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Thread: Nervous about Formica

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Mifflin County, PA

    Nervous about Formica

    The conference table I am now building will end up with a white Formica top and laminated oak edging that will be about 5/8" wide. I would like to rout the edge of the oak with a plain old roundover bit set deep enough so the top of the cutter (the flat part) cuts the fomica, leaving it (and maybe just a tiny bit of the oak) proud of the roundover. I have never worked with Formica before and I'm concerned about it chipping or some other problem that could potentially ruin the top. Should I be worried? Anyone have any pointers on this whole process? Thanks...Jon

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Villa Park, CA
    Why not make your edging wide enough that you can cut the profile in the edging and not show the edge of the plastic laminate. I think it would look better that way.

    But if you have to cut the laminate with a router, it should cut fine. Almost all laminate is trimmed to size with a router bit.

    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Punta Gorda, Florida
    I am not a laminate expert but have done a fair amount of that type of work. I have never chipped a piece of laminate with a router bit while triming it so that means that it is not very difficult. You might want to use a new sharp bit since this is your first attempt.

    The only problem I ever ran into was using a planer bit to flatten a top and I chiped one end of a table that already had the laminate on the vertical sides and ends. With what you are going to do you will not run into that problem.

    I think that you will be supprised at how well the whole operation will go.

    P.S. Well, sounds like that Matt has run into problems with a roundover bit so you might want to try a test piece first and see how it works for you. I did see a guy do that edging that you are talking about and I thought that it was quite effective. Just depends on what you like I guess.
    To me the most important thing is to make absolutely sure that both the table top and the laminate are totally clean before you put on the contact cement. The smallest piece of anything will show as a bump when you roll it out or press it unless you are able to exert a ton of pressure. I like to use a glue roller pad on a paint roller to apply the cement.
    Last edited by Allen Bookout; 04-25-2007 at 04:09 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Odessa, Tx
    I personally would not rely on the edge of the roundover bit to trim the formica without some chipping. If I were going to do the profile you stated, I would install the formica, and then use a flush trim bit, (preferably with a slight downcut shear action), then I would install the oak trim and set the roundover to make the cut you want on the oak, but with the edge of the roundover bit only going up against the formica, but not cutting it. I think you will get a cleaner edge on both the formica and the wood, as you will not have any of the laminate cement gumming up the roundover bit, (which can be a PITA), and can cause uneven edges and profiles.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Escondido, CA
    I cannot think of an instance, either first hand or related to me, where chipping was a problem with routing HPL, high pressure laminate, of which Formica, is a brand name. Even when flush trimming with an overhang that exceeds the diameter of the cutter.

    That said, a helical bit (one that has cutting flutes at an angle to the shank) does a nicer job and does present less risk to the operation.

    Further, I have seen a striking countertop detail where a solid wood edge was used and a routed chamfer intersected with the HPL, revealing the black substrate with a pin stripe effect. I have heard no reported instances that this affected the durability of the edge with regard to either chipping or peeling.

    formerly AKA the Router Lady - author "Router Joinery Workshop"
    sold a bunch of routers and bought a lathe - new toy!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Houston, Texas
    Hi Jon,
    I think you will be okay doing it the way you have planned. To add the oak after the p lam is on makes for a tough flushing up (at the joint) oak to p lam.
    Just a tip for a decorative a piece of ply with 1 1/2" solid stock of an accent color,( accent to the color of the p lam you intend to use) for example red oak or walnut or maple. Sand the joints flush. Band the edges with p lam. cover the top with p lam. Rout the edges with the router bit of choice, You may want to make several passes at increasingly deeper settings. Never seen a better p lam corner. It is a real high light to an otherwise dull and problematic area. See this drawing ...from "Paint"
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	p lam edge.JPG 
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    P.S. Sharp... is advisable
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    jon, you`ll be fine......i`d go with your original idea as i read it.....the edge is burried in the fillet above the r/o......if you try to apply edging after laminating you`ll have potential water damage/sealing issues.....tod
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  8. #8
    Steve Clardy Guest
    Most all of my counter tops I use oak as a face. Applied on front of the substrate, 3/4x 1 1/2

    Then I apply formica, flush trim off.
    Then chamfer, backing the router up for the first cut, then forward [proper direction] to make a clean cut.
    I do it this way to keep the Oak from splittering.
    Never had the laminate to chip out.
    I like that little black racing stripe that shows afterwards.

  9. #9
    I just did this on my first project and was sweating-it too. All the work/money that goes into the top and the final step has the possibility to make everything unusable. It was surprisingly easy and it came out great. Just make sure to:

    1) have the laminate glued down to whatever trim is under it so that the laminate doesn't flap.
    2) have a SHARP bit on hand for the routing that is bearing guided. Whiteside is the way to go here.
    3) Do not take off too much material at a time, especially with the harder woods. Taking off a little at a time will also enable you to get used to your cutter and the materials you are working with
    4) Go the right direction so as to not climb cut the table top (Counterclockwise around the outside).

    You'll be fine, just go slow until you are comfortable.

    Best Regards,

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Mifflin County, PA
    Thanks for all the replies and good advice. I guess I'll make some sample pieces identical to the finished top so as to practice and eliminate some of the anxiety I'm already experiencing. Does anyone know of a good source for shear cut roundover bits?

    By the way, here is a shot of the table top so far. It is about 4 feet by 8 feet. The structure is poplar with 1/4" MDF edges. Next step is to put the MDF substrate on top, and the oak ply on the bottom.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Workshop 012.jpg  

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