grain, making a nearly unbreakable bond with the wooden substrate. This procedure may at first seem intimidating, but with a little practice, anyone can achieve professional grade results. To begin with, you will need the following items (see picture below):


  1. A 16” to 18” turkey roasting pan should be filled half way with water
  2. Cotton canvas stapled to a wood frame made the same size as the top of the roasting pan
  3. A heat source, such as a camp stove or hot plate.


Place the pan filled half way with water on the heat source. Lay the stretched canvas on the rim of the pan and turn on the heat. As the water simmers and the steam begins rising through the cloth, you will be ready to start. Place the compo piece face up onto the canvas. After a minute or so, lift an edge with a knife blade to look at the back side. If it looks tacky and is taking on the texture of the canvas, the ornament is ready to apply. Using the blade, carefully lift the piece and gently press it into place. It will begin to set-up immediately upon contact, so it is a good idea to have the destination well marked out. Heavier pieces can be further secured with wire brads, the resulting holes filled with compo residue. If wire brads are to be used, this should be done immediately after application onto the woodwork while the material is still soft. When applying linear mouldings, it is advisable to crowd the pieces together as you lay them into place, especially around the joints. Crowding the pieces will eliminate the chance of separation cracks appearing after the compo has cooled and dried. As you proceed, scrape off compo residue and water from time to time.


Any sealing or painting should be deferred for 1-2 days in order that the appliqués may thoroughly dry out.




Time Consideration

To insure a trouble free and successful installation we recommend that the composition ornaments be installed as soon after receipt from the factory as possible. Application within two (2) weeks of receipt is best. However, that time can be extended by keeping the material wrapped in its original box and stored in a cool dry location.

Should you have any questions or concerns on your way to compo perfection, please do not hesitate to contact us.


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