More melamine madness - Woodshop News

More melamine madness

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A.J.'s post about using melamine has prompted me to chime in on this subject. Unlike A.J., I ended up deciding that I really do hate melamine!

When I first started out, I vowed never to build a kitchen or anything else for that matter that would qualify as a cabinet. At least not in the construction world. I was a furniture maker, not a cabinetmaker. Eventually reality horned in as it often does and, in spite of my reluctance, I began taking cabinet jobs. But I stuck to my guns on one point. I flatly refused to use particleboard in my cabinets. Plywood was as low as my sights would go.

In those days, decent maple plywood was pretty cheap and it made really nice looking interiors. It was not at all difficult to convince people that plywood was better than particleboard. But in the early 80's, coated sheet goods began to appear. At first it was Kortron, which was little more than particleboard coated on one side with an acrylic paint. As the technology evolved, these products began to get more sophisticated. The core materials improved greatly as did the surface coatings. But to me, it was all still particleboard and I still resisted using it. The problem was that people wanted them. The white interiors were attractive, cleanable and did not require the use of liners on shelves and drawers. So, eventually, I was obliged to acquiesce once again and my shop began to build cabinets with melamine interiors.

But I always hated the stuff. It stank of formaldehyde. Breathing even a small amount of the dust would leave you coughing for days. The sheets are heavy and guys would become exhausted after a half a day of handling the stuff. The edges were sharp as a razor so you either had to deal with getting cuts all the time or work in gloves all day. It didn't hold screws well, it would split open if you even looked at it with a nail or a staple, and there was no glue that would stick to it.

Eventually, many of these problems were overcome in one way or another. But I still hated the stuff and still do and I'm not ashamed to say it. In 2000, my son and I swore off melamine and became devoted members of Melamine Users Anonymous. We went back to using nice maple plywood for our cabinet interiors and sent those who insisted on having melamine cabinets down the road to the next shop. I never regretted the decision and I have not touched a sheet of melamine since.

D.D.

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