Tips for Edging
By Dave Munkittrick
As modern cabinetmakers, we have
become so accustomed to using
veneered sheet stock it’s hard to imagine building
cabinets without it. Sheet stock saves time,
money and valuable trees. The veneer can be
wood or a man-made material like melamine.
The substrate or core for the sheet stock is most
often made of MDF, plywood or particle board.
The catch to building with sheet stock is covering
up and protecting the unattractive and fragile
edges. A hardwood strip glued onto the
sheet stock edge is typically how this is done.
The hardwood edge not only looks good, it protects
the edges from damage. Of course, the
trick has always been to quickly and efficiently
apply the edging and then trim it flush to the
ultra thin veneer. What follows is a set of tried
and true tips, used by pros, to get the job done.
Two for one edging
Speed up edging shelves and cabinet parts by gluing
them up in pairs. It takes fewer clamps and less
setup time. Glue an extra wide strip of hardwood
between two pieces of plywood. Don’t forget to add
the thickness of a saw blade to the hardwood strip.
The plywood should be about 1/2-in. oversize in both
length and width. Glue and clamp the sandwich
together. The plywood acts like clamping cauls to
apply even pressure along the full length of the joint.
After the glue dries, rip it down the middle and trim
the ends square and flush. Always use a miter
gauge for cross cuts.
Click any image to view a larger version.
Easy edge clamps
Thin edging doesn’t require heavy clamp pressure to get a
tight joint. A few pieces of electrician’s tape stretched
over the edge provide the right amount of clamping pressure
and automatically centers the edging on the sheet
stock. It’s a quick and easy way to apply thin edging.
Skip the sander
Plane the edging flush with the veneer. It’s quicker than
sanding and there’s lot less chance of cutting through the
thin veneer. Ride the heel of the plane on the veneer and
set the blade for a thin shaving, especially when you get
close to the veneer surface. Even if you hit the veneer, it’s
usually not enough to cut through. All that’s left is a little
finish sanding with some fine grit paper.
Hide the edging
Here are three
ways to disguise the glue
line between the sheet stock and
the edging. Make the edging thick
enough to comfortably accommodate the router
bit profile. Flush the edging to the veneer before routing
For the chamfer cut, set the bit to cut the full thickness of the edge back to
the glue line.
For the round over, make the edging slightly thicker than the radius. The curve should begin
right next to the glue line.
The third method is to glue on the hardwood edging, trim it flush then rip it down to 1/16-in. thickness. A little sanding
on all three edging styles is all it takes to blend the transition from veneer to solid wood and obscure the glue line.
Precision flush trim jig
Some pieces, like a tall bookcase side, are just too big to
trim on a router table. This jig will flush cut edging on any
size piece, large or small. You can use any size straight cutting
bit, but I recommend a wide mortising bit.
The jig is just a 10-in. x 24-in. piece of 3/4-in. plywood with
a 1-in. dado cut about 8-in. from one end. Drill a 1/8-in. x 1-
in. hole through the middle of the dado for the bit to protrude.
Attach the router and add a fence so it just barely
overlaps the bit’s cutting radius. The bit will ever so slightly
cut into the fence.
To set up the jig, lower the router bit until it is flush with
the bottom (Photo A). Turn the router on and run the fence
along the edging to trim flush (Photo B). The long base on
the jig counterbalances the router and the fence guides the
2-piece edge banding bits
A well-disguised hardwood edge makes a sheet of plywood
look like solid stock. Router bits designed to create an
almost invisible joint do just that. It’s a two part setup. The
first bit cuts the deep v-groove in the plywood (Photo A).
The second bit cuts the mating profile in the hardwood
(Photo B)). It’s best to work with a wide piece of hardwood.
Cut all the V-grooves first. Then set the bit for the hardwood
edge. Cut the matching profile on both edges of the
hardwood and glue the shelves and hardwood together
(Photo C). After the glue dries, rip the shelves free. The visible
part of the hardwood edge should only be about 1/16-
in.thick. (Photo D)
Toolstoday.com, 888-699-3939, 2-piece edge banding bit, #554.
Flush cut on router table
Flush up the edging on your
sheet stock with a tall fence on
your router table. The best
fence material is melamine for a
slick surface. Simply screw the
melamine to your existing
fence. Leave a gap at the bottom
tall enough to accommodate
the edging. Set the fence
so it’s flush with the bearing on
your flush trim bit. The fence
stabilizes the sheet stock as it’s
held on edge. You can zip
through a stack of shelves in no
time with this production shop
Use a flush trim v-groove bit for melamine
Edging melamine with hardwood is about as tricky as it gets. To
sand, plane or plane the edge flush without hitting the melamine is
next to impossible. Masking off the melamine is a time consuming
pain. One way to overcome these problems is to use
a flush trim “V” groove bit. Simply set the bit so the
“V” groove is centered on the glue line (Photo A).
Then, color the groove with a black Sharpie (Photo B)
to create a physical and visual border between the
edge and the melamine. The point of a Sharpie fits
perfectly in the groove. The slight gap between the
melamine and the hardwood edge make sanding and
applying a finish a snap.
Flush Trim “V” Groove Bit, #47160.