How to Trim the Edge of Plywood

Updated July 11, 2018

Contractors and carpenters often build shelves, cabinets and other home furnishings from plywood. Its laminated layers give it more stability and resistance to swelling and shrinking than raw wood, and it is available with hardwood veneers that make it almost indistinguishable from real wood. A drawback of plywood is that the laminations are visible on the edges. This isn't usually an issue when you paint the plywood, but when you stain it or leave it natural, you have to trim the edges to hide the laminations. Add trim made from lumber that matches the veneer.

Measure the thickness of the plywood with an accurate ruler or tape measure.

Set the fence of a table saw so that its distance from the blade is the same as the thickness of the plywood. Run lengths of lumber through the blade to make strips of trim. When you have cut enough strips, set the fence 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the blade and run them through again on their perpendicular edges to give them a suitable thickness.

Measure the length of one of the plywood edges on the perimeter of the shelf or cabinet you are building and cut one of the strips to that length with a handsaw. You can mitre the corners by cutting a 45-degree angle on each one, or you can leave the corners square to form butt joints. Cut trim for the other three sides of the perimeter in the same way.

Spread a bead of carpenter's glue on the edges for which you have cut trim. Set each piece of trim on the edge it will cover and nail it in place with 6d finish nails, driving the nails at 8- to 12-inch intervals. Sink the heads of the finish nails with a nail punch and fill the holes with wood filler. Clean off glue that has oozed out with a damp rag.

Trim off any plywood edges between the perimeters, such as those on shelf faces, in the same way. Cut the strips accurately to form a tight joint at either end.

Let the glue dry for four to six hours; then sand the trim with 120-grit sandpaper in preparation for finishing.


Instead of matching the trim material to the veneer, you can also use a different type of wood to create a contrast. You can buy plastic or vinyl trim with a self-adhesive backing to trim plywood edges. Apply it with an iron to activate the adhesive, then trim the edges with a file.

Things You'll Need

  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Table saw
  • Trim lumber
  • Carpenters' glue
  • Mitre saw
  • 6d finish nails
  • Hammer
  • Nail punch
  • Wood filler
  • Damp rag
  • 120-grit sandpaper
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About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.