How To Apply Hardwood Edging To Sheet Goods

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Blog entry by Marty Backe posted 03-22-2012 06:54 AM 7709 reads 5 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Shelving, drawer fronts, utility cabinet tops. These are typical items that get built with plywood or other sheet goods such as melamine. The convenience of using sheet goods is great, but one downside is that quite often one or more of the edges must be covered. In this post I explain the process that I follow to apply hardwood edging to sheet goods. In this case I am covering the edges of melamine drawer fronts with poplar.

This video shows me going through the process described here. Also, see my related video on flush trimming faceframes to cabinet sides.

Whichever type of edging that you chose, dimension it to be approximately 1/4 inch thicker than the thickness of the sheet goods that you are using. My drawer fronts are made from 1/2 inch melamine, so I sliced off 1/4 inch pieces from 3/4 inch thick poplar stock.

You want the edging to be thicker than the sheet goods so that after the edging is applied it can be flush trimmed to the surface of the sheet goods. It would be near impossible to align edging that is the same thickness as the sheet goods.

Glue-Up Preparation – thinking not allowed

I always do a dry run of my glue-up, regardless of the apparent simplicity of the items to be glued. I don’t want to be in the middle of the glue-up to find out that the clamp I was depending on was broken, or couldn’t be found. And often you don’t realize all of the cauls, clamps, jigs, etc. that will be needed until you actually do the glue-up (or dry run).

After the glue leaves the bottle the time is counting down, and that’s not the time to be thinking about solutions to problems that might arise. So I try and simplify the process so that all I have to do is spread the glue and crank the clamp.

In this case, I need to be assured that the edging is overhanging both sides of the drawer front. If I were to just apply the glue and manually position the edging so that ~1/8 inch overhangs on both sides, that positioning would last for about 5 seconds. We know how slippery wood gets once the glue is applied.

I place a couple pieces of 1/8 inch thick spacer material on my table and then lay the drawer front on top. Then when I place the edging against the melamine there is a ~1/8 inch overhang on the top and bottom. But now I need a way to maintain this spacing as I manipulate the panel during the glue-up. What I do is nail three very small brads into each edge of the melamine.

Using a heavy duty wire cutter I clip the heads off each nail, leaving ~1/8 inch protruding from the melamine.

I then press the edging into the brads thereby registering it just where I want it to be (1/8 inch above and below the panel).

After aligning both pieces of the edging, I mark their length and cut them to size. In this case I used a hand saw because I didn’t want to fill the shop with unnecessary sawdust, and it’s soothing to do so.

During my dry run I realized that I needed to raise the panel so that it would be centered within the cauls. I did this by stacking some scrap on the bench. This stack became my calibrated stack for all of the subsequent panels.

The glue is applied and the clamps are doing their thing. This will sit for about an hour before I move to the router table.

Flush Trimming at the Router Table

I cut a piece of 1/4 inch MDF that is narrow enough to allow the panel to slide over it – the MDF rides between the edging that is glued to the panel.

A mortising bit (not a straight bit) is installed in the router and its height is set ever so slightly below the surface of the melamine. Then the router table fence is adjusted to prevent the bit from touching the melamine – insurance in case some instability in the various materials allows the bit to enter the plane of the melamine surface. With the fence set properly the worst that can happen is a small dip in the edging. The melamine surface can never be disturbed.

Hopefully these pictures capture what I’ve written above. It’s also discussed in the video.

Before flush trimming the edging, I run each edge (four times for these two pieces of edging) across the router bit using a climb cut. This substantially reduces any chance of tear out, and is safe to do (in my opinion) when such small amounts of material is being removed with such a large panel. There’s zero sensation of the panel wanting to be pulled from my hands.

Here you can see the edging after the climb cut.

After all four surfaces of the two edgings are flush trimmed, I take the panel to my table saw and cut them to final length (minus the width of the two edgings that will be applied – 1/2 inch in this case).

This guarantees that the edges of the melamine and end grain of the applied edging are perfectly flush. The last two pieces can then be glued to the panel following the same process used for the first two pieces.

Here I’m applying the edging to the ends of the panel, and gluing them in place.

After these pieces dry I flush trim them at the router table just as I did with the first two pieces. Then it’s just a matter of sawing off the ends of the edging and planing them smooth.

And here is the final result. Perfectly flush edging with no damage to the melamine. I’ll do some light sanding and then apply my finish.

23 comments so far

View PCM's profile


135 posts in 3131 days

#1 posted 03-22-2012 11:23 AM

Thanks for sharing your expertise. I will definitely employ your methods in future projects.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8277 posts in 2414 days

#2 posted 03-22-2012 12:55 PM

Quite the extensive procedure Marty…. but the outcome seems to justify the effort.

Can you please explain the shortcomings of just using a flush trim bit with a guide bearing, for dubbers like me.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View GrandpaLen's profile


1651 posts in 2358 days

#3 posted 03-22-2012 01:30 PM

Great tutorial and the video and pictures and to the clarity.

Thanks for sharing

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Marty Backe's profile

Marty Backe

251 posts in 2857 days

#4 posted 03-22-2012 02:53 PM

To use a flush trim bit entails balancing the router on a thin edge (1/2 inch in my case) while guiding the router. It works, but the results are usually less than perfect. The router will tend to tip back and forth slightly as you move it along the edge, producing an edge that is not flat. And climb cutting is much more difficult.

