Bending Curves With Formica Plastic Laminate
The process of bending and gluing or laminating curves with Formica is learned by trial and error. Plastic laminate has a stress point where it breaks. If the material is pushed past the limit it can even tear after everything looks OK.
I can give you a few pointers that will help you achieve greater success with fewer errors, but the real learning is when you actually give it a try yourself.
The first thing you need to understand is that every manufacture’s laminate, Wilson Art /brand, Formica brand or the Nevamar plastics, has a different stress-breaking point.
The next thing you should know is that VT thickness Formica plastic laminate bends much easier and tighter than STD thickness. This is because the material is thinner.
VT is more difficult to bend on large surfaces because of its flexibility. Yet, it may be what you need to use in order to wrap the material around what is know as a tight radius. If you are laminating a very large cabinet piece, get another person to help you.
When gluing a radius area, three inches is about the smallest recommended size for laminating with VT grade cabinet plastic.
If you are using STD plastic laminate a six inch radius curve is the minimum size you should bend.
Using a heat gun will help you tremendously in the process of forming the plastic around the curved surface. A word of caution though, if the Formica is heated too high, it can literally loose it’s shape and crumble while you are wrapping the material around the cure, if it gets over heated.
This is by far the most important thing you need to know, your radius must be square. Did I just say that, yes! The material from flat to flat and top to bottom must be square. Plastic laminate will not follow a straight line if the material is not at a ninety degree angle surrounding the radius.
This brings me to the next point, be sure to leave plenty of extra when you cut your mica. This will help with the margin of error in case you did not stick the laminate perfectly square to a straight edge.
Laminating or bending curves with Formcia brand or any plastic laminate is going to require that you allow plenty of time. DO NOT RUSH THIS PROCESS. Gluing the material down in the proper way will take patience, accuracy and focus.
Heating formica to bend it works very well – as an experiment I tried bending a strip of standard formica around an offcut of 15mm diameter copper pipe. I gently heated the formica with a blowtorch until it softened and had not trouble bending it completely round the pipe. I have little doubt that it could have been bent around an even smaller radius of curvature. Just take your time and experiment on a couple of offcuts to get a feel for it.