(written in October, 1997)
by Jim Heaphy
Nearly three years ago, I wrote a column in this magazine about a technology that was new to me at that time - use of automated V-grooving equipment for increasing the productivity of solid surface countertop fabrication.
The concept is quite simple. A sheet of solid surface material is fed into the V-grooving machine face down. An automatic dispenser applies a strip of plastic tape to the face of the sheet along the line where the edge is to be created. A rotating cutter then machines a V-groove into the back of the sheet. The tip of the V-groove cutter penetrates precisely through the sheet of solid surface material, but does not cut through the tape. The tape acts a hinge, and the edge strip can then be folded into position once seam adhesive is applied to the V-grooved area. Semiskilled employees can glue up these edges using fewer clamps than conventional methods. The tape stops any excess adhesive from dripping onto finished countertop surfaces. Once the adhesive has hardened, the tape can easily be stripped off, and the edge is ready for final profile routing with no adhesive cleanup required. V-groove technology automates and speeds up some of the most time-consuming operations performed in solid surface fabrication shops. Accuracy is improved and labor time is cut dramatically.
Since that column appeared, solid surface fabrication shops throughout the U.S. and in several other countries have purchased such machines. This summer, I had the privilege of visiting the Toronto factory of Auto "V" Grooving, Inc., the world's leading manufacturer of this type of equipment. This company has recently introduced a new model of machine, the AVG-48 FT, which is designed especially for the solid surface fabrication industry. This well engineered machine can cut a front edge on a 12 foot sheet of solid surface material is less then one minute. A floating table 8 feet long supports the material for cross grooving finished ends. When assembling the edges, it is only necessary to place clamps every 18" to 24", rather than the 3" to 4" spacing common with conventional fabrication techniques.
I was quite impressed with the efforts that Ted Benyovits, president of Auto "V" Grooving, and his employees have made to understand the needs of the solid surface fabrication industry, and develop a machine of this sophistication. It is even possible to machine coved backslashes with this equipment. For more information, contact Auto "V" Grooving, Inc. at (416) 749-8225 or from the U.S. only, call (800) 387-5819, or check out their Web Page at http://www.vgrooving.com.
The largest manufacturer of solid surface materials, DuPont CORIAN, has reviewed V-grooving technology, and has stated "DuPont has no objection to V-grooving - the practice of mitering CORIAN pieces to assemble an edge - as long as all requirements set forth in Technical Bulletin CTDC-117 and other technical manuals are followed, particularly the rounding of inside corners." CTDC-117, by the way, is the DuPont technical bulletin that summarizes all of the critical fabrication and installation procedures essential to quality workmanship in our industry, and every fabrication shop should know it by heart. Other solid surface material manufacturers have expressed similar views on V-grooving.
Normal techniques for assembling "L" and "U" shaped countertops must be modified somewhat. Two wide edge aprons are seamed together at each inside corner, creating a large glue surface area that adds strength to these corner seams. However, an additional step must be taken to create structurally sound rounded inside corners, as pointed out in DuPont's statement quoted above. The Pinske Edge, another innovative manufacturer of tools and equipment for solid surface fabricators, has developed a method to fabricate these rounded inside corners on V-grooved countertops. Called the Mitre Fold Corner Jig, this kit allows a fabricator to route accurately both a slightly recessed pocket at the inside corner of the countertop, as well as a very precise corner plug that fills the gap and is later machined into a structurally sound and attractive inside corner. I've recommended tools by The Pinske Edge many times, and they can be counted on to do their best to respond to the needs of our industry. Call (800)T-PINSKE for more information on this and other new products from The Pinske Edge, or check out their Web Page at http://www.pinske-edge.com.
A new company called Line Art has introduced what they call the Custom Carving System to simplify creating routed decorative inlays in solid surface countertops and other fabricated items. Fred Salerno, president of Line Art, describes their system as a "simplified process" using "clear plastic templates with an ordinary plunge router". Currently available are six linear patterns and four pictorial images, which include flowers, leaves, a bird and a cluster of grapes. Corner templates allow any of the lineal designs to go around either square or radiused countertop corners neatly. For more information, contact Line Art at (201) 652-5367, or outside New Jersey, call (800) 474-5367.
Roughly fifteen years ago, Art Betterley Enterprises, Inc. introduced their Betterley Coving Router, making coved backsplashes practical for the first time in solid surface countertop fabrication. Since then, other tools and techniques have come along to challenge Betterley's pioneering product. Various techniques have their respective advantages and disadvantages, but the continuing popularity of coving routers shows that they certainly have their place. Now, Art Betterley Enterprises has introduced a newly redesigned and improved version of the Betterley Coving Router, which the company says is easier to adjust and prevents inadvertent gouging of the material. A new center guide, basically a pilot wheel installed above and independent of the router bit, allows the router to be turned safely without removing it from the cut. This center guide also makes it possible to cove curved backsplashes. Improvements in adjustment make it possible to set a rough cut to remove most excess material quickly, and then reset rapidly to a preset finish cut for a second pass to minimize finish sanding. Art Betterley Enterprises also sells several other tools for a complete coving system. For more information, contact them at (800) 871-7516.
Every time that I write a column about new tools and equipment for solid surface fabrication, I am impressed by the offerings of that select group of companies that serves the specialized needs of our industry. Again, my thanks goes out to all of them.