We don't do a lot of melamine work but occasionally run into a project that requires it. No cnc in shop so it gets broke down and cut on table saw and slider. In the past we had decent luck controlling chip out using a melamine blade with a zero clearance insert on saws but the last job we did it didn't do a very good job. Almost seemed like the melamine was thinner coating than ever before. Am I imagining things here or have others seen this too? Our slider has a scoring blade but the motor went and its an older model, no longer available so was hoping for a better solution. Maybe I can get it rebuilt at a motor shop.
If that doesn't pan out, I had thought about oversizing and trimming cuts with a carbide cutter on a shaper, maybe 1/16". Any other ideas other than outsourcing? If we did lots of it I'd get an edgbander that also did this but not for a once in a blue moon project.
Jared, yeah, for just a few pieces that could work. I've done it before, but not practical for the number of parts usually. We have a Festool 75 and it does work fairly well although mine is ready to have the edge strip replaced. Im also wondering if and brands of melamine seem to have thicker coatings. This last batch chipped on edges just handling it. Not sure of brand off hand, but got it through Atlantic Plywood.
We have a lot of issues with commodity melamine even with CNC. Parts through the bander, on and on. The standard stuff can be super fragile.
I would suggest at least trying if possible to change your melamine supplier and get a better product. A few dollars a sheet will be far cheaper than any re-tooling option based on what youve said about your capacity. Moving from 23$ a sheet to 40$ a sheet material would be money in the bank compared to re-tooling your saw, slider/blades, and so on.
If it was getting you by before something has changed and thats likely the material. Deal with that first and spend your money on tooling later. Sounds like melamine/laminate may not be the strong suit for your capacity but we all do what we have to when jobs land.
I cut melamine with a high ATB blade and mostly avoid using my scoring unit. I have found that a sharpening lasts about 30 sheets. The other thing is the quality of cut is affected by the height of the blade. Lower the blade to improve the bottom edge. Raise the blade if you start to get chips on the top. No zero clearance required.
And yes, try a different board some are way better than others.
Has there been a drastic temperature change where you are? We had a huge problem when we were setting up our panel saw. It was a hot, humid summer and no blade we tried would get a clean cut. Turns out, the delivery truck was cooking the melamine. The warehouse was humid so the core picked up water, the truck heated it up and our saw was making it explode. At least we got a bunch of Greenlee blades out of it.
My recommendation would be to get a used motor or the one you have rebuilt and use your scoring blade. The second option would be to get a blade designed for cutting melamine, it will give you a good quality cut on the underside . Make sure your blades are sharp as dull blades will give a very poor result.
I cut jobs for years on a sliding table saw with great quality blades, the edges come out nicer and you have less tear out than a cnc. The other nice thing is you can cut a job fairly quickly with a little practice and organization.
The last option would be sub it out.
In my opinion a track saw and cutting bigger and running through a shaper are last resorts as there will be huge labour costs involved with these slow and inaccurate methods.
Use appropriate blades. I use Diablo D1296L blades for double sided melamine. There are also 10" versions. Lasts about 15-20 sheets, before it needs to be resharpened. New blade from store cuts best. Sharpening company that I use is not doing great job (although they are certified Freud sharpeners recommended at Freud website) because my blades start to vibrate after they sharpen them, and then they vibrate more and more with each additional resharpening. Blade vibration is not good for chipping.
I also use blade disk stabilizer, seems to help.
I get best results when my 12" blade sticks around 1-3/4" above table saw surface (about 1-1/2" for a 10" blade). A little bit higher and I start getting chipping on the bottom side, a little bit lower and chipping starts to occur on the top side.
Bottom side is a lot more sensitive to chipping then top side.
I always buy same types of melamine from same two suppliers and sometimes top and bottom cuts are perfect and indistinguishable from each other, one would need strong magnifying glass to find out which one was top and which one was bottom, other times bottom one visibly chips no matter what.
Sometimes, the sound of blade cutting through the sheet is uniform and mellow, and I know that there would be no chipping at the bottom, other times I hear cracks and snaps that sound like the blade teeth are hitting some hard particles inside the melamine board (like small stones) and than chipping occurs.
If the blade is not very sharp, slower feed speed may help.
I never have problems with top side, it's always the bottom one.
Here are few tricks that could help:
1. I always cut most important parts first, like doors and drawer fronts, when the blade is still very sharp and produces good results on both sides of the cut.
2. Most other parts, like case parts, have only one cut that really matters, and that is the one on the front side of the cabinet. Other cuts are usually not visible from both sides when the cabinets is assembled, and the one that is can be the top side cut, which usually has no chipping.
So, when cutting front side cut, lower you blade to, let's say 1/8", and use it as a scoring blade. Once the piece is scored on one side, rise the blade, turn over the piece and make final cut.
3. If even the new blade would not give you good cuts on bottom side, cut parts oversized (e.g. add 1/2") and use scoring technique from No. 2 for final cuts that will bring the piece to it's final size.
That would be wasting of time for everyday operations, but if it's something that you do once in a blue moon, could actually work.
3. Some people claim they avoid chipping by gluing the painter's tape along the cut area before cutting. Never tried that.
Sometimes, when my newly sharpened blade accidentally cuts through 16GA or 18GA nail or staple it starts making better cuts than before the accident.
Anyway, I would try to repair the scoring blade function if possible. It can lower your stress level significantly by releasing you from dealing with all that "black magic" mentioned above, which I had to endure for 2 years.
Getting your electric motor rebuilt should not be a problem. Plenty of electric shops can do that.
When I first started to cut melamine, I did not have a scoring blade and chipping was a problem. To avoid this, I would cut the panel twice, with the first cut going a little more than 1/2 way through and then to flip it over and cut it again. The chipping is caused by the hard melamine blowing out the bottom side. Obviously, you have to lower your blade to about 7/16" for 3/4" board. Also, not all parts need to be chip free. Sides that go up against other sides do not need to be chip free and neither do tops that face up.
Thanks for all of the input. I have been using Freud, CMT, and Tenryu blades that are made for melamine cuts, all of which did good work until the last couple jobs. Blades were new and still had problems so leads me to believe this is more material related. What better brands of melamine has anyone had good luck with? My main suppliers are Atlantic Plywood and Richelieu. I will check with their sales guys too but input from here would help. Thanks again.
different melamine has different thickness paper on the them. The thicker the paper the less chipping but also the higher cost. Trying to cut melamine without chipping requires a machine that is designed for that, either a cnc router, high quality slider or a beam saw,
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