My introduction to solid surface began 15 years ago when one of my friends had an acrylic solid surface countertop installed in his house. It was different than the laminates I had been working with; it was much more substantial, had a warm feel and flowed seamlessly over the perimeter of the base kitchen cabinets. I watched the installer glue up the seams where the different pieces were to be joined. About one hour later he started to sand off the excess adhesive over the seam. It felt like I was witnessing a miracle watching those seams disappear behind the installer’s sander. What a concept!
Five years later I was installing custom millwork in a high-end high-rise building when I once again came across solid surface. This material was different than what I had seen before and had a spectacular appearance. It demonstrated an incredible depth of color, and the large particles it contained looked like they were floating in a clear background. It looked better to me than the most expensive granite I had ever seen. I approached the installer and asked him what kind of product it was, he replied: “It’s a polyester-based solid surface made here in British Columbia”
When I asked him how difficult it was to work with, he said he really liked working with it and it was a lot like working with wood, only a bit more forgiving. He then attempted to explain to me how it was fabricated and installed.
This time I was so impressed with this solid surface stuff that I made up my mind right then and there to get involved in fabricating it. A short while later I completed a solid surface fabrication and installation training seminar. Almost immediately after receiving my certificate I got a job as a production manager of a millwork shop that fabricated solid surface. That shop was a division of the parent company that owned Karadon Solid Surface, the manufacturer of the polyester product I had been so impressed by.
This job gave me the opportunity to see how the product was made and learn in more detail how to handle, fabricate and install it. All of that was backed up by a myriad of scientific explanations from test and field experience that was available through the company’s laboratories.
Back in those days the major acrylic solid surface producers did not have many kind words for the polyesters. They claimed that polyester solid surface was weak, brittle, unable to be thermoformed and generally difficult to fabricate.
That’s not what I experienced. It machined and fabricated by employing the exact same methods used with the acrylics, sanded a little easier, smelled different and when brought to a high gloss finish, it looked spectacular!
Fabrication Techniques and Methods
The following are methods employed in our fabrication shop that require the use of both hand-held and stationary tooling.
Once we have determined the layout of the countertop we rough cut the sheets to shape and perform any deck seams that may be required. Meanwhile we rip the edging strips on the table saw. These are to be glued together to form a 1-in.-thick edge. Although the variety of edge treatments is endless, it is highly recommended that the edge thickness be at least 1 in. (V-grooving a single layer is acceptable to most manufacturers).