Bending Laminate with Heat

Tips on heating and bending laminate material to make radius edges. July 18, 2008

I am fairly new to laminating countertops and have a project that calls for a 4" radius on the corners. The countertop will be 2-1/4" thick. We'll be using Wilsonart laminate and would like suggestions on bending the laminate around this radius edge.

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surface Forum)
From contributor E:
Belt-sand the back of the laminate where it will bend around the corners. Clamp the laminate strips to your table before sanding. Make sure nothing is under the strip, so you're sanding flat. Make sure when sticking the edge, you've got the thinner section lined up with curve. When putting edging on, use a heat gun to make the strip easier to bend. I'll start on a straight edge, which holds up one end of laminate for you. Then heat the curve and j roll the radius while it's still soft. Be careful of heating it too much (I only bubbled the laminate once) - just enough to make it more flexible. Too much heat will kill the glue also.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I had considered sanding the back but was not sure how heating it would affect the glue. I will try it very carefully on a test piece.

From contributor J:
Another way is to use matching V grade - way, way easier to bend.

From contributor X:
In my day bending laminate was done over a cone heater that was inserted into a large juice can. When you turned the electricity on, it got the juice can hot, which is where the laminate was applied. When the laminate got flexible, it was removed and fitted. We did not have heat guns then. Make sure you use post forming laminate since it's a bendable grade. A special pencil that applies a coat that melts and can be used to tell you when it's time to bend is also available.

From contributor G:
Using post form, you shouldn't need any heat. I only seem to need heat on anything 3 inches and below, unless I am using standard grade.

From contributor H:
In my opinion there's only one way to do radius corners. Heat gun! No sanding or having to settle with postform grade material. Just heat the area to be bent for roughly 30 seconds. With a 4in radius you barely should have to heat it.

From contributor O:
All good replies. It is correct that not much heat should be needed. Also I would file the edges to get them smooth and chip free so a crack cannot start, and be careful not to blister with the heat gun.

From the original questioner:
I appreciate all the input. I tried contributor E's way this morning. Worked great - could possibly get by without the sanding, but with my experience will try that later. Already have the laminate cut, so I will try the specialty laminate on a future project, as it must be ordered - not available locally. And I will definitely file the edges to reduce the possibility of cracks.

From contributor K:
Make sure you are using post-forming grade. Use a heat gun until it will bend whatever radius you are covering. Do not waste your time sanding the back. There is absolutely no need for this unless A. you are using standard grade, or B. your radius is under 1" or less. I doubt either of those are the case here.

From contributor H:
A: You can bend any grade laminate with a heat gun assuming the radius is no smaller than 1in. B: I do it all the time, like every day. Not to mention all that came before... thousands...

From contributor S:
Yep, just to be redundant, heat gun. I always pre-bend before I glue though, and I tend to over bend just to make sure. My biggest problem is if there is only a couple of inches of flat/straight run after the bend, like on a top that is in a wall pass through or something. Don't forget to be careful - stuff does get hot, ouch!

From contributor L:
Job was finished early February. I sanded back and used the heat gun. Sanding may have been overkill, but with my experience with laminate was worth the time. It worked out great! Thanks again for all the input.

From contributor M:
All of these responses are good, but for those who wonder about killing the adhesive, you can use the Wilsonart 800 series of adhesive, specially formulated for post-forming operations using heat.

From contributor N:
Use postform grade. I bend it to a 2" radius everyday without heat or sanding. As for the heat gun ruining the glue, pre-form the laminate by heating it with the gun, before gluing, holding it around the radius either by hand or with clamps till it cools. It will retain enough of the shape of the radius. Glue up and apply.