Laminate Trimming Tips and Tricks

You work with laminate, you do a lot of edge trimming. Here are some tricks the smooth professionals use. April 11, 2008

I do almost no laminate. I have a small job for a company that needs some cylinder displays built. 12 total. Between 24, 36, and 40 in diameter tops, some 8 and some 16 inches high. One has four 3" circles in the top for some pipe to slide through.

When I trim laminate I've always had a little problem with the bit "burning" (taking off just the very top color of the laminate on the finished side), if that is the correct term. I've tried the euro bit with little success. I've tried a bearing trim bit. I've not tired one of the bearingless trim bits. I usually use paste wax as a lubricant. Any other suggestions?

Once the job is finished, I want to make sure the edges of the laminate are well glued to the substrate. Any extra steps that will help on this? If I find a little section that is not stuck tight, any regluing suggestions? I've always used an iron on medium heat to reactivate the contact cement and rolled it down tight. However, I've had some, but not good, success with this. Any suggestions on glue other than contact cement? What about something like Roo Glue?

Does anyone know where I can find a manual roller press I can feed laminate and substrate through instead of using a J roller? I picture something like the old manual washing machines.

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surface Forum)
From contributor N:
I've done far more laminate that I'd like to admit. Masking tape works well for your burning issue. On counters, I'll tape the top edge of the front strips before they're trimmed, trim, belt sand the top, and stick the top piece of laminate. The tape will keep your bit from digging into the face (assuming your edges are square to the top) and also keeps excess glue off the front edges. I use a bearing trim bit.

To finish, wipe the front edge with thinner, run an 1/8" radius bearing bit set so that it leaves just a little bit to knock off with a file. File, final clean, walk away. The same steps should work with your cylinders.

I recently switched to a canister spray unit (Premier) and found the bond to be much better than any brush grade adhesive I've used. I notice the difference when I'm wrapping the front of a radius corner. If you're going to be doing any amount of spraying at all, I'd look into the canister setups.

I'm still using a J roller, so I can't help you there. Good luck and wear a dust mask; a lot of that dust is glue.

From contributor A:
I too have applied more laminate than I care to remember and have always used a carbide, bearingless trim bit. I use either paraffin wax or LamiLube. Paste wax won't work, although you know that now. I ditto the advice with the masking tape, if you want to take the time to apply it. The only difference is I use a chamfered bearingless bit in the first pass set low and then a quick rub with a file finishes it. The LamiLube or wax makes cleanup a snap, plus masking tape is kind of spendy. Don't use cheap tape. It tears easily and is a bugger to clean off. Use the 3M stuff; you know it will work.

As far as the edges, make sure you have 80% coverage on the deck and I put 100% coverage around the perimeter. Then I use a knuckle rapper to pinch the edge. If the edge lifts, just use PVA glue and tape. Cyanoacrylate works well too but won't come clean once dried. Heating glue won't reactivate it, just make you think it does. It does soften it and a heat gun can be used to remove it, but solvent is faster. If you are using an iron or a heat gun to re-stick contact cement, it is time to strip it off and redo it. It's either this, or will get a callback later on to redo it.

PVA glue is a great alternative to contact cement. You can spray it through a pressure pot and various other means. It just takes awhile to fully set up and does require some pressure, but not as much as some would have you think. Just an extra sheet of particleboard is sufficient, but you might see a glue line around the edge.

I have never seen a manual roller and I can't imaging they would even make them. I use a three wheel roller when doing large panels. You can probably roll out a sheet with that just as fast as through a pinch roller anyway.

From contributor F:
I own a production laminating shop, and we use only non-bearing trim bits. Instead of wasting the money on fancy lam lube or wax, we use store brand vegetable shortening. It lubes well and cleans off real easy. Costs about $2 for a large can that does a ton of tops. We jokingly call it "Chicken Grease." All of the "experienced" laminators we hire think we are nuts until they use it for a day and then they wonder why the other shops have been wasting their money.

From the original questioner:
Thanks all for the responses. The displays we did were shipped to Vegas and I believe tossed in the dumpster after that. I have a small laminate job today and I'm going to try the vegetable oil. That sounds like a cool trick. And easy to clean off.