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Material choice for painted desk top

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Forum topic by chad515 posted 01-29-2020 04:13 PM 344 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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chad515

16 posts in 669 days


01-29-2020 04:13 PM

Topic tags/keywords: painted desk top plywood mdf desk paint

I’m going to build a desk for my 12 year old daughter. It’s going to be a simple desk, 48” x 24”, with a couple legs supporting it on one side and a small cabinet of drawers supporting the other side. And I likely an apron around to support the top. It’s going to be painted white, so I don’t need wood that looks good. And, I’d really like to keep cost down and build time to a minimum. So, I’m leaning toward using sheet goods rather than milling/gluing up/flattening a solid table top. That just seems like a lot of work and cost to cover up with paint.

I’m unsure what sheet to use, though. MDF? Plywood? If plywood, would Radiata Pine from a big box store be sufficient, or do I need to spring for Baltic Birch? I also debate about getting Radiata Pine and then laminating some hardboard or 1/4” MDF to it to give a smoother and more paintable surface.

Any advice for me?


18 replies so far

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pintodeluxe

6063 posts in 3449 days


#1 posted 01-29-2020 04:20 PM

I guess if I had to make a desk with a plywood top, I’d go with high quality plywood from a specialty retailer. It doesn’t have to be Baltic birch, although that would work fine. Maple plywood would work well too. Usually the more layers the plywood has, the finer grade it is.

You’re looking for cabinet grade ply, so don’t source it from the big box stores. They are notorious for stocking low quality plywood.

Good luck.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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SMP

1775 posts in 541 days


#2 posted 01-29-2020 04:30 PM

For a kids desk that will see a lot of use, I tend to use the melamine covered MDF. I’ve tried painting plywood for a desk a couple times and it usually ends up looking like garbage pretty quickly after kids have written on it(embossed from pens and pencils etc), spilled stuff, scratched off paint etc. So now its usually 3/4 melamine board, with poplar or poplar moulding around the edges.

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Andre

3078 posts in 2442 days


#3 posted 01-29-2020 04:47 PM

You may want to think about a protective surface on the desk top? When our Daughter was young, I put a piece of glass on the top of her dresser, or use any one of the plastic products?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

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LesB

2358 posts in 4079 days


#4 posted 01-29-2020 05:52 PM

For the size desk you indicated you can get most of the large pieces from one sheet of plywood so get a cabinet grade multi ply type. Cheap plywood from the big box store will have voids in the layers and need a lot more surface prep before painting. The work saved makes up for the price difference.
A 1/2” birch plywood back panel will brace or stiffen the whole desk (1/4” would work) but using the 1/2” will leave enough wood for the drawers without buying more material.

You mentioned covering the top with MDF. I would substitute tempered hard board instead. Basically it is non porous and if you paint it the finish will be better. Many years ago I made my two kids desks and finished the top with a linoleum inlay for the writing surface with a hard wood frame on a plywood base. It is much nicer to write on and easy to clean. An occasional waxing adds to the protection. Linoleum is usually available in most flooring stores.

-- Les B, Oregon

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therealSteveN

4891 posts in 1210 days


#5 posted 01-30-2020 08:04 AM

I like Riadata pine a lot, but if I am paying the asking price for specialty plywood’s I am also sorting through the pile for at least a face veneer that I like. The problem with Riadata is it repeats itself on what looks like a tighter spiral than a lot of other plywood, so you get a really redundant look. Sometimes for a back it’s perfect, for a top, maybe not so much.

If they have it look at the Timber Products product with a MDF core. I get mine at Menards, and I really like the knotty pine look. BTW the knots are all so tight in this, there isn’t any I’m coming out, about them.

For my $$$$ it sits on a painted base as regally as any plywood out there, and because the knots are random, you don’t see them as repetitive as you will with hardwoods, and their pretty predictable grain patterns.

Walnut below

-- Think safe, be safe

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therealSteveN

4891 posts in 1210 days


#6 posted 01-30-2020 08:10 AM



You may want to think about a protective surface on the desk top? When our Daughter was young, I put a piece of glass on the top of her dresser, or use any one of the plastic products?

