Trimming to Perfection

During the Breaking Edges article where I spoke about using the FastCap Fast Break XL to take the final sharp edge off where an edge banding has been applied and trimmed to size.  During that article, I briefly showed how I used a sharp blade to trim the laminate to size. It isn’t the best technique (especially given the occasional time that I perform the task) that unless you have a particularly well trained hand, you can end up with a less-than-perfect edge. (Not bad, not perfect).

Not surprisingly, there is a better way, and FastCap (via Professional Woodworkers Supplies) has that solution.

The problem again, is once a board (melamine, or other veneered board) is cut, the core is exposed and that needs to be covered.  It is typically done with a roll of like material, with a heat-activated glue back.  This roll is wider than the width of the board, and therefore needs to be trimmed accurately.

Overlapping Attached Edging (upside down)

Step one is removing the overhanging end, and that is done with the FastCap Flush Cut pliers.

FastCap Flush Cut Pliers

No point explaining what they do.  I think you can figure that out already!  Another lame parody of a movie title “Flush-Trim is, as Flush-Trim Does” (ok, too lame.  Think Forrest Gump)

Trimmed end

Step two is to trim the sides.  There are different techniques used to achieve that. There is “The Blade” which I have utilised in the past. Flush trim bits, mounted in a trim router is a very commonly utilised method by professional shops. And then there are edge trimmers.  These typically have two blades mounted in a spring-loaded handgrip to be run down the entire length of the board.

But again, there is a better (or in this case, a refined) way.

FastCap have come up with a Quad Trimmer.  This isn’t a Gillette solution (adding more and more blades to a razor, supposedly making it better and better), but instead it has a blade that cuts in either direction, and can be flipped over providing another two blades.

These blades are replaceable, and the Quad Trimmer comes in either in a carbon steel (blue) variety, or a tungsten carbide (red) one (called the Quad Pro).

FastCap Quad Trimmer (Pro)

I am particularly impressed with the simplicity of design.  Both sides of this unit are identical (and identical between the blue and red varieties), which makes the manufacturing much cheaper.  Furthermore, other than the fact that the sides squeeze together, there are no moving parts.  No springs.  Instead there are two pistons, with o-rings at the end (and some lubricant – presumably petroleum or silicon based – to aid with the seal)

Separated sides

The internals look a bit complicated, but it makes more sense in 3D.  There are two narrow tracks, which allows the overhanging edgebanding to pass through before hitting the blade.  There are a couple of full-length shoulders which supports the tool as it runs along the edge.

Performing a Trim

To use the tool, simply grip it, and run it along the edge, in either direction.  Openings in the side allows the waste to peel away freely.  An interesting fact about the blades is the carbon steel blade lasts 5 times longer than regular steel blades. The tungsten carbide blades last 5 times longer than the carbon steel (and therefore 25 times longer than regular steel).  That may help in the decision whether to get the Quad, or the Quad Pro.  However, as is true with other tungsten carbide tipped tools, TCT is not chosen because it can produce the sharpest edge, just one that is significantly more durable.  A steel blade (carbon or otherwise) is in fact sharper than tungsten carbide, and I noticed this when trying out both varieties.  The Pro certainly did the job as neatly as the standard model (and will continue doing so for a lot longer than the blue version can hope to achieve), however there was a noticeable difference (say roughly 10%) in how easy the blade cut the material.  Decisions, decision.

The Quad Trimmer (either variety) can trim boards from 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ thickness.  Neither have any springs, or even (as can be seen above) require a fiddly method to fit the blades.  Both cut in either direction, and with 4 cutters means they last a lot longer between sharpenings, and blade replacements

Precision Trimming

Combining these tools with the Fast Break XL, I guess the next laminate job I do will have an even better finish, and even less occasional damage I get when using the blade I have in the past.

Available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.

4 Responses

  1. Hello Stu, Thanks for the great posts regarding Melamine and how to apply the edging. I’m actually in the middle of planning to do a built in desk mounted in a little alcove area of a room. Was going back and forth on whether or not to use MDF, but I had no idea about the custom sized Melamine edging that you can use. I’m still trying to figure out what’s the best way to support a 48″ wide desk without having the middle bow down after a while… His is the design that I would like to implement: http://www.decodir.com/2009/09/matsudo-mansion-minimalist-tokyo-apartment-by-bakoko/

    what do you think of that desk?

    • Looks modern and stylish – Look at the thickness of the top – that is one part of preventing bowing. It also looks to have some support from the back about mid section – supporting but hidden. A decent bracket on the wall at that point fitted into a recess underneath will provide significant support without affecting the look.

      A thinner top with a vertical section at the front will give the look of a thick top, and provide significant resistance to bending.

      Lots of options without compromising design.

      • Aren’t melamine panels usually about 3/4 inch thick? I think I might be able to attach a 2 inch height melamine piece in front of the table to give it a “thick” look. I was also thinking of using 2 or 3 aluminum or steel square tube to bolster the table.

        http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1xh7/R-100338243/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

        however, not sure how I would support these square tube or fasten them to the studs in the walls?

        also, wanted to ask you how do you attach melamine panels to each other? either ontop or at right angles? Do you use a special nail or staple or screws?

        Thanks again,
        Tony

        • Only the standard panels from places like Bunnies – there are other sources of Melamine and other veneered surfaces (look at how thick a kitchen bench is) I used to have a local manufacturer I used for my kitchen bench, but they have sadly have departed. Just tried google for them, and it links through to http://www.mitchellgroup.com.au/ – that might be useful.

          WRT joining, the tool I find indispensable for manmade materials is the Kreg Pockethole Jig. Screws at an angle and makes for good cabinet construction with or without glue.

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