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The Portable Edgebander - A Good Fit for a Small Shop?

The portable edgebander is an intriguing product in the woodworking industry and is becoming increasingly more popular as a small shop edgebander. One owner of a portable edgebander stated, “For a one man shop I think this thing could serve all his banding needs.” For some small shops, however, it may not be worth having.

Each woodworker and shop is unique with different budgets, projects, and goals. After talking with many woodworkers and analyzing the benefits of having a portable edgebander, the following self-imposed questions should be addressed when considering a portable edgebander and your edgebanding processes:

1. Does edgebanding by hand waste too much time & energy?

To most woodworkers, edgebanding by hand is frustrating and time-consuming; but to some, edgebanding by hand isn’t a problem because time and energy aren’t much of an issue, especially with very low volumes. On top of the automatic glue application, portable edgebanders can run at speeds of 20 feet per minute, which is a much quicker alternative to doing projects by hand. How important is time considering your specific edgebanding needs, and how much quicker will you be able to complete tasks if you were to use a portable edgebander for your respective jobs?

2. How much does having the flexibility of doing radius edgebanding benefit me?

Aside from having a much quicker and better bond than using pre-glued tape, hot air, and other manual procedures, perhaps the biggest benefit that the portable edgebander provides is its ability to band both straight and radius pieces with edgebanding up to 3mm in thickness. However, some shops do only straight edgebanding and won’t realize much of a benefit by using a portable edgebander, especially if they already have a larger banding machine. But maybe you do have radius projects or don’t want to confine yourself to doing only straight edgebanding.

3. Do I want to bring on more edgebanding projects?

Perhaps your goal is to do more edebanding jobs and even start doing radius work. If so, a portable edgebander may be exactly what you need. Maybe you enjoy the amount of work you are doing already, and changing your edgebanding procedures is unnecessary. The key question to ask yourself when thinking about the future of your shop is this: “Will a portable edgebander better help me reach my goals compared to the procedure I am using now for edgebanding?” Maybe it will help you generate higher profits than you are generating now by cutting costs and/or increasing revenue.... then again, maybe it won't.

4. Do I have limited space, and/or can I benefit from edgebanding on the job?

A portable edgebander, even when used in the table setup, takes up very little space. Some portable edgebander users stow it away in a closet and pull it out to use when edgebanding projects come along. Some also use it for edgebanding repairs on the job, which eliminates the need to disassemble and bring the parts back to the shop. Small space requirements and on the job capabilities set the portable edgebander apart from nearly every other edgebander on the market.

5. Will I realize a return on my investment (ROI)?

Nearly every purchasing decision comes down to ROI, and small shops have to keep costs down as much as possible to sustain themselves. Make sure to take into account the amount of time that would be reduced by switching from edgebanding by hand to using a portable edgebander (time is money). For some small shops, buying a portable edgebander will be a significant investment; to other small shops, the investment will be a bargain compared with larger machines (new & used) which typically cost at least more than three times the price of a portable edgebander and require more maintenance.

After discussing the benefits of having a portable edgebander and the type of shop it best fits, maybe you already know that it won’t be a good fit for your shop. For those that think it would be a good fit, the next step is to see if the benefits will outweigh the cost of the machine. If so, the portable edgebander will be a good fit for you.

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