Tools for Solid Surfacing

To work with solid surfacing, you want professional quality routers and sanders, and the right type of sandpaper and bits. April 11, 2008

I have been in the cabinet business for over 15 years and have decided to add solid surface fabrication to my services. I have just completed the training and certification process for Wilsonart products. Now I need to start obtaining the necessary equipment. I would like to hear your opinions on the best to buy.

Routers: 3 HP plunge and 2 HP fixed base:
After some research I find that Porter Cable seems to be the tool of choice. Why? What about Freud, Milwaukee, or Dewalt?

Sanders: D/A and R/O:
Porter Cable or Dynabrade.

Blades, bits, and other tools:
I have a catalog for Specialty tools. Is there another good source for these items?

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surface Forum)
From contributor J:
Welcome to SS. As far as routers go, I prefer the Porter Cable fixed base variable speed. I don't care for a lot of bells and whistles, and this one doesn't disappoint. It's heavy, which helps keep chatter to a minimum, which in turn speeds up sanding. Plus the handles are low to the work surface, which helps keep it stable. I only use a plunge router when I need one for that purpose. For sanders we use the Festool Rotex and the big 11" car buffer one, I forget the name. Both can be run all day with hardly any problems. The brushes on the Festool even tell you when they need to be replaced, which is nice. The only thing I don't like about the 11" is that the pad connects to the sander via a friction cup, which is a pain to align. A belt sander is pretty handy to have. I like the Bosch 4x24 with 3M 761D belts - very aggressive and last a long time. I would buy a Parallign seam clamp if you don't already have one. If you are going to use it in the shop, get the one that runs on compressed air; there are no moving parts to break down, plus it's cheaper.

Spiral router bits give a nice smooth edge, but they often can't be resharpened, and if they can, it reduces the bit diameter. I usually use them for cuts that need to be as smooth as possible. Get the downcut ones. The upcut ones throw dust in your face. For the most part, I use the 2 cutter straight bits - cheap and can be resharpened several times.

Specialty Tools is a good source. They carry replacement parts as well for the tools they sell. They even carry that CO2 system for air nailers.

From contributor E:
I too am a cabinetmaker, and decided to fabricate a few solid surface countertops for a custom job about 8 years ago. Well, I'm still fabricating tops, and more often than cabinets. I use both plunge and solid base Porter Cable routers. I like these the best because of the power, weight, and the handles with the trigger at the finger. I also have a few smaller routers for the smaller details - you name the brand, I have one. They are all set up for a specific job. You can never have enough. I purchased them because of what they could do for me, not the name.

As far as sanders, I've tried quite a few. The ones I've been using exclusively for the past few years are Festool! I can't say enough about these sanders. I also have the plunge saw, and they all hook up to the vacuum that Festool sells with them. The Rotex sander is a must, and it may help to have one of the finish sanders. However, they are all a little expensive. I'm sure you have a table saw, and chop saw. They will be very handy. Don't forget the sandpaper. I use 3-M micron paper - that's what works for me. There are many options for paper - buy the good stuff. Wow - it gets expensive to fabricate.