Tuesday, April 7, 2009

edge-veneering a plywood shelf

These photos show the mundane process of edge-veneering a plywood shelf so that the plys don't show what a shortcut carpenter one is. As a professional cabinetmaker, I'd decided that I'd only use natural wood for such things(sustainably harvested, of course) but as a caretaker building shelves for an out-of-the-way utility closet, it makes sense to economize effort & expense while making a nodding gesture towards aesthetics; so I opted for the tried and untrue method of edge-banding. Besides, I bought the plywood as remnant pieces left over from someone else's purchase. It is luan-veneered shop-grade plywood. The edge band is real birch wood with pre-applied hot-melt glue on one side. Nobody ever taught me how to do this, I had to learn by trial & error (though it's hardly rocket science); so I herewith make an effort to offer an education of sorts to the disinterested or chance visitor who mayhap is searching for possibly actionable information of this sort in an information-dense cyber-fog.

The unadorned plywood shelf staged in vise with veneer tape and iron on standby. The veneer will cover the top edge and the far radiused corner and left edge.

Position the tape(hot-melt glue pre-applied to the underside) at one end of the edge to be veneered, while the iron is plugged in and already hot.

Begin ironing with firm swift strokes, bearing down evenly across the tape and then leaning on both edges, across the first ten inches or so of the shelf.

Quickly put down the iron and pickup a screwdriver or other round metal shaft and "burnish" the edge by running the shaft along the edge surface to seal the glue to the plywood shelf for that first 10 inches.

Then repeat the process for the remainder of the edge, working your way around the radius and periodically burnishing the edge to seal it as you go.

Then take your razor knife and lay the blade against the flat surface of the shelf and draw it along the edge, removing the burr of extra edge banding that hangs over the shelf edge. Here it helps to apply (one of the proprietary "Rules-of-Mark") the principle of focusing on the "secondary" to accomplish the "primary". By this I mean: focus on keeping the blade flat against the shelf surface as you draw it along to remove the overhanging burr of the edge veneer. If you don't, you'll dig into the edge itself and create a splinter along the vertex of the edge. This is probably the most interesting part for me, because it's an idea that has applications in far more important arenas, and yet so clearly demonstrates it's validity and effectuality in this mundane application. Maybe it's just me...

The veneer is ready for final touch-up.

Sand first with a sanding block. Mine is made from a sanding belt with a perfectly sized block of 3/4" ply fit inside. Focus on easing the vertex edge so there is no sharp feel on it, and removing any burn or iron marks on the veneer face.

Then finish with 220 paper. I like to use the adhesive backed sanding discs made for random-orbital sanders because they stick to my hand and I don't even have to hold on to them. A quick pass with the random orbital sander on the shelf surfaces, a coat of stain and then varnish and the shelf will go up, solving many of life's little problems: making a place for stuff to occupy, making room for more stuff.


Sarah Beth said...

that was cool! You are good at explaining stuff.
Using Firefox, I can finally leave comments! :)

Mark said...

Thanks! Every problem solved has it's problem children, though. Now I have to mount the shelves on a stucco wall. That issue will occupy a future post.