I've spent most of my evenings this week trying to decide how I was going to make the applied edges on my cabinets. While I don't have any illusions that these cabinets are going to be high-end, top quality cabinets, I couldn't bring myself to even consider those cheesy self-adhesive edges. When I was picking up my plywood I looked at these pre-made wooden edges that were actually really nice. They were solid wood, 1/8" thick, and all quarter-sawn. No birch though - so much for that. Because there is more than 250' of edges total I tried to come up with something that would speed up the application. I don't have hundreds of clamps, so my initial idea was to apply a heavy edge, 1/2", and use my 18ga nailer and glue to fasten them to the plywood. An 18ga nail leaves a super small hole and the tiny amount of filler needed would probably go un-noticed. I thought that a thicker edge would also have the added advantage of rigidity, meaning there would be less clamping pressure necessary to close up the joint. I made a couple samples however and it turns out I was wrong. The difference in color in the pre-finished ply and the solid edges didn't look good either. It became immediately apparent that I'd have to think of something else.
After some searching on the internet I read about the 'Burgess Edge System', a router bit set that cuts a cove in the plywood edge and a bullnose on the solid edge. The two profiles match exactly and it leaves a a tiny little lip on each edge, ideally leaving just the top sheet of the ply untouched.
I bought the set from lee valley and after some buggering around with the supplied shim kit I was glueing up my first couple test pieces. The edge is applied thick and once glued up it is flushed to the faces and trimmed on the tablesaw to whatever thickness is desired. I think I'll leave the edges at about 1/16" - I like the look. Another nice feature is that it leaves such a small shoulder, requiring a very small amount of pressure to close up the joint.
Another concern that I've been testing is removing the finish from the plywood in the joint locations. Obviously glue doesn't stick well to hardened epoxy, and I didn't really trust the biscuits alone to hold things together. After a failed attempt to scrape the finish off I decided to stick to a laminate trimmer. It's difficult to maintain the necessary 0.002 cut, but it turns out that even if the cut ends up heavier it doesn't seem to really effect the fit of the joint.
I've also been playing around with my biscuit joiner, which is brand-spanking new. It's pretty straightforward. I think that while operating it is pretty much dummy-proof, the margin of error lies in the proper layout. Making sure that the correct reference face is used while cutting the biscuits locations seems like it could screw a fella up quick!
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