Finishing Wood Edges of Laminate Tops

Suppose you want to edge-band laminate tops before finishing the edgebanding? Here are some creative ideas for protecting the laminate top from overspray while finishing just the edge. May 22, 2007

We have about 200 tables to make (20 per week) where we have an HPL top that is banded with maple strips. The strips will be approximately 1/8". Does anyone have any suggestions on how to finish these without masking every one? We will use an edgebander to apply the maple. If we use pre-finished strips, then I will have to finish the edge. I don't want to apply finished strips by hand, either. It is important that we do not have finish on the HPL. We will most likely use Magnamax or Krystal. One more detail - the maple strip is flush with the HPL. You will not be able to see the phenolic edge of the HPL because it will be covered but the maple strip.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor T:
There are 2 ways to do this that come to my mind. First thought: cut your strips, sand, and then finish them. Let them get hard so they won’t scar from some gentle pressure. (Cut them slightly wider than your piece is thick.) Then apply contact adhesive to your strip and to your table edge. Clean the excess glue off of your HPL after installing the edge banding. Then begin applying the banding. This is a two man job, one holding the piece, the other applying.

I like to fire two micro pins (not brads). Micro pins are 21 gauge, and are the size of a needle. They will not split the wood. After you have applied the banding all the way around and fastened it securely on the other end with a couple of micro pins, use a lipping planer to plane off the underside of the table.

(See for a video on a lipping planer.)

Clean off the excess glue with a little acetone, and your good to go. My second thought is: Why don’t you just use regular edge banding unfinished and iron it on? You can trim it smooth with a sharp chisel, and then use a small roller with urethane for 2 or 3 coats on the surface of the band.

From the original questioner:
I was hoping not to pre-finish the strips and glue them on because it is difficult and time consuming to get all the edges perfectly flush. That is why I was thinking that I would apply unfinished maple strips using an edgebander. It glues it on, trims it flush with the top and bottom, front and back edges.

Now after this, how do I apply the finish to 200 of these tables? We will spray a precat lacquer or conversion varnish, and I don't want to get finish on the laminate. I’m also trying to find an easier way to mask off the laminate.

From contributor T:
I have an idea. I'm assuming that all the tables are the same size. How are you cutting them? CNC, panel saw, router? It really doesn't matter. What I'm thinking is, what if you mask your laminate before trimming it to your blank so that after running your part through the edge bander, you can lay down a slightly smaller piece of 1/4" MDF on the surface of your table, and just spray it.

From contributor J:
I'm not positive on this but I think you can order most laminates with a stretch film on them (like on gloss lam). If you could fab the tops leaving the film on then all overspray would come off with it. It's probably more expensive but would save tons of time and tape.

From the original questioner:
To contributor D: I have thought about that. The problem is that the trimmers will be proud if the laminate by the thickness of the tape. This is a noticeable difference, and would be prone to wear. Also, if the trimmer happens to snag a bit of tape, the laminate is ruined.
Contributor J - I need to look into this. I have seen this when we use metals, but not on regular laminates.

From contributor L:
We recently ran 4,000 laminated tops through the bander that had peel coat on them, no snags no problems. If you flush the banding to the laminate then finish it the finish will stick up above the lam. If your side tracers are right on the money you might be able to set the fine trims just below the lam and flush with the edge of the laminate leaving the peel coat on until the finish is on.

From the original questioner:
To contributor L: I have been thinking about that. We need a 3mm radius on the top and bottom edge. The cutter will dig into the peel coat to flush it up with the laminate. We could pull the top cutter so that the tip of the cutter ends at the laminate and drop it down a bit. But then we will need to run a roundover around the top. Do you buy the laminate with peel coat (is that what it is called) or do you buy it and apply it yourself?

From contributor S:
Stretch film was my first guess, but there are episodes that can make it a PITA. I wonder if you could use a spray on mask? They use them for a few different applications. Spray mask the HPL before the edgeband work after the HPL is shaped/trimmed. Lam the top, band the edge, trim the edge, mask the entire top or the perimeter and hardboard the center and build a gauge that will cut the masking back just to the edge of the HPL and edgebanding (kind of like a scratch gauge, but with a good razor). A good crisp mask could leave the spray finish just proud of the HPL, so make sure that you allow for this when you trim the edgeband.

From the original questioner:
To contributor S: It looks like I need to mask the edges and cover the rest with a hardboard template. The bees wax could interfere with the glue in the bander, and may be difficult to clean afterwards: but a good thought. I need to look into the scratch block idea. If I can maintain a crisp line, it will be easy to remove afterwards, and allow me to trim flush with the laminate.

From contributor G:
It seems to me that you are over-thinking this. You will be making 20 per week. Is that 4 each day or will you be delivering 20 tops to the finisher on Friday afternoon? In either case, a reasonably quick finisher can mask that many with tape and paper in a few minutes without hardly breaking stride. Masking and finishing 20 tops on Friday afternoon is quite doable. Do you have a reason other than thinking outside the box for looking for a different way to do this?

From contributor L:
The laminate companies will put peel coat on about any lam except the very textured faces. It's cheaper to have them do it than trying to do it yourself.

From the original questioner:
To contributor G: We are the finishers, too. And we will have more than this one project going on in the shop. If there is a faster, more efficient way to do things, and it does not cut down on quality, then that is what I want to do.

Your point is well taken about this not being a monumental task for an accomplished finisher, but look at what brainpower is being contributed here. It sounds like others have experienced this frustration or dissatisfaction with the status quo (no problem for a “reasonably quick finisher”) and have better solutions. We have a limited amount of people who show up each day. They can only do one thing at a time. If the masking is a non-issue, then they can be sanding, or cleaning the equipment!