Learning About Edgebanders

Advice for a woodworker who is in the market for a very low-priced edgebander, and wants to educate himself about edgebanders and other machinery. March 13, 2014

I am currently researching banders for a solo shop. My volume is very low but can justify 1500-2K in a bander. How would you go about becoming educated about the machinery that exists? Some think hot air is great as it is cleaner than a glue pot machine, while others say you need a glue pot bander for real strength. What is the difference between granules and those cylindrical sticks of glue? Why not a handheld bander that has a table into which the handheld fits? Contour banders also do straight - why doesnít everyone have one that does both?

At this point I would ideally want bottom and top flush trim (finish), end cut with a tail is fine, up to 2mm also fine. PVC or ABS is a plus. While I'm at it, after perusing WOODWEBís Machinery Exchange there are machines I donít even know what they do. For instance a corner blocking machine. How does one learn about what's out there period for that matter. Merely trade shows? Iíve been to a few but the folks showing their machines usually are less than ready to educate you just because you want to get educated.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor M:
Trade shows are good. You can go see all the equipment you could ever want in person, and talk to manufacturers reps. IWF in Atlanta, and AWFS in Vegas are the two main shows. Otherwise your best bet is to go network with local shops and see what equipment they own and operate and what has worked, and what hasn't. Buying a used bander can be a can of worms, and you will certainly get what you pay for.

Stay within your budget of 1-2k. Keep it simple, and get something simple like one of the compact Cehisa banders. I bought my EP-2s with power feed used for $500 (although I spent almost $900 on crating, and shipping). It is as simple as they get with no trimming stations, other than a pneumatic knife to cut the coil automatically.

For $1500-$2000 I highly doubt you will find a bander with trimming stations that is in good working condition. If you buy something more complicated in this price range, make sure to get a qualified tech to look it over!

From contributor W:
I have the kd 54 I purchased new in 2001. It was a rough start learning and paying for it but the ultimate upgrade to our shop has been well worth it. Back then a top job was 20-30k, now it is far beyond that and we operate with only three more men than we did then. I would never have considered a $4500 used bander then, yet having recently had to rebuild mine I am less afraid of it. I am going larger in a few months yet will not sell this one as it will make a fine backup for shelves, etc. Next to a CNC a bander is essential, yet I would still get the bander first.

From contributor G:
I went through the same thing twice before and ended with a Cehisa both times. My EP-2s was a great machine for the money but it only applies and doesn't do any trimming. My EP-7 was $6k and it took me a few months to track down this machine in the condition and price that I was looking for. I was actually looking for a different Cehisa when I called Adwood and spoke with a sales rep. I told him about my needs and he recommended the EP-7 (vs. a newer pro-8 that I was also considering).

Education: WOODWEB has helped a lot in my education on all sorts of things (to include banders). The search function is under-utilized and would provide preliminary answers to most of the questions asked on the site. You can find out about specific banders and read real experiences from real people.

Budget - having been there, done that, I would think you would be very hard pressed to find any sort of plug-and-play bander with trimming in your price range. You could purchase an 80's machine, but expecting it to work without too much handwork after it comes off the line is simply unrealistic. Not to mention, I'm sure it would need a serious tune-up immediately and techs don't work for cheap. An EP-2s machine is probably the right machine for you (if you want to stay with a glue pot machine). Otherwise, hot air banders get the job done and might be worth investigating further. I have only used a Freud table top hot air bander and it wasn't much of a step up from ironing it on.

As Contributor W alluded to, and what others have mentioned before, you pretty much get what you pay for and there are always better/faster machines to upgrade to. You need to decide what type of work you are doing, or are going to do, and how this machine will help you be productive in that area. For me, the EP-2s worked fine for pre-finished, thin tape on shelves and the like. We only upgraded because we got into a couple of laminated edges, commercial gigs. Fr these jobs we went from spraying contact glue on the box edges and pieces of banding, hand applying the banding and rolling it on, wiping wax on the surface to prevent burning the laminate, trimming with a handheld router, cleaning up the edges with a file, and finally cleaning up the wax and excess glue with thinner. Obviously a crazy amount of work that can now be done in less than ten seconds an edge (not counting all of the test pieces to get the trimming just right, but you get the idea). Put together a couple of jobs like this and you'll be well on your way to increasing your budget and getting a larger machine.

From contributor W:
I have to confess my first bander was a hot air top and bottom blade type for trimming - please avoid it if possible. There are some decent hotair banders using routers for trimming that were not available when I started this hunt. They have been out a few years and are good starter learning machines. Move up to a glue pot as soon as you can.

From contributor F:
The others have already given you some good info to start out! For me it was a matter of what came on the market when I was looking at a price I could afford. I ended up with a Holz-Her bander with top and bottom trimmers and buffing wheels with a glue cartridge system. I picked it up for $2k and spent $400 to have it transported to my shop and another several hundred for a tech to come in and go over the machine with me. It's an older machine and is definitely on the finicky side. It also requires a bit of hand clean up, not much, but enough that you can't just send it on its way without touching it.

For me it was well worth it. At some point when business picks up I'll be on the lookout for a slightly better machine, but for now it allows me to do PVC banding, which is the reason I bought it, as well as speeding up the time regular wood banding takes.

I can't offer much help on your questions but I will offer one other piece of advice when shopping. Keep in mind the total amount of room you have for the machine. My machine is a medium sized unit at 12' long! So if I want to band an 8' panel I would need close to 26' of clear shop space along with about 6' or so of depth for a 24" panel! So make sure you find one that fits!

