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Sawdust Creator
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So I'm building a router table, a new table for my radial arm saw, and a saw extension. And the sheet of Formica I'm getting comes in a 4x8 sheet. It's enough to do all 3, but short of buying Formica sheers to rough cut it to size....any other ways to break the sheet down to what I need? I have a pretty small margin to cut within to be able to get all 3 out of it....so my cuts need to be within 1/2 inch or so.

My final cuts will be with my router and a flush cut bit...really just concerned with breaking it down to rough size.
 

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where's my table saw?
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I generally use a jig saw with the laminate supported across saw horses and 2x4's. Mark the lines with a sharpie marker. For small pieces the bandsaw works too, with a fine toothed blade.
 

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Sawdust Creator
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So could I just use a new blade in a utility knife?
 

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It cuts nicely on a table saw. You have to make sure it can't slip under the rip fence and get caught. You may want to raise the blade more than normal so it's a more perpendicular entry into the LP. Hopefully, you have an adequate outfeed table to support both the cut off and waste. It can also be cut with a hand saw. Support the LP close to both sides of the cut. A portable circular saw can be used from the back side, same issues with good support. A router with a straight bit guided by a straight edge is another common method. Long enough 2x4s or boards fastened to saw horses and lightly clamping the sheet to prevent movement will make the job go easy. You don't want it flopping around or deflecting. An ordinary pair of straight tin snips can be used. Wear a glove, nibble along slowly, don't let the shears completely close as if ending a cut, lift one side gently as you go, just enough so you can make progress. Come from the other side if it gets unwieldy. It can also be scored with a carbide knife several passes both sides and snapped but I prefer cutting on the table saw.
 

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A razor knife would be really hard to do.... laminate isn't like glass, where you score and break. It is made like plywood, with the "grain" going in opposite directions.

Just about anything can cut the laminate. I have used circ saws, bandsaw, router, and TS.

I'm guessing that most of your cuts will be straight, so like hammer suggested, the TS would do the trick, but also like he said, you might want to make an auxillery fence so the formica doesn't go under the fence.

If your cuts for irregular shaped, then get a piece of foam insulation, lay the laminate on that. Then clamp a corner or two to keep it from moving, and free hand cut it with a plunge router and a straight bit. Make sure to only expose the bit 1/4" or so... just enough to cut the laminate. I used this method to cut 20 peanut shaped pieces for some lap-boards that I made.
 
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Just a thought...I have a hard time getting my pieces to fit when I stick 'em together. A half inch over hang has saved my behind on more than one occasion.

I bought a full sheet once...I think I rough cut it will a circular saw. Tape your line to reduce splitting. Afterwards I made the remaining cuts on the table saw. Used tape again and had to stick a 1/8 inch piece of hardboard on the table against the fence so the Formica wouldn't stick under the fence. Just let it ride across it. Won't hurt nothing.

Building a router table, huh? I read that you were but... ;)
vvvvvvvv
 

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I have cut and installed quite a bit of Formica. I found using a skill saw the easiest in my opinion. They make a blade just for Formica and laminates. A jig saw will work as well but it does chip a little bit. Another option is to use your router with a 1/4 dado bit.clamp a straight edge and trim along it.
 

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Sawdust Creator
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I'm real close to starting it. It's currently all designed in cad, just need the temperature to get above 20 below zero so I can go pick up plywood. Wind chill at lunch today was 48 below.....and it's getting colder tomorrow.

I guess it's not so much that I couldn't go get plywood....it's that I don't want to....
 

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Old School
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It cuts nicely on a table saw. You have to make sure it can't slip under the rip fence and get caught. You may want to raise the blade more than normal so it's a more perpendicular entry into the LP. Hopefully, you have an adequate outfeed table to support both the cut off and waste. It can also be cut with a hand saw. Support the LP close to both sides of the cut. A portable circular saw can be used from the back side, same issues with good support. A router with a straight bit guided by a straight edge is another common method. Long enough 2x4s or boards fastened to saw horses and lightly clamping the sheet to prevent movement will make the job go easy. You don't want it flopping around or deflecting. An ordinary pair of straight tin snips can be used. Wear a glove, nibble along slowly, don't let the shears completely close as if ending a cut, lift one side gently as you go, just enough so you can make progress. Come from the other side if it gets unwieldy. It can also be scored with a carbide knife several passes both sides and snapped but I prefer cutting on the table saw.
+1. :yes: You don't need to buy a special carbide tipped cutter, unless you don't have a utility knife. If cutting on the table saw, a 4x8 can be a bit trying if you aren't experienced with handling a full sheet. Cut yourself a piece of ¼" plywood whatever width you need to go from the fence to cover the ZCI plate. Tack on a strip of wood under the ply along the edge to catch on the saw table to keep it from sliding towards the back. That will raise the sheet up on the fence. You could just cut a strip of ply 6" or so wide by 3' long, to lay next to the fence, but put a stop on the underside to catch on the table. Raise the blade high, as that will give a good down cut and help keep the sheet down to the table. If you don't have a large surround your saw, configure an infeed and outfeed substrate so you can lay the sheet down and slide it through the blade. Cut with the face up.

