Cutting formica laminate

Anyone had any experience with cutting formica type laminate. I'd like to know the best way to do this. I'm using a utility knife or single edge razors but think there must be a better way. I've never worked with laminate before, but have semi-extensive experience with wood. The laminate needs to be cut prior to gluing to its final surface. I have most (darn near all) woodworking tools available. Any tricks of the trade would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks
Bob
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A fine tooth carbide blade on a table saw works just fine if you have a tight gap between the fence and table and can feed it cleanly. This is great for ripping lots of edge strips.
But if the cut pieces are big, it's best to score it thoroughly with a _sharp_ utility knife and snap it like you would glass. Big pieces are too floppy to handle with a table saw or other powered saw. It'll get "grabbed" and shattered.
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Chris, thanks for the response. The piece I'm working with is a full 4 by 8, much too unwieldy to safely work on the TS. I'm finding that working with even a brand new blade in a utility knife is just not going smoothly. I may try a plywood blade in a circular saw, but thought I'd look for some "secret" method before I launch into that. Any further thoughts are more than welcome.
Bob

to
laminate
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_sharp_
to
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You're not going to be happy with a circular saw. Really. You'd need to support both sides of the cut within about 1/4" and use a straight edge, and make sure you don't twitch, sneeze or slip... Otherwise, you'll have bits flying around.
The only time a table saw is good is where you're cutting narrow strips or small pieces off small pieces.
Scoring with a knife and snapping it with your fingers is actually much easier than it sounds. One careful scoring pass with the knife and the right hand positions to snap it, and it's like tearing paper on a well perforated line.
Really.
It's what most professionals do (short of high volume/production workshops).
I get quite apprehensive whenever I'm about to do it (because I don't do it that often), but within the first few minutes I'm telling myself I forgot how easy it was.
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I've used a circular saw (with fine toothed blade) for a small job and it worked great. You need to clamp it firmly in place or it will splinter, but, if you're careful, it works great and is lot faster than using a blade.
dv
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Thanks guys. Someone over on the rec.woodworking group guided me to a site which shows a tool made specifically for the job (imagine that). I didn't know such a beast existed. It is a scoring type thingy but made especially for laminate. Since I'm heading into town this weekend, I'll probably grab one up.
Bob
had said:

to
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(darn
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Bob Jones wrote:

Do you own a router? You can get a bit for cutting and trimming.
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I have always used a router with a 100% carbide round nose 1/4" diameter laminate bit. The best thing I ever bought for using laminate. Rough cut large sheets with a clamped on straightedge. Strips and other small pieces work best with a radial arm saw with the router bit on the auxiliary shaft end. It is just a matter of pushing the stuff through the saw with the carbide bit to make long pieces for edging, etc.
I have only used a table saw to cut laminate that was glued to a substrate.

laminate
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Fletcher-Terry makes a simple carbide tipped scoring tool that works well. One pass along a straight edge and you can snap the laminate.
http://www.fletcher-terry.com/fletcherterry/ecatalog/viewfamily.jsp?level=5&parent_id 0&parent_id29&parent_id3=5&tl_id=5&family_idI
I routinely cut large sheets of Wilsonart to rough size using my table saw since it's quicker. My table saw sits in an 8 ft x 10 ft table though so it is not difficult to support the material. I place scrap sheets of masonite or 1/4 plywood on top, but away from the blade, to hold it flat and run it through.
RB
Bob Jones wrote:

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bob=and= snipped-for-privacy@intergate.com says...

I recently laminated a Dutch door counter top and cut the Formica on my table saw. I set the blade just a fraction above the table top and went real slow with no problems. I tried the utility knife and a hand grinder with an thin blade but could not get a straight enough cut. The table saw did the trick.
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Bob Jones writes:

I've tried all the methods. All of them (but one) will spoil the laminate by fraying or chipping, because the cutter approaches from above or below, instead of the side. The one sure method? Clamp a straight board above and below as a guide for the laminate trimmer (merely a smallish router, actually), and use a straight cutting bit (e.g., 1/4" straight carbide). With this method you can cut with minimal overhang waste.
This is also the way to cut two overlapped sheets, so you can make a perfectly matched butt joint between them.
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Thanks to all who answered. What I wound up doing was turn the sheet good face down on an old sacrificial sheet of ply, scribed the cut lines with pencil on the back (up) side, and cut with a small circular saw with a plywood blade set to about 1/16 beyond the thickness of the laminate. I could have used a straightedge guide but was able to freehand with ample accuracy for my need. This resulted in no chipout of the good (down) side at all. When I laminate to the drawer bottom substrate, I place the laminate just a fraction inside one good edge of the substrate leaving a good edge for the TS fence to trim to size. Lots of good old G.I. ingenuity in your responses. Thanks again.
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Bob Jones writes:

You have to be very critical here. Saw-cutting can separate ("fray" or delaminate) the very thin layers of the laminate, and the material will still look fine to a casual inspection, even though it is weakened and susceptible to water infiltration and swelling. You need to carefully inspect along those cut edges, like with a 10X loupe, to see if you haven't introduced some cracks in between the laminations.
Remember, this stuff is just layers of paper soaked in phenolic resin and compressed. These layers come apart rather easily with the wrong kind of tool application.
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