Wood Edge Detail for a Laminate Countertop

Laminate trimming, edge attachment, and rounding-over technique for a wood edge on a laminate counter or table top. January 24, 2006

I am interested in seeing if everyone makes countertops from particleboard and material like Formica or Wilsonart. If so, Im looking for some comments on the wood front edge detail below. The edge is a piece of maple, and the cut that details the laminate and board edge is done with a 1/8 roundover bit.

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Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor F:
That will work, but the laminate edge left at 90 degrees is vulnerable to chipping when struck by hard objects. Its usually done with a chamfering bit around here. With your version I would definitely file the edge at an angle somewhat if only to blunt it. The red rectangle of wood in your drawing is not necessary in my opinion.

From contributor C:
I have to disagree about the red rectangle part being unnecessary. I used to work in a conference table factory that made tables for Steelcase, Herman Miller, Haworth and other heavyweights and they always required a 3" to 5" cleat (the red portion in the drawing) for quality perception.

Apparently, they did studies that showed people feel behind the wood edge underneath the table to satisfy themselves it is a quality product. If the edge is just 1" thick, the quality perception drops considerably. We had to sand, finish, and round over the back edge so it had a "friendly" feel. I think the bevel cut mentioned above is a better way to handle the p-lam to wood transition. That stepped detail will gather all kinds of crud, and tend to wear and chip easily.

From contributor D:

I do these 70% of the time with laminate countertops. I agree with Contributor F. Leaving the edge of the laminate exposed is not only undesirable in looks but is vulnerable to chips and nicks. I flush my wood edge even with laminate after it is glued to the deck. I do this with pocket screws and glue from underneath the deck. Then the laminate is protected from abuse.

If yours is going to be used for a kitchen counter top I wouldn't worry about your "red" section being particle board. Its only going to overhang the cabinet edge 1" and if you use 3/4" stock for your front, that 1/4" of particle board is no big deal. I usually use 6/4 stock for my face edge and plane it down to 1" thick. Now if its for a table top where the bottom is exposed, then I agree with Contributor C. Carry the wood back approximately 3-4 inches so the feel with the hands is a good one.

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From contributor F:
Yes, I assumed we were talking kitchen countertops. On a restaurant dining table the "red piece" (buildup) is typically used.

From contributor P:
I have built too many tops like this in both a residential and commercial setting. I think the exposed edge of the laminate is a mistake and not only prone to chipping but in a kitchen environment repeated exposure to liquids will eventually ruin the glue joint and if the top is made of particleboard it is even more of a problem.

I would build the top and install chosen laminate, rout flush and add the edgebanding. Something that looks interesting that we have done also is to add a groove between the laminate and the hardwood edge that is about 1/8 inch wide by about a 1/16 deep. Finish the hardwood and glaze with appropriate color and clear over thoroughly to seal it. This adds a nice touch and defines the fact that there is a hardwood edge a little more.

If you want to go a step further in assuring longevity in a wet environment, there are plywoods available designed specifically for kitchen countertops. I cannot remember the name but it is basically made with more glue and specifically moisture resistant ones.

From contributor B:
To contributor D: Do you bevel the wood edge before you attach it too? Im just curious because I always put the wood on, then the laminate, then trim the lam and then rout the edge.

From contributor D:
I actually glue the laminate first to the substrate. Then I use my flush bit on my router and trim the excess laminate back. If I have pre-finished my edge piece I then glue the backside and pocket screw it flush with the laminate. If I haven't pre-finished it I glue the back side, pocket screw it flush with the laminate. Then I will route it with either a 1/2 roundover or a 45 chamfer. Then I mask off the laminate and proceed to staining and lacquering.

From contributor G:
To the original questioner: You lay the laminate after you glue the timber on then router the edge profile. I have made hundreds of bench tops this way with no problems.