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Thread: Working with formica

  1. #1

    Working with formica

    I'm building a new router table and bought a sheet of Formica for the top. I will be laminating two layers of 3/4 mdf for the top, and covering this with Formica. I've never used Formica, so I would appreciate some help on a few questions:

    1. Am I better off making the top and installing the Formica on it, then cut to exact size on the tablesaw, or cut mdf to exact size then add Formica. I will be installing a hardwood edge all the way around .

    2. Will a regular bearing guided straight router bit give me a clean cut on the formica, or do I need a specialty bit? I am planning to cut the opening for the router lift after the top is done .

    Thank you for any advice!

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    You could go either way. If you apply the laminate first and then trim to size, a blade with a triple chip grind will yield the best edge. If you do not already have such a blade, you may prefer to cut to size first, apply the laminate, then trim the laminate - you can use the same router bit for trimming around the edge of the table and trimming around the router lift opening. A solid carbide downcut spiral trim bit will yield the cleanest edges, but they can get a bit pricey and a straight carbide trim bit will work OK. If you use contact cement, keep an eye out for your bit & its bearing getting gunked up and clean as necessary.
    -- Jim

    Mr. Natural sez, "Use the right tool for the job."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
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    Whidbey Island , Wa.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Behrens View Post
    I'm building a new router table and bought a sheet of Formica for the top. I will be laminating two layers of 3/4 mdf for the top, and covering this with Formica. I've never used Formica, so I would appreciate some help on a few questions:

    1. Am I better off making the top and installing the Formica on it, then cut to exact size on the tablesaw, or cut mdf to exact size then add Formica. I will be installing a hardwood edge all the way around .

    2. Will a regular bearing guided straight router bit give me a clean cut on the formica, or do I need a specialty bit? I am planning to cut the opening for the router lift after the top is done .

    Thank you for any advice!




    Lets start with the name , Formica , is a brand of Plastic Laminate, there are other brands , Wilson Art , Pinoite , Nevermar , etc.

    #1: Do you want to see the hardwood edges on the top side of the top?

    Seeing you are doubling up the 3/4 stock , Id recommend cutting the piece you are calling the top side , to your final size, of course less the thickness of your hardwood self edge.

    Id cut the bottom piece 1/2 over sized , then Id pre-drill the holes where I planned of using screws to attach the two sheets together.

    Then apply white glue to the down side of the top piece, lay the over sized piece on spreading the glue by rotating the second piece to spread the ridges of glue around.
    Once you are happy with glue spread drive the 1 1/4 screws that clamp the two pieces together.


    Then flip the top over and use a 1/2 shank flush trimmer bit to rout off the 1/4 ish of MDF thats sticking past the smaller piece.


    A) IF the S/E is going to show to the top, nows the time to spread your contact bond onto both surfaces , let it tack up , then stick the P.Lam which youve cut a inch wider and longer than the top.


    B) If you want to cover the top edges of the S/E with the P. Lam youd NOW install the S/E, in what ever fashion you wish , glues and nailed on OR glued and clamped no fasteners . Maybe use biscuits , but really the glue will hold the wood S/E to the MDF. The wood S/E should be milled a fuzz over final thickness , after you attach it use a belt sander to flush up the S/E to the top surface , well and the bottom should be sanded flush as well.

    After the S/E is installed and flushed up , youd be back to spreading contact bond and sticking the P. Lam.

    Which youd then flush trim off.



    #2: Yes a straight cutting bearing bit will cut the P. Lam fine. There are reasons to use other types of P. Lam bits , but for what you are doing the bearing bit will work fine.

  4. #4
    If you apply the laminate first, you won't have a reference edge to run along the rip fence on the table saw as the laminate will hang over the edge and it is unlikely to be perfectly aligned with the edge of the mdf. So I would recommend cutting the mdf to size first and then applying the laminate and trimming it flush. Usually laminate is trimmed at a slight bevel using a laminate trim bit, but since you will be applying solid wood edging you can trim at 90 degrees. A standard carbide flush trim bit will work fine for that, especially since you don't have that much to do.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Old metal blinds work great to use to lay large sheets , once you get the P.Lam where you want it , I generally stick the center and then pull blinds and work toward the end.

