Mar 27 2015

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Breaking Down A Laminate Sheet With A Utility Knife

Cutting the first piece of laminate

I have an upcoming project where I want a nice smooth surface that glue and other sticky materials will peel off easily. I’ve previously used pre-cut 30×48″ sheets of ugly patterned laminate for this purpose, because I didn’t care too much what the end product looked like. For this project, I wanted the finished product to look professional so I needed to find some plain white laminate. The only stuff I could find locally was this 4’x8′ sheet at Lowes

Old router table fence with ugly laminate

Old router table fence with ugly laminate

A 4’x8′ sheet of laminate is light, but it is extremely floppy. I grabbed the sheet from the back of the store and carried it up to the front to check out. Of course the bar code on the sheet wasn’t the correct one to purchase it, so the clerk had to call back to the department. While she was at it, I asked her if I could get it cut. The response was a fast “no.” I thought “Jerks, I bet home depot would have done it for me.” As I walked out the door with this awkward sheet, a gust of wind lifted it up in the air. Surprisingly it was easier to carry that way.

The whole time I was shopping I was worried about how I was going to secure this sheet in my truck so that it wouldn’t blow away. It turned out to be pretty easy. I dropped the tailgate and slid the sheet all the way in. Then I tied a rope between the bottom two tie-downs by the tail gate and over the sheet. When I lifted the tailgate, the top of the tailgate and the rope bent the sheet to hold it securely in place. The sheet still stuck up a few inches above the tailgate so I was a little worried about highway speeds, but I had no problems getting home.

Home is where the problems started. I had to bring the laminate sheet though the garage and kitchen then down the stairs to the TV room where I was planning on breaking it down. I thought the problem would be passing the jaws of the puppy who likes to chew everything and trying not to let her escape outside in the process. That was the easy part. Once I got it downstairs on the carpet the edge snagged and I cracked the laminate right in the middle of the sheet. D’oh!

Crack I made in Laminate

This crack was in the middle before I cut it down.

I searched the internet for how to cut laminate with a knife, but most sites I found said you needed to cut laminate with a table saw or other power tools. I might’ve been able to get the sheet around the bend into my shop unscathed, but I’ve used a table saw to cut laminate before and even a small sheet is so thin and floppy that it is hard to do. I didn’t want to use a saw in my TV room because I didn’t want to clean up the mess. Finally I found this forum post, where the guy clamped the laminate between two 1x4s and used the edge of one of the 2x4s to guide his utility knife. He cut the sheet from back side — this struck me as a good way to get tear out. so when I did cut it, I cut from the white side.

So I marked off 25″, put a 2×4 underneath the laminate, and clamped my 5′ metal rule on top for a knife guide. I started from the center and cut towards myself. It took about 5 or 6 passes with moderate pressure on the knife before I cut completely through. Then I went to the other side and repeated the cut. It was way easier than I thought. I only needed this one sheet for my project, but I still wanted to cut the sheet up to make it easier to store. So I marked another 25″ moved the 2×4 and ruler and cut a second piece like the first. I was lucky enough that the crack was just at the edge of the remaining sheet, so I stopped while I was ahead. The remaining sheet was manageable and you never know what size you will need in the future.

Cutting the second piece of laminate

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