Plywood is a versatile building and woodworking material with many purposes. Woodworkers build high-quality cabinets and furniture using plywood. Furniture-grade plywood is available in cherry, mahogany, oak and many other wood species. The edges of plywood lack the finished appearance of the flat surfaces, so woodworkers implement various methods of covering them for both strength and beauty.
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Iron-on Edge Banding
Iron-on edge banding with heat activated glue can be ironed on to the edges of plywood. This type of edging is available as a very thin veneer with a glue on the back of the veneer banding. The glue on the banding melts as heat is applied and enters the pores of the wood, making a firm bond with the veneer as it cools. This type of backing is wider than the edge of the plywood and is trimmed with a sharp knife or trimming tool after bonding to the plywood. It is widely available in a few species, such as oak, maple and birch, at home centres. Suppliers specialising in materials for woodworking carry more species at higher costs. Iron-on edging is sold in rolls.
Veneer Edge Banding
Veneers are thin slices of wood. Plywood is made from layers of veneer glued together, and you can see the layers when you look at the edges of plywood. Veneer edging is a narrow strip and is commonly sold in rolls similar to iron-on edging. Many species of wood are available as veneer edging and may be purchased from woodworking lumber dealers. Wood glue is applied to the edge of the plywood and to the back face of the veneer edging. The strip is applied to the edge of the plywood clamped in place with another board holding it flat against the edge of the plywood. The strip is trimmed to size after the glue dries. Veneer strip edging is considered a step up from iron-on edging.
Strip edging is usually made from the same species as the face of the plywood. The woodworker cuts strips of wood on a bandsaw from a piece of lumber to use as the edging. The strips may be thin or thick, depending on the woodworker's intentions. Besides a decorative appearance, strip edging may also add strength to plywood if it is thick enough. Even a 1/4-inch thick edging can add considerable strength to a plywood shelf and reduce how much the shelf sags under weight. Woodworkers attach strip edging using glue in a manner similar to veneer edging. They may also add finish nails or brads to help hold the edging in place.
Face frames are made from solid pieces of lumber up to 3/4-inch thick. They are commonly used on cabinets to add both strength and a finished look to the cabinet case. Sometimes face frames are made from a wood species different from the plywood face to add contrast and interest. Face frames are deliberately made wider than the plywood edges and are not trimmed. One common method uses biscuits for attaching face frames. The woodworker uses a biscuit cutter to cut slots into the plywood edging and the back of the face frame. An oval softwood "biscuit" is coated with glue and inserted into the slots. The biscuits swell as they absorb the glue and form a strong, tight joint.
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