Overview: Benefits and edge banding materials
With a roll of wood veneer edge
banding and a few simple tools,
you can cover raw plywood edges so
the plywood is nearly indistinguishable
from solid wood. Iron-on edge
banding is wood veneer with hot-melt
adhesive preapplied to the back. You
simply hold the edge banding in place,
run over it with a household iron to
heat the adhesive, let it cool and trim
the edges flush. We'll show you how to
do it and share some tips for getting
perfect results every time.
You'll find edge banding in common
species like birch, oak and cherry at
home centers and lumberyards. For
exotic species and a greater variety of
widths, search online or visit a specialty
woodworking store like Rockler or
Woodcraft. Rolls of edge banding come
in lengths of 8 ft. to 250 ft. and widths
of 13/16 in. to 2 in. For typical 3/4-in.
plywood, buy 13/16- or 7/8-in.-wide
Tip 1: Clean up the edges
Saw marks or other roughness will
prevent a strong bond between the
edge banding and the plywood. To
avoid loose edge banding, sand the
edges of the plywood smooth before
you apply it. To keep from rounding
edges while you sand, wrap a quarter
sheet of 120-grit sandpaper around a
small block of 3/4-in. plywood and
screw another scrap to it as a guide.
When the sandpaper starts showing
signs of wear, remove the screw and
reposition the sandpaper. After sanding,
vacuum the edge to remove any
Tip 2: Iron on the edge banding
Use your regular clothes iron if you wish, but be aware that you may get adhesive
on the soleplate. To be safe, buy a cheap iron from a thrift store or discount
retailer. Empty the water out to avoid any steam and move the heat setting to
“cotton.” Use scissors to cut a length of edge banding about 1 in. longer than
the edge you're covering. Starting at one end, center the edge banding with
equal overhangs on each side and set the preheated iron at that end. Move the
iron along the surface, keeping the edge banding centered with your other
hand. Move the iron along at a rate of about 2 in. per second. The goal is to melt
the adhesive without scorching the wood.
Don't sweat it if you scorch or misalign the banding during application. Just
run the iron over it again to soften the glue so you can peel the banding away.
Cut yourself a new piece and start over.
Tip 3: Press it while it's hot
Make sure the edge banding is fully
adhered by pressing it down with a
block of wood while it's still hot. Go
back and forth over the edge a few
times while the glue is cooling. Look
for any areas that are raised. Heat
those spots again and press them
again with the block.
Tip 4: Slice off the ends
The easiest way to remove the overhanging
ends is to simply slice them
off with a utility knife. Place the edge
banding on a work surface and lightly
score it a couple of times. Don't
worry about cutting all the way
through. Just lift the plywood and
bend up the banding to snap it off.
Tip 5: Use a trimmer on edges
The quickest and easiest way to trim the edge banding flush to the plywood is
with a special edge banding tool, such as the FastCap trimmer shown here
(available at Woodcraft and other stores and online).
Tip 6: Modify your trimmer
Trimming the overhanging edges flush to the plywood without damaging the
edge banding can be tricky. If the trimming blade catches in the wood grain, it
can split the thin veneer and you'd have to start over. Prevent that headache
by shimming one side of the trimmer with strips of edge banding so that it
doesn't cut as deep. Just “tack” the shims on with the iron, making sure to leave
a gap where the blades are. Since this trimmer has two cutting sides, you can
leave the shims on one side to make the initial pass, and then just flip it over
to make the final pass.
Tip 7: Don't leave a splice where it'll show
Splices can be hard to see on raw
edge banding, but they may be highly
visible after stain is applied.
Inspect the edge banding before you
cut it to length so you can cut around
splices and avoid surprises later.
Avoid waste by using spliced pieces
in less visible areas.
Tip 8: Touch up with a sanding block
After you trim them, the edges will
be sharp. Ease them with 150-grit
sandpaper on a sanding block. Hold
the sanding block at a slight angle
and smooth out the edge. Sand gently
and inspect the edge often to
avoid sanding through the thin
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Video: How to Apply Edge Banding
Gary Wentz, an editor for The Family Handyman, will show you how to apply iron-on edge banding. It’s the easiest way to cover plywood edges, and it makes inexpensive plywood look like solid wood.