Three basic beginner-friendly techniques for covering plywood edges that will help you build professional-looking furniture and projects.
Many people wonder if it is okay to use plywood for building furniture. The answer is a resounding YES!
There are many advantages to using plywood for your projects
- It is flat.
- It is stable; it will not expand or contract over time.
- It comes in many varieties.
- Large sheets are a fraction of the price of getting lumber in that size.
- It is very strong.
Ugly profile edges where you can see all the layers created when that plywood sheet was assembled.
No matter how much you sand the edges of the plywood, you will still see the deep crevices created as the thin layers were joined with adhesive.
Depending on the quality of plywood, you may also see gaps and holes on the edges.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes, seeing the exposed plywood edges can add a whole bunch of character. I loved seeing the exposed edges on my vegetable organizer.
In fact, you can even make patterned plywood – all using plywood edges as I did here.
Most likely, however, you will want to cover those exposed plywood edges. Covering the plywood edges will give your project a more polished, professional finish.
How do I hide ugly plywood edges?
We are going to discuss three options for hiding plywood edges:
- Wood filler/spackle
- A solid wood trim piece
- Edge Banding
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Cover Plywood Edges with Wood Filler/Spackle
The first option for finishing plywood edges is to use a wood-filler, or similarly spackle, to fill in those uneven crevices with a putty knife.
Advantages to the wood filler or spackle method are:
- They can be applied easily.
- Both dry quickly.
- Creates a smooth finish, perfect for painting.
- You can paint your project the same day.
I have a full detailed tutorial on how to use wood filler and spackle to get a professional-looking smooth finish on painted plywood.
See how the spackle method worked on the DIY A-Frame Desk.
On the rotating bookcase, I decided to simply use wood filler on the edges because the plywood was great quality and smooth and only the edges needed attention.
Cover Plywood Edges with Solid Wood Trim
Another option to hide your plywood edge is to use a solid wood trim piece.
For this method, you can place a 1×2 or other hardwood piece with the necessary dimensions on the raw edge of the plywood and use wood glue and a brad nailer to secure it to your build.
The basic steps are:
- Cut a strip of lumber the length of your plywood.
- Join it to the plywood edge using wood glue and clamps.
- Sand off excess glue.
- Stain or paint your build.
However, solid wood trim may not work in all situations:
- It can add thickness to the piece of plywood (when attaching a 1×2 to a plywood edge)
- You have to ensure it is perfectly flush with the plywood.
- You will have nail holes to fill which may not be best for stained projects.
Another option for trim is to use joineries such as tongue and groove, spline, or v-groove joinery. Tamar at 3×3 Custom has a great in-depth article about these methods.
While joinery is a great option, they are more advanced methods and require special tools, such as a router table and router bits, jigs, etc that a beginner may not have in their shop.
Solid wood trim can look fantastic and give your piece a professional touch, but it is more complicated and time-consuming than the other two options.
Cover Plywood Edges with Edge Banding
This is probably my favorite method which can be used whether painting or staining!
What is Edge-banding?
Edge banding is simply a thin veneer of real wood. It typically comes in rolls and can be purchased plain or in an iron-on option that has a thick layer of pre-applied glue.
Plain veneer edge banding can be difficult to get an even clamping pressure across your whole piece.
Iron-on edge-banding has many features making it great for beginners.
- Pre-applied glue makes adhering it quick and easy.
- The variety of types of edge banding makes it easy to match the wood in your build
- It also comes in a variety of widths.
- Edge banding can be stained along with the rest of the build.
- Edge banding can be painted.
Matching edge banding to wood:
Edge banding is available in various veneers so you can match the type of plywood you are using.
- If you are using birch plywood, you can use birch edge banding.
- If using walnut plywood, you can use walnut edge banding
- and so on.
I’ve seen edge banding in red oak, walnut, birch, cherry, and many other color/grain options.
If you plan to paint your project, you can even use white edge banding! This is routinely used with MDF or melamine-coated shelves and pieces.
