Working with Melamine Kelso WA
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St Helens, OR
Working with Melamine
Working with Melamine
It's dirt cheap, it's practical, and best of all, there's no sanding and finishing!
by Dave Munkittrick
Melamine is the professional cabinetmaker’s best friend. Build a cabinet with it and you have a complete, durable interior that requires no sanding (yes!) and no finishing (oh, yeah!). Pros often build whole kitchens out of melamine and then dress the boxes with plywood end panels and solid-wood fronts. The bright melamine cabinet interiors are easy to search, stain resistant and tough as nails. Entertainment centers and home office, laundry-room or mudroom cabinets are also made with melamine. Most home centers carry melamine shelving with the edge banding already on. Just buy or make shelf supports and you’re in business.
Melamine has found a home in many a woodshop. The durable, slick surface is perfect for jigs, fences, outfeed tables and router tables. I use it in my shop as an assembly table cover. Glue drips pop right off and the slick surface makes it easy to slide around heavy assemblies. It’s not as durable as plastic laminate for high-wear surfaces such as countertop and desktops, but it’s plenty tough for shop use.
Still not sold on melamine? How about saving money? It’s about half the cost of birch plywood. Not only that, but you get better yield from a sheet of melamine than from veneer sheet stock. That’s because you don’t have to worry about grain direction. Better yield at a lower cost—you save both ways.
Here are some tips on how to make this staple material of the modern cabinetmaker work perfectly for you!
Go Beyond Basic White
White melamine is by far the most common, but basic colors, like black, almond and wood grain, can be special-ordered from most home centers or lumberyards that carry the white. Melamine comes in a wide range of thicknesses. Home centers not only carry 3/4-in. and 5/8-in. sheets for cabinet construction and shelving, but they often have 1/2-in. for drawer parts and 1/4-in. stock for backs and drawer bottoms.
Gloves are a must when handling large sheets of melamine. We recommend a pair of Kevlar® gloves. Kevlar is designed to protect the user from slicing cuts. Surprisingly, they’re inexpensive ($5) and the rubber dots or stripes help you get a grip on the slippery melamine surface.
Stop the Chip-Out Monster
Chip-out on the bottom edge is a common problem when you use a general-purpose blade to cut melamine. Sometimes one rough edge doesn’t matter, but when you need a perfectly clean edge on both sides, you have a couple options. The first is to make a 1/16-in.-deep scoring cut on the bottom of the piece (see photo, below). Turn the saw off and crank up the blade to finish the cut. The result is a perfectly clean cut on both surfaces.
The second solution is a laminate-cutting blade (above), whic...