Using Prelaminated Sheetgoods


From original questioner:

I was having a discussion with the President of our company earlier this week (I am VP) that it would be much more efficient in both time and money to edgeband all our cabinet parts pre assembly, instead of facing the cabinet after assembly. We are a commercial cabinet shop, and primarily build laminate faced cabinets. He doesn't see the advantage, nor does our shop foreman, of banding pre assembly vs. cutout, buildup boxes, sand faces of adjacent cabinets so laminate faces will line up, spraying contact, waiting for contact to dry a little, spraying plastic strips, applying strips, rolling and pressing strips to make sure there are no air bubbles, routing edges, cleaning edges of excess contact, bevel routing sharp edges, and then hand filing any remaining sharp edges.

I told him that buying pre-laminated sheet goods, then cutting cabinet parts, edgebanding, assembly, and then done is a lot better. He then asked me how a finished laminate end on a cabinet is going to be attached if you can't glue and nail it on through a finished piece of plastic. We use a dado construction method, so the way we are assembling cabinets now, all fasteners are covered when the finished laminate end is applied. How does everyone else do this? Do you use pre laminated material and cut parts from that, or laminate everything in house?

I am VP now, and the owners son, so this company will probably be mine one day. I have recently started to try thinking as more of an owner than an employee, and trying to find faster and more efficient ways to do things here. Sorry if I am rambling on, but my title of VP has really just been that, a title for as long as I have had it. I have not really had any say so in the way things are done around here. Not that I am trying to be power greedy or anything, I would just like some of my ideas to be given a little more action effort other than "we tried that here once and it didn't work" and that be the end of it.

I have been making notes lately about things that I believe would be helpful changes in our company: Get rid of a lot of "stored" stuff in our shop to clear out valuable spaces that are not being utilized right now, getting rid of small, old equipment that we are not using anymore, changing the way we assemble cabinets, cleaning up our offices (some of the offices were added on, so carpet is different colors, cabinets dont match from office to office,) etc.

I am kind of limited on things I can change right now to things that don't cost any money because I don't have any control over the finances.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

From contributor Al

>> sand faces of adjacent cabinets so laminate faces will line up,

Are you doing this because cut parts dont align? If so how are you cutting parts?

> spraying contact, waiting for contact to dry a little, spraying plastic strips, applying strips, rolling and pressing strips to make sure there are no air bubbles, routing edges, cleaning edges of excess contact, bevel routing sharp edges, and then hand filing any remaining sharp edges.

Do you have an edgebander?

> I told him that buying pre-laminated sheet goods, then cutting cabinet parts, edgebanding, assembly, and then done is a lot better.

It is faster and costs less if you can cut and edge square parts, its a repeatable process that provides a better product with joinery that is precise. We stated using prelaminated panels in 1986

> He then asked me how a finished laminate end on a cabinet is going to be attached if you can't glue and nail it on through a finished piece of plastic.

Some people use a applied end, some post laminate exposed ends, we dowel so its cut from the same material as the doors and other parts. I dont like applied ends when you get into changes in elevation with lots of drops and raises it looks pretty goofy to me and eats up a lot of space

> we tried that here once and it didn't work" and that be the end of it.

Well all the hours you spend gluing and cleaning could be building the next job, you get a better panel with a PVA glue line than you do with a contact glue line.

We order our panels on 11/16 core to get a panel that is very close to when complete and they are balanced panels.

We cut a panel and then we edge a panel, you cut a core and a face laminate and a back laminate for the same part unless you are laminating on melamine which is against most grade rules for doors and drawers, so you are either cutting twice as many parts or 3 x as many parts for every laminated face.

Then there is the cost of the glue, the dry time, the floor space required, it all costs money.

> changing the way we assemble cabinets,

It starts with square parts that are designed to have some fluff at the back for tolerance so without knowing what you have in the way of equipment its hard to comment.


