Minimizing the Need to File Laminate Edges

Advice on getting a clean laminate edge that requires only a light touch with the file. June 12, 2014

My business is primarily custom kitchen cabinets with laminate countertops. 90% of the tops we build have wood edges that we finish to match the cabinets. I have recently started doing some more laminate work in more commercial situations (churches, businesses, etc.) These countertops are mostly laminate edge and top. How do I achieve the nice smooth laminate edges on the front of the tops without spending all day and half the night hand filing?

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surface Forum)
From contributor D:
Try the Lamello Lamina. It's a high end laminate trimmer that cuts the laminate instead of routing. It's always at the shows. They claim no filing or sanding and it can do 90 degree or bevel angles. Best for long straight runs like countertops. It's expensive but if you figure filing and sanding at a shop rate of $50/hr, it justifies pretty quickly.

From contributor P:
Use a solid carbide bearingless bit to trim the laminate flush. You have to lubricate the edge with Crisco or similar.

Use a bevel bit to trim the laminate at an angle. Use a good router that allows accurate adjustments. Set the bevel so that that there is very little filing required. If done correctly the filing will take no time at all.

I haven't seen the Lamello trimmer in action but it would do you know good on inside corners. It appears that it might be trouble on radiused work. To me it would be more trouble than it is worth.

From contributor B:

Same as contributor P, except I use blue painters tape in place of lubricating the edge. I put the tape on the top of the front edges before trimming these edges. Bonus is that it catches some of the overspray from the top. Also, I use a 1/8" radius bit in place of the bevel bit.

From contributor R:
I prefer wax over grease (WD-40). Grease will release your glue if you use too much. As for filing, I agree with contributor P - set your routers up correctly and then you should only have to just barely hit the edge with a file so it's not sharp. I would think the painters tape would be too much of a hassle, not to mention the labor cost involved. I try to spray as much of my tops upside down to avoid overspray. If you have a good gun and it is adjusted correctly, overspray should not be a problem.

From contributor P:
How do you clean off the wax? The tape is not a bad idea, as the glue I use (California compliant) is hard to clean and tends to go everywhere (the gun works perfectly). I typically use a painter's masking dispenser and run it around the perimeter before I sand the top surface flat. This way the tape is exactly flush. I have found this to be faster than cleaning the laminate later.

From contributor B:
To me, the tape is money well spent. Eliminates any chance of a burnt edge (never a redo or touchup), and reduces cleanup.

From contributor S:
I have used every brand of laminate trimmer over the years, and very few are perfectly square. If you rotate the trimmer one way or the other, it sometimes leaves a little lip to file off. On some of them we would shim the base plate until it worked well from any side.

I have always used the solid carbide bits with a paste wax, which wipes off nicely. I have done miles and miles of filing and never found it an issue. I believe the files we use are called Magi-cut, and as long as you always use a sharp one, it works well.

We have tried expensive trimming bits with a bearing that trim and bevel all in one. They always work well, but sometimes just switching from post-forming grade, or general purpose, requires adjustments. Using bevel bits, etc. doesn't always work and you may have to touch up with a file as well. I like the control you have with a file - just personal preference.

From contributor E:
I never quite understand this problem. If you use a reasonable quality router with flush trim and then bevel bit set correctly and are careful to set it up properly for the laminate thickness desired and then take your time when routing, you should have virtually no filing to do. I propose for manufacturing shops that they have multiple routers as opposed to constantly changing the setup.