Veneer Edging

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.

IMG_3269Several 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.

Many thanks to The Wood Whisperer for putting out the video On The Edge.  This defenitely helped demystify how this process works.

IMG_3270I 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.

IMG_3271

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.

IMG_3272

In summary, veneer edging is a great way to take those ugly exposed plywood edges and make them look great!

2 comments

  1. You can dado a hardwood edge around it or use laminate to hide the nasty bits, but in the end, it’s still just plywood. It has it’s use, but it’s not going to replace the durability of solid wood.

    The other downside with plywood is that most fasteners can’t be removed and reinserted more than once without weakening the attachment point, like packing and unpacking plywood bookshelves.

    After you assemble them the first time, taking them apart pretty much guarantees that the next time you assemble them, they won’t be as strong and will wiggle and shake because the fastener channel is weaker.

    Witness any piece of IKEA furniture as one great example.

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    • Great points, David.

      I like the hardwood edge approach. I’ve done this a couple times and it looks fantastic, especially when choosing a complementary species.

      I don’t like to put woodscrews in the edge of plywood even a single time. I know the epoxy used to join plys is strong and should approximate solid wood but it just doesn’t behave the same way. The wood seems to tear along the plys. In general when I use plywood I feel like I’m cheating and should be using hardwood instead. Guess that’s a form of woodworker’s guilt.

      Like

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