Applying Solid Wood Edges to Plywood Shelves

What the most efficient way to put a solid wood edge on a plywood shelf? July 27, 2008

I have been doing some analysis lately on what is bottlenecking my business. Shelves are one of the things that get me. I use plywood with hardwood edges. I tongue and groove the ply and the hardwood, then put a decorative edge on the hardwood, and then glue them together so there are no holes. I do not own an edgebander, which would be the easiest way, I know. I have seen shaper bits for this and was wondering if anyone uses something like that, or has an idea that would speed things up, but still maintain quality.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
You don't need the T&G. Put two shelves and wood edges on the clamp rack with the edges trapped between the panels. Set one of your shapers to run the panel on edge past a straight cutter to flush, and then profile the edge on a shaper as usual. If you do this a lot, just leave a (cheap, used) shaper set up for it.

From contributor R:
You can buy a little hot air bench-top bander from Woodworker's Supply for a couple hundred bucks. You have to trim the tape by hand, but it is loads faster than what you are currently doing.

From contributor D:
Even with a bander, you'll have times when a wood edge is needed/wanted.

From contributor B:
Here's what I just started to do with library shelving. I purchased a Freud biscuit joining router bit, #99-041 from Amazon. It's a 3 wing bit with 3 different bearings for the 3 sizes of biscuits. I slot the front edge, full length, of the ply shelf. I prepare my nosing for the final look. Then I use my biscuit joiner to put biscuit slots in the back of the nose anywhere I want. Add biscuits with glue, clamp to the ply. No lining up pencil marks to slot both pieces, and having to sand off those marks. I even offset the jointer 1/8" so the nose is higher that the ply. Looks better. I also use the router bit to install hardwood nosing on lam countertops, except I slot the back of the nose too, so it lines up flush with the top. Goes a lot quicker and no nails to fill.

From contributor R:
That is supposed to be faster? What do you do when you have 56 shelves to edge? 56 shelves in clamps? Pin 'em and fill 'em if you have to, otherwise use the edgebander.

From contributor B:
My edgebander won't apply 3/4" hardwood.

From contributor J:
I use a heater bar (available from Veneer Systems) to speed up the process of gluing on solid edges on shelves, case parts, etc. It cuts the time in half compared to just clamping and letting them sit.

From the original questioner:
What is a heater bar? Is that like hot melt glue or something different? Would the 3M or other glues dry fast enough and have as much holding power?

From contributor J:
The heater bar is just an aluminum tube with a heating element inside. Acts just like a hot press. You use Titebond or whatever PVA or AR glue you'd normally use and it sets it in half the time. Bond is the same.

From contributor R:
Try Titebond's moulding glue. It is thicker so it won't drip and sets in half the time of yellow type II.

From contributor N:
We have a Marunaka OTM 2400 bought used off Ex-Factory a few years ago. It works well for heavy wood bandings. It will put a Ύ” X 1 ½” facing on a Ύ” thick ply or substrate panel and position the top edge just slightly above the face for flush trimming. It will not do an overhanging lip any wider than this, but I think will face up to 2” thick substrate. It works best on 1/8” to 1” thick bandings. You heat the edge on a heat bar for a few seconds, then it is clamped and positioned pneumatically for about 30 seconds. Using PVA type glue you get a tight, strong glue joint. I don’t think Marunaka makes these anymore, but Hess has a similar machine that is probably better. Not a high production machine, but useful in some situations. A lot less than a 100 K plus Pur glue edgebander.

From contributor S:
Why not look for a faster method? A couple of pin holes to fill is much faster than T&G'ing shelf nosing to a plywood shelf. You can't really believe that plywood shelves are too high end for holes. Use plenty of glue and shoot it in the correct place with a brad gun, wait a few minutes, and then profile it on the shaper. I can't imagine using a straight cutter on a shaper to trim solid stock flush with veneer core plywood. The finish veneer is so thin these days you must be careful when using an orbital sander. You could glue up a solid wood shelf faster than all that T&G stuff with the nosing, and have a stronger and more valuable piece.

From contributor E:
We easily build hundreds, possibly thousands of these kinds of shelves a year. Although we have a custom made clamping rack with a heat bar that allows shelves to cure in about a minute, we rarely use it for items as small as shelves. Simple bar clamps, no biscuits, no T&G; just yellow glue and pressure is all that you need. You can clamp 15 or 20 shelves in about 30 minutes, then begin unclamping and do it again. We find flushing the joint by touch to be faster than leaving it proud and flushing it off with a lipping planer. The strength of a pressure glued joint will stand up to anything. Biscuits and T&G joints are a waste of time and add nothing to the end result.

From contributor W:
Before I had an edgebander, I used to glue 1/4" x 7/8" wood strips on with 1" spring clamps spaced about 6" apart. I would run a bead of glue on edge of 3/4" ply shelf, place wood strip on and spring clamps over strip, pushing the throat tight against strip, flip over and rest assembly with clamps on bench so that glue drips on nosing that gets trimmed. I had about 40-50 of these clamps (about $1 each) so I could do about 8-10 shelves at a time.

From contributor H:

3M's hot PUR gun with the correct glue will do the trick with no brads or puttying or clamping. We use one for rope moulding on crowns and applied rope mouldings to MDF shaker doors. There are different viscosities and open working times, so it is best to have 3M see the application so they can advise the best glue.