After completing the substrate, it was time to adhere the formica veneer to the substrate. The method used to apply formica to the substrate can also be used for applying formica to particle board to make kitchen counter tops. The only difference is that kitchen counter tops will typically have edging applied to them which I am not going to discuss here.
Contact cement stinks – Ventilate!
Before I cemented the two surfaces together, I cut the formica to a size larger than the substrate. This is very important because after the two surfaces marry with contact cement, it is virtually impossible to separate them if the contact cement has dried properly. I was going to use a router with a trim bit to remove the excess material later anyway.
Wear safety glasses when cutting formica as the material will chip and the shards are very sharp.
Formica can be cut using heavy duty scissors, a carbide tipped blade, or a a fine toothed plywood blade. Using scissors is the least desirable method for cutting this material because the scissor handles may pinch the material and crack it (this happened in my test). I would’ve preferred to use my table saw but formica is very flimsy which would’ve made it difficult to do solo. I used a circular saw instead. I’ve also read that scoring the formica with a utility knife and then breaking it at the score is possible; however, I’ve never tried that method myself.
I used contact cement to adhere the formica to the substrate. I applied the contact cement to both surfaces but did not let them touch each other until the contact cement dried for about 20-30 minutes. This seems counter intuitive at first because we’re normally used to putting two pieces of wood together before glue dries. Contact cement should be applied to both surfaces using a synthetic brush or roller. I used a roller because it’s faster.
After the contact cement “sets” it is very sticky and this is when the spacers are put onto the substrate. As stated earlier, when the two surfaces come into contact it is virtually impossible to separate them. This is why the spacers are used. After I applied the spacers, I put the formica on top of the spacers. I was careful to position the formica so that when I removed the spacers one by one, the formica would overlay all edges of the substrate.
Take note that the contact cement can be too dry or too wet. It might be useful to practice the procedure with some scraps before attempting to do this on your router table top.
I probably used too many spacers but after I removed each spacer, I applied pressure to that area with my formica laminate roller. I made sure to apply even and firm pressure to the formica—rolling the roller back and forth as to remove any air bubbles that may have become trapped between the two materials. I kept removing spacers as I went until the two surfaces were one.
I allowed the two materials to dry a little more before trimming it with the trim router because the contact cement would gum up in my bit.
My next post in this series will describe the installation of the t-tracks and router table insert.
-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!