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How do I Bend Formica on a tight "S" curve.

I have to bend formica onto an end splash block. The block has an fairly tight "S" curve near the front end that I need to shape the formica to and glue down. I am using a water base contact cement. I tried using my wife's hair dryer to heat up the material, but it still cracks when I start the bend. Are there any suggestions out there on bending formica in tight radius (about 1")?

A. Spruce
Re: How do I Bend Formica on a tight "S" curve.

It is very difficult to post-form (create after the fact) things of this nature and you may not be able to without proper jigs and clamps. This is why most post-formed countertops are square edged.

Re: How do I Bend Formica on a tight "S" curve.

I work in a countertop manufacturing plant so I know most of the tricks of the trade. How formica is bent or postformed onto countertops is through a series of heat (much greater than a hair dryer) and rollers that gradually bend the plastic to form to the curve of the particle board.

In the case of an end splash (which I think is what you have) it will have to have a square edge on it. My suggestion to you is to cut the rounded part off, to make it square, then to just lay a strip of laminate along the top, and the edge. In all cases, when we made end splashes, none of them were postformed. All had a square edge. We just don't have the ability to postform that little piece of wood.

Just a tip here, when gluing laminate to particle board, it is best to use contact adhesive. Spray both the wood, and plastic and let dry until tacky to the touch. Then carefully lay the two to gather and use a roller to work from the center out to remove any air bubbles that may come up. For this it is best to make sure the plastic is larger than the wood, then trim with a router before continuing on to the next piece.

Hope this helps.

Re: How do I Bend Formica on a tight "S" curve.

There used to be thinner laminate. Known as "vertical grade".
I've been out of that end of the business for 25 years, so I don't know whether it is still available; but if you can get it, in the color/pattern you are using (from your supplier), it will bend easier with heat.
Hope you are not using color-through laminate because that is decidedly thicker and more brittle.
Good luck!

Re: How do I Bend Formica on a tight "S" curve.

Yes you can still get v grade laminate. Also known as vertical grade. It is not rated for use on counters. It is ok for making doors and other "vertical" surfaces. Because it is a thinner laminate, neither Formica, nor Willsonart guarantee the use for a horizontal, high traffic area such as the kitchen or bath.

Re: How do I Bend Formica on a tight "S" curve.

Bending formica should not require expensive tools or hardware, a little know-how goes a long way. My first hourly job was working with a cabinet maker, he did all his bending and shaping in-house with a few simple tools. Although I do not remember the exact details of how he did this I do remember he started by clamping the formica to the flat part of the surface to be formed leaving an overhang slightly greater than the remainder of the rounded surface. The bending was achieved by first softening the formica with a heat source, in this case he used a propane torch. He then used some blunt objects to force the formica around the rounded surface. To prevent scratching the formica I believe he may have used blocks of shaped wood.
The job you want to do sounds like a difficult one indeed, but not impossible. It is not possible for you to bend this formica directly to the target surface for the inner curve of the "s" shape. This is because you cannot clamp it flat to any surface without causing tension on the formica and breaking it. You would ned to first shape a matching piece. That is a piece with the exact opposite curve of the one you want to shape, the formica could then be bent from the opposite side around the (outside) curve. In this case you would probably be better off removing the difficult curve and replacing it with a simpler surface to shape to. If you do choose to go ahead and attempt this you will need to do the inner curve first on the matching surface, then flip the formica and clamp it to the final surface with the inner curve pressed tightly into its place. You may have to rebend the surface a bit using the torch again.
If you do not achieve a near perfect fit and clamp the formica tight on the inner curve your formica will never look or fit right.
Good luck...

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