Some of the projects I have used edge banding in:
- DIY Record Player Stand With Storage
- Small DIY Dresser with Patterned Veneer
- DIY Lego Table with Storage
One of the common concerns with edge banding is if it will not hold up or if it will peel off in the future. If you use the right material and apply edge banding correctly, you can easily avoid those issues.
Edge banding before or after assembly
Although, you can apply edge banding to any plywood edge – even after it is assembled, I recommend applying it before you assemble the pieces to get that beautiful seamless look.
It can be VERY awkward and hard to apply edge banding once the boards are assembled.
Edge banding has a thickness to it, which you will have to account for in the joint if applying after building.
Simply check and ensure which edges will be visible and will need edge banding and apply before you start assembling.
How to apply iron-on edge banding
Applying edge banding is a very beginner-friendly method.
Material and Tools Needed
- Plywood piece /project
- Pre-glued edge banding of your choice – to match the plywood being used or white if painting the project.
- Household Iron or EasyPress Mini
- A way to remove excess edge banding. Options are :
- Utility knife
- Trimmer tool like this one
- Random orbital sander with 150 grit sandpaper
- block plane or a router with a flush-trim bit
- Sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper.
As I mentioned, applying edge banding is super easy!
Step 1: Prep
- Clean the plywood edges and make sure that there is no dust on them.
- Bring the iron up to temperature the highest temp and ensure that the steam setting is off. If using the EasyPress Mini, set it up for the highest setting.
I love being able to use the EasyPress Mini for my projects. The advantage of using the EasyPress Mini is that:
- it is small and lightweight.
- It is easy on the arms
- can get into tight spaces more easily. It is especially useful if applying edgebanding to a vertical surface.
Step 2: Apply edge banding
- Place one end of the edge-banding on one end of the exposed plywood edge.
- Begin by heating up the first 4-5” of the material.
- Once the first section’s glue is melted, you can move to the next section. You can also go over it with a roller to ensure full and complete contact with the plywood.
- Repeat the above steps until the entire edge is covered.
Important tips when applying heat:
- Slowly move the iron along the edge banding that has been placed on the plywood edge.
- Keep the iron moving to avoid any burn spots.
- Slightly tilt the iron on each corner so that all the glue adheres to the banding thoroughly.
- Once the glue is completely melted, you will notice it oozing out along the edges slightly. This is the indication that you are ready to move on to the next section.
What to do at the corners
When you get to the end of the edge, there may be two situations:
- You are ending there – in which case, you can scribe with a utility knife or just bend the edge banding until snaps off.
- You have to continue to the next edge – in which case you simply fold over the corner and continue to apply heat along the next edge.
Step 3: Trim off the edge banding
Typically, edge banding will be wider than the width of your plywood. You will need to trim off the excess to get that seamless look.
There are a few techniques that can be used to trim excess edge banding.
- Using a Trimmer tool.
If using a trimmer tool, you can slide it along the edge and cut off the excess veneer.
Follow that with light sand of a 220-grit sanding block or random orbital sander to make the edges smooth and remove glue residue.
- Using a random orbital sander
Use 150-grit sandpaper in a random orbital sander to sand away any excess edge banding and glue residue.
Using a random orbital sander is now my preferred technique for trimming off edge banding. It is quick and easy.
Important: If you use an orbital sander to even out the edges, just be careful about a few things:
- Use a medium speed.
- Move it lightly in the direction of the edge, not away. Moving away could cause the banding to split.
- Be sure not to sand too much away.
A note about the sandpaper: The glue residue can be very harsh on the sandpaper. I have recently started using these sanding block sheets and sanding discs. These are washable! You can simply scrub off the dust and glue residue, dry the sheets and use them again!
Look at how great edge banding can look on your project!
Fixing Plywood edge banding
One of the major advantages of plywood edgebanding is that if you make an error in the positioning or decide you didn’t want an edge to have edge banding, you can simply re-heat the edgebanding and pull it up.
You can then reposition the edge banding and re-attach it by applying heat like before.
There you have it, three great techniques for covering plywood edges that even a beginner DIYer can do!
Which method you pick will ultimately depend on if you are painting or staining and the type of look you are going for.
I use all three methods in my various projects with edge banding being the most common. It is the easiest, mess-free, reasonably priced method.
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