Love/hate relationship

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I love what you can do with melamine – it’s strong, versatile and done right can be very attractive. But boy do I hate working with it.

A lot of you folks work with a lot of melamine. It’s a staple of the cabinet and fixture industry, and some of you probably work with thousands of square feet of it each year. So please don’t take this wrong, but I can’t stand working with it.

Everything I’ve ever made with it – the most recent being a fabulous outfeed/assembly table behind my table saw that I just love – has not only turned out well, but has performed marvelously. That outfeed/assembly table I built is rock-solid for assembly work, and the white laminate surface brightens up the shop and helps with the copious amounts of shop photography I do.

But talk about being a pain to work. First of all, it’s heavy. Getting it home, moving it around and breaking it down into smaller workpieces requires the strength of Hercules if you’re working alone. Then, there’s its fragile nature. Bang an edge against something and that edge is ruined. Use the wrong blade to cut it and you’ll make more chips than they serve at an English pub. Scratch a surface and it’s nearly impossible to repair or touch up to my satisfaction.

And then there’s the cuts. I can’t think of a single time I’ve worked with melamine that I haven’t gotten cut on a razor-sharp edge.

Working on an article on saw blades this week, I needed two small pieces of melamine for photographic purposes – one piece cut with a melamine blade and the other with a regular blade – to show the difference in cut quality. We’re only talking about two small pieces here, about a foot long and only a couple inches wide each. Not including the time for changing out blades, making those two pieces took less than a minute. And I still managed to cut my finger on a fresh-cut edge of one of the pieces.

I won’t stop working with melamine, of course, because it’s wonderful stuff. But I can honestly say I’m not looking forward to the next time I’ll be doing it.

Till next time,

A.J.

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