Building a Laminate

There are two thicknesses of high-pressure laminate materials. The thinner version is used to manufacture post-formed countertops that are common in almost every kitchen and bathroom. The thicker general purpose (GP) laminates are used for applications like the top you're about to build here. The GP material is able to stand more abuse because of its thickness.

This great-looking wood-edged countertop style has a number of uses. It can be used as a kitchen or bathroom countertop, a work center/desk or as a utility countertop. I've used it in dozens of unique projects over the years. And, because the laminate is available in 4' x 8' or 5' x 12' sheets, most tops can be made without a seam.

You can use any stable sheet material as the substrate, including PB, plywood and MDF. I would recommend a minimum :%"-thick substrate for strength and stability. The wood edge can be any hardwood or softwood that matches or complements your cabinets.

Your top can be any dimension that you need, but for this demonstration, we'll use '/"-thick sheet material (PB, plywood or MDF). We'll also use %"-thick by 1 ki"-high wood edging, as well as the high-pressure laminate for the final surface.

Hardware and Supplies

34" sheet material: PB, Plywood or MDF %" x Vff wood edging High-pressure (GP) laminate Contact cement

Cut the sheet material to the required size. Reduce the desired end size by K" where a wood edge will be installed. I am using 3/"-thick PB.

Attach the wood edge with glue and screws covered by wood plugs. You can also use dowels or biscuits — any ot these three options will work equally well. Be sure that the top of the wood edge and the surface of the substrate are perfectly flush. If not, sand both to achieve a flat, smooth surface.

Cut the laminate so it's 1" larger in size than the substrate — the extra width and length will allow for any slight positioning errors. Apply a contact adhesive to both the underside of the laminate and the substrate top. Make certain there's an even coat on both surfaces and all areas are covered. There are many types of contact cement available. I'm using a roller-grade liquid, but there are brush and spray contact cements available at most home stores.

The contact cement is set when it's dry to the touch. However, read the instructions listed on your container for best results. This adhesive will only bond to another surface with the same glue applied. You can place dry sticks on the substrate to keep the materials from touching until the laminate Is correctly positioned. Be careful — once the two glued surfaces touch, they are bonded! Remove the center stick and press the laminate In place with your hand. Move your hand from the center to the outside edges to push out any trapped air bubbles.

The excess laminate can be cut flush to the wood edge using a flush trim router bit.

A pressure roller Is the best tool to make certain the laminate is completely bonded to the substrate. If you don't have a commercial roller, use a wooden rolling pin or large wooden dowel. Again, roll from the center to the edges and pay particular attention to the laminate edge.

A roundover bit in a router is used to make a simple rounded profile on the bottom of the wood edge.

Using GP lamlnale, which is a thicker material, will provide you with a durable worktop. However, use care when cutting to avoid damaging the laminate. The best router bits are carbide-tipped and work exceptionally well lor this application.

The wood edge in my case was oak, but any species can be used. Stick with the major brands of laminate material for the best results. High-quality material and contact cement will give you perfect results every time.

Some adhesives are loxlc — particularly petroleum-based products, so work In a well-ventilated area. And make sure to closely follow the application directions from the adhesive manufacturer because heat range and humidity levels are very imporlant when using these products.

The top or laminated surface of the countertop is cut using the same roundover bit. Set the bit so its straight cutters, which are above the curved portion of the bit, cut slightly lower than the thickness of the laminate material. That cutting pass will expose the wood under the laminate and round the top edge.

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