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I'm considering some 3/4 plywood for a project where a small portion of the edge will be visible. Hiding the edge with banding is one option but I'm wondering if there are simpler alternatives that might seal the edge and get it sufficiently flat for paint-grade work.

Possibilities...

  • "Sizing" the edge with glue (if that's the right term)

  • Epoxy - probably no easier than edge banding

  • Primer / paint - build up with sufficient coats?

  • Plaster or a hardening putty type material?

One potential benefit of one of these hypothetical alternatives would be that it would only have to be applied to a small portion of the edge. And absolutely ideally, could be applied as a finishing step just before painting.

I have access to some nice furniture grade plywood so the plies are pretty tight without enormous gaps like you'd see in framing stuff. But I'd guess that trying to treat it like solid would and using many coats of paint might still leave pinholes.

I'm also concerned about movement with time messing up the edge. ie 10 years later will the plies start to show?

Thanks

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    I don't know if it is necessarily easer you might use auto body filler (Bondo) – Monte Glover Dec 21 '19 at 17:14
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    "10 years later will the plies start to show?" I don't think there's any way you can be sure this won't happen with just about any filling or primer option, and edge banding is known to fail. I think that leaves only hardwood edging as you're already looking at. I think this is the one thing you can be pretty sure will last the lifetime of the piece. – Graphus Dec 23 '19 at 12:57
  • For a painted edge you might be able to just get away with sanding it smooth and painting it. If it's good quality plywood you should be able to get a fairly nice surface. You get no 10-year guarantee with any of it. – Greg Nickoloff Dec 23 '19 at 19:18
  • If you use a higher grade plywood (11 ply instead of 5 ply) You may find that you will get a much cleaner edge after the cut. You may have some small gaps in the veneer layers that can be filled with epoxy. OF course the edges will be more likely to develop cracks regardless of the filler used although they may be less noticeable. Also, the more plies and better the wood, the more expensive it is and the less you would want to paint it. – Ashlar Dec 24 '19 at 1:34
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Putting aside your long-term goal for this for the moment, there are indeed many ways you can prepare plywood edges for paint. And as you can imagine there's quite a bit of advice out there on this with various recommendations as a quick Google search will show.

One method that is fairly commonly repeated and seems to work very well from the pics I've seen is also one of the simplest, you just use spackle. Its soft consistency makes it easy to apply and spread, it dries quickly and it is expressly made to be easy to sand. Plus of course it takes paint well.

I'm also concerned about movement with time messing up the edge. ie 10 years later will the plies start to show?

I don't think any of the options you've listed, including edge banding1, can be guaranteed not to have some issues after 10 years of service, particularly in any situation where the plywood needs to be cleaned on any sort of regular basis2.

The one alternative that I think you can be assured it will last the lifetime of the furniture is hardwood edging. There are various ways this can be done depending on the tools you have available, how strong you want the edging to be and whether you need it to add any stiffness3. Here are just a few of the many ways this can be done:

Ply edging options

If you glue on hardwood not only will the wood be much thicker and more robust than conventional edge banding it'll be stuck in place with normal woodworking glue and you're in charge of how you clamp it home. So there's no reason it shouldn't last the lifetime of the piece.

There are specialist clamps made for edge clamping but there's no need for any of them. Here are a couple of simple options for clamping edging while the glue dries lifted from a previous Answer:

Edge clamping options

You can also use tape to provide the clamping force:

Taping edge banding

Note: it's important with the above method to stretch the tape tight (longer strips than are shown in the right image help with this) and use plenty of strips if you want to provide sufficient pressure to ensure a decent glue bond, although it will likely never match what you can achieve using clamps.


1 Iron-on edge banding is made from real wood and provides a quick, cheap way to hide the edge of plywood and other board materials, but the heat-activated glue is known to fail sometimes.

2 Just wiping down furniture with a damp cloth, using plain water, can be surprisingly damaging over time! This is the chief cause of tabletops warping and contributes greatly to the degradation of the finish, no matter what it is.

3 An important consideration for plywood shelves.

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    Nice answer, especially the illustrations, but shouldn't they be credited? – Ast Pace Dec 27 '19 at 18:06

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