This Week in the Shop, I build a library book nook for my school. My school librarian came to me with her coffee bar theme for a renovated library and she wanted a circular book nook to take advantage of a certain space in the library. This book nook had to incorporate a column and reclaimed table top, be made under budget (roughly $500), have a professional look, design and materials.
I looked at her requirements, looked at the space and said…yeah….I can do that.
Follow along as I show you how!
Installing a Laminate Countertop
My toughest challenge was resurfacing an old table top. This table top needed a new, hard surface that wear well and last years and years. Laminate, a composite plastic material with a cloth backing, fits the bill nicely and can be ordered in a variety of colors and shapes from your local home center.
Laminate comes in special order sheets, often 24” or 30” wide, and 96” long – the perfect size for a kitchen countertop. I had a table, so I needed to buy a 48” x 60” sheet. The trick is to very carefully measure your countertop and edging, then develop a cut list, then buy the right material for your work. The half-circle shape of the table top meant we had to purchase an extra sheet in a funky width.
Laminate cuts very easy with a sharp table saw blade but getting to the blade safetly on a table saw may be tricky. it may be safer to lay the laminate out on a sheet of sacrificial plywood and cut it with a sharp, high-tooth circular saw blade, good face up. I used a featherboard to help keep the laminate straight and flat on the table.
Prep the substrate for application with a quick cleaning and light sanding. Next, spread contact cement with a roller on both the laminate and substrate. Allow the contact cement to dry, roughly 20 minutes, depending on environmental conditions. Wear a respirator or have great ventilation during this step.
Carefully place dowels or small sticks on the surface of the substrate. Place the laminate in position on the dowels. Carefully remove the dowels, starting in the center. Contact cement bonds instantly, so move slow and careful. Then use a J-roller to push out any air bubbles and help fix the countertop in place.
Using a small trim router with a flush-cutting bit, trim the edges of the laminate flush with the substrate surface. I did the edges first, then the faces of my tabletop.
Lastly, use sandpaper or a file to clean the edges and remove burrs and sharp corners.
With any luck, this design will last a few student generations. The wood columns are strong and sturdy, and if the table top sags or shifts, larger brackets can always be installed.
Thank you for your continued support.
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