Laminate Tools: Bit and File Choices

Advice from laminate counter specialists on bit and file selections for the tool kit. August 18, 2009

First let me start saying that I'm a finish carpenter that builds his own kitchen cabinets and laminate counters for my own remodels, and only builds two or three counters a month.

What kind of tooling do you guys recommend for laminate seams? I have been using the mirroring method cutting the two laminates at the same time with a straight edge, but I have been thinking in buying an underscribe. Also I only use straight router bits. Is it worth to use the "no file" angle bits? What is the difference between the different angles: 7,15, and 22? What kind of router do you recommend for laminate use?

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surfacing Forum)
From contributor J:
We are a cabinet shop and build our own laminate tops. We use basically the same tools you're using. I haven't tried the no-file bits primarily because they haven't been well received on this forum and they're fairly expensive. If you do a search you'll see what I mean.

We do our seams with a shop-built jig and a straight bit (without bearing). The jig is nothing more than a built-up piece of MDF that's laminated on the edges where the bit rides. It's built up enough to get clamps over/under to hold the laminate.

As for routers, we use Porter Cable and Bosch laminate trimmers. We have three or four of them so we aren't constantly changing bits. I like the PCs. A couple of years ago we stopped rolling out glue and went to StarStuk spray contact adhesive. I get the 38 pound cans that look like propane containers. That's the single biggest time saver yet when fooling with laminate.

From contributor Y:
Contributor J is right on. No file angled bits can cause you more trouble than they're worth. If you're routing a radius there's a tendency to route through the face of your edgebanding (your edge needs to be exactly perpendicular to the top for these to work). The cost for a pre-pressurized glue tank will seem high, but it's an investment worth making. You'll never go back to rolling on glue again.

From contributor G:
I make all the countertops for our shop. I use all the same tools you do. Porter cable 310 with a I think it's a veining bit and a straight edge and a piece of 1/4 backing and two clamps for seaming. I've/we've tried the no-file bits before, and we had a guy come through and talked the boss into them and as said before, they tend to burn through the front face since you have to have them adjusted pretty low to get the edge routed off.

When it's down far enough it is about 1/8 inch over the front face to take the color right off. We still use Wilsonarts 951 adhesive with a Binks 2001 gun. We looked into the Staput, but people on this site kept telling us that you can't use heat around it to bend laminate around corner radiuses, talked to the rep and he finally fessed up to it, but he really didn't want to tell us. One thing that we do is run a line of white glue parallel to all of the seams, our laminate seams no longer slowly separate.

From contributor M:
We also do laminate. Any shop that works with laminate has to buy laminate trimmer tools from Beaver Tools. They have trimmers, seamers that cut two pieces laminate at the same time. The biggest time save is the air file. This pays for itself on the first decent size laminate job. Don't think about it, just buy it.

From contributor F:
Several of the router bit lines we represent have the "no file" bits and quite frankly, I discourage customers from using them. They're supposed to eliminate filing but in most cases, you'll need to file more. They simply are not worth the money. The old solid carbide flush and bevel bits for trimming mica along with a quality mill file works every time.