From contributor La

You guys need to go to IWF in Atlanta this year before you go broke. Sanding to flush, Yikes, Nails really.
Laminate banding! no way. I guess if you are really opposed to faster assembly methods you could still laminate exposed ends after assembly. We buy most of our panels pre-laminated, cheaper than doing it here & better than contact. You can get sheets laid up with hard setting glues for your cost of materials. You are burning a lot of hours with the current methods.
We are a commercial only shop, no kitchens etc. I think our methods are probably similar to most commercial shops. We build to AWI standards. I wouldn't consider our shop "state of the art." But not dark ages either.

From contributor ca


Congrats on asking all the right questions. I would highly recommend watching the following video on this website over and over again.

These people supplied our p-lam tops for a Ronald McDonald House job (p-lam and sinks donated by Wilsonart) and kicked a... . This is a good example of applying modern techniques for a great result in the manufacturing process.

In your case, I would definitely get a shed and start storing items in the way of the production space in it, then you are not considered wasteful.

Software- do you have any ? You need to learn it and make sure it will either post to code or make sure as the business grows find this out.

Then watch the video below

Shop tour

Anyway, you are on the right track.

From contributor Da

Cut pre-laminated sheets to the panel sizes you need then pass them through the edgebander.
Get a boring machine so you can assemble with dowels.
Throw out the scrap laying around or give it away. It is taking up space.
Use 2mm PVC edging instead of laminate edging.
Use gable ends on cabinets that are screwed from the inside.
Buy a pinch roller and laminate in house if you want.
Get the heck out of your shop and go visit some other places right away so you can modernize.
Also good for you for seeing that improvements have to be made.

From contributor Ja

Thanks for all the responses so far. I was not expecting to see anything as quick as I did.

I will try to answer some of your questions, but I am at home today, so I might not be able to answer some things related to type of equipment/names of equipment, etc. It has been about 10 years now since I was an active worker in our shop, before I moved out of state for college. When I came back, I started working in our offices to help out because the office manager who did all the computer drawings had a stroke and could not work anymore.

I am a little embarrassed to say this, but I really didn't pursue my "position" as VP like I should have a long time ago. I have asked my dad, the president, multiple times in the past to show me how he does things, how he decides how to price things, basically to teach me how to run a business, and his response was always that he didn't have time, or "I just do it", and things like that. Partially his fault, and partially my fault for not being more persistent with asking.

I really was just working in the office, doing what work was given to me, not really thinking about it much, and going through the week like that. I guess I have just been waiting for someone to show me things.

Not to turn this into any type of religious discussion or anything, but several weeks ago, I started praying about trying to change my attitude towards this business because it will one day be mine, and asking God to change my views of everything. That's when I started to read some business books (The E-Myth, why most small businesses don't work, and what to do about it) Great book, and it really started to help me ask myself a lot of questions about business in general, why things work the way they do, and all kinds of other things. It also showed me how backwards it seems that we do a lot of things in our business. Not that those ways are wrong, but there are much more efficient and faster ways that things can be done. So I started writing down ideas and things I see that need improvement, and I have about 4 pages of notes now. Next I plan to read Lean for Dummies and learn what I can about the Lean Business model.

Right now, I think it is best for me to do research on things on my own, compile a lot of things from other shops and owners so I can back my ideas up, and then present them to my dad/the owner. I know I may have mentioned some of these things in my first post, but I want everyone that may respond to have a better understanding of my position.

Ok now to try to answer the questions:

If they are going to laminate a row of base cabinets that will be installed side by side" they will lay all the cabinets out on the floor after they are boxed up, drill holes and insert what they call "sex bolts"? I have heard them called join bolts. It is a male and female end that threads together and joins the boxes. Then they will belt sand the faces of each cabinet where they join together to get an even surface so the edges will be flush after they laminate them. I think this is partially due to our concrete floor being a little uneven in some places? Not sure why the parts would not align if the cabinets are the same depth.

We cut cabinet parts on a sliding table saw. Not sure what make/model it is. I would go out in the shop and check, but I am at home today. I would think with a piece of equipment as nice as that, the parts would be the same, or at least withing 1/16 or better.

