Affordable Edge Banding System?

If you can't justify the dollars for a top-end edgebander, what are your other practical options? January 26, 2008

I posted an earlier question about edge banding without an edge bander. FastEdge was recommended by a few people and that was the route I was planning to take. After checking prices, finding a used Virutex handheld in my area, and reading some earlier posts, I am left with the following options:

1. Buy ~$200-$300 worth of FastEdge, which will complete a couple known jobs (including my own shop cabinets).

2. Buy a used Virutex AG98F and pre-glued banding, which will probably cost about the same as option #1 for initial jobs, but will be cheaper after that due to the lower cost of pre-glued compared to FastEdge.

3. Buy a cheap iron to use with the pre-glued edge banding. This is obviously the cheapest option, but I have done this in the past (very small job) and it seemed time consuming. I wasn't even considering this option until I read some earlier posts where this was recommended when compared to the handheld edge bander. Will the Virutex be faster/better?

I realize many people will say that I should invest in a real edgebander, but that is not an option for me currently for a variety of reasons.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I have the handheld Virutex. It sits in a drawer all by itself. I haven't used it in about three years. I could never get it to work well. I ended up buying a small table top from Woodworkers Supply. It's similar to the old Freud model. I primarily use it for edgebanding shelves and occasional partitions. We only do face frame construction. I use pre-finished tape and it works really great. Just another option...

From contributor W:
Get the Virutex for small jobs. Outsource your edgebanding for large jobs until you can afford a real edgebander. I will occasionally use the Fastcap tape with banding that I can't get pre-glued, but I try to avoid it. The Virutex is a little tricky to use at first, but it definitely beats the iron method.

From contributor S:
I would go with the small table top version and an iron for now (I have never used either, but I have a guy that swears by the iron). I had mixed results with the stick-on type you mentioned. If you do use the stick-on, make sure you have a clean edge to stick it too. I found a few passes with a sanding block (or an edgesander) and a shot of air to clean it. Without an edgebander, it will take some practice to get your own technique down to trim and file the edges.

From contributor J:
I do both framed and frameless cabinets and also don't have an edgebander yet. Got close to buying one, but the consensus here seemed to be not to bother with a cheaper or used machine, so I'm waiting a little while. For the meantime I'm still using the iron-on method. It's slow compared to an edgebander but it works for me.

I'm not sure how much time you'll save with a handheld edgebander, as most of the time for me seems to be with trimming. My gut feeling is to get started with an iron for now and if you have enough business to justify getting something bigger down the road, then you'll also have more money to invest.

From contributor R:
I have both the Virutex and the Woodworkers Supply table top edge banders. My Virutex lost its high heat mode but works okay with the low heat, only slower. The table model is a little faster and has a variable heat range that still works.

Both of these are a far cry from a decent edgebander, but you really need to buy a good one to avoid a lot of frustration you will have with a cheapie. For a while, I owned the floor model Virutex, but it needed too much babysitting. I do only face frame cabinets and have gone to wood molding for all shelf edges, so edge banding isn't a big deal for me. My decision to stay with this method is largely due to the hassles and expense associated with edge banders. Too much time spent on any phase dips into your pocket. The time spent building face frames, for me, is a better way to go than fiddling with edge banders.

From contributor A:
I have tired all three methods. Honestly, they all suck.

Iron - The labor costs are out of this world. The stick-on stuff wins hands down here. And the iron-on stuff is very thin. It also tended to telegraph the texture of the material under the edgebanding, especially melamine.

Virutex hand held thingy - Got one. Never got the hang of it. It also takes two hands to use. Found you had to really press down as you pulled to get a good bond. And it tended to not stick real well on the edges. I'd go back with the "hair dryer" part of the thing to heat up the edges and press with a roller to get the edges to stick. Again, quite slow, but faster than an iron.

Peel and stick - Works okay. Best of the three. Trimming was a pain. Dulled the blades of the trimmer fairly quickly. But by far the best. Found a company that will put the peel and stick on any edgebanding, so you are not limited.

But we have gone to a real wood .25 edgeband. If we use maple plywood, we use maple hardwood and make our own edgebanding. It seems to be just as fast, it uses up scrap and we can control the finish easier. And, more importantly, our customers get real excited when we tell them we use real wood that is 1/4" thick, not edgebanding. Everyone has seen cheap furniture that has the edgebanding peeling off. So I've found people associate that with K-mart quality stuff. Big selling feature.

But if I had a 30K Chelsia with 3mm capacity, trimming, buffing and scraping, I'd use that. We just don't need one and can't justify the expense.

From contributor M:
I think every cabinet guy has been down this road before. I have never used the FastCap brand peel and stick, but about 6 years ago when I was driving (crawling?) down that road, I did use a peel and stick that had a 3M brand adhesive tape. That stuff was bombproof. I had pieces of it sticking to the concrete slab for years.

From the original questioner:
I had not thought much about using 1/4" solid edge banding, but this might be worth considering as well. The Virutex I was considering has been sold, so that option is out (at least at the price I had estimated). I am curious - how do you attach and trim your solid banding? Thanks.

From contributor N:
Buy a used edgebander. Like a Cehisa - they're rock solid. They're not state of the art, but they're cheap and built like a tank. And many models can put on thin solid wood edge banding like 1/4" all day long. My old EP10 does 13/16" x 1 5/8" all day long. After getting out of office furniture (office desks, mostly computer work stations), I thought I'd just iron on tape, as I only needed to do a small number of shelves per job when we switched to custom cabinets. Then things got to where 20 or 30 shelves needed to be hand ironed on. I thought it was fast or fast enough. Then I started digging around and found all of my old stuff to switch the edge bander from solid wood to tape. Now that stack of shelves is so fast I can take lunch and an extra coffee break and still get my work done. I've seen my models go for $4000 to $6000 - most are EP 20's and EP 30's out there, they're common, they're tanks, they will edgeband 2 or 3 shifts a day. If you need the tools, you don't need new, but you still need them.

From contributor A:
When we mill wood for face frames, we take the leftover strips that are too narrow for face frames and cut a bunch of .25 x .75 strips. Depending on where we use the strips, we use a bit of glue and then a .23 gauge brad nailer to hold it on while the glue sets. If it's an exposed shelf, I toss a few clamps on it for 15 minutes until the glue sets.

But 90% it's the brad nailer. Sand it flush top and bottom and finish. Fill the brad holes with a touch of matching wax when the finish is all dry.

You can also use a flush trim bit in a router to trim the front. For a little decorative edge, use a round over bit to flush the top edge. But the real advantage is the selling feature to a customer. But once the volume justifies, get a hot melt (glue pot) bander that will use solid wood strips.

From contributor N:
When I used to band all my edges with strips of wood, I found that the time it took to putty the lines and all the nail holes really added up. To speed things up, if you are not going to buy a edgebander, buy a used stroke sander. You can sand the top and bottom of the shelves really fast. A hand held belt sander or an orbital is just too slow. Stroke sanders are a must in a woodworking shop. Even when I band solid wood strips on shelves, desk tops, etc. with my EP 10, we still need the stroke sander. There are plenty of uses for a stroke sander, even though most wood shops don't see the need. If you ever owned one you would never part with it.