Filing the Edges of Plastic Laminate Doors

Advice on how to minimize the necessary hand labor required for dressing the corners of edgebanded P-lam doors. March 13, 2007

We have just got into laminated cabinets. I am having some problems with the edges on doors and drawer fronts. We are using a p-lam for edge banding. It is applied with a glue pot bander. How much hand work should I expect on the edges? What, if any, type router bit should I use to dress up edges? We are laminating our door panel first and then banding.

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surfacing Forum)
From contributor P:
I would apply p-lam to doors typically as follows: back first, top and bottom edges second, side edges third, then the front face. Unless you're using color-core the way you describe leaves an unsightly black lam-edge visible from the front.

Expect filing after routing, if the router bearing is riding over a lot of contact cement "goobers", expect a lot – a cleaner joint equals less work. I would wear gloves; your fingertips can get pretty raw after hours of filing. The edges can be dressed with a file held at an angle or with a 5-10° bevel bit, I suggest the latter but the bit depth is tricky, you have to adjust it so it's cutting the lam edge only or you'll eat into the face that the bearing is riding on.

I don't do enough lam work to justify it but if you're going to do a lot I would perhaps investigate a filer (air or electric). There are lots of good threads on the Laminating and Solid surface forum.

From contributor F:
Contributor P's order of lamination is I believe the correct way. I don’t think he caught that you are using an industrial edgebander to apply the laminate edging.

Just the same, if you are going to use actual laminate for the edging (better quality) instead of the thin stuff (PVC, etc.) then you will have to learn to "file your mile" like the rest of us to become skilled at filing laminate.

My personal preference is to first flush trim (your machine does that step) and then run a 7 degree chamfer bit and then file by hand.

Running the 7 degree bit before filing makes the filing go a lot faster. Setting the depth of cut is straight forward enough. You just set it to where it leaves a little left to be filed because due to varying glue thickness you will cut too deep in some spots it you try to set it to cut right to finish depth.

From contributor D:
Contributor P and Contributor F have good advice, and I’ll add the following:
I am going to assume that you are pre-laminating your doors first with face and backer onto 4x8 sheets of particle board first with contact cement, then cutting up the panel into door parts, and then passing them thought the edgebander. If you are doing this with standard laminate you will now be able to see the black line when you look directly at the door. This does not make for the most attractive product but I am not the consumer.

Typically it would be better to find a corresponding 1mm PVC tape to match the laminate color so that no lines are visible, or to produce the door to AWI grade and pre-cut the raw core to size, apply the laminate edges with your edgebander, and then to laminate the face and backer material.

If you wish to proceed as described by pre-laminating the panel first, then cutting the doors and draw fronts, and then finally edgebanding with your banding machine you should first take care that your pre laminated panel has been laminated properly. This means that there should be no debris, glue globs, un-glued areas, or air pockets between the laminate and the substrate. If these defects are present in your panel when you cut it to size and pass it through the bander, the tracing wheels of the bander will follow over the defects and leave high spots in your finish, or will cut into the material requiring that you effect repair on the edges. The flatter the panel into the edgebander, the better your quality will be when the panel comes out of the edgebanding machine. Minimal rejects, etc.

I suggest to begin with this area as it will effect all of the rest of your production. If you must use contact cement, then look into investing in a small pinch roller in order to insure good adhesion to the substrate. A second alternative would be to have your panels laid up by an outside source with a hot or cold press that laminates with PVA adhesive. A third alternative would be to purchase a hot or cold press and produce panels in house with PVA adhesive.

The choices depend on your needs. By beginning with a properly laminated panel, you will eliminate some of the problems that incur further on in the production

From contributor L:
In our shop we usually lay-up full sheets using imperial water borne adhesive and a 5' wide pinch roller, much faster than handling all the separate parts. If you must use lam edges use VG and the line won't show much different than if you band first (make yourself a test panel). Always pre-prime the laminate banding as it is sometimes contaminated with the release agent from its manufacturing process. Spray up the lam before ripping it into banding. Set your edgebander so the knives do not overhang the laminate faces that way the minor ups and downs won't cause scalping. We usually don't set our final trims to a bevel unless we have a lot of p-lam to do. Just set flush and then run around the door with an Amana "No File" router bit. It will reduce your handwork to a minimum. I much prefer to band with 1, 2, or 3mm PVC - better durability by far. We use Dorus 217 adhesive and have had great success with it.

From contributor B:
This is all great input and interesting for me, we've been doing a fair amount of laminate door work lately. I just wanted to add a vote of confidence to the use of Amana's no-file bit; while it rounds the edges more than you might want, it does dramatically reduce or eliminate hand filing. In my book this is a good thing.