Twenty years ago fabricators used to pull seams together with packaging tape over a pencil on each side of the seam. We sure have come a long way since the first days of solid surface.
Today we have great seam clamps that work flawlessly nearly every time. However, sometimes we need to resort to our old ways to get the job done. Using modern seaming clamps requires a certain amount of space to attach the device . But, when space is limited, such as when seaming a 3-in. piece of solid surface to an edge or economics do not afford the use of such a device, using “seam chips” is a good alternative that our shop continues to use.
To make a seam using the seam chips method, you will need the following supplies: a small piece of scrap solid surface, medium-sized spring clamps, seam levelers and super glue (cyanoacrylate).
We call them seam chips, but they are nothing more than thinly cut pieces of solid surface. The idea is to be able to bring the two pieces together with the perfect amount of pressure –— not too much and not too little. This method allows fast and easy removal of the chips in order to sand and finish the area.
First, cut some ³⁄16-in. thick by ½-in. by ½-in. pieces of solid surface (see Figure 1).
Next, place the chips about ¼ in. away from the joint, lining them up as seen in Figure 2. I like to place the first set about 1 in. from the edge of the material to allow room for a seam leveler.
Then hold the chip down to the material and bring the super glue bottle up next to the edge and apply a small amount of glue (see Figure 3). It is a good idea to buy the thinnest super glue you can find so that it will wick under the chip to create a tight bond. Let the glue set for one minute and then wipe up excess with a paper towel.
Next, put your solid surface adhesive into the seam and apply the spring clamps. Use a seam leveler if you are gluing small pieces of material together, as the force of the clamp will cause the small piece to flip up (see Figure 4).
Be sure to wear safety glasses during this process. In the rare instance a chip breaks free, the clamp tends to fly upward. Keep your face clear from above the clamping area.
After the glue is applied and clamps are in place, slide a razor blade or knife across the seam to do any last minute leveling. The closer you get it at this stage the easier it will be to sand and finish.
After all is dry, remove the clamps and seam levelers. You can then rout the seam flat with a ski router, routing the chips off as well. I would advise you to go a bit slower than normal so you don’t take a chunk out of the deck. Or, you could grind the chips down to where they are almost gone and then sand the top normally like any other seam and you are done.
About the author: Andy Graves is the owner of Olive Mill, a countertop fabrication company based in Anaheim, Calif., and runs www.thefabricatornetwork.com, an online community of countertop fabricators. He has been fabricating solid surface since 1986 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.