Introduction: Easy Edge Banding for Plywood

Picture of Easy Edge Banding for Plywood
Plywood is one of the more versatile options when doing large wood working projects.  It is much more cost effective than joining solid lumber boards together, and it can be bought in a variety of grades and veneers to custom fit your needs.  While any material has its drawbacks, one of the main issues with using plywood is the edge.  Depending of the design of your project, the laminated layers of the plywood, when seen, can detract from the look of your work.  The solution to this problem is edge banding.

Edge banding can be done in a variety of ways.  You can buy thin veneers that can be applied to the plywood either with contact cement or by using the banding tape that comes with an iron on adhesive.  While this is the most commonly used option, it is by no means durable and can actually limit your design options.  This Instructable will cover using solid wood as edge banding.  These techniques can also speed up the process, allowing you to do production runs more effectively.

Tools and Materials Required:
  • Plywood
  • Lumber at least 1/4 of an inch thicker than your plywood
  • Table saw
  • Hand held electric planer
  • 1/4 sheet or orbital sander
  • Chisel
  • Wood glue
  • Packing tape
  • Bar clamps
Optional:
  • Block plane

Step 1: Cutting the Banding

Picture of Cutting the Banding

The type of design you want is going to determine the wood you use for the edge.  It is more common to have the lumber match the species of the veneer on your plywood.  However, different woods can be used to add accents to your piece.  This example uses birch plywood and poplar as the banding.

To cut the banding, you'll need to use a table saw (a band saw with a fence can also be utilized).  The thickness of your banding will depend on your design, but it should be at least 1/8 of an inch thick.  This will give you enough material to work with while still allowing it to be flexible enough to conform around curved profiles.  

Set the fence of the saw to the desired dimension.  While cutting thin parts in this fashion can increase the danger in using the saw, this will allow you to get uniform cuts every time, especially if you need a lot of banding.  Depending on the design of the saw, you may need to remove the blade guard.  Always take precaution when doing this, and always wear safety glasses when using power tools.  

When you are finished, cut the piece so that it is four to six inches longer than the edge of your plywood.

Step 2: Applying the Banding

Picture of Applying the Banding

To apply the edge banding, first clamp your piece in a table vise.  Apply an even coat of glue along ONLY the edge of the plywood.  Because of the material is wider than the thickness of the plywood, this will keep excess glue from dripping onto the veneer.  It will also keep the banding from slipping around when applied.  Spread the glue evenly over the surface using a brush or your finger.

Press the banding firmly onto the edge of the plywood, making sure that it overhangs on all sides.  Starting at one end, apply pieces of packing tape by pulling tension over the banding and affixing the ends of the tape to the plywood.  Continue applying the tape along the length of the piece.  Packing tape is used in this case for its durability.  Blue painters tape is usually not strong enough for this method.  Items like duct tape will leave an adhesive residue on your material, so avoid them.  Remove any drips on the plywood with a damp cloth, but don't be concerned with minor amounts of squeeze out.

Once you have taped the banding, lay the piece on its side and use clamps to apply more pressure.  If doing several pieces at once, you can use longer bar clamps, and butt the pieces end to end.  Allow the glue to cure for 24 hours.  

Step 3: Trimming the Banding

Picture of Trimming the Banding

After the glue has cured, remove the clamps and tape.  Using a chisel, cut away any large pieces of dried glue, being careful not to cut into the veneer of the plywood.

For trimming the banding, an electric hand planer is used.  This can also be done with a block plane, but will take longer.  Set the depth of cut on the planer to zero. Adjust the bases of the planer so that the blade will overhang the edge of the base by the thickness of the banding.  This is going to allow you to trim the banding, without cutting into the veneer of the plywood.  The overhang of the banding will give the planer an edge to ride along, keeping the tool in control.

Place the front base of the planer onto the plywood.  Turn the machine on and ease the planer over the starting edge of the banding.  Ride the planer along that edge across the entire length of the material.  The excess banding on either side will keep the material from chipping out at the corners of the plywood.  Flip the board over and repeat the process with the other side.  Once flush, cut the remaining banding off with a miter saw.

You can remove any remaining unevenness with a sander.  Be sure to use a fine sand paper (around 220), and take very light passes so that you don't dig too deeply into the veneer.  

With a little practice, this technique can allow you to quickly enhance many of your wood working projects.

