Walk me through a laminate counter project, please :)

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  #1  
Old 07-23-07, 12:47 PM
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Walk me through a laminate counter project, please :)

I'm gearing up to make a laminate counter for my craft room. The counter will be "L" shaped, about 2' deep, and there will be a couple of curves (at the inside corner and at one of the ends).

Rough sketch here:
http://www.thosemartins.com/shared/craftroomplans.jpg

I know that I need 3/4 industrial particle board, doubled up. One sheet halved lengthwise will take care of the longest straight part, then another two sheets for the remaining section. I was going to make the two sections completely separate entities, for ease of constructing and assembling/disassembling, so I don't need to worry about seaming. Where the edges meet, it's in a convenient spot and won't be annoying.

I have all the basic tools - circular saw, jig saw, router (which I've never used before, this will be my first time), etc.

I won't be making a backsplash out of the laminate, so I don't need to worry about that.

I was planning on using the rubber T-molding for the edges.

So...constructing...

I know that I have to glue and screw the two layers of particle board together. What glue should I use for that? And how many screws/how far apart? I know I need to countersink the screws.

For the curvy part...should I glue and screw the two layers together first, then cut the curves in both at once? What would be the cleanest way to cut those curves?

The T-molding, what router bit gets used to make the channel for that? Do I make the channel before or after putting the laminate on top?

The gluing down the laminate part seems pretty straightforward, so I don't think I need help with that - just the particle board part.

TIA!!
 
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Old 07-23-07, 03:56 PM
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First, you do not need two layer of substrate. One piece the actual size of the top, and strips about 2" wide around the perimeter, and at critical support points. Do double up where there are seams. For curves, rough cut with a saber saw, then finish with a router, preferrably with a template.

There are books on the subject at big box stores and book stores. One of these can answer more questions than we can in this short space.
 
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Old 07-24-07, 09:57 AM
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Thanks, Bill! I'm thinking though, especially for the curvy section, that it will be easier to double up than to make a 2" perimeter support that's curvy, ya know? Anyhoo, will check out those books.
 
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Old 07-24-07, 03:36 PM
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Any large overhangs do need a double ply, and/or a knee brace.
 
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Old 07-27-07, 04:54 PM
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If I may offer a suggestion

Since you're new at this, I would run what is called a "build up" around the front perimeter and sides with strips of 3" wide P.B. Where the curves are, you'll need to determine how much coverage you'll need to put a wider and longer piece of P.B. in it's spot, so when you either make a templete and route it "use a jig saw first" or you decide to jig saw it and then belt sand it to the line, you don't end up routing off your build up. Doing laminate work isn't as easy as sticking two pieces together and routing it. There is an art form to doing it. If you tip your router, set it too deep or even file the laminate wrong, you'll end up pitching the entire project in the garbage.

To make the curves, you can use a 5gal bucket turned over and trace the curve with a pencil. If you over-route in areas and it's not too bad, you can use Bondo to fix your mistakes, before you laminate it.

The channel for the slot to be used with the "T" molding is cut using a spline bit. You need to measure the tounge of the T molding and go one side of a router bit smaller and you'll use a rubber mallet to pound it in. Yes, you want to laminate the top before you route the groove. MAKE TEST PIECES! and good luck
 
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Old 07-28-07, 09:28 AM
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Thanks, all! Yes, I will definitely practice with the router first! I'll come back with pics when I'm done.
 
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Old 08-11-07, 09:52 AM
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Just a little update:

I'm slowly working on my countertop. I've got the top layer of underlayment all scribed to the walls, and the front edges of it are all nice and routed.

I can totally see now why you would want just narrow build-ups underneath instead of doubling up the whole thing - this stuff is HEAVY!

I got a laminate counter book from the library and that's helped quite a bit. I made some templates for my curves out of 1/4" MDF that I had lying around, rough cut the underlayment with the jigsaw about 1/4" away from where the finished edge would be, and then finished off with a 1" long flush-cutting bit on my router.

Today I'll put the build-up on the underside.

My question for the day is:
I want to put a few desk grommet holes in this counter for electric cords. Should I cut the holes in the underlayment before putting the laminate on, or can I cut it all at once with a hole saw afterwards?
 
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Old 08-11-07, 11:42 AM
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I would say, definately afterwards. You could do it the other way by drilling the holes first, overlaying the laminate, drilling a pilot hole through the laminate, then routering out the laminate... but it's a heck of a lot easier to do it with a hole saw afterwards! Just be sure you drill DOWN through the laminate- hold onto the drill securely, and drill slowly at first until you get through the laminate. Your grommet will obviously cover the edge of the hole.
 
