Edgebanding With a Press
by Terry Cain

On the dusty trail toward making myself a first class tenderfoot cabinetmaker, I had to earn many merit badges along the way at a couple of bank and office furniture shops in Seattle in my younger days. An edgebanding merit badge made you employable. One shop was a larger well equipped firm with many European trained craftsmen with thick accents and the state of the art machinery necessary to help them be the only shop in town where designers and architects sent the very best work. It was in this shop I discovered the edgebanding method described here and in daily use in my own shop twenty years later. The very best technology lasts and lasts in my humble and dusty opinion.

First thing a shop meets as a true economic barrier to increased profits when starting out is cutting and banding enough boxes to make ends meet. The cutting is handled by the sliding saw or the vertical saw if you must. Hopefully if you are using a cabinet type saw you have a well secured outfeed and can saw straight enough for production edgebanding. This is extremely difficult with less than a slider but I did it for years until I had a decent saw. Back to economics, edgebanding uses a lot of hours if you do not have a bander and even if you do you may not have spent the $60-80K necessary to achieve total flexibility with regards to edge choices. Most automatic banders start at say $5k and go up faster than you can say "boo" however when confronted with stacks of parts that you are to band all night till you drop at 2am gets you dreaming big.

Many a shop will opt for a mid sized bander with 3mm plastic capability and if you are lucky maybe 1/4"wood. All of these track fed monsters eat alot of cash as well as making you fairly dependent on someone else's edging materials and also limiting severely your design options. Leasing or loaning is the only hope for getting through the enormous stacks of cabinets that you said would be onsite in a week. Or you find something else that works. It is my belief that the machinery importers that occupy 95% of the American edgebanding market have led many shops down an economic path of great expense by not utilizing a proven method that is in great use in the shops of Germany and elsewhere in Europe. I know if I were selling banders I would want to sell the biggest and costliest one I could fit in an ocean going container. Banders nowadays in this class cost a genuine fortune and do everything but scratch body parts for you. But the truth is that a simple press and trimmer set up makes the most sense for a small shop of say ten employees or less and indeed the one man shop as well.

This shop I discovered this system in had a large double sided Stefani bander that cost $80k in the 70's right next to the press, the press handling all the solid wood thicker than 3/4" and also everything that had to have miters at the corners and the small jobs that could avoid two hours set up time on the larger machine. New cost of the Stegherr mod. KPP edgepress ( 9 ft. lgth cap.)in the eighties was around $7000.00 and the Holz-her trimmer $5000.00. I paid less than half that for the setup used. I use mostly 1/4" bands made in the shop and stock them in large quantity made from rippings saved from the ripsaw. I also use alot of PLAM, PVC, and polyester rolls.

EdgebanderThe Bander is a self heated (electrically) press with a pneumatic pressure system comprising of tubes which fill with air (90lbs press. @5cuft/min.) and compress the panel first by it's thickness and then automatically pressing the platen/band up into the panel with heat or not depending on the work being done. the press requires no maintenance other than cleaning and keeping the valve oiled. Keeping the platens free of glue and burnt residue is easy with no stick canola spray found in the grocery, there are expensive treatments available from industrial sources but the canola works very well.

I have also installed a glass panel preheater salvaged from a remodel that preheats wood strips for pressing, setting the heat reactive PVA in about a minute, PVC bands requiring a mere 25 sec with the press heated.. The glue is a heat reactive white glue purchased from Jowat that is similar to softforming glue used in large automatic machines. It costs about $175.00 to have 5 gallons delivered. The glue is kept in a Tupperware pot and rolled with the little plastic trim rollers available at paint stores. Rolling the proper thickness coat or two of glue is an art and requires a steady hand to keep from gooping up yourself and the machine but you have to use some dexterity and become a "glue Matisse", remember I am saving you untold fortunes spent and an empire of loot for a big bander that you use only 50 minutes a week. The glue mixes with water to the proper consistency for rolling. Don't try Elmers or Titebond they just crystallize when heat is applied.

Coat only the panels to be pressed equaling the length of the press like a big seven foot panel or seven little drawer fronts. Parts longer than the press can be banded by sequentially pressing the entire length. You place all the bands in the press and then the panels and with the lever at the right end straighten all the bands even warped ones with the steel bars designed for just the purpose, when that is done you turn the lever controlling the air and pressing begins. I use a digital timer found at radio shack set for 90 seconds for my 1/4" pre heated wood bands. When coming out of the press the excess squeeze out which due to the care of application is minimal, must dry a while so that the trimmer does not get sprayed with glue. An hour of curing and the edges are ready for the trimmer. Mitered ends and thicker wood up to an inch with edgedrops for tops and shelves are all easily handled as is Formica, veneer, and even metallics. Stacking the panels with opposing edges and using spacer blocks of leftover end trimmings keep the banded edges separated until trimmed. It should be noted that unlike the large hotmelt automatic bander, the system here has as good a glue line as bar clamping manually would yeild.

Hotmelt banders have much thicker gluelines and also problems with adhesion quite frequently, not to mention vastly more maintenance and set up time. PVA gluelines are invisible and do not shrink any more than carpenter glue (yellow) would. This is also why you want to let panels cool and dry before trimming to avoid glueline shrinkage and telegraphing a line through your finish on furniture work. Also the bands are glued on oversized as with a conventional bander, and eighth of an inch is standard and an inch for length.

TrimmerThe trimmer type 360 made by Holzher is a marvel of a machine. I believe it has been discontinued for awhile now, but they may (Holzher) be able to find you one. I have seen them used for as little as $500. Others are made by JKO and elsewhere but these are sometimes hard to find. Basically it is a single end tennoner set up for trimming with large copy wheels the same diameter as the tooling which is about four inches dia. with a table consisting of plastic rollers to avoid scratching panels. The top and bottom are trimmed in one pass through the machine which can also be set to trim a drop edge for shelving to the right size. The tooling handles up to two inch wide cutters but I find an inch wide cutter plenty good for trimming bands to 3/4" thick. I also have bevel cutters for fine trimming plastic type bands PLAM and PVC mostly when needed. One motor drives both heads via a long serpentine drive enclosed within the base. The adjustments are easy and hold very well with up to three lever locks locking the fence. Trimming wood requires dust collection and a steady feed, many shops use a feeder which this machine has a base socket for cast into the side of the base. All in all the trimmer and press have that "Mercedes Saab or Volvo" quality that Europeans lavish on machinery designed for profit. The screwthreads, the hammerblown paint, the general design and the low maintenance all are the hallmark of the best machinery from Germany and Austria, Europe in general.

Sample PartsSo we have the stack of panels banded and trimmed for thickness, all that is left is a quick end trim on a variety saw with a simple wooden jig built just for the purpose. A large stack of parts say up to my nose on a lumber cart will all told take about 2 hrs to band and trim total, a little longer than an automatic machine. But given the initial expense and low maintenance, not to mention the unparalleled edge quality, my investment has paid fairly well in the ten years I have had it working in my shop. From here on out I basically consider it "free" banding with long gone depreciated exemptions and relatively little expense maintaining the pair of machines.

Stegherr is represented by Akhurst Machinery on the W. coast and E&R Systems on the E. coast. Force Machinery Inc. represents the Hess line of pneumatic clamps and banders as well, leading me to think that there are even more manufacturers of this type of machine in Europe than the importers let on. Jowat has sales offices on both coasts.

Happy banding.