On the Edge

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What is wood veneer edge banding?

If you look around the room you’re in, chances are you can see edge banding on some of the furniture or trim in the room. That’s because it is almost always easier and more practical to build large projects with plywood.  For furniture or other decorative pieces, plywood is a less expensive alternative to solid wood and it is dimensionally stable so you don’t have to worry about expansion or warping.  To hide the fact that it’s plywood, you need to apply veneer on the sides to cover up the unattractive layers.  Done right, edge banding creates the illusion that plywood is solid wood.   It is also used to edge formica and other solid surface materials.

Banding can be a strip as thin as 1/32nd of an inch or solid wood inches thick.  Veneer edge banding is real wood veneer that is pre-sanded and available in a variety of widths to suit the thickness of the material to be banded.  For ¾” plywood the edge banding is typically 7/8” wide to allow a bit of overhang so it can be trimmed to a nice, flush edge. The banding can come with or without glue depending on how it will be applied. In manufacturing environments there are automated machines to apply the edge banding.   But you don’t need fancy equipment to get a perfect edge.  In fact, you can get beautiful results with simple tools like an iron, a box cutter and a sanding block.

Veneer banding can be used for true edges and creative projects.

Pre-glued edge banding is easy to work with.  Cut strip about an inch longer than the edge you want to cover.  Heat a clothes iron to medium heat to melt the glue.  Be very careful with the iron; if you get any of the hot melt glue on the iron, it may never be the same.   If possible, clamp the panel you are working on in the upright position so you can hold the iron and position the banding comfortably.

Start at one end of the banding and work towards the opposite end.  Move the iron slowly along the banding while applying downward force.  Make sure the banding is centered and overlaps both edges as you go.  Never leave the iron in one place too long or you could burn the veneer.  If you are doing more than one edge, apply the banding to the most visible side last.  That way the veneer on the front edge will overlap the sides and hide the joint.

When the edge banding has cooled, square the ends first and then trim the edges.   A flush trimming tool is inexpensive and definitely makes the trimming process easy.  It can cut both sides perfectly at the same time.  A router with a trim bit will also do a quick perfect edge.  Or you can carefully trim with a razor blade knife and then sand them to perfection.

Edge banding is not a lot of fun but it is a necessary skill if you’re going to use plywood for your projects.

Edge Banding

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