Yes we have an edgebander, but it is an older model. It was new when he purchased it, but I don't think the settings were ever completely correct. They have had to replace quite a few parts on it over the years. We are using it for shelf edges, and I think they have been using it for door and drawer edges, but then they are laminating the faces of doors and drawers by hand. We use white melamine as a base material and for the interiors of cabinets with doors.

He will use prelaminated panels for larger jobs sometimes if there are multiple rooms that are alike, as in exam rooms at a medical office, or classrooms in a school job. He doesn't "balance" the door or drawer panels like I have read that a lot of people do unless the specs on a job call for it.

When I mention the idea of edgbanding parts after the face panel laminate is on, he said he doesn't like the look of the exposed black line (the laminate edge). This edge is covered if the edges are applied first and then the faces. I told him he was being dumb if the customer doesnt care, and that he is just allowing a "better looking product" to cost him what is probably thousands of dollars every year that he could be using as a down payment on new equipment.

IWF in Atlanta :

I have heard about this show before. Anyone have any more info on it? We have been invited to visit laminate plants, CNC companies, etc before, and I have been interested in going, but never wanted to go by myself when I was younger because I don't know enough about what kind of things our shop could benefit from. My dads response to vendors that have offered is always "I would like to, but I don't have time right now." So we never get to go. I may just have to start going by myself and learn things the hard way.

I am not opposed to changing anything because I can see the potential benefits of trying new things. I think he has the mindset that if things are still working, and have worked ok in the past, then why should we waste time trying to learn how to do things any differently. I see that this is costing us a lot of money in slower ways of doing things.

We are a commercial only shop:

Same with us too. We may do an occasional repair on a door or drawer for a residential customer if we have the time to fit it in.

Are you using any software:

We are currently using CabnetWare (not sure what version R2 2012 maybe?) I dont have anything to compare it to because it is all I have ever used (it is me and my brother in law in the office drawing all our jobs) I have not really had any training on it, so what I know how to do was mostly learned by trial and error and reading forum posts. It does not seem to be very user friendly at times and Planets customer service is not too great in my opinion. I am sure there are other programs, but I don't know much about them.

I know that my dad has done a great job growing our business to what it is today and I respect him greatly for that because he is a really hard worker. We are just a lot alike, so that makes it really hard at times for him to be a good teacher for me and for me to be a good student. He told me in the past that he works as hard as he wants to, and he has grown the company to where he is comfortable with it. If I want to do more with it, that is fine with him. So I guess that is what I am trying to do. I can see the potential in it and actually have visualized it as being about 5 or 6 times bigger than what it is now. I just have a long way to go from where it is now, to where I want to see it one day.

I once read that if you want to learn how to do something new, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and ask every question you can think of until you are as smart as they are. That's is what I am trying to do.

Sorry for such a long post here, but I have all these questions and ideas, and this seems like a great place to find some answers.

Thanks again for all the help, keep the comments coming!

From contributor Ja

Sorry to keep posting questions before anyone has a chance to respond, but I just thought of something else that might help convince the need for a major change.

For the ones that responded and said yes, we edgeband our cabinet parts pre assembly; if possible, could you take a few pictures of some completed cabinets maybe with and without doors and drawers in place? Maybe an overall picture of a row of millwork, and then maybe a close up or two of the face and edge details?

And also if you could remind me with those pictures if the pictured millwork was cut on a CNC, or whatever other means were used.

I think having multiple shops saying this is the way to do it, it is how we have done it for ____ years, our customers are happy with our finished products, AND picture proof that it CAN be done to show him, I might have a better chance at convincing him to let our shop try it.



From contributor ca

we spent the time to develop our system 10 years ago with slider and pod and rail ptp. Man it was fast. Now we run on the cnc router. It's much faster and organized.
I have definitely learned to cut the "we do it this way only" out of my vocabulary with this upgrade of software and the cnc router.