(Written in August, 1995)
by Jim Heaphy
Whether they work with solid surface materials or with plastic laminates, countertop fabricators have a need for a variety of specialized tools. Major tool manufacturers have responded in a limited way, but the market is too narrow for the large companies to cover in depth. This has created a niche for smaller manufacturers to create and market a wide variety of specialized tools for countertop fabricators. In this column, I will profile three of these firms.
Art Betterley Enterprises has been manufacturing custom router modifications for plastic laminate fabricators for many years. One of their early innovations was the underscribe router. This tool makes it easy for two pieces of plastic laminate to be glued to the substrate next to each other, overlapping slightly, and then neatly scribed to fit tightly together. One common application is in trimming the joint between the strips of laminate applied to cabinet face frames. A similar tool is the seaming router, which can be used to fit plastic laminate together neatly at mitre joints, or when very long countertops require more than one sheet of laminate.
Betterley routers are modifications based on router motors manufactured by Bosch and Porter-Cable, or pneumatic routers by Dotco. Art Betterley Enterprises makes the specialized bases incorporating alignment fixtures that make their products work in each specific application.
About ten years ago, Art Betterley Enterprises began offering special routers for solid surface fabricators. The company was the first to offer a solid surface coving router to the market. This tool allowed solid surface fabricators to seam together a deck, a backsplash, and a small filler piece into a stairstep configuration. After the joint adhesive has set up, the coving router is used to machine a clean cove. Because of the design of this type of router, it can be used to cove both back and side splashes, and well as the vertical joint between the backsplash and the side splash. Betterley also offers a surface leveling router, which speeds the removal of excess joint adhesive from solid surface countertops.
Betterley's latest innovation is a solid surface V-grooving router, which is an economical approach to mitre-folding of edge details on solid surface countertops. I described the benefits of the V-grooving technique for solid surface materials in one of my columns a few months ago.
For a catalog, contact Art Betterley Enterprises at P.O. Box 34518, Blaine, MN 55434. Their phone number is (612)755-3425, or fax (612)755-5084.
John Michaels is a tool inventor who has designed tools for Art Betterley Enterprises in the past. One of his innovations was the mitre-fold router for plastic laminate fabrication. This tool, originally marketed under contract by Betterley, allows two pieces of laminate to be mitred at an outside corner, rather than using the common self-edge, or butt joint method. The mitre-fold technique almost eliminates the black line at corners, and allows a bold laminate pattern to flow from the deck down the front edge. John Michaels formed his own company, JCM Industries Inc., to manufacture and sell his inventions, and also to market a wide variety of tools and supplies of interest to fabricators.
JCM sells many solid surface tools as well. They offer coving routers and surface leveling routers similar to those sold by Betterley. They also offer solid surface inlay kits and solid surface repair kits. These consist of a router bit, template guide and removable collar for the template guide. The inlay kit comes with a straight bit, and the repair kit comes with a beveled bit. You make a plywood template of any shape, as long as it does not have tight corners. The same template is then used to route a hole in your work piece, and a filler piece that fits exactly. You provide the Porter-Cable router.
JCM is a dealer for many product lines of interest to fabricators, including Velepec router bits, power tools by Dynabrade, Bosch and Fein, and a wide variety of abrasives, saw blades, clamps and so on. The company also offers tools for cabinetmakers, including a machine invented by John Michaels called the Drawer Master, which is used to quickly manufacture drawers out of vinyl clad drawer side material.
For a catalog, contact JCM Industries Inc. in Jacksonville, FL. They can be reached by calling (800)669-5519 or by faxing (800)660-7371, or go to Specialtytools.com..
Tom Pinske started out as a solid surface fabricator. He found that he was dissatisfied with the tools and techniques available to fabricators ten years ago. Pinske perfected a group of tools and techniques that work together as a system, and formed his own company, The Pinske Edge, to market them.
Pinske's system uses vacuum suction cups called Power Grips which are used to secure precision aluminum straight edges and templates to the solid surface material. Indexing arms are used to locate straight edges and templates precisely, saving time and minimizing the chance of measuring errors. Routers equipped with template guides ride on top of the straight edges and templates, trimming material exactly 1/16" away from the template.
Pinske offers an assortment of specialized radius templates for applications such as creating radiused inside corners, pinstriping, and adding 2" wide borders of a contrasting color to countertops. He also makes a adjustable circle compass for routing exact circles from 13" to 90" in diameter.
A unique Pinske tool is the drainboard machine. This sophisticated pattern router uses an acrylic template as a guide to route a gently sloping drainboard next to a sink. Many drainboard designs are available. Pinske also offers a wavy edge router bit and base system for seaming countertop sections together, a thermoforming oven, and other unique tools.
The Pinske Edge has produced an excellent videotape featuring Dean Johnson of the Home Time TV show that describes the complete Pinske system. The company also offers a starter system that combines many of their most popular tools into an economical package. Seminars are available, and Tom Pinske is always willing to help fabricators with problems or questions.
For a catalog, contact The Pinske Edge at 119 Main Street, Plato, MN 55370. The phone number is (800)T-PINSKE, or fax (612)238-2385 or go to The Pinkske Edge website.
I have long believed that small companies that devote time and money to developing tools for countertop fabricators deserve our support and gratitude. I encourage you to contact the companies I've profiled, and try their products. I think that you will be glad that you did.