How To Use An Iron To Clean Up Your Plywood Boards

Plywood is a cheaper alternative to solid wood, making it a popular home renovation material. There are the mundane but practical uses — people choose plywood for their subfloors, and the creative — you can build furniture and decorate with plywood. The material is sturdy, finishes nicely, and comes in a wide range of dimensions. But it has its downsides, too. Those raw edges with their veneer sandwich just aren't that nice to look at. Here's the good news: you can clean them up quickly using iron-on edge banding.

Unless you're embracing industrial decor, no one likes a rough edge to their shelving, furniture, or cabinetry. That's why edge banding exists. This nifty product is sort of like sticky tape on steroids. It's used to hide the raw edges of plywood or particle board planks, making them aesthetically pleasing. But edge banding is about more than just good looks. It also seals your plywood planks, protecting them against hard knocks, moisture infiltration, and wood-loving pests.

Edging your bets: PVC vs. veneer

The edge banding you'll come across most often as a DIYer is made from PVC or veneer. Both come with a heat-sensitive adhesive for sticking the tape to the edge of a plank. As soon as you apply heat from a clothes iron, the glue on the underside softens up, sticking it firmly to the edge of the plywood. PVC edge banding has a flexible thermoplastic layer and comes in many color and pattern options. Since it's plastic, it's typically used to finish laminate and melamine cabinetry.

However, that's not the best choice for your plywood sheets. Instead, get yourself a roll of veneer edge banding, which is made of thin strips of natural wood (the veneer). The advantage of veneer edge banding over its plastic counterpart is that you can decorate it just like natural wood. It's available in thicknesses between 0.1 mm and 3 mm, and you can purchase it from most big box hardware stores. Veneers of common tree species, like birch, oak, and cherry, are easier to find than exotic timbers, for example, this white birch real wood edge banding from Home Depot, or this maple iron-on veneer edging from Lowes. For rare wood finishes, you will need to contact a specialist wood veneer supplier and manufacturer.

All you need is a clothes iron

Applying edge banding couldn't be easier. You really do just iron it like you would your laundry! To start, set your iron to the highest setting, and make sure you empty any water out of it. Then, cut a longer length of edge banding than you need off your roll. Use sharp scissors or pliers to tidy up the ragged end. You need a clean, straight cut to match the square edges of your plywood plank. Then, hold the strip against the exposed edge of your plywood plank and run the hot iron along it, pressing down firmly as you move the iron along the wood.

When you've finished ironing the banding, press a block of wood or J-roller along the length of it. This will cement the adhesive to the plywood and smooth out any kinks. Often, you won't be able to find edge banding that matches the width of your plywood plank, so you may be left with a slight overhang. Use a trimming tool, chisel, or router to trim that off, and then lightly sand the edges to remove any roughness. Now, your plywood project is ready for its finish, whether you plan to paint it, stain it, or just leave it raw.