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Old 08-11-07, 06:19 PM
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Thanks, Xsleeper! I forgot to come back here and look before I started working, so of course I've done the opposite of what you suggested - doh! lol But I remembered that I have a really crappy hole saw, so it's just as well I do it now before it has a chance to muck up the laminate.

I've now finished the underlayment, and it's looking nice already. I did just build-up strips on the big long straight part, and then I doubled up the whole corner piece completely. I've included a pic of the craft room as of today:

http://www.thosemartins.com/shared/aug07_01.JPG

We put the flooring in yesterday, but it's kind of hard to see because it's so dark. The wall cabinets are from IKEA. The counter brackets are speedbraces, bolted to the studs.

I've got some t-molding samples that are coming in the mail, so I can make some choices about laminate. But right now I'm wondering about options to laminate. I know I definitely don't want laminate on the edge - I want the edge rounded, not sharp. Thus the t-molding. But it'd be nice if I could just round over the top edge with a router and just paint it with something durable. Or take the counters somewhere and have someone spray them. hmmmm...
 
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Old 08-11-07, 06:50 PM
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Cool

Beth,

Depending on how much woodworking experience you have, you could always take 1/8" strips of solid wood and bend it around the countertop, laminate the top and then put a decorative edge by using a router.

I do hope you're not planning on laminating the top in place?

As suggested, you can drill a pilot hole or the tail end of a file to tap on it to hear the light sound and know you're at the hole you've drilled.

This is what the router bit looks like http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=2119&filter=spline%20router%20bit

Just a thought/question, have you thought about how you're going to seam the laminate together on the top, consider that it appears you have more than 5 ft both ways.
 
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Old 08-11-07, 07:40 PM
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No, I wasn't planning on laminating it in place - it's in two pieces, and they're not attached to the braces yet. I'm not planning on joining them - they'll just butt up together (the butt ends will be laminated), meeting at one of the wall braces. The long piece is about 8 ft. long, the short corner one is 5.5 ft. long. I did not want to be manipulating a counter the size of those two put together. lol

Interesting idea about the wood trim. How thick of wood do you think I can bend? The curves have a 1' radius.
 
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Old 08-12-07, 02:44 PM
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If you a 1" radius, then it gets a lot trickier to where you would take a solid piece of wood and cut the radius piece out of it and join it to your bending pieces. Either way, it's a pretty advanced thing to do. The strips of wood for the larger radius would be 1/8" thick and sandwich glued all at once and then clamped to the face.

In regard to having the tops as seperate entities, you would achieve a tighter seam by laminating them already put together with "dog bolts"

http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=10770&filter=countertop%20fastners

and biscuts, then gingerly take them apart to install them. (I would still use biscuts or a continous spline to keep the tops at the same level) You would need to route both pieces of laminate together at the same time while using a straight edge to run your bearing bit against. My shop isn't set up yet or I could take some step by step pictures of how to do it; as I'm sure you don't want to wait a good few weeks to finish your project. The problem with laminating them while the tops part is that your seam will not be nearly as nice or as tight. The second situation that occurs is when the laminate contracts, you'll end up with a gap, sometimes as much as 1/16". Laminate is like wood, it expands and contracts.
 
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Old 08-12-07, 08:49 PM
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Thanks for the info, Caddraftsman. I've never seen those dog bolts before, those are pretty cool.
 
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Old 08-26-07, 07:39 PM
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I finished building my countertop, you can see a picture of it here (pay no attention to the little nakey butt). It's actually not attached to the braces in this picture yet, but you get the idea.

http://www.thosemartins.com/shared/aug07_02.JPG
http://www.thosemartins.com/shared/aug07_03.JPG

We did it in Wilsonart Deepstar Fossil

Just put the laminate on today. I'd ordered the laminate from a counter fabricator in the area - much cheaper than the big box stores for the special order stuff. And they got it in the next day. Putting it on went pretty well for the most part. Routing the laminate along the edges was a little hairy on the curves, but I managed it okay. The holes for the electrical cords went fine. Just drilled a small hole where the hole in the underlayment was, and then when I was sure of the location, drilled a big hole for my router bit and then just routered the laminate right off.

I think the hardest part of the whole thing was keeping debris from getting between the laminate and the underlayment when it was glued on.

But it looks great in the craft room, and I am so glad I am done! Thanks for the advice, all.
 
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