When woodworking with plywood, having sharp, angular edges can pose safety risks and detract from a project’s finished look. Rounding over the edges is an easy woodworking technique to address both issues.
This straightforward article will walk you through several simple methods to smoothly and safely round over plywood edges.
Rounding over plywood can be done with basic woodworking tools like sandpaper, hand planes, routers, and power sanders to create smooth edges.
Why Round Plywood Edges?
When you round the edges, you’re doing a few important things for your project:
- Safety: Rounded edges minimize the risk of cuts and scratches, making your plywood projects safer to handle.
- Durability: Smooth edges are less likely to chip or splinter, extending the life of your work.
- Aesthetics: Rounded edges give a clean, professional finish that can enhance the overall look of your project.
- Comfort: Edges that are rounded are more comfortable to touch, especially on furniture and everyday items.
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How to Round Plywood Edges
Rounding plywood edges can be achieved with a few different tools and techniques.
Here’s a simple guide to help you through the process, whether you prefer working with hand tools or power tools.
- Choose the Right Grit: Start with coarser grit sandpaper (around 80-100 grit) for the initial rounding.
- Hand Sanding: Rub the sandpaper back and forth along the edge in a consistent motion, applying even pressure.
- Progress to Finer Grit: Once the edge starts to round, switch to finer grit (150-200 grit) to smooth out the surface.
- Final Touch: Finish with a very fine grit (220 or higher) for a polished look.
With a Hand Plane
- Set the Plane: Adjust the blade to take a shallow cut to avoid gouging the plywood.
- Angle the Plane: Hold the plane at an angle to the edge and push forward with steady pressure.
- Smooth Motion: Work in a continuous motion, checking the progress frequently.
- Sand for Finish: Use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth any rough spots left by the plane.
Using a Router
- Choose a Roundover Bit: Select a roundover router bit of the desired radius for your edges.
- Secure the Plywood: Clamp down the plywood to your work surface to prevent it from moving.
- Set the Router Depth: Adjust the router depth so the bit will shape the edge without cutting too deep.
- Rout the Edges: Turn on the router and guide it along the edge in a smooth, controlled manner.
- Sand if Necessary: Lightly sand the edges if there are any rough spots after routing.
In my opinion, Whiteside bits are the best (and at a great price). Check them out.
With a Power Sander
- Attach Coarse Grit Sandpaper: Start with a coarse grit to quickly round the edge.
- Sand in Motions: Move the sander in a back-and-forth motion along the edge.
- Progress to Finer Grits: Gradually move to finer grits to refine the edge.
- Inspect and Touch Up: Check the edge for uniformity and touch up any areas as needed.
Safety Tip: Always wear protective eyewear and a dust mask when sanding or routing to protect yourself from wood dust and debris.
Here is a very short but helpful video that shows one woodworker’s solution to using a router on a small piece of plywood to round the edges.
Notice how he slows as he approaches the end of the edge in order to avoid tear-out.
1) How do you fix mistakes when rounding plywood edges?
Small mistakes can often be sanded out. For larger errors, you may need to use wood filler and then re-sand the area once the filler has dried.
2) Can any type of plywood be rounded, or are there specific types that work best?
Most plywood can be rounded, but higher-grade plywood with fewer defects will give you a cleaner finish. A-grade plywood is typically best for projects where the edges will be visible.
3) Is it necessary to seal plywood edges after rounding them?
Sealing the edges is a good practice as it protects the wood and gives a finished look. You can use a sealant or finish that is appropriate for your project’s final use.
4) How do you prevent splintering when rounding plywood edges?
To prevent splintering, use sharp tools and gentle pressure. If using a router, make shallow passes to gradually achieve the desired roundness.