There are many pros and cons to plywood. On the positive side, it is dimensionally stable against changing temperature and humidity levels, easy to work with, and inexpensive. On the negative side it leaves an unsightly edge.
In some circumstances it doesn’t matter: for example when building shop jigs or support structures where function trumps form and aesthetics are less important. But for projects viewed by others or if you want to add polish, veneer edging (also known as ‘edge banding’) comes to the rescue.
Several months ago I picked up a roll of red oak banding. It has a nice wood surface on one edge and some heat-activated adhesive on the back.
I cut a strip of banding a few inches longer than the length of the plywood. Then I heated up a regular clothes iron to level 5 on its 1-7 temperature scale. I don’t know how hot that is but lets say it’s hot enough to iron shirts but not hot enough to burn them.
Starting on one side I applied firm pressure against the banding and slowly began to work the iron across. I went over each spot about two or three times to make sure the heat had the opportunity to penetrate below. I also allowed the iron to round over the edges legthwise, to make sure that the adhesive glued everything right up to the edge.
After that I simply used scissors to cut off the excess on either side, then used a box cutter to score and trim off the edges. After a couple light passes over the belt sander to smooth out the edges, you can handly tell the veneer wasn’t part of the original plywood. The secret is only given away by the incongruous grain pattern between the plywood and the banding.
In summary, veneer edging is a great way to take those ugly exposed plywood edges and make them look great!