Table Top Laminate Cutting Questions - Router Forums
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 11:10 AM Thread Starter
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Default Table Top Laminate Cutting Questions

Hi All,

New to the forums and loving the information here. I have a few questions related to this topic - sorry if they've been asked - still learning where stuff is here and didn't see these exact questions.

First - I'm building my own router table - will be mostly based on Norm Abram's design with some tweaks for what will work best for me. I'm wondering about cutting the high pressure laminate for the top and drawer fronts. The countertop guy I got it from says it cuts easy with a score and snap kind of like durock - haven't tried this yet but wondering if that is the recommended way to do this or if most people use a power saw? Along these lines I'm wondering if it would be easier to use the contact cement on the entire sheet and cut what I need out of that or if I should cut the mdf first and get pieces to fit then flush trim them? Last - since I don't have a table saw, if using a circ saw is recommended to cut the laminate down to size should it be attached first or cut by itself, and what would be the best blade to use? Oh - and also, will a new bosch flush trim bit be able to trim the laminate without chipping?

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 11:28 AM
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When I first started out, I bought a carbide "V" shaped cutter knife from the hardware store to rough cut the laminate as the large pieces are hard to handle. Also cut them oversize to trim later after glued to the top.
Be sure to use a straightedge to guide the knife when you cut. After it is glued down, you can use the router and trim bit to do the final trim.
You will also need a hard rubber roller, to roll down the laminate, to get rid of all the air bubbles under it.

I have also used a router and a straight edge to cut do the initial cut on the laminate,by clamping the laminate to the straight edge , but do not recommend this to a person just learning to work with p-lam.
Be sure to watch some vidios before you try this as, you only get one shot laying the preglued laminate onto the preglued MDF.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 11:40 AM
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Hey, Ron; There is no straight answer to your first couple of questions. Trying to cover a 2' x 3' panel with a 5' x 12' full sheet of laminate is obviously very impractical, so in that sort of situation, cutting a piece a bit oversize would be the solution....add an inch to your finished dimensions (2' 1" x 3' 1" ).
Using a carbide HPL cutting tool is fast and practical, but you might want to practice on some scrap material first.
HPL comes in two different thicknesses; which one you buy (bought) is entirely a matter of preference. The thinner one is definitely easier to work with but it's also more fragile(!).
The tool looks like this...
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Kobalt-Plas...Cutter/3030695
Using a circ saw works but you take a serious risk of chipping your HPL edges (even a table saw has 'issues' that need addressing for safe clean cuts). Putting a full 5' x 12' HPL sheet through the TS saw is a nightmare.
On the Bosch bit, you won't know until you try it. I love Bosch tools but their router bits aren't often mentioned in 'My Favourite Router Bit' category... (no personal experience with them). It should work just fine.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 11:41 AM
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What Herb said.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 11:46 AM
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You probably can't cut it with a saw successfully. It tends to shatter. I did cut some recently on my table saw with an old steel tooth ply blade and zero clearance insert. The blade was a 100 tooth and very little or no rake angle. That worked okay but it won't work with a rip blade on a circ saw.

If you try to add contact cement and then cut it you will get trash in the glue which will cause you all kinds of problems. You want to rough cut the pieces you need to 1/8" to 1/4" larger than the surface they are going on. Try to stay under a 1/4 if you can. If you get too wide you'll need to use an overhang bit before you use your trim bit on it or you risk having it shatter. The overhang bit is just a regular trim bit but with a larger bearing so that it sits out farther.

Get a good scoring knife and lay a straight edge on the sheet after you have marked out your size and slowly and carefully with only a little pressure at first start scoring your line on the face side. Keep the handle of the scoring tool as low as you can and always keep it in line with your straight edge. After 2 or 3 passes you can start adding more pressure. You want to develop a track that the tip of the scoring knife will want to follow. I usually make about a dozen passes before I try to snap it. Sometimes I just keep scoring until I go all the way through. I'd rather be safe than sorry as HPL is not cheap. If you do try snapping bend the faces together and not apart. You'll get a much cleaner break that way.

