Banding

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Modern woodworking and cabinetmaking is almost impossible without edgebanding. So much of what is made now is made from sheet stock which has unattractive edges that have to be covered with something.

Even if your cabinetmaking incorporates face frames, there are still shelf edges that need to be addressed. Only the most expensive high-end work is done in all solid wood that requires no camouflaging.

The question of how best to cover these edges is one that comes up frequently. If you are talking about a high-volume production shop, it's a no brainer. You buy an edgebander. Modern banders are capable of applying a wide variety of edging materials, trimming them flush and in the case of the better machines, profiling and sanding them as well.

The problem is that these machines are hugely expensive. It's not just the initial cost, but the cost of adjusting, maintaining and repairing them as well. For a small shop, these machines are simply out of reach and would be overkill even if one had the resources to buy one. There have been a lot of small edgbanding machines on the market but even these are costly and most can only handle a limited selection of materials.

I had a bander once. I bought it used from a shop that was upgrading their equipment and I got a pretty good deal on it. It was a finicky beast and keeping it in adjustment was almost an art. What was worse, this machine was limited to edge tape. It did have trimmers and a hot melt glue pot. The trimmers worked OK but the end trimmers never quite did the job. Not only would they not trim properly but every now and then, they would snag the tape and the next thing we knew there was glue and tape all over everything. After a few of those episodes, we gave up. We set the end trimmers to leave an inch or so of tape overhanging the ends of the material, applied banding to 8-foot strips and then cut pieces to length from there.

I never really had the kind of volume needed to justify a banding machine and I soon sold this one to another shop. I broke even on it and, factoring in the couple of years I used it, I came out OK. But there was a palatable sense of relief when we stood and watched it get loaded onto a trailer and disappear around the corner. We went back to pre-glued edge tape and a hand-held iron and never really felt deprived. Later we abandoned taped edges altogether and went back to construction methods that were not burdened by the need to cover plywood and MDF edges.

D.D.

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