I picked up a couple of formica countertops at Ikea many years ago to
use as desk surfaces. They're about 1-1/2" thick particle board and
still in excellent condition. I cut one down to make a new desk in our
home office. I'd like to do the same for a desk for my daughter's
I thought awhile about how I might cut the first one. Not knowing
anything, I ended up scoring the line with a razor knife a bunch of
times, then using a small circular saw to cut just barely through the
formica and a 7" circular saw to cut through the rest. I cut it from
the top. The result was passable, but I think it could have been
I'm wondering what other ways there might be to go about this. I was
considering using a router to make a shallow cut through the formica,
then follow it with a circular saw.
I plan to finish off the ends with 1x2 oak by the way.
Thanks in advance.
Hmmm. The piece is 1.5" thick. Do router bits exist that are that
long? And if they do, wouldn't they probably be a larger diameter
(plowing out more material) than one would ideally want?
Don't get me wrong; the idea of setting up a fence ONCE really appeals
to my sense of precision (and laziness), but I wonder if it's
Yes they exist, typically in 1/2 inch. Cutting from the bottom, you
need an up cutting bit. You wouldn't really be losing anymore than if
you rough cut, then trimmed with the router. Downside is the bits are
solid carbide and expensive. You could also use a regular straight
cutting bit from the top and either score the cut line or take a very
shallow first pass.
Yes. Here's an example:
> And if they do, wouldn't they probably be a larger diameter
Any diameter bit can remove as little or as much as you want.
I cut and square the ends of table and counter tops on a regular basis
in three easy steps:
- Mark the cut line
- Cut to within 3/8-1/2" of the cut line with a circular, jig, or hand saw.
- Clamp a straight edge (jointed wood, angle iron, spirit level, etc...)
to the top in a location where the bit will remove 1/4" or so, as the
router base slides along the straight edge. Make two passes, with the
second ending exactly at the cut line.
- (optional) Enjoy your perfect edge.
A good router, with 1/2" and 1/4" collets, like a PC690, Bosch 1617, or
the equivalent from DeWalt or Milwaukee, might be a useful addition for
a serious weekend handyman.
Otherwise, after purchasing a suitable bit, you could probably rent one
for a few hours. My local Home Depot and independent rental centers
actually have pretty good rentals at reasonable rates. Routers,
sanders, hammer drills, etc... are only ~$15-$20 for 4 hours, here in
East Westchester County, USA (CT <G>).
As much as I hate Home Depot, my local rental center has served me well.
They sell off the tools on a regular basis, so the stuff I've rented
has been in top notch condition.
Sounds like a pretty good idea, but I'd look into a spiral downcut bit
to reduce chipping. That might require cutting it a little bit long
(1/8"?) first, then trimming with the router to clean up the cut.
Another idea I've heard is to cover the cut with masking tape, and then
cut it upside down with the circular saw (so the teeth are cutting into
the formica, not exiting it). No, don't hold the saw upside down, turn
the workpiece upside down before cutting it. Of course a good blade
with lots of sharp carbide teeth (maybe a plywood or crosscut blade?)
If it were me, I'd definitely do some practice cuts on the ends I was
planning to cut off.
I'm a weekend homeowner/handyman kind of guy, not by any means a real
woodworker. I've got a run-of-the-mill Skil circular saw with a better
blade than what came with it originally.
I've got plenty of excess. I'll definitely do that this time. My luck
I'll probably cut it perfectly, but too long, on the first pass and
never get as good a result again.
Thanks for the advice.
As I replied to someone else, how deep can a router be reasonably
expected to cut? The piece is an inch and a half thick. What router
bit would you get for this task? I've only got a couple, none of
which will suit this application.
I'm guessing that the reason people are suggesting using the router
for the whole cut is so there's just one setup, guaranteeing
precision. But I lose that if I have to do half the cut from each
side, don't I?
Straight cutting router bits come in lengths up to 2" tho probably not
in 1/4" shank. You can use them on thicker pieces by using pattern bits
(straight bits with a bearing on top) and flush trimming bits (straight
bits with a bearing on the bottom). Regular straight bits (with or
without bearings) are much cheaper than the solid carbide spiral bits.
Unless you are willing to spend some money on a bit or three, I'd just
use your 7" saw with a good fine tooth blade and a straight edge guide,
cutting from the back. Pre-score the cut line to reduce chipout. On
the other hand, it is a reason to add to your router bit collection. =)
: I thought awhile about how I might cut the first one. Not knowing
: anything, I ended up scoring the line with a razor knife a bunch of
: times, then using a small circular saw to cut just barely through the
: formica and a 7" circular saw to cut through the rest. I cut it from
: the top. The result was passable, but I think it could have been
: I'm wondering what other ways there might be to go about this. I was
: considering using a router to make a shallow cut through the formica,
: then follow it with a circular saw.
Get a 40 tooth or better blade for the circular saw.
Turn the countertops upside down, so that the saw blade cuts
inwards toward the formica (if right side up, the blade
would pull the forimica upwards, causing chipping).
` -- Andy Barss
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