If using a flush trim bit works for you, by all means continue with that approach. My method (which I didn’t invent BTW) produces much better results, and is not stress inducing.

View KMT's profile


603 posts in 2748 days

#5 posted 03-22-2012 05:37 PM

Thank you for the lesson, great info and easy to follow.

-- - Martin

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 2624 days

#6 posted 03-22-2012 06:10 PM

Great post Marty, I use the “clipped nail” all the time, it’s the best technique for this kind of stuff.

-- I never finish anyth

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 3020 days

#7 posted 03-22-2012 07:16 PM

Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
I pick up a couple of things I never thought of.

Your video was nicely done. Complementing it with great pictures drove the message home.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3979 days

#8 posted 03-23-2012 12:51 AM


-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3979 days

#9 posted 03-23-2012 01:37 AM

I love videos as they are almost always pure torture to watch but dont feel bad as your in good company. Even some of the movie stars on the “PAY FOR TV” can get my goat excited so again, …….relax.

Having laid more miles of solid, plastic, veneer, leather, ……..I swear I could reach the moon if it was done with the amount of tape/applied edge banding/.…. to the edge of panel, door, drawer, gable, shelf, drawer front, and the ultimate way is called an “edge Bander” as they remove “stupid” from the equation, being stupid proof : ) … might think they are stupid proof but in fact really stupid people feed wood into then when a big flashing red light says “STOP” so realizing that few could purchase an automated edge bander leaves us bandits on the torturous road to doing it by hand which is really a gift I give to you.

Personally, in your case, I would have bought iron on tape, comes in white to match the melamine, doesnt need finishing so you can mask off the melamine and then finish the wood edges ?…………..just stupid and frustrating. If I was pig headed and indeed proceeded I would simply use masking tape, stretch it as it acts as a tensioned rope, enough tension to bring glued wood to edge of melamine with enough pressure to make a “bond”. I would leave the wood slightly wider then the melamine, perhaps 1/16”……..split that so that 1/32 is proud on either edge, leave it and clean it up with a flush cut beveled router bit, 15 degree or less, TAPE OFF THE MELAMINE SO THE BEARING DOESNT BURN THE PLASTIC., leave the solid wood slightly proud of the melamine and then clean it up with a block plane sharp chisel, ……so easy, so fast. …………………. and I could have gone out for lunch and dinner b4 u even picked up your tape measure…..Bahahaha …..come back and watch episode 2 which would be your episode of how to deal with the never expanding and contracting wood to particle core melamine ?……that doesnt shrink and expand at the same rates ?……………..

I think its commendable that people take the time to post a video of a “how to” but I dare say that if you do, you are subject to scrutiny. Guis it with “This is how I do it” only incriminates “you” and might release you from being sued……(kidding) but your courage is admirable

When you overcomplicate, when you over think things, even basic things like edge banding, you end up over thinking and complicating something very simple, when in fact, the challenge was never there to begin with.

2 cents

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Marty Backe's profile

Marty Backe

251 posts in 2857 days

#10 posted 03-23-2012 02:07 AM

Interesting post Moron. Now I know what you meant by “Fired”. You’d fire my rear-end if I was working for you and decided to do what I show in the video. Funny.

I certainly don’t mind positive or negative commentary, but I do prefer the positive type, being human and all.

Keep in mind that the title of this post and video is “How To Apply Hardwood Edging To Sheet Goods”. Note that it doesn’t say “Tape”. So much of your feedback is an Apples & Oranges kind of thing; I was talking Apples, but you’re talking Oranges.

I prefer hardwood edging on what I make, and that’s what this post is about.

This is a hobby for me. If I was attempting to make money then I’d be using the Edge Bander with crappy – excuse my French – edging material, as you suggest. But I’m at the stage in life where I want to produce quality. That’s what this post is about – producing quality edging that I can be proud of.

I must say, if a challenge was possible, I’d wager that my edge banded sheet goods would be and look a lot better than what your approach would produce, even though I’d have to work while you were out enjoying dinner. But it’ll have to remain a virtual challenge ;-)

Good discussion, and thanks for sharing.

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3979 days

#11 posted 03-23-2012 02:32 AM

u will learn

if in no other way

the lessons I have learned

: )

the more, I read,

the more you remind me, of how ignorant I was of my surroundings

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3979 days

#12 posted 03-23-2012 03:02 AM

yo dude

this is what I do everyday and its a tad more complicated then one might think : ))

light in itself is powerful

and this dude is my teacher

and I am good at my job and you are not good at my job. This I know.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3979 days

#13 posted 03-23-2012 03:10 AM

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3979 days

#14 posted 03-23-2012 03:24 AM

how to edge band a drawer ?


not, no way.

I actually thought that way back when I knew what you think you know and I can assure you that its “small” : )

Simply defined


-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Marty Backe's profile

Marty Backe

251 posts in 2857 days

#15 posted 03-23-2012 03:43 AM

You’ve got self-confidence, I’ll you that.

Nice looking work, although I see that it’s all paint grade, which can hide a multitude of sins ;-)

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