    0BA22C84-D8EC-4588-BE5B-832FF5718D9D.jpg



    B21A0102-53C5-4BD7-B5AC-93F52821D65A.jpg


    I made this 1/4 plywood jig what its purpose is , is to keep the lam from going under the rip fence. Guys with Uni-fences can lay their fence sideways to the lam can be on top of the narrow fence edge , IIRC , that is the one thing a Uni-fence is / was good for.

    42E11664-2EC6-450F-9F32-AFFDC007947F.jpg




    FD70BC47-B8D4-402D-A74D-E47B66F6C9E8.jpg

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Behrens View Post
    I'm building a new router table and bought a sheet of Formica for the top. I will be laminating two layers of 3/4 mdf for the top, and covering this with Formica. I've never used Formica, so I would appreciate some help on a few questions:

    1. Am I better off making the top and installing the Formica on it, then cut to exact size on the tablesaw, or cut mdf to exact size then add Formica. I will be installing a hardwood edge all the way around .

    2. Will a regular bearing guided straight router bit give me a clean cut on the formica, or do I need a specialty bit? I am planning to cut the opening for the router lift after the top is done .

    Thank you for any advice!
    Cut your top to the finished size and if desired radius the corners. If you plan to use hardwood on the edge put it on before radiusing and adhering the laminate, but I recommend using a slot mounted Bumper T moulding which you apply after the top is adhered. I order mine from Outwater plastics. http://www2.archpro.com/cgi-bin/word...161&target=top They also sell the correct slot router bit for this moulding I use the 1 9/16 width for laminate covered double ply MDF. I bought a roll and have made many shop work surfaces with this, (router table, drill press table, etc.).

    Cut the laminate to be 2 inches larger in both top dimensions for a 1 inch overhang.

    Use Contact cement and follow the directions on the brand container for recommended dry time, applying to both the top and the laminate. (I find 3M spray adhesive 99 is great for small jobs.)

    Uses several dowels to position the laminate over the top. Remove one dowel at a time starting in the center as you press the laminate to the top. This makes sure you will not get bubbles and the edge overhangs all the way around.

    Use a laminate roller to apply even pressure to insure a good bond, (20 to 40 bucks or so at a big box store). https://www.homedepot.com/p/Bon-Tool...-305903882-_-N

    A bearing guided straight router bit will definitely give you a clean cut on the laminate but will leave a sharp edge. Use a file to smooth out the edge and put an ever so slight bevel on the laminate edge.

    Search for some youtube videos on applying laminate tops.
    Last edited by Tom Dixon; 12-06-2018 at 12:56 AM.

  7. #7
    Not related directly to your questions, but important in applying laminate (Formica), especially if it is your first time. It isn't particularly difficult to work with, but it has kind of a steep learning curve. So:

    • Spread the contact cement on the laminate and substrate (your MDF) with a grooved spreader (or whatever the manufacture recommends if different). This is important to get an even coating and prevent pooling, lumps, and voids. Most contact cement had gross chemicals in it, so do it in a well vented area.
    • Allow the contact cement to dry as per the directions, usually at least until tacky. Again well ventilated.
    • Place a number of sticks of wood at least 3/4 in thick on top of the substrate, so that when you put the laminate on top of the substrate it cannot touch. Align it carefully. You can't remove or reposition it once you get good contact between the laminate and substrate.
    • Remove sticks from the center first, until you can get the center to touch, say about a foot's worth. Making sure the laminate is aligned, push it down in the center and start smoothing from the center outward. Remove more sticks and continue smoothing until you have all the sticks out and the laminate is all smoothed onto the substrate.
    • At this point, you normally take a J-roller and roll it across the top working from the center out to fully bond the laminate and substrate. For a router table you might get away with using the palm of your hand, but J-rollers aren't that expensive either.


    I'm sure there are lots of videos on youtube on how to do this, watching a few is probably a good idea.

    I have just used a straight bearing bit when I trim it. Check that the substrate edge is smooth, otherwise bumps will telegraph to the laminate.

    Also, laminate can be a pain to cut with blades and saws designed for wood. It tends to chip, and it has a habit of sliding under rip fences. Doing a practice cut or two before you do final sizing would be a good idea. If you can avoid sawing it after you bond it to the substrate, you probably will be happier. Wear safety glasses whenever you saw or route it.

