You don't always need trim for shelves, but it's usually added to promote a finished look. Even if you don't notice it at first, almost all shelving is trimmed. The trim can be ornate or simple. The type of trim depends on the shelf material, and the look you want to achieve.
Most shelving consists of either 3/4-inch plywood or composite. When this type of shelving is cut, it reveals the core of the material. Even if you sand the edge smooth, it still looks raw. Woodworkers rely on simple banding techniques to trim out shelving of this type. To make banding trim, cut 1/4-by-3/4-inch hardwood strips on a table saw. Add wood glue to the back, and use a pin nailer with 1-inch pin nails to nail the strip directly to the edge of the shelving. Fill the nail holes with wood putty to match the wood species. When the glue is dry, sand and round the edges of the hardwood with 100-grit sandpaper. Add stain and lacquer as needed to complete the edge-banding process.
Another edge-banding process involves wood tape. Wood tape is 1/6-inch thick. It comes on a roll, and attaches to the edge of the shelf to trim it. This type of material has glue that is activated by heat. Use scissors to cut the tape to length, and place it on the edge. Hold the adhesive tape in place with masking tape, then use a hot iron to bond the tape to the front of the shelf. Place the hot iron on the face of the tape, when the glue begins to soften, slide the iron along the tape to bond the tape to the edge of the shelf, removing the masking tape as needed. Sand the edges of the shelf lightly with 180-grit sandpaper to finish. There's also a plastic version of this type of tape for laminated shelves.
Bullnose molding is widely used for shelf trim to add aesthetics. It's 1 1/2 inches in width with a round edge. Picture a dowel rod cut in half lengthwise. Bullnose attaches directly to the front of the shelf, with the top edge of the bullnose flush with the top edge of the shelf. It makes the shelf appear more substantial, with a 3/4-inch overhang on the bottom. Use bullnose on bookcase shelves, closet shelves or anywhere you want a beefy look. Use a miter saw to cut the bullnose to length, add glue, and use a pin nailer with 1 1/4-inch pin nails to nail it to the edge of the shelf. Sand the top edge lightly, add stain and lacquer, and the shelf is ready to go. Bullnose also adds horizontal rigidity to the shelf.
Profiled, or raised molding is the queen of shelf trim. It has detailed curves, dips and tall, rounded tops in a plethora of differing shapes. Some of it has a 90-degree lip on the back that locks onto the edge, but most of it has a flat back. Either type attaches to the front edge of the shelf the same way with pin nails and glue. Since the profile can be almost any height, use a pin nail that penetrates through the molding into the edge of the shelf at least 1/2 inch to attach profiled molding. Fill the nails holes with wood putty and sand smooth. Add stain and lacquer as needed.
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