If you have some sawhorses, and a sheet of anything to lay on it, use a straghtedge clamped down and a utility knife to score (with the face up) several times, and the sheet will break at the cut by pushing one side down, It doesn't have to be scored on both sides. Don't try to score hard one time, as you may skid off the straightedge.

You could also use a straightedge with a smooth edge, and a flush trim router bit. Remember to keep track which piece is the "saved" piece because of the thickness of the bit.






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Sawdust Creator
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Discussion Starter #11
K....this gives me some ideas at least. I'd cut it on the tablesaw but a 4x8 flimsy sheet of Formica makes me nervous.
 

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It cuts just fine on the table saw with a regular woodworking blade. The problem is that it wants to get stuck under the fence because it's so thin. I clamp an aluminum angle to the fence and let it ride up on top of the angle, so there is no way possible it can jamb under the fence. Find a helper of two, and it's easy. Don't raise the blade so high that it cuts down on it, or you can chip out a big chunk.
 

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John
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I agree with MT Stringer when cutting a full, 4'x8' sheet. Not easily handled on a table saw. Smaller pieces I cut on a table saw but just the opposite of what Hammer does, I set the blade very low for just a scoring cut. I'm a little shy of setting the blade high on plastics. Had a thin piece of acrylic shatter on me once when the tooth came pounding down through it.... of course, I should have had a fine tooth blade on but didn't. :smile:
 

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I'm real close to starting it. It's currently all designed in cad, just need the temperature to get above 20 below zero so I can go pick up plywood. Wind chill at lunch today was 48 below.....and it's getting colder tomorrow.

I guess it's not so much that I couldn't go get plywood....it's that I don't want to....
Wow! That almost a 60 deg difference between my location and yours as of right now. Where the heck are ya anyway?

I think it was 25 at daybreak, but we are having a heat wave for the moment. :)
http://www.wunderground.com/US/tx/houston.html
 

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Sawdust Creator
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Discussion Starter #15
MT Stringer said:
Wow! That almost a 60 deg difference between my location and yours as of right now. Where the heck are ya anyway? I think it was 25 at daybreak, but we are having a heat wave for the moment. :) http://www.wunderground.com/US/tx/houston.html

Appleton Wisconsin is where that was taken a few hours ago.
 

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If you have a sheet of plywood to sacrifice, you can lay it on your table saw, next to the fence after it has been set to the width you want, attach it with screws from underneath, then raise the blade up through it. Oh yeah, you should have the blade come up in the middle, so half the plywood forms the infeed side and the other half forms the outfeed side. This set up will prevent the formica from going under the fence and give you a manageable surface to handle the 4 x 8 sheet. You should also clamp a block to the fence allowing just the thickness of the formica so the sheet does not lift and crawl up the fence as you send it through.

By making the saw blade come up through the plywood, you also create a zero clearance throat plate, which will prevent chipping.

If you use a jig saw, I recommend using hardened metal cutting blades with at least 16 teeth/inch. I use metal cutting blades for all my woodwork. They do not lose their temper and the teeth stay sharp way longer than regular wood cutting blades. These blades will not chip your formica and you will get a very small kerf.
 

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So could I just use a new blade in a utility knife?
I've cut formica with a regular utility knife before, when I couldn't find where I put my laminate cutter. You just need to score it more times with a regular utility knife. It's like scoring and snapping drywall when you cut drywall with a utility knife.

The laminate cutter scores it more easily - can be found for a few bucks at the box stores and while you're there you'll want to get a j-roller.


If scoring, you'll want to do entire cross pieces at a time (like Cabinetman mentions) and then cross cut those pieces. Here's an example of how to cut it - go to the 13 minute mark of this video:
 

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Sawdust Creator
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I've got a J-roller and i've done laminate stuff before.....just never had to cut down a full sheet.....and needed to get 4 pieces out with about 5% waste or less...I think this is all good advise....and i'll let ya know how it went in a week or two when I get to it.....
 

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For what you are doing it might be easier to laminate a sheet of plywood or MDF with the laminate and then cut table tops. I would still use a fine tooth blade to cut it.
 
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