Small-Volume Edgebanding Setups

      What's an economical but productive setup for edgebanding just the occasional shelf? February 8, 2008

I need some advice on an economical way to speed up our edge banding. We are a custom cabinet shop who uses solid wood shelves for all of our wall cabinets' adjustable shelves, and then we use banded plywood shelves for our base cabinets' adjustable shelves. But there aren't usually too many base cabinet adjustables on most jobs. So we aren't doing anything high production.

Our solution to banding has been very primitive to say the least. We take the shelf and put it in a vise grip. Cut the banding (3/16" x 3/4" poplar) and then use masking tape to "clamp" the banding onto the edge of the shelf. Once it is taped we can take it off and do the next one. Also we set the shelves aside to dry and then later take off the tape.

Now taking into consideration that I don't want to purchase an edge banding machine at this time, what would be a good way for me to speed up my edge banding process? Also, if the solution could solve the following scenario, I would be even more pleased.

Like I said earlier, for top shelves we use solid sap oak or sap cherry wood to make our adjustables. We order them in widths that fit our 12 1/2" deep top cabinet. Occasionally we have a 15 1/2" deep wall cabinet that we need to cut off and glue on a 3" piece to our sap shelving. When we do this type of glue up, we set up sawhorses with our pipe clamps on top of the sawhorses. Then we place the wood that needs to be glued together on the pipe clamps. It really takes a balancing act to keep the pipe clamps from spinning around. And of course it is somewhat difficult to get the clamps in the exact right place.

Some sort of small glue clamp system would be the ticket. Basically a glue clamp system that could accommodate 25" deep and maybe 3' to 5' wide glue ups. Does anybody have machinery that might be off the shelf that could do this, or possibly another solution altogether?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor B:
Aside from purchasing a clamp carrier for your glue ups and banding I would place the shelf on two boards say 1" square, simply to keep them raised off the bench with a piece of laminate under to raise the shelf and allow the band to hang down. Put a bead of glue on your edge band and place a caul in front, then put the pipe clamp on top and tighten. I use a concaved curved caul, say 24" long, so that only one clamp is necessary and at 36", I use a convex curved caul with two clamps. I clamp mine 2 to 3 minutes or when I run out of clamps, then remove and let dry for an hour or so. For solid wood glue ups, I place the parts on a stick for alignment and so that the clamps don't rub on the bench, apply glue, and clamp from above.

From contributor D:
Veneer tape - iron it on or get peel and stick. Not always highest quality, but it's one solution. Another is nail on the wood edge. They are, after all, only shelves that live (usually) behind doors, and most people aren't going to notice how incredible your shelf construction methods are.

From contributor J:
I wouldn't immediately dismiss the idea of buying an edgebander. There are a number of smaller edgebanders, including handheld, on the market. A used unit can also be an economical choice. I've often said that an edgebander can keep you in business during leaner times. If you're truly married to your current system, then change to a different adhesive, one with a faster set that can eliminate clamping.

Also... hardwood upper shelves? You glue these up, too? We build very high end casework, usually home office/library, theater etc. for very discerning clients. I've never even considered using solid stock for shelving. We use veneer core ply, sometimes 1" thick, with a decorative molding edge glued and pinned to the front for our exposed shelves. My bet is that most guys out there use a similar system.

Just off the top of my head, I can list at least 5 reasons why this method is superior:
1. Economy
2. Speed
3. Finish consistency
4. Stability
5. Availability

Save the time and money you're spending on hardwood shelves and use it to buy the edgebander.

From contributor E:
When I do solid wood edging, I do it the easiest way I know of. Take two shelf blanks, put the strip of solid wood between them and clamp them up with Bessey clamps (no rolling). Once the glue dries (I leave mine for at least a half hour) take the clamps off and run through the tablesaw. Then clean up with a lipping planer, done. Same process for your solid shelves also.

As for machinery to do it, then you're talking about a large capacity edgebander. Clamping racks may also help; just depends on what you want to spend and what your production level is.

From contributor F:
I do mine more like contributor J than the others. When I have a lot of solid wood edging on veneered plywood, I do this. I place bar clamps all across a tall workbench about 12" apart running with the four foot dimension of a 4'x8' bench.

The shelves usually net eleven inches deep or less so I can edgeband up to four eight foot long shelf blanks at a time with this setup. I put all four pieces of edgebanding "in glue" at once and then clamp up with edgeband to edgeband and quarter inch thick cauls at the outside for protection from the clamp feet.

Differently from contributor J, I make all the banding as individual pieces that are finely planed on both faces so that a few swipes with a sanding block is all that is required to prepare the face of the edgeband for finishing. This edgebanding of four eight foot long shelf blanks at once is the fastest way I have found without a commercial edgebander, and of course is a very quality bond due to yellow glue and clamping.

The edgebanding must of course be of greater dimension than the shelf thickness and worked flush after the shelves are removed from the clamps. Shims are laid out on the bar clamps at the correct spacing so that the banding can be adjusted when first put in glue to insure that it overhangs the veneer.

Once the banding on all four shelf blanks is in proper position, the bar clamps are tightened very slowly and one at a time in several passes, and doing so will prevent the banding from shifting up or down.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for you help. I learned something from you all. One thing I learned was the proper term for a clamp carrier. I have seen those before but couldn't think of the name for them.

More questions. A clamp carrier is one of those rotating clamp racks. Then there is the JLT-4. Not a rotating clamp rack, but a heavy duty one nonetheless. Is there anything that isn't quite so heavy duty? Maybe it would be a clamp rack like the JLT, only it would mount right to the wall. It could just use the regular pipe clamps rather then the heavy duty threaded clamps that are provided on the JLT model.

From contributor B:
The difference between the JLT clamps and pipe is like night and day. Pipe is lighter and does a very good job for edge band. If you are gluing up solid stock, pipe will work, but the JLT ones are so much heavier and stiffer - these clamps don't flex like pipe will. The rack is a little cumbersome, trying to set up the lower clamps with the top ones in place. I slide them sideways because they are heavy to lift off. This rack takes up a lot of floor space. Look around for someone that has one, and go see it. I wouldn't try and edge band with the clamp rack; I'd use pipe ones.

From contributor R:
Perhaps the mobile panel clamp rack from Woodworker's Supply would do the job for you. Just need to buy the rails and collars - mount the rails to the wall.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I am considering getting a custom made rack that could hold our existing pipe clamps. I haven't really been able to see any out of the box solutions after talking with several different retailers.

From the original questioner:
Contributor R, I think I responded at about the same time as you, so I hadn't already seen your post. Thanks a lot for the great lead. If we don't use this we will use something similar that we make up.

From the original questioner:
I ordered them and have received them and I like what I see very much!

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