Working with Recycled-Paper Countertop Material

Here's a detailed rundown of how to get good results with a popular "green" synthetic-stone countertop material. January 13, 2008

I am new to Paper Stone, but am having great results with it and would recommend it to anyone. It is not easy to work with off the bat because it is heavy and hard on bits and blades. I am a cabinetmaker and am taking advantage of this solid surface material as a selling point.

I found that when you begin with a major sized slab, you can use a chalk line and a skill saw to cut out the shapes of the countertops oversize by an inch or so. I then cut with the skill saw up to 1/8” to my cut line. The product does not chip out too much, so there are no problems here. Especially when you are putting a round-over or another profile on the edges.

I use both top and bottom mounted bearing flush trim bits. (I use Whiteside and Freud bits mostly). I find that hogging the majority of the material away with a larger diameter bit works well, then I move to a smaller diameter (3/8-1/4”) bit to do the final pass. This leaves machine marks to a minimum, and it is best to use a powerful router. 1 3/4hp Porter Cable works fine, though. This material is very hard on your blades and bits. I go through two bits of the same profile, other than the round over bits (mainly flush trims), per job, and account for this in the pricing.

On inside corners, a 90 degree jig works great to flush trim to on the inside radius. I use a 3/8” flush trim to run along the jig inside the corner and this produces a perfect inside radius. The outside radius I use a radius jig to flush trim to as well. An assortment of straight edges and radius jigs come in handy. I always use a 1/8” to 3/8” round-over/bull-nose, which really flows well with the inside and outside radius. The thicker the material, the larger the radius, I find (usually, but not necessarily). (Or chamfer.) I sand out the machine marks before I round over the edges to minimize a chain reaction ripple effect.

Once I have all of the edges prepared with the router, I use a random orbit sander with 150 grit, move up to 220, then to maroon scotch bright, and then grey. Festool makes a super fine sanding pad to hook on to the hook and loop sanders. This will produce a very glossy finish. I then use orange oil/beeswax to finish the countertops and tell my client to use as needed. I also explain to them that they can buff out the little scratches they put in it with the scotch bright and re-apply the finish to restore the look and feel.

You have to pre-drill this material in order to screw into it, but you can only screw into the face of the material rather than the edge, otherwise the material will split and delaminate along the layers of paper. (Very bad.) I find that drilling a pilot hole slightly deeper then the screw's penetration works best, otherwise you will snap off the head of the screw every time. Once the tip of the screw bottoms out, it will not penetrate the material and will shear the shank. Coarse thread screws are what I use.

When joints are necessary, draw bolts with 30 minute epoxy work great. I also use sanding powder of the material to mix into the epoxy for a better match. The seam will be a ghost line you have to look for.

I have had this material come from the factory with a bad lamination. Sent the project back and then got a new piece, which evidently came from the same batch, because the same discrepancy happened again in the same spot. The next time around I filled the stress fracture looking cracks of the delaminating with epoxy and sanding dust. You can also use a Sharpie pen of the same color, immediately wiping it away, which helps make the white crack lines disappear very well. This is a very uncommon occurrence and should not ever be a problem. In this case, after we received the bad slab for a second time, the homeowner said fix it aesthetically to save time and costs. It looks great.

All and all, the product is very kick ass and I would recommend it to anyone. If you are going to work with it, be prepared to go through cutters, and plan to experiment with the product sanding wise on some scrap to see what you are capable of doing. It is very heavy, very strong, and very beautiful when machined and installed properly. If you have solid surface experience, you will flow right into it. No solid surface experience, you will have to do a little figuring out.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:

What do you charge for this type of countertop? This is an interesting topic - as we may go into a housing recession, often cabinetmakers start selling countertops. Paper Stone makes a lot of sense, as HPL is basically out and this is a product that can compete with granite. I cut a sample once. It smells like HPL, only it's a whole lot thicker. How do you do your joints (45s?)? A local countertop shop said there's little room for error, as it's laminated and you can sand into the next lamination. I may try this on my kitchen first.

From the original questioner:
I charge time and materials when I have used this product on cabinets I did not build and install myself. For my own cabinets, which I install myself, I incorporate it into the bid. A small kitchen, small half bath vanity top, 6 foot master bath top and a four foot mudroom top ran my client about $4500.00 (North of Bay Area 5 hours.)

As far as joints go, I would stress that once the joint is made, protect the edges of the seam at all cost. It is a sharp edge and if it chips it will surely show, and although you can fill the void with epoxy and sanding dust (the finer the sanding dust, the better), it is still visible. You wouldn’t notice it unless it was shown to you or you went over it with a fine tooth comb scrutinizing it. I use draw bolts to join my seams. I try to lay it all out so that I may not have to have any joints at all, but most of the time in a large kitchen, you will probably run into at least one. There are many techniques to produce the joint, I guess, but I use straight edges and a flush trim router to cut precise lines. I then use biscuits to help with alignment on the top epoxy with sanding dust and draw bolts. I wipe away the squeeze out, and once cured, I go over the entire surface with a good buffing with a scotch bright. I found that you can kerf the product successfully for radius vertical work (though I haven’t had to use it this way yet).

From contributor M:
This product looks great; I saw it at the green build conference in Atlanta a few years ago. I wish that there was a supplier in the S.E.