Preserving edges of MDF and what kind of finish to use

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Forum topic by dusttodust posted 07-17-2013 09:01 AM 1590 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2043 days

07-17-2013 09:01 AM

Topic tags/keywords: mdf preserving edge high gloss finish clear finish mdf question

Hey guys. Here is an MDF finishing question. I am new to Lumberjocks…so hope I have presented this as clearly as possible. I have referenced your forums many times and found responses very useful, so hopefully I can get some good feedback!

I am building a shoe rack/bookshelf of cubbies (like you would see in a bowling alley) out of MDF. I am wanting to paint (well, it does not have to be paint) but I would like the inside of all the cubby holes to be an opaque color with a high gloss HOWEVER, I want to leave the rest of the piece finished in a clear finish (this includes the exposed edges at the front.

I am wondering 3 different things:
1) does anyone have a suggestion for an opaque, high gloss (like that of an oil based enamel) finish i could use that would not bleed through to the edges (SPRAY LAQUER IS WHAT HAS BEEN MOST FREQUENTLY SUGGESTED…)
2) how to preserve the edges
3) the best compatible clear finish for the the colored, opaque finish on the inside of the cubbies?

Any experience with what NOT to do or what DOES NOT work is also very helpful.
Many thanks in advance!

7 replies so far

View knotscott's profile


8208 posts in 3643 days

#1 posted 07-17-2013 09:49 AM

The edges will need to be filled…..something like an auto body filler or joint compound should work.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View rrww's profile


263 posts in 2380 days

#2 posted 07-17-2013 12:19 PM

I would fill with bondo, sand back and shape in the nice edge you want. Have paint mixed up to match the color of raw MDF as close as possible and paint the edges. I would spray whatever color(s) in flat latex then top coat with lacquer to whatever gloss you desire. (Maybe not in that order)

Good Luck

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2628 days

#3 posted 07-17-2013 01:07 PM

Don’t complicate it. Gloss clear waterborne poly for the edges, and gloss acrylic latex for the colored area.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View 489tad's profile (online now)


3515 posts in 3279 days

#4 posted 07-17-2013 01:16 PM

I’ve always used joint compound on the edges and a light sanding.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View Matt Przybylski's profile

Matt Przybylski

575 posts in 2645 days

#5 posted 07-17-2013 02:32 PM

Check out my project here:

Was going after the same finish and got it. I didn’t fill the edges but finished it as described there. After the first coat of primer the edges will have some nibs on them but sand those off and recoat with primer again and it’ll be fine.

-- Matt, Arizona,

View NiteWalker's profile


2738 posts in 2844 days

#6 posted 07-17-2013 02:45 PM

What Matt said; I used to do the joint compound thing, but really it’s unnecessary with a good primer. I use Zinsser BIN.

That said, I think the OP was referring to leaving the edges of the mdf exposed, just clear coated. It can look ok, but not great IMHO.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2340 days

#7 posted 07-17-2013 04:23 PM

This is difficult post construction, but this is how I have handled that situation. We Edge band All of our MDF parts prior to paint, to seal. With a maple edge band, you would get a great effect of clear coated ff (with some added protection) and painted interior.

Here is a post construction Idea, for a really clean finish. Mask of the faces of the cubbies and paint. Source a pre-finished Iron on maple Edge band. Pull the tape and then carefully Edge band the faces, trim (I prefer an electric laminate trimmer to any of the hand trimmers they will sell, especially for pre finished) and ta da!!!! You will get a very clean joint that way. To view it from your example, it was likely done in reverses. Pre-painted (likely even colored melamine) sheets were cut, edge banded pre-finished, and then assembled. You could also do the same. Try Google search Framatech as a source for the edge band. Sorry no link… their site is down, but he answers the phone number given there.

-- Who is John Galt?

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