Cabinet Laminate Installation Tips

General information about working with plastic laminates:
Applying laminate to substrate is possible for quite a few Vanagon and Eurovan owners. With the proper tools and knowledge, you can have your cabinetry job look totally professional. Commercial shops typically have a table saw with an 80 tooth plastic laminate saw blade. However, you can cut laminate with a portable saw (like a skill saw) if you completely support the laminate on the top of your work bench. We do not recommend allowing the laminate to extend over the edge of the work bench (and then cutting off the excess in that manner). The laminate is very brittle and fractures easily, which means you could ruin your project before you really get started. But, if you carefully support the laminate on top of your bench, allow a path for the saw blade, use a quality plywood saw blade, and only allow the saw blade to protrude 1" or so, you can effectively cut the laminate with a nice clean cut and no fractures. Laminate is not only brittle, but also very sharp. If you accidentally run your hand along the edge of the laminate, it is easy to cut yourself without knowing it. Go slow and be careful. 

Tools and supplies needed:
• Table saw with an 80 tooth blade to cut the laminate to size, or
• Skill saw with a quality plywood blade
• 1/2" or 3/4" dowel, slightly longer than the project being laminated (this is essential when gluing
• Dap Weldwood contact cement
• Inexpensive paint brush to apply the contact cement (or a paint roller for larger projects)
• Clean 9" paint roller to apply pressure to the laminate after is is glued to the substrate
• Flush trim router
• Flush trim bit for the router
• Router table
• 1/16" four wing slot cutter

Procedure for cutting and applying laminate:
1. Cut the laminate oversize on all sides by at least 3/4". This allows for a small margin of error when you apply the laminate. 

2. Apply two coats of contact cement to the substrate, allowing the first coat to dry completely prior to applying the second coat. 

3. Apply one coat of contact cement to laminate.

4. Following the instructions on the contact cement label, allow the cement to become dry to the touch. (Note: All of your project pieces and the cement need to be at a temperature of at least 65° for 24 hours before starting. You should also be prepared to keep your laminated project at least 65° for the next 72 hours.)

5. Place the dowel across the middle of the project and place the laminate on top of the dowel. This allows you to position the laminate exactly where you want it. As soon as you know it is in the center of the project, let the laminate touch the near edge of the substrate and remove the dowel (away from you), applying pressure to the laminate as you move toward the far edge. Once the laminate touches the substrate, you are committed and the laminate cannot be removed.

6. The next step is to apply pressure—as much as you can apply, given the substrate—to the laminate using the 9" clean paint roller. Roll back and forth over the project, paying special attention to the edges.

7. Once you are confident that the laminate is glued to the substrate, you can use your flush trim router to cut off the excess. At this juncture, the laminate edges are still sharp. Take a file and run it at a 45 degree angle along the edges several times. This will take most of the bite off the edge of the laminate. Your panel is now laminated and needs to stay at 65° minimum for the next 72 hours. 

8. If you are applying the T-molding to the finished edge of your project, you will need a router table and router bit called a four wing slot cutter. Adjust your slot cutter so that it is in the center of the edge of your panel and make your cut. We typically practice on a test piece to make sure that the adjustments are correct.