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Veneered and melamine faced wood sheets have revolutionised the flat pack furniture industry, making very affordable, but great looking furniture. The interior board can be made of various materials, but would normally be either chipboard or MDF. The melamine coating, which is a thermosetting plastic resin would be applied to the sheet material. The melamine surface is heated to cure or harden the resin. It contains formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogenic substance.

Melamine face chipboard is used predominantly

is furniture building MFC can also be used to

build vivariums or reptile tanks. The decorative

wood finishes create a great look, and the

waterproof finish all in one that is needed

for the vivarium.

 

Melamine is available in different sizes and

thicknesses, as well as a large number of

colours and patterns. Wood effects can still be

created to give a natural look. Oak, mahogany,

maple, pine, ash coloured boards can be

produced, rather than plain colours such as

white which would normally be used in kitchen

carcasses. Some colours such as red or black

can be hard to source. The sheets are heavy and difficult to work with, as the resin is prone to chipping when being cut with conventional table saws so it is best to leave cutting to a professional.

 

Manufacturing companies generally use very large and expensive CNC machines, controlled by CAD programs, which often have multiple cutter heads using router bits designed for these machines. The cutter heads are automatically changed for the process being done. This is not for the DIY enthusiast. The accuracy and speed in which these machines cut out parts is unbelievable. A single machine can position the sheet, cut all the parts, drill whatever holes are needed, cut rabits and dados, with repeatability that is perfect from one sheet to the next. We now have a superb manufacturing line. The use of the particle board, and manufacturing speed is what creates a cheap finished product.

Smaller commercial shops will generally use saws equipped with a second blade, known as a scoring blade. This blade is smaller in diameter, and is positioned just in front of the main blade. This scoring blade turns the opposite direction as the main blade and scores the bottom edge of the sheet which prevents the main blade from chipping the melamine surface, and ensuring a clean cut. This blade can be run from the same motor using a belt drive, or a separate smaller motor that is often a direct drive.

Another method used is to cut the parts 1/4" over sized and trim all four side by 1/8" using either a jointer or router table. While this does add considerably to the labour it is effective in resulting in chip free cuts.

Another option is to use a Melamine saw blade, which I have found you don’t get a perfect cut. It’s the chipping of the melamine that is the problem. These blades are referred to as ATB, or alternating top bevel. They claim to be effective when sharp, and when using a zero clearance insert. There are a number of blades manufacturers that have blades for this purpose.

Often when purchased from both wholesalers and retailers, the edges are not trimmed, and the hardened resin makes handling the material quite dangerous. Gloves are a must, as the hard melamine is extremely thin and brittle, making it sharp on occasions. Sheets that are trimmed can still be sharp so be cautious. Edges should be sealed to prevent formaldehyde from escaping into the air. Exposed edges and edge banded or have solid wood edges applied, much like plywood. Use a glue specifically for melamine, as the standard white and yellow PVA glues will not hold on the smooth surface.

 

Specialty hardware is used with melamine due to the properties of the material. Fasteners are designed to maximize the holding power into the edges of the material. They are used with a special drill bit, also designed with the material in mind.

Knock down fasteners, designed to permit parts to be connected with a screwdriver or Allen wrench, are used to make assembly quick and easy, along with wooden dowels, which position the parts. These fasteners consist of two parts, one is a stud which is screwed into the edge of the melamine, and the other is a cam type part, inserted into a hole drilled part way through the piece.

The cam is turned and

pulls the two parts

together and locks

Them into place. The procedure is reversible, so if desired the furniture can be dismantled. This is brilliant for joining worktop sheets. On the finished surface you should not be able to see or feel the joint, if it is done professionally.

 

Melamine Faced Boards