- Andre

100%

I like the non breakable plastics, because “stuff” happens. You can keep a slight lip on your edging, so the sheet of whatever you use sits down in, and becomes flush when the sheet is inset.

-- Think safe, be safe

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chad515

16 posts in 669 days


#7 posted 01-30-2020 04:49 PM


For a kids desk that will see a lot of use, I tend to use the melamine covered MDF. I ve tried painting plywood for a desk a couple times and it usually ends up looking like garbage pretty quickly after kids have written on it(embossed from pens and pencils etc), spilled stuff, scratched off paint etc. So now its usually 3/4 melamine board, with poplar or poplar moulding around the edges.

- SMP


Thanks! I don’t see any melamine-covered MDF at the big box stores around me, and I’m not sure where else to get it. They’ve got melamine-covered chipboard, which I believe will be even less strong than MDF.

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chad515

16 posts in 669 days


#8 posted 01-30-2020 04:51 PM


You may want to think about a protective surface on the desk top? When our Daughter was young, I put a piece of glass on the top of her dresser, or use any one of the plastic products?

- Andre

100%

I like the non breakable plastics, because “stuff” happens. You can keep a slight lip on your edging, so the sheet of whatever you use sits down in, and becomes flush when the sheet is inset.

- therealSteveN


Where would I find plastic like this? I don’t remember seeing it at a big box store, and I can’t imagine finding it at a hardwood store.

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chad515

16 posts in 669 days


#9 posted 01-30-2020 05:02 PM

Several of you have expressed concern over a kid roughing up the painted desktop. I wonder if that can be addressed with either using more durable paint (e.g. enamel), or putting some coats of poly or lacquer over the paint.

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Andre

3078 posts in 2442 days


#10 posted 01-30-2020 05:18 PM


You may want to think about a protective surface on the desk top? When our Daughter was young, I put a piece of glass on the top of her dresser, or use any one of the plastic products?

- Andre

100%

I like the non breakable plastics, because “stuff” happens. You can keep a slight lip on your edging, so the sheet of whatever you use sits down in, and becomes flush when the sheet is inset.

- therealSteveN

Where would I find plastic like this? I don t remember seeing it at a big box store, and I can t imagine finding it at a hardwood store.

- chad515

Home depot sells it, but I went to a local glass supply store had it cut with bevelled edges was actually very reasonable.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5979 posts in 3129 days


#11 posted 01-30-2020 06:15 PM



Several of you have expressed concern over a kid roughing up the painted desktop. I wonder if that can be addressed with either using more durable paint (e.g. enamel), or putting some coats of poly or lacquer over the paint.

- chad515

If you use a good quality enamel (if it’s water based make sure it’s 100% acrylic) you won’t need any other coatings. It will be as durable as anything else you can use.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Bill_Steele's profile

Bill_Steele

657 posts in 2367 days


#12 posted 01-30-2020 06:31 PM

I think I would use a double layer of 3/4” MDF with hardwood edging and a smooth plastic laminate on the surface. While I think plywood can be painted and look nice, I think plywood is too soft and if someone wrote on something that is directly on the plywood it might dent the plywood.

You can buy plastic laminate at HD—brand names like Wilsonart and Formica. It’s simple to install using contact cement and it’s durable.

View sansoo22's profile

sansoo22

625 posts in 290 days


#13 posted 01-30-2020 07:21 PM

For a 12 yr old what about a dry erase top to the desk? Its of course white but Home Depot sells the sheets, at least near me they do, and with a flush trim bit in a router its as simple as glue to MDF top and trim it. Edge band it with your choice or hard wood in a natural finish. And maybe paint the base and legs in a darker color.

May not be the look you are after but its a fun idea for a desk i think.

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bondogaposis

5649 posts in 2987 days


#14 posted 01-30-2020 07:49 PM

Kids desk, particle board and plastic laminate for the top.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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therealSteveN

4891 posts in 1210 days


#15 posted 01-31-2020 04:29 AM



Several of you have expressed concern over a kid roughing up the painted desktop.
- chad515

My bad. I envisioned a painted base, wooden top.

-- Think safe, be safe

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