Comments

fdcllc (author)2012-08-07

I'm a retired cabinetmaker. We always ran both edges of the board over the jointer, then cut both edges. Repeat for as many pieces needed. A fine blade makes a cut smooth enough to join to the plywood without showing.

nrevolt (author)2012-08-06

Take a look at the following for a jig that can be used for ripping thin strips: http://www.shopnotes.com/issues/105/extras/thin-strip-ripping-jig/

AXracer (author)2012-08-05

I have to agree with the naysayers, this is unsafe and more difficult than necessary. Removing the guard and splitter then pinning the thin piece between the fence and stock is a sure kickback situation and also destroys the accuracy of the edge of the stock for the next cut. The more strips that are cut, the worse the edge will get. If you must resort to thickness planning the strips afterwards, why worry about how accurately they are cut, just cut them off the outside of the stock over thick and run thru the planer. Planing thin strips accurately is difficult tho, so Jeff's reference is a one step method and using a sharp, high quality saw blade will result in strips than need very little further processing. I use a flush cutting bit in my router table with a finger board set higher than the strip thickness off the table to hold the panel against the fence. If I am banding larger panels I will add a taller extension to the table fence. If I am only doing a couple panels or very large ones, I will clamp a board or two to the side of the panel to give the handheld router a wider surface to ride on.
Is it safe should always be the first and foremost question! You may be lucky and dodge a bullet, but it only takes an instant of bad judgement to join the careless woodworkers who can no longer count to ten!
As a representative of TS you have an even greater obligation to promote safety!

jeffeb3 (author)2012-08-01

This is a dangerous way to cut thin strips. Try this method instead: http://www.finewoodworking.com/Workshop/WorkshopArticle.aspx?id=29586

If the thin strips are next to the table saw blade, there is a much higher risk (like 80%) of kickback, and the edge is more likely to have saw marks on both sides.

spiderham (author)jeffeb32012-08-02

That method is fine if you're cutting a single strip, but if you're doing anything with exposed edges, chances are you'll need multiple strips. This is where TechShopJustin's method will be the most effective as it will yield more consistent strips without the need to reset the jig. The saw marks are easily dealt with on a thickness planer or with a sander and the danger of kickback is minimized by following glorybe's advice of "standing a bit to the side" and using a push stick.

For those of you that preffer a simpler method, you can get edge banding and a trimmer at most hardware stores for very little money.

steveastrouk (author)spiderham2012-08-05

Did you actually read Jeff's link ? Its set-and-forget - and a lot safer for cutting thin strips.

spiderham (author)steveastrouk2012-08-05

You have to keep reseting the fence on it but I guess we'll just agree to disagree on this one. I won't argue jigs or safety with anyone.

gnach (author)jeffeb32012-08-05

That's a good link and I'll try it.

The thing that concerns me is using the stock throat plate which should be considered the bevel cut throat plate. I make a blank plate from baltic birch ply using the stock on as a template. With the blade below the table, i start the saw and slowly raise the blade through the plate about 1 1/2". It's now zero clearance with zero chance of the thin part getting pulled in and binding the blade.

Phil B (author)2012-08-01

I use a veneer bit with a ball bearing collar to trim the edge band. It is simple and easy, and it requires only a little sanding. Is there a reason why you used a power plane, instead?

This can be difficult as the only surface the router has to sit on is the thin edge of the work piece. By using a planer, you have the large flat surface of the work piece for the planer to sit on.

jeffeb3 (author)Phil B2012-08-01

Are you talking about something like a flush trim bit in a router? That's a good alternative. It probably depends on the tools you have, and what you're comfortable with. I've never used a hand planar.

Phil B (author)jeffeb32012-08-01

I used the router trim bit in this Instructable (step 16).

Wood Chuck (author)2012-08-02

Nicely done ible. I use a different method for trimming the edge banding. I use a jig and flush trim bit on the router table.

Bruce (aka Wood Chuck)
http://3dwooworkingplans.com

Housedog (author)2012-08-01

Despite the simplicity, this method has never occurred to me! Thanks for the great idea - nice ible too!

glorybe (author)2012-08-01

I do like to position myself so that a kick back will not hit me square in the body. Standing a bit to the side while you feed a saw is a great idea. In commercial shops workers die from kickbacks from high powered saws crushing their guts. Even a heavy exterior door can become a missile with commercial saws.

rimar2000 (author)2012-08-01

Your method seems better than the purchased plastic strips I have used.

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