Laminating a counter top confusion - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 07-14-2008, 11:26 PM Thread Starter
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Laminating a counter top confusion

I am building and installing a U shaped formica countertop that will be against three walls 96 x 60. I am unable to construct and install it in one piece since it is a tight space.

My first option is to laminate the counter in two pieces, install it and join it at the seam. With this process I am concerned that the seam will be too apparent. My second option I thought of is to install one part of the counter already laminated. Then install and join the second counter to the first and carefully laminate the second part in place. What do you think is the best way to go about this. Thank you for your advice!
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post #2 of 5 Old 07-15-2008, 08:38 AM
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There are a few ways to do this. Ordinarily you would want the mica joint to be as short or in a visibly appealing location as possible. I'm just mentioning this for you to keep in the back of your mind while planning what you'll do.

Since you didn't state which way the 90 or 60 was or the depth of the three directions, I'll just give an overview of how I'd do it. First take the substrate and cut the depths of the three lengths. Fit them and scribe them to fit the walls.

Then take them out and lay them flat. You could make connections at the places where you want substrate joints underneath with FASTENERS.

Or, make a scabbed cleat from a substrate to screw in from the bottom to hold the joints together. Actually, it is better to do both because the added size of the cleat will provide more support.

In doing these substrate joints, keep in mind you don't want the mica seam over a substrate seam. So, once the top is scribed, you can laminate a section having the seam of that piece fall short, so the next piece will fall on solid material. IOW, if you want the two mica corners to be mitered, layout the substrate to be joined at a 90 degree at the point of where the "U" forms. Or, the other way around, where you have the substrate made to join on a miter (which would be a longer joint, and less structural), layout the mica to be at 90 degrees.

If you don't prelaminate any pieces, fit and mark the mica where they join with pencil marks across the seam so when you laminate them after the substrate is installed, they will match up. A word of advice. If, for example you will be laminating three pieces, do it in an order, like from left to right, or right to left. Your joints will work and fit better. I wouldn't laminate before installing the tops.

A trick about seaming and fitting mica joints. Mating edges can be straight edged by using a straightedge and a router with a trim bit with a bearing. Or, two pieces can be seamed that will be joined by placing them together, and running the router between both at the same time, so any differential will happen to both allowing them to fit perfectly. For that, you'll need to fabricate a jig to clamp both pieces and have a straightedge to guide the router.

Or, scribe and install the entire top with the substrate joints where you pre planned them to be. Then starting on one end (either right or left) Scribe and fit the mica and layout the seams at the appropriate locations. In doing it this way, have all the mica seamed and scribed ready to go, and glue up (with contact cement, and I prefer solvent based), the substrate and the mica at the same time. Then when it has flashed off, clean the seamed edges (you can rub your finger across the edge to clear any glue), lay down dowel rods as spacers (about 10" to 12" apart), and when the sheet(s) are in position do one at a time. A little trick about getting tight joints in mica: When seaming one sheet to another, assuming one is stuck down, touch the edges together and leave one dowel rod under maybe about a foot away, and pull out several after that dowel but don't press the mica down hard, just slight pressure, and there is a slight allowance of space. That will give a tiny bit of force towards the joint as the sheet is pressed down.

This is kinda tricky because if the dowel is too close to the joint or too much is allowed, you may not be able to press it down. That particular dowel can be a 3/8" so it won't raise up the gap too high. For the other dowels you can use 3/8" or 1/2" dowels. I prefer 1/2".

Countertop mica is usually 1/16" thick and is much easier to handle than vertical grade which is 1/32".

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post #3 of 5 Old 07-15-2008, 09:51 AM
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I would take the top to the job sight in three pieces. Scribe and fit with under counter fasteners. Then take back to the shop and laminate it with a loose splash that can be installed after the top is in place. There is a router with a split base (specially designed for joining laminate) that should be used. The splash can be screwed from the under side in one area by pulling the u shape forward. The side splashes can be glued using board stretchers and shims. Also, stretchers from the bottom of the upper cabs. I hope you are using a loose splash. Rick

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post #4 of 5 Old 11-09-2008, 02:55 PM
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build in place is not a option?

when ever possible i'll build in place,i only average maybe 2-3 tops a year so im no expert,but build in place takes all of the guess work out,and avoids having your top in several pieces with hardware holding/drawing them tight

you can lap and seems in the wood to avoid any fasteners,and use a small belt sander to scribe the laminate to the wall prior to gluing which is faster,and easier than scribing the whole top

if you have to build and deliver/install ,lap the laminate over any splice about a 1/4 inch ,and hold off slightly less on the other side to aid in getting your seem sweet
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post #5 of 5 Old 11-30-2008, 12:10 PM
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Your counter can be built and then installed in one piece. I do it all the time. You have to make a detailed sketch with as many measurements as you can at about 6-12" increments. Be sure to note all irregularities in walls. I hate to install counter tops with seams if there is any way to avoid it. The last kitchen we installed ( check my last post ), the main top was built and installed with no seams.

Did you say tool sale?
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