How to cut plastic laminate

Written by ian kelly
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How to cut plastic laminate
Cutting and refacing laminate counter tops requires special tools and techniques. (Beautiful and new kitchen furniture on modern kitchen image by terex from Fotolia.com)

There are many ways to cut thin sheets of plastic laminate, including using power saws, routers, hand slitters, dolphin-nosed tin snips and even office paper cutters. However, cutting laminate-faced plywood, particle board or medium density fibre board without chipping requires a special saw blade and careful handling.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Special laminate saw blade
  • Table saw
  • Masking tape
  • Strip of 1/8-inch plywood
  • Hand-held circular saw
  • Pair of trestles
  • Carpenter's pencil
  • Straight edge
  • Laminate hand-slitter
  • Router fitted with edge-cutting bit
  • Downward cutting sabre saw blade
  • Sabre saw
  • Dolphin-nosed tin snips

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cut both thin sheets and particle or MDF board backed laminate without chipping. Fit a special 60- to 80-tooth narrow kerf tungsten carbide blade with high alternate-top-bevel profile grind to your table saw. The saw fence must be perfectly square to the blade, and the arbor must be running true. Apply a strip of masking tape over the cut line on the laminate surface prior to cutting. Place the board laminate side up on the saw table. When cutting thin sheets of laminate, place a thin strip of 1/8-inch plywood flat on the table resting against the saw fence. This will prevent material from sliding under the fence while cutting. Use a push bar to keep the material against the fence while feeding it through the saw at a steady rate.

  2. 2

    Rip long laminate faced boards lengthwise with a hand-held circular saw fitted with the same type of blade described in Step 1. Place the board laminate side up on a pair of trestles. Cover the cut line with masking tape prior to marking the line with a carpenter's pencil and straight edge. Cut through the board at a steady rate without forcing the saw.

  3. 3

    Remove the overhanging strip of laminate from the edge of a newly surfaced countertop with a laminate hand-slitter. This tool has two cutting wheels and an adjustable fence. Adjust the fence to the required width. Place the material through the slot in the tool with the fence against the edge of the laminate. Position the cutting wheels against the material. Push the tool steadily along the edge of the counter top while holding the fence against the edge of the overhang.

  4. 4

    Place a small hand-router fitted with an edge-cutting bit on the overhanging laminate surface as an alternative to using a hand-slitter. Switch the router on and cut through the waste material while pushing the guide wheel against the edge of the countertop.

  5. 5

    Install a special downward cutting blade to a sabre saw prior to cutting laminate faced particle or MDF board. Cover the cut line with masking tape as described in Step 1. Cut the board with the finished side uppermost. Move the sabre saw steadily through the material without stopping.

  6. 6

    Make irregular profile or circular cuts on laminate sheet with a pair of dolphin-nosed tin snips. Place the cutting edges on the cut line and work the snips the same way you would use a pair of scissors. Take extra care not to cut a finger on the razor-sharp laminate edge while handling the material.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear heavy workman's gloves and eye protection when cutting plastic laminate.

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