Love/hate relationship

I love what you can do with melamine Ė itís strong, versatile and done right can be very attractive. But boy do I hate working with it.

A lot of you folks work with a lot of melamine. Itís a staple of the cabinet and fixture industry, and some of you probably work with thousands of square feet of it each year. So please donít take this wrong, but I canít stand working with it.

Everything Iíve ever made with it Ė the most recent being a fabulous outfeed/assembly table behind my table saw that I just love Ė has not only turned out well, but has performed marvelously. That outfeed/assembly table I built is rock-solid for assembly work, and the white laminate surface brightens up the shop and helps with the copious amounts of shop photography I do.

But talk about being a pain to work. First of all, itís heavy. Getting it home, moving it around and breaking it down into smaller workpieces requires the strength of Hercules if youíre working alone. Then, thereís its fragile nature. Bang an edge against something and that edge is ruined. Use the wrong blade to cut it and youíll make more chips than they serve at an English pub. Scratch a surface and itís nearly impossible to repair or touch up to my satisfaction.

And then thereís the cuts. I canít think of a single time Iíve worked with melamine that I havenít gotten cut on a razor-sharp edge.

Working on an article on saw blades this week, I needed two small pieces of melamine for photographic purposes Ė one piece cut with a melamine blade and the other with a regular blade Ė to show the difference in cut quality. Weíre only talking about two small pieces here, about a foot long and only a couple inches wide each. Not including the time for changing out blades, making those two pieces took less than a minute. And I still managed to cut my finger on a fresh-cut edge of one of the pieces.

I wonít stop working with melamine, of course, because itís wonderful stuff. But I can honestly say Iím not looking forward to the next time Iíll be doing it.

Till next time,

A.J.

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