Applying Solid Edging To Plywood Edges
Plywood is a perfect material for cabinet, bookcase and bookshelf making. The only negative to using plywood is its exposed veneer edges. There are a lot of ways to cover these edges from solid wood veneer to thin edge strips to full thickness solid wood edging. This article will discuss applying solid edging to plywood edges.
Workshop Tip: Hiding Plywood Edges
Making a window seat or toy box with a lid for me means using a furniture grade plywood like birch or maple. That also means that I will have to deal with exposed plywood edges when the lid is raised. Hiding this plywood edge when the toy box or window seat lid is open is important for aesthetics. The solution to this problem is to use solid edge banding.
Using Solid Edging
Applying solid edging to plywood edges results in a good looking and durable edge, and protects vulnerable edges from damage or high wear. Solid wood edging can also be shaped with a router, and it stiffens plywood which is super important when determining bookshelf spans and trying to avoid shelf deflection.
Recently I was building a bunch of window seats for a client. These window seats were going to have tongue and groove boards applied to them on site so I knew I could make them out of birch plywood. One thing that bothered me was when the window seat lid was raised the client would see the plywood edge. I knew I could sand the hell out of it and make it smooth but I wanted a more professional finish. I decided to hide the edge grain by applying a ¾” x ¾” piece of poplar edge banding.
To do this I simply ripped ¾” off the overall height off of the boxes front panel and glued and clamped the poplar edge bands to the plywood edge. Now when the client opens the window seat lid they see finished smooth wood.
As in any project we learn things as we go, in hind sight I would have also added an additional finished edge to the top of the T&G boards to cover them as well.
Applying Solid Edge Nosing
For paint grade work I use Poplar for my solid edge nosing. Poplar takes paint well and has little to no knots and is easy to work with. When applying solid edging to plywood edges, if done properly, you should have a nearly invisible joint. Clamps are necessary and I use pipe clamps for their versatility in lengths and ability to add additional length to the pipe. [See Pipe Clamp Extensions]
Cut Nosing To Size
I size my nosing stock to be slightly thicker than the plywood, allowing me to get even coverage on both sides of the plywood edge. Adding a slightly oversize nosing results in having to slightly plane, scrape or sand the nosing to get it flush. I also make sure my nosing stock has a clean, straight edge for gluing and if not, I run it through the joiner.
I square cut one end on the miter saw and then hold it in place and mark the other end with a utility knife. This eliminates the error often associated with the pencil and tape-measure and also eliminates that step. Using the utility knife is a carpenters trick for tight fitting parts and results is a super accurate cut and fit.
Once all the nosing are cut and mated to their plywood parts I set up my pipe clamps and grab some glue.
Apply a thin layer of wood glue, to both surfaces, for a strong and nearly indestructible glue joint. Slide the nosing back and forth to help spread the glue. Avoid the temptation to apply too much glue.
TIP: You will know you’ve applied the right amount of glue when you apply the clamps and a small bead of glue oozes out of the seam.
Snug Clamps and Align
Snug your clamps but don’t over tighten. It’s sometimes difficult to get the plywood and nosing to line up perfectly flush when you clamp them together and it’s now time to check that.
I push the nosing up or down to adjust it slightly proud to the plywood about the thickness of a sheet of paper. I also keep the parts I’m clamping aligned by keeping them against the pipe clamps.
TIP: Wax paper or blue tape can be used to keep the glue ff the pipes and the wet glue and pipe from staining the wood.
Tighten The Clamps
When gluing and clamping the clock is ticking. Ideally, I’d put a clamp every six inches or so. Once in place tighten all the clamps. I keep most of the clamps on the work bench and then use a few “opposing” clamps to keep them from bowing.
TIP: After 30 minutes scrape off partially hardened glue with a putty knife. This will save sanding later.
Sand or Rout Nosing
After the nosing sits in the clamp for 8 hours, and the glue has cured, its time to sand it flush and apply any decorative profile. Use light pressure and a fine grit, [120-grit] sand paper and regularly check the glue joint alignment with your fingers. Be careful to hold the sander perfectly flat to avoid sanding damaging the edging or plywood veneer.
The goal is to get the nosing flush with the plywood. I’ve used cabinet scrapers, hand planes, flush cutting router, orbital, belt and hand sanding. All of these methods will get you there – some faster than others.
For routing I usually apply a round over, thumbnail detail or other shape to the solid wood nosing. I always hand sand nosing after applying a profile with a router.