Follow the directions on the can of contact cement explicitly. The flush trim bit should work. I've always using trim bits that were purposely made for it but I also sometimes add a solid wood edge and bevel the top edge and lam and a regular chamfer bit works fine doing it so... There are two types of purpose made bits for trimming. Straight vertical and beveled with 22* being the most common bevel that I see. Anywhere you have 2 pieces coming together, such as an HPL banded edge that an HPL is going to sit on, the first piece gets trimmed straight (that would be the edge banding first). The edge of the top gets beveled at the angle because it gives a better feel. The router work often leaves a sharp edge so you take a flat file and run it at an angle down the edge after to remove any burrs.

There. That's the short course in applying laminate.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 11:55 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies everyone. To clarify - the laminate I bought was from a countertop shop and I would guess is around 1/8" thick or so - seems to be of good quality. The piece is roughly 3 feet by 5 feet - so to phrase the cutting question a little more clearly I wasn't sure if I should but the laminate to slightly oversize and then flush trim or if I should contact cement the entire sheet to a slightly larger cutout sheet of mdf so the bond was already there and then cut out the top and drawer fronts from that. It's sounding like that is not the way to go and to slightly oversize each individual part which I'm totally fine with - just looking for people's experiences.

Hoping to get to work on this in the next few days - really looking forward to the build!
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 12:21 PM
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This video is a pretty good intro to the topic and includes using a circular saw.

Note that the cuts are being made with the face down for a circular saw. The teeth are rotating up, into the saw. Face down cutting will reduce tearouts and chipping.

I'd use a pretty high tooth count, crosscut blade for this purpose. Cut oversize an inch or two on each side. You'll use a trim router and bit later to clean up the edge and finalize the fit.

You will coat both the top of the table and the bottom of the laminate with a smooth, even coat of contact cement, and let them dry as shown in the video. Using a hard, solid rubber J roller to spread the cement in a smooth, even coat is preferred. Brushing is likely to leave tiny ridges in the glue.

Do not lay the two pieces together yet! Get some 1/2 - 3/4 dowels, enough to lay them on top of the table top, starting from the center and spaced about 6 inches apart with the last two a couple of inches from the outside edge of the table top. You lay the laminate in place atop the dowels and position so it is centered on the top. Carefully remove the center dowel and using a hard rubber roller, press down on the laminate, starting from the center and working out. This is going to position the whole assembly the instant the two pieces touch, so double check the laminate position twice. Roll out all the air bubbles you can by rolling with considerable pressure from the center out.

Remove another dowel (next one out from the center on either side. Repeat rolling it out, from the center out so any air gets pushed out without getting trapped.

Repeat with the next to center dowel on the other side of center. Keep this up until you have one dowel left near each edge. When you remove the last dowel, make sure you lift the edge of the laminate so you don't trap any air bubbles. Roll the laminate down as before. It is easier if you have someone to help you keep the edge elevated as long as possible.

If you trap air bubbles, you may be tempted to use a pin prick to let it out through the laminate, but it is better to locate the bubble and use a tiny drill with a stop collar (tape wrapped round the bit) that will penetrate the wood, but not the laminate. This is a real pain, so it is much easier and worthwhile to take your sweet time rolling out the laminate from center out, one segment at a time. You cannot leave the bubbles or it will cause problems with accurate routing.

Once attached, you use a trim router with a bearing near its tip to trim down the laminate.

The video shows how you can apply laminate to the edge, but personally, I'd finish off the edges with carefully planed hardwood, set dead level with the top.

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 01:10 PM
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Ron, I think it's already been stated, but when I've done laminate I've used a utility knife and scored it enough times to then just snap it apart (think of cutting drywall - snap away from the score line not towards it). I cut it slightly larger than the piece I need, then I only use contact cement on that size, router trim flush and there you go, done. A smaller piece is always easier to handle, and no wasted cement or laminate.

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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 01:25 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the tips all - I'll go the route of doing each section individually! I appreciate all the comments and video link!
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-22-2017, 02:30 PM
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@rodnre That's how it works around here. Ask a question and you shall receive (often more than you'd expect).
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