How to Smooth the Edge of a Laminate Countertop

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Using laminate to make your own countertops can be a fun and challenging project. As with most do-it-yourself (DIY) jobs, it's the finishing touches that set the professionally done from the "amateur hour." Properly cutting and applying plastic laminates is only half the battle. Now it's time to smooth those edges for a professional finish. You're going to need to know how to use a router with a flush-cut bearing bit and mill bastard file. No, I'm not swearing at you, that's really what it's called. With a little practice, you'll be filing countertop edges like a pro.

Things You'll Need

  • Router with bearing laminate bit
  • Mill bastard file
  • Acetone

Use a router with a flush-cut bit to trim the excess laminate from your countertop. Set the bit so that the blade will cut the entire thickness of the laminate and the bearing will ride on the laminated face of the countertop edge. The mechanism for this varies; consult your router manual for specific instructions. Typically, there will be a large wing-nut-type release, or a nut requiring a wrench. Visually check the depth before starting the router.

Start the router at the far left end of your countertop. It will need to run from left to right to give a smooth cut. Wax your router bearing before you begin. Run your router smoothly and steadily, trying to make the entire cut in one smooth motion. Be careful not to stay in one spot too long to avoid burning the laminated countertop edge. Go back over any spots that may not be completely flush.

Use a 1-inch-wide, 8- to 10-inch fine-tooth mill bastard file to finish the smoothing job. Starting at the left end of the countertop, place the file (handle down) against the edge at a 45-degree angle. The handle should be angled out toward you. Keep the file at that angle and rotate the handle to the left 45 degrees. Apply steady pressure and move the file toward the right, keeping it at the same angle and rotation. You will notice that the area you run the file over is slightly smoother than before.

Run the file over the entire length of the countertop, removing the sharpness on the bottom edge of the laminate top. Be careful not to tilt the handle too far down into the countertop edge. Once the edge is completely smooth to the touch in one area, move on. Avoid over-filing to prevent cutting through the laminate's colored layer into the white underneath. Use a rag dampened in acetone or nail polish remover to clean up any excess glue.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep the file moving left to right with little or no up and down movement to avoid chipping and breakage.
  • Wax router bit bearings regularly to avoid burning your laminate.

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