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How to Finish Plywood Edges for Painting

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Plywood is a great choice to build with, but if you don’t want to deal with exposed stacked sides, here’s how to finish plywood edges for painting. I’ll share two easy ways you can choose from based on your project!

How to finish plywood edges for painting: 2 easy ways

Today’s post is for two quick tips about how to finish plywood edges for painting. I love unfinished edges on plywood when I am staining, but it can look rough when painted. Luckily there are two really simple ways that you can cover those stacked plywood edges for a more polished look.

I am going to be showing pics from a few past projects and one current project to illustrate what a difference finishing plywood edges makes for paint application. The first two projects used iron-on veneer edge banding—our DIY murphy bed and attached shelving unit and Ramona’s toddler play workbench. The third project is a Lego table I’m still working on for my cousin’s kid. 🙂

Option #1: Use iron-on veneer edge banding to cover plywood edges for painting

The first option to discuss is using iron-on veneer edge banding. This stuff is super easy to use and works with a variety of different types of plywoods, but I think it’s easiest on the thicker plywoods.

It comes in a roll with glue already on the back, but it isn’t sticky—you need to apply heat to melt it. The width is typically just over 3/4″ to accomodate a variety of plywood thicknesses. I typically have a bit of overlay that needs snapped off or sanded down.

Veneer edge banding also comes in different finishes. Birch, oak, etc. However, I usually don’t pay much attention to the finish since I am almost always using edge banding on projects I plan to paint. The finish would be more important on stain projects.

Below are a few nifty before and afters from the murphy bed shelving. You can see the huge difference between the unfinished version with exposed edges and the finished version with edge banding!

veneer iron-on edge banding for plywood edges
unfinished plywood edge
iron-on veneer edge banding applied to wood to finish plywood edges for painting
unfinished plywood edge
iron-on veneer edge banding applied to wood to finish plywood edges for painting

How to apply veneer iron-on edge banding

To apply veneer iron-on edge banding over plywood edges, I first measure the edge I need to cover. Then I use a regular pair of scissors to cut a piece of edge banding to side and put it in place with a bit of painter’s tape.

If the area you need to cover is shorter and not curved or anything, painter’s tape might not be necessary. You could just hold it in place while you melt some of the glue so it stays put. However, for longer curved areas like the end of the murphy bed and Ramona’s toy workbench below, painter’s tape is a huge help.

iron-on veneer edge banding applied to wood to finish plywood edges for painting
DIY murphy bed and shelving unit
unfinished plywood edge
iron-on veneer edge banding applied to wood to finish plywood edges for painting
finished plywood edges painted

For the murphy bed, I used a regular household iron to apply the edge banding. However, last year I got a little Cricut EasyPress Mini for my Cricut heat projects…and it works perfectly for iron-on veneer edge banding as well! It’s super easy to use and gets pretty hot—and it’s small and nice for precision work. (Here is a very similar but cheaper off-brand version.)

To trim the edge banding down to size, I’ve found it’s easiest to transfer the banding then let it cool. Then fold the excess edge banding over to snap it off. Use fine-grit sandpaper to sand the remainder down smooth. Fill in as necessary with wood filler (like areas where two edge bands meet at corners).

Cricut EasyPress Mini

Option #2: Use wood filler to fill gaps and smooth over edges

Speaking of corners…although edge banding is super easy to use, it isn’t my favorite for corners. That’s because it’s kind of hard to get perfect corners where two pieces of veneer edge banding meet. For situations like this, I like to use wood filler. It takes a bit longer, but it looks fantastic.

Here is a picture of some gross plywood edging I used for a table I was working on. It has some missing areas and gaps that needed a lot of cleaning up, so I opted for wood filler. I used the kind of wood filler that goes on bubblegum pink and turns to a natural wood tone when it’s dry.

unfinished plywood edge with holes in it
unfinished plywood edge with a gap in it
applying wood filler to finish plywood edges for painting

How to apply wood filler on plywood edges

To apply wood filler on plywood edges, just use a putty knife or your fingers to smooth it into cracks and gaps. It probably won’t be perfect the first time, and I’ve honestly found it easier to use my fingers. It’s messy, but it washes off easily.

Once it dries, sand it down using fine-grit sandpaper. Do some minor touchups in areas that need additional filler and let those dry. Sand as necessary. You can see the progression of the process below—wood filler one in the first pic, then a pic of the first coat dry. Then the two pics below those are after I added a touch up coat.

applying wood filler to finish plywood edges for painting
using wood filler to finish plywood edges for painting
Before final coat touching up the imperfections
using wood filler to finish plywood edges for painting
After final coat touching up the imperfections
using wood filler to finish plywood edges for painting
After final coat touching up the imperfections

It looks beautiful painted! You’d hardly know it was ever plywood. And there’s no weird area where the edge banding strips meet one another on the corners. You can also use the wood filler to slightly round the edges on the piece of wood.

So that’s it, folks—two easy answers for how to cover plywood edges for painting. Both look and work great—it’s really up to you which one you use based on your project and needs. Good luck!

using wood filler to finish plywood edges for painting
using wood filler to finish plywood edges for painting

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pinnable graphic with images of plywood projects and text about ways to finish edges on plywood before painting
pinnable graphic with images of plywood projects and text about ways to finish edges on plywood before painting
pinnable graphic with images of plywood projects and text about ways to finish edges on plywood before painting
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