Banding Together

Remember those old Wisk detergent commercials where the announcer would disdainfully point out “those dirty rings!” Here’s the woodworking equivalent: those dirty plys.

With the exception of Baltic birch and its various likenesses, where the plys are generally uniform and pretty enough to show off, we don’t want to see those “bad” plys on most projects. Particleboard edges are just as much a faux pas to leave bare. You can get away with it on a shop project, but not on a finished cabinet. At least MDF edges, which are generally left au naturel, kind of blend into their surroundings unnoticed.

So, that begs the reason for this post. Generally, I hide the edges of sheet goods just like you do. I’ve used iron-on edge tape, but if I’m going to all the effort to hide plys, I usually want something more durable. So, solid-wood edging is my deal. I’ve used thicker strips reinforced with biscuits. Sometimes I’ll switch to tongue-and-groove joints when applying wider shelf edging. It adds structure and is self-aligning. And, of course, I’ve applied thinner strips of hardwood with brad nails and glue.

In fact, right now I’m designing a plywood project for our next print issue. So, I’m faced with lots of “dirty” edges again and options for how to hide it.

Here’s the question for you: how do you treat plywood edges? Has anyone experimented with the paired router bit sets for making interlocking edging? How well do they work? Are there any pitfalls to them? If you use edge tape, what’s the best kind to go with? Do you have other tricks for applying edging quickly and easily?

Please share your banding methods and favorite approach. I’d really like to hear about it—and I’m sure others would, too.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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About Chris Marshall

Chris Marshall has been writing for Woodworker's Journal as a contributing editor and field editor since 2001. Prior to that, he spent five years developing home improvement and woodworking books. He's written five of them and has served as a contributing writer on many more. A wood and tool junkie since childhood, Chris thoroughly enjoys building projects and reviewing woodworking tools for the Journal. When he's not assembling new machinery, sawing parts, taking photos or crunching text for an upcoming story, he enjoys spending time with his family and a houseful of pets at their home in rural Ohio.

4 thoughts on “Banding Together

  1. I totally agree—I wrestle with this everytime I make a plywood drawer or shelf. So far I have gone the “easy” route of cutting matching hardwood strips, then glue and tack with small brad nailer or pinner. Finish with sanding (my strips are usually cut to almost the exact width).

    I want to try the matched router set, though and learn to pre-edge the drawers or shelves. I also want to discipline myself to over-cut the hardwood strips and use a router edge-trimmer to get a better mate to the plywood.

    I’m looking foward to your article!

  2. I’ve been using the router tongue and groove two bit setup. I’ve got two tables with two routers so it’s pretty easy, once dialed in, to run all the sheet stock and edging. I use to use one table/router at a time and found it best to route all the stock for one bit, change the bit and dial it in, and then run all the other stock. I also mark, with chalk or blue painter’s tape, each piece to identify the face to be up on the router. This way at least one face on the sheet stock and the edging will sit as you desired when glued up. I’m currently using the square edge tongue and groove bits but I want to start using the mitered edge tongue and groove bits so I’ll have less to virtually no edging exposed along the face.

  3. This is a tough one. I have been curious about the matched router bits as well. I work in a cabinet shop and when working with melamine with mdf or particle board core and plywood. we generally use a pvc or laminate edging. We have machines for the bulk of the work but have to glue by hand on smaller pieces. For this we use a water based contact cement. It leaves the edging tight to the part and it tends to stay in place better than iron on edging. Hope someone posts experience with the bits though. It would be a good choice I think.

  4. I have always use a strip of the matching solid wood and used contact glue applied to the strip and the plywood. Let the glue dry and then bond them together using a rubber mallet to help them stick. With using a solid 4/4 strip and 3/4 ply there is a slight bit of strip to router off on both sides of the ply. When it is finished and sander the glue line doesn’t show and it looks like solid.

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