I've got a hot air bander and I've lost customers because they want nice rounded edges you get with 3 mil banding. My banding vendor will glue up to 1 mil, but can't handle more than that. Can you get 3 mil pre-glued banding anywhere? I was going to rout the edges round after applying the tape - is that feasible with PVC?
From contributor B:
Why don't you just have someone else do the 3mm banding part? Seems like a reasonable solution to me.
A bander capable of 3mm will have at least 3 wheels in the pressure station, 1 driven and 2 idle. The whole machine has to be beefier.
I have had to do contoured parts before, and thought I could use contact cement... it looked like crap! I don't think there are any shortcuts. The Fastcap tape will allow your banding to creep as you machine it. 3mm is a separator. It demonstrates to the client that you are serious about doing what it takes to build commercial grade casework. And to do that, it will take a machine that costs $20,000 and up (new).
If you are getting requests for small jobs that require 3mm, then you might want to pass on them. To heat up a pot of glue for 20' of banding is not worth the effort. It cooks the glue, and it has to be replaced more often. Just know that jobs that require 3mm generally bring in more money because they require more expensive equipment. To apply banding to an edge, it must be perfectly square. That means that it was either cut on a panel saw or a router, not a Unisaw. When you are adding equipment that costs $20K and up, then you must cover your overhead.
I was in your situation years ago. I faced the same problems, and got tired of being limited. I jumped in and bought the whole farm. It was a good move for me. Having access to a 3mm machine, or owning one, opens up more opportunities. That is why it is a difficult choice, but one all of us had to make.
Ask contributor H if he is willing to give up his machine for that small handheld unit.
My machine cannot do curves, and if I got the occasional demand for curved 3mm work, I would get such a machine, as it is cost effective and does not take up valuable space. I had a one time job to build 60 hardwood framed tables with 1" melamine tops. I bought a Hoffman dowel machine for 850, used it for the frames, and then sold it for 100 less. If I had a continued use for it I would have kept it.
I did not see the Virutex in action, only the Admik from Adwood. Check out the Virutex before if you can, although they look like the same machine.
What you failed to mention to the questioner is that he will need a shuttle board for each piece he runs, a lipping planer to trim top and bottom, some kind of end trimmer for front and back (and no, the Virutex model will not cut 3mm PVC, so he will need some kind of saw set up to do this). And if he is doing long closet parts, it will be impossible to keep up with a shuttle board and apply constant pressure with parts that are 8' long. You are not going to be able to do this with something that mounts to a table.
I am sure that the $2,000 - $3,000 spent on this little machine would be better used towards a smaller gluepot unit that will replace his hot air toy. He will produce a better product in less time, instead of having to buy his pre-banded panels from Big Box.
Contributor H, I think you are overly impressed with that handheld gluepot. It is the same marketing scheme as the stationary hot air banders. They are over-marketed. I mean really, look at your pressure station, your frame, and your pressure beam/clamping wheels. Most of this is used to apply the banding to the edge. Do you really think you can mimic that with an 8' panel and a gluepot mounted to a table? I would still like to try one of those before I throw down $18K for a contour bander, but I think I will be disappointed.
Understand that machinery importers are always looking for ways to get your money. They spend a lot of time and money trying to find ways to convince us that we need this machine, and it won't cost us as much as it will save us. Their best mark is the guy who wants to do more, but can't afford the standard machinery, so they develop a light duty piece that mimics the standard one. We are then told that it does not require all the space, power, and money, but with a little more effort on our part, it will do the same as the larger units. Just not true. Look to see how many used hot air banders there are out there for sale. They function in a very limited range, and for what they offer, they are very expensive... cheap purchase price, but try to do anything other than .5mm (well, you know).
Your best option is to tell your customers that there is a $500 minimum for 3mm edgebanding. It is best applied with very expensive machines, and to have this run on such a small project like this will cost more to heat up the glue than it will run the parts. Then see how many people want to spring for the extra expense. It costs $125+ for a roll of 3mm PVC. Let them pay for it. If the job gets sold, then I would find someone who can do this for you. There are all kinds of companies who provide parts for others. Being a small shop, you may want to invest more into service than machining parts. RTA is perfect for closets. You could just spec out what you need and let others worry about how to apply this stiff stuff.
The addition of any large equipment is impossible - I would have to rent a shop and in my geographical area, cost is prohibitive. We are a very small outfit, and sometimes being flexible enough to offer nice rounded edges will help us land the higher end (for us) jobs.
As I am only 5 years or so from retirement and have no ambition to grow substantially, I have a different perspective than most of you guys. I just need to keep a low to moderate income coming (thank God my wife works). Now-a-days with the economy, it's just survival - last year was a disaster, this year only slightly better.
Hope your business is doing well. I think if we can all survive the next year or two, we will be seeing better times ahead.
Contributor M, if you are paying 125+ for a roll of 3mm, then you need to look around. A 325' roll of Woodtape 3mm should cost about $60.00. I flew to Germany some fifteen years ago and bought my 3mm machine. After a couple of years of being clipped by the suppliers, I looked around. It's possible!