Shelf Edging Options

Pros and cons of solid wood shelf edging as compared to edgebanding. November 24, 2006

I would like to know what method most of you are using for shelf edging. We are currently using 3/4 x 3/4 solid stock glued only (no nails to the shelf edge). I really think for speed and cost we should switch to edge banding. I could use the trusty iron from home and do a good job and be done before I take all the clamps off the drying shelves. Have you tried both methods? Does a customer know the difference between the two?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
About the only advantages for your current system is that you can route a decorative detail in the solid stock edge you use, or that it will stand up to more wear and tear than a veneer edge. For the average application, for instance, on a typical adjustable kitchen cabinet shelf, there is little advantage to be gained with your present system and much extra labor to be regretted.

From contributor J:
We do shelf edging both ways. I have a Vitap edgebander and we use wood edge. I reserve the wood edge for upgraded sets, but it also has an advantage on production sets.

1. More decorative (as stated before).
2. Will allow thinner shelving material if used correctly.
3. Can be made from cutoffs from milling that would be otherwise rendered useless.

There are things you can do to speed up the process, such as a shaper up with a nice profile, and after milling run a batch of ready-made material, and perhaps do what we do - pre-build several 8’ lengths of pre-edged shelves and cut to width as needed. Spend a day and have more shelves than you could use in two months.

As far as edgebanding, your iron method will be much more labor intensive due to application, trimming and reheating those spots that didn’t stick right. An edgebander machine that can apply, cut and trim is the right way to go in that case.

Also, it sounds to me like you are cutting your trim the same depth as your shelf material and minimal thickness, which is actually more difficult.

Try this: Let's say you are using ¾” shelving and it is normally 10 ¾” deep. Cut your edging 1 ½” by ¾” and reduce your shelve by ¾”. Route a profile on the bottom of the 1 ½” face, apply it to your shelf and allow the top of the shelf and the top of the narrower ¾” edge to parallel. Now you should have a shelf with a decorative lip that hangs below the lower edge by ¾”. Not only does this give you room for a great profile, it makes the shelves look attractive as well. If done right, you can almost keep up with a guy on an edge banding machine.

From contributor L:
For my internal no-see'um shelves, I use pre-glued hot melt edge banding. I have gotten the system down. I use a regular iron and a block of wood to apply it. I also remove the splices that are in the roll so when (if) I stain, they don't stick out. I have a double edged trimmer that cost about $12 - this thing is great. Just go slow with it and you'll prevent most tear out from wrong way grain. There's no way I could do a wooden edge as fast. By the time I'd be tightening the last clamp, I'd be sanding the edge banded shelves. The only disadvantage is you can't router a profile. I say go for it.

From contributor B:
What type of cabinet is this shelving for? Decorative hardwood is nice for open shelves. Who wants a square edge on an open shelf, such as a bookcase? I have used hardwood to band longer interior shelves, as a strip of oak is stronger than the ply. To speed up assembly, I use my finish nailer and no clamps. For kitchen cabinets, the iron works fine, but I wasn't comfortable with the quality of the bond between the tape and cabinet parts, so I jumped in head first and bought a bander. It is a ton faster than an iron and the quality is much better.

From contributor R:
For bookshelves, I typically purchase already made 1-1/4" x 3/4" decorative stock shelf edging from one of my suppliers in bulk quantities. All I have to do is cut to length, glue and trim nail it, and I'm done. Inexpensive, quick and easy.