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Cutting Melamine Particle Core Board "Chip Free"

One of the most difficult sheet goods to cut "chip free"is melamine coated particle core boards. Unless you're set up with a double bladed or scoring blade table saw, it's extremely difficult to get absolutely chip free cuts.

Four by eight foot sheets of white 5/8" thick melamine coated particle board are used by many amatuer and professional woodworkers. It is one of the most common products used in kitchen cabinetmaking shops. European or North American style, the so called frameless and face frame cabinet, utilize this product for the carcass or body of the cabinet.

Often only one side of the board is shown in the finished product. The gable ends, top, bottom, and backs of the cabinet carcass are used so that only one will be seen on the finished cabinet. However, shelves, drawer sides, and cabinet carcass partitions are seen on both sides. The double sided exposed boards are the ones that must be cut as cleanly as possible.

There is a way to get relatively chip free cutting of melamine coated PCB with your table saw. First and foremost, make sure your saw is in proper alignment. The saw fence must be aligned parallel to the saw blade. Use a steel ruler and measure at the back and front of the table to the saw fence. Use a reference point on the saw table that is common to the blade, a joint line or groove on the table usually works best. Check the blade drive assembly and correct any parts that show wear. It is important to minimize blade wobble.

Use the highest quality blade that you can afford. Most shops purchase a Triple Chip saw blade or a negative hook melamine saw blade. The ten inch blades usually have 80 teeth and are specifically designed to minimize chipping and tear out with melamine coated PCB. There are many high quality blades on the market that will cost you about $150.00 each. However, if used with care and restricted to cutting PCB , they can be sharpened many times and will last the average woodworker many years.

You won't get an absolutely perfect cut with these blades but they come as close to perfection as possible. The top side of the board, with reference to your saw table, will be perfect. The bottom side will have some minor tearing. To further minimize and virtually eliminate chipping on melamine PCB, double cut the boards that show both sides. Set the saw blade at about three quarters of the thickness of the board and make a pass with the board on the saw. Leave the blade in position and cut the board completely from the other side. You'll find 99% of your cuts are perfect on both sides using this methoud.

Cutting melamine PCB can be frustrating, however you can minimize damage by making sure your saw is in alignment, proper feeding during cutting to reduce the load on the blade ( not to fast and not to slow letting the blade cut without strain), using a high quality triple chip blade, and double cutting those boards that are seen on both sides.

Danny Proulx
Rideau Cabinets
P.O. Box 331
Russell, Ontario. Canada K4R 1E1
e-mail: rideau@capitalnet.com
home page: http://www.capitalnet.com/~rideau/
Phone: 1-613-445-3722
Fax: 1-613-445-1085

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