Staining Edgebanding for Prefinished Plywood

Ways to make edgebanding match drawer and door faces when using prefinished plywood to build frameless cabinets. December 30, 2005

We're in the midst of trying some options on using pre-finished ply, and so far our market seems to like natural pre-finished maple interiors, but a nice dark stained exterior. We are having difficulty in getting edgeband to match the stain of the exterior. Here's what we've done so far. Our goal is to have an actual wood edgeband that is stained along with the drawer fronts and doors, so it looks the same.

1) Match the color as best we can on a chart for PVC edgeband. You just lose that custom, real wood look, even though the band has "woodgrain" in it. It still looks like plastic.

2) Band the cabinets with raw wood band, and stain - but the problem comes in with overspray in the pre-finished interior, getting stain in the box (a pain to clean but not too bad), etc.

I considered staining the edgeband first, apply via the edgebander, and finish while on the cabinet, but the overspray problem is still there. Is there a product I can use to clear-coat the stained edgeband with before running it through the edgebander - something that will stand the heat?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor G:
How about staining and lacquering after edgebanding, but before assembly?

From contributor S:
We build cabinets with pre-finished interiors and real wood banding like Contributor G said. We stack parts on carts with longest on bottom to shortest on top with all banded edges flush and we stack the clamps also. We mask off only the top of the stack and stain seal topcoat. While assembling boxes, if we have any stain that leached through onto the face we wipe off with lacquer thinner. Then no finish gets through onto faces. If you like, you can go the extra step and run a cabinet scraper down edges to create a real crisp line from finished edge to interior. Its very quick and easy to do.

From contributor A:
To the original questioner: My first question is why are you trying to match the front of an interior shelf to the exterior of the cabinet? If anything, it won't match the interior (painted outside, pre-finished inside). At my shop we actually bought a small hot air edgebander solely for putting pre-finished edgebanding on pre-finished plywood.

From contributor T:
We're kind of at the same stage, just starting to use pre-finished ply. Can't help you with the staining finishing problem other than to say we use same natural maple as interior. I posted to ask what type of adhesive you are using, if any, for attaching cleats, gussets, or anything else to the pre-finished ply.

From the original questioner:
Contributor A - maybe I was a bit vague. I'm talking euro boxes, and no face frame. We do band the shelves with natural to match the interior, but the outer edge of the box itself, where the door and drawers strike, is an exposed surface, and has to match the doors and fronts.

Contributor G and Contributor S - good idea, hadn't thought of the "stack and blast" idea. That will likely be our next option.

Contributor T, I can't give you a 100% answer, but I did build my tool box out of two-sided pre-finished birch ply, and I used Gorilla Glue and it's gripping the pre-finished stuff pretty well. Its really messy though, but who cares in a toolbox.

Does anyone know of a clear coat that can withstand the heat of an edgebander?

From contributor J:
Ive always done euro cabinet edges the way Contributor S suggested except I stack the shortest on bottom to longest on top and just lay a scrap board on top then spray at a slight downward angle to protect from overspray. After spraying sealer just leave the boards stacked and sand the edges all at once.

From contributor C:
I have done the technique Contributor S uses except I don't stack one on top of the other; just stacked on a drying rack. I use a water base ply so the overspray - if your fan is dialed in right - isn't a problem. I stack them outside face up on the rack and spray away. Any overspray that is problematic gets wiped with thinner after the finish has dried. The overspray is only a problem on cabinets with doors; I don't worry about overspray on those with drawers - nobody looks in there anyway. This is with euro parts by the way.

From contributor D:
We pre-finish our own edgeband and use our edgebander to apply it to pre-finished ply. The heat of the edgebander does not bother our finish which is a Conversion Varnish. We roll our edgeband up on big cardboard rolls, finish them and then run them through the bander.

From contributor M:
I apply pre-finished edgeband with sprayed contact cement and there are no heat problems. You stack the boards to be edgebanded just as previously described, but spray on contact cement instead.

From the original questioner:
I doubt the edges that get trimmed are a big deal, as we use .5mm wood. It doesnt show enough for anyone to notice.

From contributor P:
Where I work we do a lot of European Overlay cabinetry as well as face frame usually beaded inset. On our EO cabinets we kind of do it the hard way. We use an unfinished edgebanding in the appropriate species of wood and install it using our edgebander. The cabinets are then assembled and brought to the finish booth. There if they are to be stained our finish guy says he just dips a rag in the stain and uses his thumb to run down the side of the wall, and since the sidewalls are pre-finished with a UV clear coat, any that gets on the pre-finished is minimal if you are careful and it just wipes away with lacquer thinner. The usual finish we use is a conversion varnish.

Our finish guy uses some of those pre-applied masking tapes with the plastic sheeting attached to mask off the inside of the cabinet and sprays away. Of course this takes a little extra time, but I feel that once the finish is completed there is finish not only on the edgebanding but also in the slight cracks where top meets side and so forth. It makes for a more seamless look. I am now starting my own shop and despite the increased time involved I will probably do it the same way.

I am sure that pre-finishing the edgebanding before it is applied works for you guys, but I am also curious as to how you take care of the edge where you file or razor knife the excess edgebanding off or the edgebander's trimmers cut it away. I guess I may not understand the process. I know what has been working for us for almost 10 years now and unless I figure out a faster way that gives the same seamless look, especially with a glazed finish I will keep with the tradition.