Add banding to the exposed edges of your bookcase or shelf so that they do not detract from the project's appearance.
Before applying a finish to a bookcase or shelf project made from plywood or other sheet goods, you have to decide what to do with the exposed edges. They're normally rough, and with plywood, the visible plies detract from the project's appearance.
For a plywood project that you plan to paint, fill and sand any exposed edges. When working with melamine-coated medium-density fiberboard (MDF), use preglued melamine edge banding. It's available in almond or white. Simply cut it to length and iron it in place.
For a bookcase or shelf made from furniture-quality hardwood plywood, cut and attach molding or thin strips of solid wood. A quicker method is to apply wood-veneer edge banding. Like the melamine variety, wood edge banding is preglued with hot-melt adhesive, making it easy to iron in place. Its 1/100-inch thickness makes it flexible, yet it won't crack because it's tenderized. You can buy the presanded, 3/4-inch-wide material in a variety of hardwoods, including cherry, mahogany, maple, oak, and walnut.
You'll be amazed at how easy it is to finish the edges of hardwood plywood shelves and cases. All you need are a roll of wood-veneer edge banding, a sharp utility knife, a ruler, and a household iron set on medium-low heat, no steam. (Use an old iron; you won't want to iron clothing with it after this.)
Measure the length of each edge that needs covering. Cut banding strips to rough length with the knife. Position on the edge, check that the glued side is down (the grain is less distinct on the glued side), and press evenly and firmly with the iron.
If you have corners to cover, the job will look neater if you miter them. To miter a corner, overlap the two pieces that will join. Hold them in place as you make a clean 45-degree cut through both pieces to ensure the ends will match perfectly when you iron the strips in place.