Gluing Solid Wood Edging to Plywood Shelves

A question about clamps leads to a detailed discussion of slick ways to glue solid edging onto plywood. November 21, 2005

Is there any clamp, besides the Bessey, that clamps ¼” inch edge banding to plywood?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
When I do edging on plywood with real wood (shelving), I put two shelves edge to edge in a standard pipe clamp with the single solid wood in between and glue them to each other. You end up with two pieces of ply bonded by a strip of wood. Then you rip the solid wood down the center and you have your two edged pieces of ply. This way you get a very good gap free joint between the ply and the solid. I don't know of another clamp besides the Bessey either.

From contributor B:
I think Harbor Freight had some, and maybe even Woodworker's Supply.

From contributor C:
I do it the same way as contributor A except for gluing the same piece of wood to two different plywood pieces. I recently did a set of bookcases and I needed ten full 96" lengths of 3/4" plywood edgebanded with 1/4" thick solid wood to net the 42 shelves required. I edgebanded five 8 foot long shelf blanks at a time using pipe clamps and edge banding that was left at 15/16" but planed both faces to 1/4". In my experience, using a method similar to this or using pipe/bar clamps and a caul to edgeband gives better pressure to the glue line than single edgeband type clamps do.

From contributor A:
I don't ever try to glue long lengths of shelving to make shorter lengths. I find it is harder to get the joints perfect because of the time it takes to glue, and length of the board. I get two shelves out of my system at a time and have enough clamps to have the operation go in circles until I am done. Then I set up my table saw to split them and to cut the extra length off of the solid strip. Cutting the extra length off the strip is the only part of the job you don't have to do because when you cut your shelf you cut both solid and ply at the same time. I use the single piece of wood for a couple of reasons. I only have to cut one piece of wood instead of two - you don't have to worry about the two separate pieces of solid sliding around and becoming unaligned, and it uses half the clamps to make the same amount of shelves.

On another note, when you make pairs of doors, do you clamp them together with the same set of clamps and take the square reading corner to corner across the pair or do you make two separate doors and clamp them separately and hope the square errors are minimal? My pair of doors are ship lapped and beaded (on one door) at the center so this makes good sense for me. It protects the shiplap and bead from the clamp marks.

From contributor C:
I use regular old Franklin Titebond yellow glue. The glue joints I get are perfect. On a tall 4' x 8' work bench I lay out pipe clamps at the ends and on about 16" centers in between them with the length of the clamps spanning the 48" dimension of the work bench.

On top of those pipe clamps are 3/4" wide strips of 1/4" thick plywood running with the 96" dimension of the bench. These plywood strips are placed to be about 1" in from the edge of each shelf blank you are going to place on the clamps.

On a nearby table I rig a couple of gussets to loosely hold a 96" shelf blank on edge to receive a bead of glue. A stack of 1/4"" thick x 15/16" x 97" long solid wood edge banding strips planed on both faces is at hand on the same table.

I quickly run a fat bead of glue on the plywood edge followed by a glue brushing to even the coverage. A strip of edgebanding is then placed in the glue and rubbed in a bit. That shelf blank is then placed on top of the pipe clamps with the banded edge away from the clamp feet. The next blank is placed edgeband to edgeband with the first after it is put in glue.

The 1/4" plywood strips on top of the clamps are there so that you can push down on the edgebanding and leave it proud of the shelf’s top side about 1/16", and rest assured that you have coverage on the bottom side that you can’t see. Keep the pairs of shelf blanks tightly together and the glue will keep while you finish loading the clamps.

When all 5 blanks are in glue and on the clamps, a key to prevent slippage of the glue line is to apply small amounts of pressure to each clamp in turn in 5 or 6 tightenings, until you reach full clamp pressure. Just before I get to full clamp pressure I add clamps to the top side in between the other clamps to prevent buckling.

After an hour or so I can unclamp five 8 feet long fully edgebanded shelf blanks and glue up another batch. To contributor A: Your clamping method for pairs of doors sounds like a great idea! As to your shelves, do you run them over the jointer to get the saw marks off of the banding faces?

From contributor A:
Of course I do. I do have one cutter that I use where I don't need to use the jointer because it takes a smidge off and is self cleaning. Lately I've been lazy and have been using the hot glue-on edge banding when the shelves require a square edge, mainly because I don't have any birch around to match the ply when I spray the natural insides of my cabinets. But when I need a profiled edge on the ply I use the double glue up method. How do you get rid of the solid wood that sticks up beyond the edge? (15/15-3/4=3/16 /2=3/32) 3/32 is kind of big to get rid of by sanding. For my banded edging I have a small router setup that I use for flushing the two. For my ply/wood glue-ups I use 13/16 solid against the 3/4- ply and sanding is a breeze.

From contributor C:
Over the past few years I have almost completely weaned myself from using a portable belt sander. I flush the edgebanding to the shelf faces with a table saw set up.

I attach an auxiliary fence to my saw’s fence, spaced up off of the saw table/throat insert about 5/16" for 1/4" edge banding. This allows the edgeband overhang on the first rip to slide under the auxiliary fence. I use a shop made feather board setup that locks down in the miter gauge slot to keep the shelf pressed tightly against the fence during the cut. Also, the shelves are crosscut to rough or finish lengths at this point. I use a second feather board setup on the outfeed side of the blade.

I set the saw to a point where it almost whispers on the veneer and is maybe set 1/16" higher than the banding thickness. To finish up after the saw trim, I find it faster than belt sanding to take a swipe or two with a well tuned block plane and then finish up with orbital or random orbital sanding.