From contributor L:
Take a look at the portable glue pot banders. They can apply PVC up to 3mm thick as contour banders and can be setup in a table for smaller things like shelves. No trimmer function, but very compact. If you get one go for the model with a temperature controller and maybe variable feed speed. Without a temperature controller and no way to control feed speed they don't work well on .018/.5 mm banding. We bought one to do contour banding on panels too big to handle on our stationary contour bander. Haven't had it very long but the guys are getting pretty good with it. They definitely take a lot more time than an automatic bander with trimming and all the bells and whistles, but they do seem to work ok. Some learning, also the glue is more of a mess than on a straight line machine. Itís about $2,000. Someone awhile back asked about how they could band to an inside corner with 3mm PVC. One of these machines can do it if you have a second person to press the banding into the corner right away.

From contributor S:
I agree with Contributor L. Buy a new portable edgebander with the dedicated trimming routers and guillotine cutter. They use hot melt glue (better that hot air) and are very versatile. They take a while to master (figure three or more projects) but I think they will do as good of a job as the large machines if you are careful. Laguna has a nice setup the last time I checked. Look for one with an electronic temp controller. The dedicated trimming router speeds things up a lot.

From Contributor O:
Regarding education: When I had questions about machines and needs, I contacted a few nearby machine dealers. They would get me into shops with a machine of the type they wanted to sell, and I could see it run, what it could do, and even talk to operators. Usually the sales rep threw in lunch, too. A good sales rep will find what you need instead of sell you what he has.

Stiles, Scarlett, E B Mueller, 3K are a few that I dealt with over the years. Atlanta is a good source to see everything and make direct comparisons. If you go, contact the reps first and make appointments with them during the show. They get so busy that they don't have a lot of time for anyone - but love to talk to focused people/potential buyers.

From the original questioner:
I have been leaning towards the portable contour bander, but some folks have mentioned a Cahise ep3. If I can get an older one for 2-3K it seems like it would be ideal.

From contributor J:
Donít overlook the small SCM banders. An SCM K201, or an older SCM Basic may work very well for you. I have an older K201. Needed a little work when I bought it, and panels need a little handwork after they come off, but the machine is relatively small and fast.

From the original questioner:
I called Adwood today to see if there are techs in the SF bay area just in case the thing is in need of help. They said they have no techs in the area. I'm kind of baffled. How are you supposed to fix it if you donít know what you are doing. Getting someone out from High Point NC would be costly. For that matter a Cehisa EP2S is also being sold low cost as it untested in my area. Again, how do you test it and fix it?

From contributor H:

The EP2 and EP3 are very basic and are good machines to learn basic adjustments and get wrenching experience on. Not a whole lot to go sideways on you - basic valving, heaters, t -tats, belts, etc. I tore my glue tower and gate down every three months for cleaning out ash buildup, and the entire pot every four to scrape the glue scabs out. You can real familiar with a machine doing that. Untested, I'd have to lowball either one. No one is beating doors down for a 20-25 year old low-end edgebander. Doing what you need to do, I'd buy one, but it couldn't be at a premium.

From contributor F:
To the original questioner: Try to find a machine tech in your area. If youíre in a somewhat urban area you should be able to track one down. It doesn't have to be a tech from the dealer, just someone competent enough to get your machine tuned and ready to go.

From the original questioner:
Makes sense I guess. Just seems like getting a Dodge mechanic to work on a Ford could cost more in the end.

From contributor F:
I know where youíre coming from, but think of it this way, in a given town or city how many guys drive Chevy's or Dodge's - a pretty good amount. Now in the same given city how many guys have an edgebander, or other machine, made by HolzHer, Cehisa, SCM, Martin, Paolini, Bini, Griggio, Altendorf, Hammer, Felder, Striebig, etc.

You can start to see there are way too many machine manufacturers and too few users to have a dedicated tech in every state, or even region. I'm surprised Adwood couldn't provide a recommendation, but I'm sure in an area that populated there has to be someone decent. I might even suggest a new posting that will catch more eyes asking specifically for tech recommendations. I have to believe there's a few guys on here from your part of the world.

Also, I may have been lucky with the tech I use, but he's actually very reasonable and for a machine like a bander itís well worth the money spent. Throw a low, but still somewhat reasonable number at the seller and see what happens. I'm not familiar with the Cehisa's but I know bigger edgebanders seem to sit around for a long time in this area.

From contributor M:
If you are looking at an older bander and you think that it may need parts find out what the replacement parts cost before you buy the machine. While parts might be available, sometimes they can cost an arm and a leg. When negotiating a price with older equipment it is a good idea to remind an uninformed seller that if one thing fails or goes wrong with the equipment after you buy it that the machine may very well be as good as scrap.

From the original questioner:
I keep thinking of driving from San Francisco to Houston, loading it up, getting it back home and it doesnít work. Then what? It seems a big gamble.

From contributor F:
If you have some time I'd recommend looking around locally a bit as well. Also don't forget to post a WTB post here at the Machinery Exchange! There are a lot of shops that have a machine or two sitting in the corner they either couldn't move or didn't have time to try. I've posted before and was surprised at how many responses I received.

From Contributor R:
It looks like you've received a lot of good advice here. As an independent tech I would like to add my two cents. When purchasing a used edgebander be very careful as they are the most abused piece of equipment in this industry. Most used ones have been through the mill so to speak and can be very costly to return to operational condition. Even used ones that are working very well at one location then transported to another can be non-working when fired up. Don't settle for the old line "it was working just fine when we shut it down". Do your homework.