  8. #8
    If the table is likely to be your only laminate project I would use yellow glue. Then cover it with a piece of mdf for even pressure,put spring clamps around perimeter and a weight in the center. It's easy and typical when new to laminate to
    spread the contact stuff unevenly. And I'm guessing you already have the yellow glue.

  9. #9
    A paint roller is the easiest way to spread contact cement evenly. Just pour it right into your material and roll it out. Don't bother with a tray, the cement just thickens up while it waits. Use two layers of adhesive on the substrate as the first will be absorbed and dry very thin.

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    This is a timely thread for me, laminate noob who needs to put together a couple of sub-fences for a router table. I don't need a giant sheet of laminate, and have found a product by Wilsonart called "Re-Cover" that comes in 2' x 4' sheets. It has self-adhesive already applied, which seems pretty easy to use. Anybody have experience with it?

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Just a few points that may not have been covered.

    When applying the contact cement, you only make one pass. As an example, if you are brushing, you don't brush back and forth.

    You get one shot to get the placement right with contact cement. Both pieces need to be dry completely. It's better for it to dry a little longer than absolutely necessary, than to be not quite dry. Worse case is to put it together when it's not quite dry.

    It should be sealed down with pressure after the placement. I use a roller similar to this:https://www.acehardware.com/departme...EaAj77EALw_wcB

    After trimming with a router bit, it often will need some touch-up from a smooth mill file. Only file downward.

    If you cut it to rough size on the table saw, come up with some method to keep it from going under the bottom of the fence. A strip of wood with a dab of double sided tape works fine. It doesn't matter if it flexes up a little.

    It's so simple that once you do it once correctly, you are now qualified as an expert.
    Last edited by Tom M King; 12-06-2018 at 10:19 AM.

  12. #12
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    My preference when using laminate is to size the substrate, apply the laminate, trim with a flush-trim router bit and then apply the wood surround, taking great care to make the surround flush with the panel's surface. The alternative to this is to create the substrate to side, apply the edging, apply the laminate over all and then trim the laminate with a flush-trim laminate bit that provides a slightly eased edge all around. I favor this second method for surfaces like a router table top because there's no change to the surface that could catch material in the future.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  13. #13
    Brian,

    Cut to exact size, then flush trim. I always do edges first. Best to apply hardwood edging before laminate but you can do it either way.

    Any good quality flush trim bit will work. Double check your edges for drops of glue, bumps etc first. Keep the cutting part just above the laminate. Go over the edges with sandpaper at just a bit of an angle to remove the sharp edge.

    Since you're edge banding, you could also do a chamfer if desired.

    For your application I recommend laminating both sides.

    Nick,,

    I have no experience with that product, but I would be pretty confident it will work. I would check with the supplier about substrate. Sounds like its meant to go over existing laminate.

  14. #14
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    Robert, according to Wilsonart it'll work fine on MDF, which is what I'll probably use. FWIW, they say it'll also work on painted surfaces, and yes, other laminates. Not for high-heat areas, which doesn't concern me. Thanks.

  15. #15
    dont know exactly what he is doing but I always did solid on first laminate over top then flush trim and profile. do that and with good laminate it will last 30 years or more say Nevemar matrix wears very well. The solid put on after will stand up poorly over time no matter what finish if its being used all the time. At the low end of that the sheen on the lacquer will come up from rubbing. I always sprayed contact as that was how I started but not for your set up. What Mel said I had a friend in a top shop in town they put on all their laminate or almost all with carpenter glue and their press. they also had custom tools to trim the solid down flush with the laminate for edging added after if that did that. they set the tools so they left a thin strip and sheared if off with a chisel. Another reason I dont like the solid after is the work to make it flush and perfect then add a finish and it has some mills of thickness, then the fact flush never is, it might be now but wont be down the road.

    Like tom I use dowels have 30 or so that are just used for that, keep them clean all the time, everything clean or you will end up with a bump somewhere. On plywood you can tap that down with a hard block, harder on MDF. I sometimes used a roller or sometimes just one of the sanding blocks that had a soft side to it.
    Last edited by Warren Lake; 12-06-2018 at 12:05 PM.

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