Working with plywood is an economical way to build furniture, but it has a major downside: the dreaded plywood edge.
It doesn’t paint well, it doesn’t stain well, and it gives away the fact that you didn’t use solid wood on your entire project.
Luckily, it’s really easy to finish plywood edges to give your plywood projects a more professional look. There are a few different options to cover your plywood edges, but today we’ll focus on edge banding.
Before we dive into the how-to, let’s get a few questions about edge banding answered.
What is iron-on edge banding and is it durable?
Iron-on edge banding is a strip of wood veneer with heat-activated adhesive on the back. When you run on iron along the adhesive, it melts the adhesive and adheres the veneer to your surface. It’s a great method for finishing plywood edges.
Yes! Iron-on edge banding is durable, if you apply it correctly that is. It’s a simple application process, but there are a few key things you need to keep in mind. We’ll cover all the details you need to know to get a durable result.
Can edge banding be painted? Stained?
Edge banding can be painted or stained. Since the edge banding is a wood veneer, if you get the edge banding that matches your wood type, your paint or stain should take to your edge-banding the same it takes to the rest of your plywood.
The key is to get edge banding that matches your wood type. If you have red oak plywood, you need red oak edge banding. Birch plywood? Get birch edge banding.
How do you trim edge banding?
The short answer is to use an edge trimmer, but we’ll go into more detail in the full tutorial.
Alright, let’s start DIYing!
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What You’ll Need
How to Apply Plywood Edge Banding
STEP 1: CUT YOUR EDGE BANDING
Cut your edge banding to 1-3″ longer than your piece of plywood. If you go longer, that’s a-okay.
You can use scissors or you can simply bend it up and down a few times to snap the edge banding.
STEP 2: IRON ON YOUR EDGE BANDING
Your edge banding should be wider than the plywood edge you’re covering. Center up the edge banding on the plywood so that you have an equal overhang on both sides.
Starting at one end, start ironing your edge banding. Run your iron across the entire plywood edge to get it generally in place, then slowly go back over the edge banding 1-2 times.
Move slow enough for the adhesive to really warm up.
As you’re ironing, make sure to keep your iron level. You don’t want to tilt off towards one side.
Wait 5-10 minutes for the adhesive to cool down. This is VERY important. Don’t try to trim your edge banding until it’s cool.
STEP 3: TRIM THE ENDS
To trim the ends, simply bend the edging down along the end of the board. Then fold it back up and back down a few times until it snaps off.
If you find that snapping off the edges is causing the edge to not look clean, you can trim the ends using the same method the you’ll use to trim the sides.
STEP 4: TRIM THE SIDES
Place your plywood slightly off the edge of a table so that the excess edge banding on the side is facing up.
Line your edge trimmer up with the edge of your board and glide it across your plywood.
Apply downward pressure so that the edge trimmer cuts a close to the edge of your plywood as possible.
You can go over your entire piece or just certain sections multiple times with the edge trimmer if needed.
Flip your plywood over and repeat with the other side.
STEP 5: SAND
Using 120-220 grit sandpaper, lightly sand the edges and sides of your edge banding. The key here is to get everything nice and smooth.
Sometimes we don’t get the ends or sides trimmed down perfectly and you can see some of the edge banding extending past the end of the board. You want to look for areas like that and sand it down until you can’t see where the plywood ends and the edge banding begins.
STEP 6: IRON AGAIN
This is the last step that most people skip over, but is really helpful in ensuring lasting results.
Go over your edge banding with the iron one more time. Make sure that every little inch of your edge banding is ironed down and adhered to the plywood edge.
The most common place to have issues is on the ends. Go over each corner one last time.
There you have it! Now you know how to finish plywood edges using edge banding! The key to lasting results is to make sure that there’s no edge banding extending past the plywood edge and that everything is fully ironed down.
Discovering that there is really is easy to finish plywood edges opens up a lot of DIY possibilities. Suddenly you go from feeling limited by plywood to being able to use it on just about anything. From painted TV lift cabinets to stained oak litterboxes. The possibilities are endless!
Frequently Asked Questions about Edge Banding
Can edge banding be stained?
Yes! Edge banding stains really well and should stain very similarly to the rest of your plywood. One thing to keep in mind is to make sure to remove any adhesive that might sneak out the sides. The adhesive doesn’t take stain, so if there is any on the sides, you will have areas that don’t stain. The sanding step will get rid of any excess adhesive.
Can edge banding be painted?
Yes! Edge banding paints well. It’s very smooth, so it’ll give you a great finish for paint projects.
What brand of edge banding do you use?
When we posted about edge banding on TikTok, some people complained that their edge banding wouldn’t stain and asked us what brand we use.
We use either Edge Mate or Edge Supply. We don’t have a preference between the two. They’ve both applied easily, stained well, and have held up over time.
What are you using to cut off the excess edge banding?
We use the Band-It Edge Trimmer. It’s not going to cut everything perfectly, but it’s fast and easy. I much prefer it over a utility knife. Not only do I think it cuts a little bit better, but you don’t have to worry about the knife slipping and slicing your finger.
The key to edge banding will always be to take the extra time to sand. Don’t think that getting a nifty little tool will get you out of the most important step!
Can I use a heat gun to apply edge banding?
Yes, you can use a heat gun to apply edge banding. You just need some sort of heat to activate the adhesive.
Can I use a regular iron to apply edge banding?
Yup, we use a regular iron to apply edge banding. If you’re doing a lot of DIY projects, you might want to invest in a cheap iron to keep just in your garage. It doesn’t need to be fancy. We use a regular iron that was less than 10 bucks.
Is edge banding necessary?
That’s up to you. Edge banding is not structural, so it’s not technically necessary. However, I think it’s necessary to accomplish the look we are going for on most projects.
You can make some cool designs using the natural plywood edge, but for projects that you want to look like a solid piece of wood, you’ll definitely benefit from using edge banding. It will make your projects look much more professional.
Can you apply edge banding to curved surfaces?
If you need to apply edge banding to a curved surface, you can–it just might take a little more maneuvering.
When we built this entryway bench, we need to apply edge banding to the curves, but our iron wouldn’t squeeze into the curves. If you need to apply edge banding to a curved surface and your iron is too large, you can use a heat gun on the curves.
Or you can do what we did and just glue the edge banding in place. We used Titebond II and taped the edge banding in place overnight to let it dry. Believe it or not, the edge banding has adhered wonderfully to the curve and hasn’t budged.
Does edge banding hold up over time?
If you take the time to apply it well, then yes, it holds up great. Since adding the additional step of sanding the edges of the edge banding, we’ve never had an issue with edge banding peeling up.