Having successfully glued the two faces of MDF together, and trimming to the exact size, lamination went pretty easy.
Which Laminate? A Shopping Tip
The hardest part was choosing the laminate. I didn’t want to wait a long time for a special order to arrive. White was boring. While I have a nice red, I didn’t want it for my saw table (it’s used for the Universal Tool Stand, which I’ll blog about another time).
I went to Home Depot and Lowes. Most of what they have is REALLY not to my taste. They do have a basic white, and a basic black. But one Home Depot store had a closeout on black microdot. I didn’t think I wanted black, but in the end I thought it would be better than yet another white surface, and might look cool next to the metal saw top. They wanted only $30 for a sheet, so I went back and got it.
The big sheet (4×8) was tricky to cut. It tore a couple of times while I tried. Perhaps it is thinner than the red laminate I used before, because I had no such problems with that, but it was only 30” wide, too. I ended up using an untorn piece for the top, and a piece with a 5” tear for the bottom, to seal it. Of course, I used slightly oversized pieces, to allow trimming to fit later.
Laminating is Fun!
Laminating is fast and easy, and produces nice results. Turn off the furnace, water heater, any motor (washer / dryer) that could make sparks first – you don’t want them turning on with the highly flammable fumes of contact cement hanging low on the floor, which they do. Then bring a fan to the basement and set it up to vent out the window, to protect brain cells and get rid of the flammable fumes quickly. A chip brush works great for spreading the contact cement, and it can be cleaned with mineral spirits for reuse. No rush, because it has to dry 15-20 minutes before joining (and less than 2 hours). Went up and read lumberjocks during the drying period ;-) .
I used the standard technique of putting down some thin rods, leaving a gap in the middle, then placing the contact cement side down over the MDF which is glue-side up with rods. Starting in the middle, I smoothed it outward, and moved and removed rods as I went, to avoid air bubbles. Then some hard rolling with the rubber roller designed for this purpose.
Trimmed it with a router bit, then flipped it over, and did the same for the underside. This was a bit trickier because of the tear. While the tear is slightly visible, the underside is protected from humidity changes, and you won’t be able to see the tear once it is installed.
Here’s what it looks like (closeup of one corner):
I think it looks pretty slick. Moreover, thanks to the microdot surface (a grid of small indentations), it IS slick: there is less laminate to cause friction when sliding wood over the extension table. I first heard of the microdot surface from a drill press table at Woodpeckers. I am not sure that I would want an extra-slick surface for a drill press table, where friction might be useful to keep an item in place while drilling. But a table saw / router table? Definitely.
Next Up: Oak Trim, and Attaching to Fence and Saw
The next step will be tricky. I bought some oak to create an edge for three or four sides (unsure of whether to edge the side that will attach to the steel table of the saw). But with the Incra Fence, you also cut support pieces which are attached to the fence rails. Incra tells you how to do it on page 11 of the assembly manual – but for 3/4” table tops, but mine is now 1 5/8” thick, and the total from the bottom of the support piece to the top of the table is 2 1/2”. If I cut the support pieces too narrow, the bolt won’t have enough wood to hold it solidly.
I think this means I either won’t be able to cover the entire edge (the uncovered part won’t be visible, but it won’t be protected either), or I have to do something fancy like using rabbets on both the support piece and the edging.
The other quandary is how to fasten the MDF or oak trim edge to the steel table of the saw, using the three pre-drilled holes that are there. That would be easier to figure out if I remove the existing extension, but that could make it tricky to cut and shape the oak pieces to fit without an extension.
I’ll start by experimenting with some scrap, before committing ideas to oak.
If you’re wondering why I have not made more progress in the past weeks, it’s because of a vacation that took two weekends away from woodworking, and believe me, I was pining for the shop (sorry about that).
-- Mark, hack amateur woodworker, Medford (greater Boston) MA