Shelf Edge Treatment

Alternatives to edgebanding for plywood shelf edges. May 22, 2006

What can I use on adjustable cabinet shelving instead of edgebanding? I was thinking of putting a strip of hardwood (same as face frames) on the edge of the plywood. Is this usually acceptable as far as custom cabinet etiquette? What's the norm for this type of shelving?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
For most of my upper end cabinets or 18th century reproduction cabinets, I would put a solid wood edge with an appropriate profile on them. I would usually take a 2" wide board and glue a plywood shelf on either side of it and clamp it up. Then I would cut them apart in the center of the solid wood. This way I would save time and clamps and get a good strong glue joint because of the width of the plywood that creates a nice, even pressure while clamping. Also, most of my cabinets would have two shelves in them and I would only have to clamp shelving once per cabinet.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. That's a good tip. I think I'm going to try something like that before I try the edgebanding.

From contributor J:
I tried the wooden tape edge, plastic self-edge, etc but finally settled on a 1" wooden strip stained, finished like the cabinets. I did this for a couple of reasons. I saw that most of the other shops in our area were not doing this and it does look good, so it's a selling point for me. The other thing is, I always had 1"+ rippings leftover when sawing up face frame stock. I never really had a good use for this waste stock. Now I size them to 1", round over both edges and use them on shelves. It really doesn't take that much time.

From contributor E:
It depends on what kind of cabinets you're making and where your quality of product is. If I'm doing a custom kitchen, then it's 3/4" stock edgebanded. If it's more of a built-in or an entertainment unit, it's 3/4" or 1" thick stock with solid edging, which is usually a little thicker. For example, 3/4" stock with a 1-1/4" solid edge. Then you can add some kind of detail to the solid.

Being a custom cabinetmaker means you get to try different ways and go with the one you like to make, and the client likes to have. Try a couple shelves in various configurations and see what happens.

From contributor B:
I'm building boxes and shelves out of 3/4" pre-finished maple ply. I'm ripping 3/4" stock to 5/16" and planing to 1/4". I spray 3 coats of clear to the front and the 2 edges. I glue these to the pre-finished shelves, and I've got a finished shelf. I think it looks a little better than edgebanding tape, and I know it holds up better. Everything on the inside of the box matches. In a cabinet with glass doors, everything is finished to match the outside of the cabinet. On a large open bookcase, I'll use a nice molding - usually something 1 1/4" wide - glued to the front edge of the shelf and stained to match.

From contributor F:
On my adjustable shelves, I use matching hardwood, 1" x 3/4". I glue and clamp them on using Alum Bar Clamps. It's faster than peel and stick, and without nails, there's no putty work. Then using the stroke sander, I sand them off flush. A lot slower than an edge bander, but the customers believe you're the best thing since sliced bread, having nice shelves versus taped edges. Also, 40" wide shelves don't sag. I don't do this for tract homes, but for all other custom jobs.

From contributor S:
For speed, I like T molding (the plastic stuff with a spline that fits in a routered groove). For shelves, it's just about as fast as waiting for my edge bander to warm up. It also has a thicker look than edge tape. It only comes in a few colors, though. Have a dedicated router setup and it's quick and easy.