What is Formica?

What is Formica?

What is a Formica table?

Formica Laminate is a composite material invented by Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1912. Retro tables made using Formica brand laminates can be purchased at American Chairs.  The word Formica refers to the company's heat-resistant, wipe-clean laminate of paper or textile with melamine resin.  Formica is the brand name and one of the world's largest manufacturers of HPL.  HPL also known as high pressure laminate is a thin engineered surface that can be laminated and used in furniture, table tops, counter stops, walls, floors, and many other residential and commercial uses.  Formica was a very popular material for counter tops and table tops in the 1950's.  We can make tables and counters out of any Formica pattern you can find.  Here is a link to Formica's current laminate patterns

Formica Tables

It is still popular for those products today.  It is an ideal surface for homes and restaurants due to its heat resistance and scratch resistance.  The retro laminate tables that we make are built to last for decades and decades.  A Formica surface glued properly and dried properly can last forever.  This weekend my kids were coloring on our Formica White Gloss table and got crayon, marker, and pen on the surface.  All three came off really easy by just using my finger and a little water.  I was pretty worried about the pen but to my delight it came off just as easy as a spilled beer.

The word Formica is kind of like the word Kleenex.  Kleenex is such a common brand name that we use it instead of the word tissues.  The same is for Formica.  There are actually several manufacturers that make high pressure laminates.  We work with another company called Wilsonart.  Although we don't work with them, we are also familiar with Pionite.  Formica has become the generic name that most people use for high pressure laminate surfaces.

Formica has been around for many years and may have been the material used on your grandma's kitchen counters or as the surface of her kitchen table.  When people are thinking about their vintage kitchen tables from the 1950s they are probably picturing a Formica laminate top with a grooved metal aluminum edge and metal hair pin legs.  This was one of the most popular styles and was available in many catalogs from companies like Sears and Woolworth's.

When looking for a brand new retro style kitchen table or restaurant table you want to be sure that the surface is made of HPL.  Formica was the best in the 50s and they are still the best.  Make sure you know who makes your laminate or you will have problems with it scratching and peeling.

All of the retro tables that we manufacture and/or distribute are made with the highest quality high pressure laminates.  They are made with the highest quality aluminum edge and American made wood.

We can make tables using any pattern you can find on Formica's website.  Whether you are in the market for 100 tables or just need one for your kitchen, we can help you get the exact commercial quality restaurant table that you need.

In addition to Formica, there are several other major manufacturers who make similar types of substrates.  The top competitors are:

  • Arborite, a similar and also popular paper-melamine composite made in the 1940s in Canada.
  • Micarta, which is the trade name for Westinghouse decorative laminates is now produced by Norplex-Micarta.
  • Wilsonart plastic laminate is a line of laminates similar to Formica.  This is the supplier we typically use for custom logo laminates
  • Laminates similar to Formica, but with top surface made of multilaminar veneer and sprayed with resin. 
  • Consoweld, a similar twentieth century product manufactured by Consolidated Paper of Wisconsin.

We use primarily Wilsonart and Formica.  Both manufacturers had a booth at this year's Neocon show.  Wilsonart had a lot of cool new patterns.  We can make tables in any of the Formica patterns.  If you want to create a new custom pattern from scratch, we can do that too.  Wilsonart is our main supplier for custom imprinted table tops.  Formica has been a staple in the American home for decades.  It is still used today for laminate counter tops and laminate tables.  If applied properly with contact glue, the laminate can last for decades and decades.  I am sure you have been in many homes that have 50 year old Formica counter tops.  Did you notice how they still look perfect after years of heavy use, cutting, and hot dishes?  There is something about that Formica laminate that looks great for years and years.  We aren't sure how they do it, but it works and we love making tables out of it.

Formica is one of those words like Kleenex.  Kleenex has become ubiquitous with tissue.  Formica has the same name power.  Many people use the term Formica as a generic word for High Pressure Laminate.

For more information on Formica's history, please check out the Formica Wikipedia page.

Formica has been the leading manufacturer of High Pressure Laminates in the United States for decades and it is amazing that you can still get Formica center tops and Formica tables just like you could many years ago.  If you are looking for a counter top instead of a table, we can get those made for you too.  Most Formica comes in 4 foot by 8 foot sheets.  If you need something larger, it will need to have a seam.  There are some other brands that produce larger sheets like 12 feet by 5 feet but they are not the standard and much harder to come by.

We build products with seams all of the time when we are going larger than 8 feet.  The weight of a sheet of Formica is actually pretty heavy and it is usually laminated to 1.25 inch thick particle board which is also very heavy.  If you are planning to use Formica and wood for a counter that attaches to the wall, you need to make sure the wall is reinforced.

We can put edging on only 3 side of the counter or 2 sides of the counter depending on its placement.  You would typically want the part that is facing the wall to be without the metal edging and the rest of the counter to have the metal edging.  Metal edging comes in 12 foot rails so it may take more than one to cover the entire edge for a very large table.  Most counters that use a single sheet should be able to have one continuous metal edge.  It depends on how deep you want the counter.

When choosing Formica, it is hard to know exactly what it will look like when you look on the computer.  There are matte finishes and glossy finishes for many of the colors.  The best way to know what your are getting is to order swatches and have them sent to your house.  Even if they cost a few dollars, you will know for sure if it matches.

You won't know exactly what gloss white looks like unless you have a chip.  It is really awesome and probably about what you would expect.

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