A Flush Edge On Plastic Laminate dupe breaker

Pros share tricks for getting a wood edge absolutely flush with the laminate. May 10, 2005

Does anybody have a way to get a wood edge on p-lam tops absolutely flush with the top? Currently, I either pin nail and fill, or screw and plug. This works okay, but I'm not satisfied. It seems like no matter what, it's flush in one spot, and too high/low in the other.

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surface Forum)
From contributor V:
I typically install 1/2" thick wood edge on p-lam countertops with biscuits. I made up a jig to use with the biscuit jointer and cut the slots on the back of the wood edge. Another alternative is to mill your wood edge with a tongue on the back and install it into a groove cut into the edge of the countertop to help align the piece. This is similar to the installation process for Gem-Loc edge.

From contributor S:
Or you could use a lipping planer and make it perfect every time.

From contributor J:
I use biscuits to attach the wood. When slotting the laminate side, I use a piece of thin cardboard under the fence so the wood edge sits a little higher. Then I stick 2" masking tape on the lam tight to the wood edge. After that, I set the lipping planer to remove the wood down to the tape level and sand with an orbital sander until the tape is thin enough to see through. That is as close as you will get and guaranteed even along the top. If you use a lacquer finish, the wood will then be higher, but it will at least be even.

From contributor L:
I know of several easy router jigs for this function, but had not heard of a lipping planer. A web site lists the Hoffmann as adjusting in .004" increments. That would not seem to satisfy the requirement for an absolutely flush trim except by chance.

From contributor P:
We have had wood edge made up to be basically identical to Kuehn Bevel or Perma-edge. 1 1/2" tall by 1/4" thick with a nice tongue on the back. Then we simply cut a slot in the edge of the top, leaving the wood just a hair high. Then we glue the edge on. After it has dried, we simply file the wood edge just like a laminate end cap. It comes out perfect every time.

From contributor P:
I forgot to mention that it is a bevel edge molding. (I was assuming those familiar with Perma-edge would know this, but some of you may not.) The bevel is the key to the filing. You are filing only a very small bit of wood. Trying to do this on a 1/2" thick molding would be a major pain!

From the original questioner:
Almost impossible to get it flush everywhere, so… biscuit, as suggested, and use a lipping planer. We have one - it works great.

From contributor B:
How do mill the tongue on your edging? I tried that once, using a straight bit in a router table. One pass upright, one pass upside down. But the tongue wasn't coming out real consistent in a 12' run.

By the way, I pocket screw 1 1/2" FF stock, then use my Milwaukee body grip router with a 1/2" flush trim bit. Run the router carefully along the face and trim it. Let the bearing sit so that just a sliver of wood is left, then file like the Gemloc, etc.

From contributor P:
We don't make the edging. We have a large mill make it for us. I believe they run them through a molding machine, but I am not positive. All I know is they are absolutely the best way to go, in my opinion.

PS. We buy a minimum of 1000' per order to help offset the cost of the setup time on their machinery. We also stock oak, maple, alder, hickory, and cherry.

From contributor T:
We have a secret here that I will probably get some slack for letting out. But that is what these forums are for, right? If you are talking about gluing on a 3/4" x 1 1/2" hardwood edge onto a 1 1/2" thick countertop, you can get it perfect. But I have seen the edge shrink and swell over the years.

First, laminate your deck, then saw the front edge clean. Prep for the front edge with biscuits or dowels. Then glue and clamp edge on, holding it up above for routing and sanding. What?! Sanding so close to the plastic? Isn't that crazy? Prior to gluing, place 2 layers of 2" brown plastic shipping tape (not clear) along front edge and trim even with a sharp knife. Then, after gluing, route with a sharpened bit to leave 1/32", then sand with a random orbit and you will start to see the brown tape change color. Go slow and you will easily get the hang of it. You can see the top layer of tape get sanded off, then sand halfway through the bottom layer. In our world, half of a layer of packaging tape is flush.

I forgot to mention that if you are planning on spraying the edge, you can just leave the tape on till after.

From contributor P:
Contributor T, you just described how we put solid surfacing on the edges of our laminate countertops!

From contributor I:
Just an idea, in case it triggers any others. Depending on the width and thickness of the wood edge, you could leave it a little proud of the p-lam and use a flush trim router bit. Let the router base ride along the edge of the countertop and the bearing rides along the face of the p-lam.

From contributor O:
We use pocket screws to attach the wood edges to PL tops with the top face down on the bench. When driving the screws home, you can feel if the wood is flush with the top, loosen the screw and adjust, then tighten the screw. We also use glue in the joint. I find this quicker and easier than clamps, plus no nail holes!

The trick is to prepare the wood edge first, making it straight and square. We sand the back as well as the front and edges so it draws up tight to the top. I like using the Edgetech sanding disk in the table saw for this, as well as sanding other solid stock. It makes the wood very flat and square, is easy to use (just push the material through between the fence and disk, like ripping). Spending the time up front makes the next step much easier, as always.

From contributor I:
Another possibility is to run a small vein line along the edge of the solid wood. This won't solve the problem of the wood being uneven; however, it makes any imperfections less visible and adds a decorative touch.

From contributor C:
I apply the edge, then, using a flush trim bit, I machine the edge as flush as the bit will get it. Then, using a low angle block plane and a freshly sharpened and burnished scraper, work the material down flush. It will turn out perfect until the edge swells or shrinks. It takes a little practice to learn at what angle and how much pressure can be used before you scratch or dull the surface of the laminate, but after a few successes it becomes fairly easy.

From contributor K:
If you have a sharp hand plane and know how to use it, you can flush hardwood down to the p/lam real easy. You can use the lipping plane - it works great - then finish with the hand plane and a little sanding and you are done.

From contributor R:
I have a different approach altogether. Make the joint between the wood and p-lam a "V" groove. Simply bevel the p-lam and the wood. What you get is a consistent groove that looks very classy. With the groove, you hardly notice the transition.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor H:
I agree that the best way to get wood and p-lam so close your fingers can't feel the transition, is with a very sharp block plane. I machine the installed square wood edge with a 3/4 router bit to get within the range where block planing is quick and easy. By setting the depth of the router, you can leave the wood just a hair above the laminate. There is just a small part of the arc of the wood edge that you have to plane flush. You can lay your plane on the laminate and smooth the wood perfectly flush.