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Applying PVC Edgebanding Without an Edgebander

PVC edgebanding can be applied by hand, but it's tricky and difficult. Here is a handful of tips and advice. November 20, 2005

I've been a pro cabinet maker for a couple of years now and I've got a repeat customer that wants me to build some matching office furniture they already have. (I did their house cabinets). 99% of my work is with plywood or lumber, not melamine or laminated panels. I have to build (7) 60" computer desks, with 2 DBs for each one.

The material is 1" panolam with 3mm edgebanding. I was planning to use a solvent based contact cement and brush it on, apply the 3mm PVC edgband and trim with a handheld router with a small round-over bit to match the other stuff.

My questions are:
1. Is this the best way without a edgebander?
2. Will the handheld router method work, or just cause grief?
3. Do I need to file or buff the 3mm edge after I trim it?
4. If I have to buff, buff with what?

Any other advice is greatly appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor H:
The solvent based contact will work fine and a 3/16" round-over bit is fine. Use some oil or thinner with some very fine steel wool or a buffer wheel on a drill press to polish.

From contributor M:
You might want to try it first. Ask for a sample of the material and give it a shot. I tried to do a 12" radius with 3mm PVC once and had a hard time with it. I used 2 guys and we used a dead-blow to pound it on the curve. The results were mixed. I also used a Lamelo Cantex to flush the edges, and then used a 1/8" round-over bit.

By far the easiest way to do this is to sub this out to someone with an edgebander. To do 3mm on a machine you need a scraper and a buffer. The scraper will remove the knife marks left by the trimmers, and the buffer will polish out the edge. If you are doing a dark color, you would benefit from a re-generator - a heater at the end that will bring the color back. While Harold recommends a 3/16" r, 1/8" (3mm) is most common. I have tried to buff with a buffer, but again, mixed results.

Can 3mm PVC be applied by hand, yes. But the results will not compare to an edgebander. PVC is very stiff (unless you get the kind for contour edgebanding - another story). It has been coiled up, and retains its memory. You will have to fight this. I tried to warm this up on a Texas parking lot, and it still was fighting me. An edgebander has a pressure roller(s) that apply an incredible amount of pressure to the edge, which is difficult to reproduce by hand.

There is a reason these banders are so expensive. Because the do a much better job than we can do by hand. Again, try it and see if you are satisfied.

From contributor A:
I have applied many miles of 3mm by hand. As far as doing radiuses go, be sure you have full coverage of contact cement and, for doing radiuses, use a heat gun to get the 3mm really hot, then use a palm roller and apply pressure the entire length of the radius.

(A caution is in order here. If you get the 3mm too hot, it will start to bubble.) Go back and forth applying the pressure until the 3mm cools off and gets hard again. If you stop rolling before it cools, it has been my experience that it will come loose. Also, I have never polished 3mm after routering with and kind of abrasive.

Instead I use Seamfil solvent. It has to be Seamfil solvent, others, like Wilsonart 110, will not polish the edges. I am not a chemist, but Seamfil solvent will actually dissolve pvc whereas the other solvents I have tried do not. I would think that if you used steel wool or something similar, it would eave a dull finish. The Seamfil method leaves a very shiny edge.