I was talking to Kyle Carpenter at Solidsurface.com a few weeks ago about working with Corian™ and some of the other materials used in solid surface countertops. I asked him to send me a scrap piece or a drop end for me to practice some cuts, seaming and edge build-ups that I could form into a finished edge profile. Thankfully this past weekend we were blessed with spring like weather and I was able to work outside. You will need a level area to work in whether you do this inside or outside.
Since this was the first time I had worked with solid surface material, I was a little timid at first. However, after making my first few cuts I breathed a sigh of relief. First attribute I noticed was that since there was no grain in the material, chip out was not an issue. In fact I used my standard project set up without any issues. I cut the material using my Bosch 36V Circular saw. The saw is several years old and the blade, a Freud Avanti is more than a year old. The cuts I made were very smooth and would need little work before using them as seams. Now I will emphasize that you will need to perform what is called the “mirror cut” to achieve a perfect seam that cannot be seen once epoxied together. This cut is covered thoroughly in the upcoming article.
I am now putting the finishing touches on our article for working with solid surface countertop materials so be on the look out for it. What I can say is that I worked with Corian™ material and I was surprised at the ease and workability of the product. The highlight for me was cutting thin strips that I would use for my decorative edging, stacking them to form a thick edge, epoxying them together and then finishing them with my Skil 2 hp. router. Watching the edge transform from the rough glued up layers into a finished edge with a profile was akin to watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon.
I sanded the surfaces up to 220 grit. Already i could tell that I could achieve a high gloss finish much easier than I could if this was wood I was working with. There are some areas that will be covered in the article in detail, that I think a homeowner should pay close attention to, but all-in-all the material was much easier to work with than I had expected. Basic woodworking tools were used. The saw I have already mentioned. I used a Swanson Straight Edge for straight cuts. I used a Skil router and a Skil bit for the edge profile, but I used a 1/2 inch Bosch twin fluted bit for my seam cuts. For clamping I used a Bessey “Bag of Clamps” on the edge build-up and for joining seams I used the same Irwin bar clamps I use on all of my projects.
After finishing the seams and edges and the sanding, I wish I had more material to experiment with. I know you can shape the material with heat and probably many other things you can do with it that I am not aware of. But for just plain countertops, if you can work with wood, then you can work with this material.