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Can I use 3/4 veneered MDF for coffee table top?

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Forum topic by RevenantJoiner posted 02-21-2020 09:02 PM 447 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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RevenantJoiner

32 posts in 1022 days


02-21-2020 09:02 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question mdf oak mission style

Would 3/4” MDF work for a coffee table top ~ 27” X 36” supported by two cross pieces? Top would be veneered on both sides.

I have enough oak for the entire table, but it is plain sawn and I want the top to be quarter sawn. Alternative would be Baltic birch or solid wood veneered.

Copy of Limbert-style coffee table, FW #169 Nov/Dec 2010

Thanks for your comments.

-- Each time your start a project and work on it, a tree smiles knowing there’s life after death.


13 replies so far

View tvrgeek's profile

tvrgeek

547 posts in 2320 days


#1 posted 02-21-2020 10:21 PM

About to embark on a couple of tables myself. Our hardwood supplier has quarter sawn 3/4 Oak veneer plywood.

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

5107 posts in 1245 days


#2 posted 02-21-2020 10:48 PM

The “Coffee” part says no. MDF doesn’t like to get wet at all. it will swell, and weaken, soon to turn to $#!(.

Plus my personal thought is it is very weak, when not supported fully at about 16” centers, so that is a lot of bracing for a coffee table.

Along the same lines is MDO, Costs more, but it’s the stuff they use for outdoor roadway advertising signs, it will put up with all the coffee you care to spill, will not crack, break, sag or whatever if not supported. Like MDF it’s a dead flat product, and you could veneer onto it. Just scuff sand it for either paint, or veneer so the paint, or glue adheres, and you are good to go.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Rich's profile

Rich

5346 posts in 1260 days


#3 posted 02-22-2020 12:19 AM

The notion that a table made with a MDF core and properly finished is going to swell from coffee spills is absurd. Lacquer, poly and shellac will all provide enough protection from spills. I have a MDF outfeed table on my saw that’s finished with poly. Its location near the door has led to it getting very wet a couple of times when rain snuck up on me and the door was open. Guess what? No swelling…lol.

The suggestion that MDF is weak is wrong too. Rather than accept someone’s personal thought, go get some real data or a calculator. There you’ll find that a 27 by 36 inch 3/4” MDF surface with a 30 lb per foot evenly distributed load (That’s a lot of coffee and coffee table books) is only going to sag about 0.03” even if it is unsupported in the middle. Given that your design will likely include some structural elements, you should have no problem standing on it when it’s complete.

However, unless you’ve already bought the materials, I’d recommend going with what tvrgeek is planning, that is using quarter sawn white oak veneer plywood. I see you’re in the Twin Cities area. There you will surely be able to find a distributor where you can get premium hardwood veneer plywood.

On the other hand, if you really want to have fun with veneer, using MDF for the core will work just fine.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

2782 posts in 3615 days


#4 posted 02-22-2020 04:37 AM

Fiberboard is a key component to 90% (I might have made that figure up) of the furniture being produced today. Any more, until the furniture is damaged, I cannot tell if a table is solid, or disposable trash (in comparison to heirloom furniture).

Many argue for fiberboard for its stability and even claim it’s as qualified for heirloom status as solid wood and plys. I call bunk on that and say anyone with a love for things crafted by other than machines, wood and veneers are the meow.

View Tony_S's profile (online now)

Tony_S

1129 posts in 3754 days


#5 posted 02-22-2020 10:23 AM



The notion that a table made with a MDF core and properly finished is going to swell from coffee spills is absurd. Lacquer, poly and shellac will all provide enough protection from spills. I have a MDF outfeed table on my saw that s finished with poly. Its location near the door has led to it getting very wet a couple of times when rain snuck up on me and the door was open. Guess what? No swelling…lol.

The suggestion that MDF is weak is wrong too. Rather than accept someone s personal thought, go get some real data or a calculator. There you ll find that a 27 by 36 inch 3/4” MDF surface with a 30 lb per foot evenly distributed load (That s a lot of coffee and coffee table books) is only going to sag about 0.03” even if it is unsupported in the middle. Given that your design will likely include some structural elements, you should have no problem standing on it when it s complete.

However, unless you ve already bought the materials, I d recommend going with what tvrgeek is planning, that is using quarter sawn white oak veneer plywood. I see you re in the Twin Cities area. There you will surely be able to find a distributor where you can get premium hardwood veneer plywood.

On the other hand, if you really want to have fun with veneer, using MDF for the core will work just fine.

- Rich

This….every word of it.

-- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

4785 posts in 2058 days


#6 posted 02-22-2020 01:46 PM

I would personally choose cabinet grade plywood, mostly because I just hate working with MDF, but MDF will work just fine for the most part. One question though… What are you going to do with the edges? If you are planning to put hardwood edge strips on, IMO, that may be where the MDF becomes the poorer choice, especially if you plan to use a tongue and groove for example to attach the edge.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View JackDuren's profile

JackDuren

973 posts in 1631 days


#7 posted 02-22-2020 01:52 PM

You should be fine. It’s all about the protective finish. If the finish fails it can be difficult to repair. MDF can bow over time if not supported well…..

View Nubsnstubs's profile

Nubsnstubs

1681 posts in 2401 days


#8 posted 02-22-2020 01:59 PM

if you know your veneer choice, ask your wood supplier if they have any Procore sheet. It’s about 3 plies of wood in the center, with MDF on each side, and then veneered with hardwood veneers. Now, you could actually T&G the hardwood edges if you have that in mind….........Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson) www.woodturnerstools.com

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

8488 posts in 3469 days


#9 posted 02-22-2020 04:11 PM

I too agree with Rich with one added caution. You need to have your brain fully in gear when sanding the edge trim on commercial hardwood veneered plywood. The veneer thickness is about a billionth of an inch and extremely easy to sand through. Otherwise it’s great.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese! http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

View RevenantJoiner's profile

RevenantJoiner

32 posts in 1022 days


#10 posted 02-22-2020 05:35 PM

Thanks you all for your input and the Sagulator reference. As for edge banding, given this will be an oval shaped top, I will have to use veneer for that. I hope with practice to be able to do that via hammer veneering with hot hide glue.
Tom

-- Each time your start a project and work on it, a tree smiles knowing there’s life after death.

View Rich's profile

Rich

5346 posts in 1260 days


#11 posted 02-22-2020 06:08 PM


Thanks you all for your input and the Sagulator reference. As for edge banding, given this will be an oval shaped top, I will have to use veneer for that. I hope with practice to be able to do that via hammer veneering with hot hide glue.
Tom

- RevenantJoiner

Shipwright’s the expert on that.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View SMP's profile

SMP

1876 posts in 577 days


#12 posted 02-22-2020 07:15 PM

Of course it can be done. Ikea has made their business model around this very topic.

View Guswah's profile

Guswah

37 posts in 1139 days


#13 posted 02-23-2020 03:20 AM

I never, ever fashioned my woodworking dreams around making Ikea furniture. It leaves little or nothing to be proud of a decade from now.

-- A woodworker's skill is usually proportional to the number of clamps he possesses.

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