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Why use MDF? it reminds me of particle board

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Forum topic by OldBull posted 05-30-2020 05:42 PM 537 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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OldBull

110 posts in 66 days


05-30-2020 05:42 PM

I am still learning so this is a beginners question that I didn’t find asked liked this. Good ole hurricane Irma left about an inch of water in my basement thanks to an ill placed shutter that ended up being a funnel. A dresser that absorbed some of the water grew over a period of 24 hours to look like a monster then turned to mush.

With all the quality, all the hand planes and professionalism and everything that goes into woodworking why is MDF even considered. As I looked into a router table and a bench I kept seeing plans (and pre-made) with the core using MDF. I kept seeing references to “just don’t get it wet”.

So, I am probably wrong, I overbuild, overtighten, I basically over do everything, I even cook meals for 10 when 5 are coming over. If MDF is so fragile, why use it? Most of the bench plans I am thinking of building I will only be using plywood. But this seemingly weak material is used in some major places like 90% of the router tables and it doesn’t make sense to me. Work benches, that is another build it is used for that I would never consider it.

-- Relative bearing grease # CV-61 and CV-66


19 replies so far

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Madmark2

1362 posts in 1358 days


#1 posted 05-30-2020 05:54 PM

MDF is essentially particle board.

It should never be used within splashing distance of any liquid.

I don’t even use it for jigs.

Its really tough on both the tools and lungs and I would never burn it.

If you’re going to put all that time and effort into a project why not use decent materials?

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

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AlanWS

57 posts in 4328 days


#2 posted 05-30-2020 06:30 PM

MDF is cheap, flat and remains so if it does not get wet, and has smooth surface appropriate to paint and veneer. There are moisture-resistant variants of MDF. Depending on what you want to do and to have as a finished product, it can be appropriate. That said, I am a hobbyist and I don’t enjoy using it, so I don’t.

-- Alan in Wisconsin

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Fred Hargis

6236 posts in 3264 days


#3 posted 05-30-2020 06:32 PM

I don’t use for anything besides jigs, and the top of my assembly table (and RAS table). It has some advantages for some uses: it’s heavy, it’s dimensionally stable, it’s cheap, and it’s smooth.It is tough on tools, and makes more dust than any material I’ve seen when sawn (I only route it outside, there’s no way to control the dust in that case).

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

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Kelly

3006 posts in 3714 days


#4 posted 05-30-2020 06:40 PM

On that, I found sad comedy in that some highly skilled woodworkers insisted on MDF because of it’s stability, but could not comprehend that many could never consider furniture made from it as heirloom quality.

Then there is the 1/128th thick veneer game, as if items never get damaged and have to be refinished, and which, more often that not, will be tried with a 60 grit belt sander.

Anyway, I note the 8’ book shelf that was in my basement didn’t like the 1/2” of water at all, while the plywood shelf only partially noticed it was there.

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bondogaposis

5786 posts in 3121 days


#5 posted 05-30-2020 07:05 PM

I use it sometimes, my router table is made of it. It works fine if it doesn’t get wet, there is no chance of that where I live. The advantages are that it is cheap, dead flat and heavy. I like heavy for a router table because it dampens vibration. It works great for assembly tables and the like, 1/4” MDF is great for templates and patterns too.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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OldBull

110 posts in 66 days


#6 posted 05-30-2020 07:07 PM

But it does have to be well supported right? Some reading I did said it would sag without it.

-- Relative bearing grease # CV-61 and CV-66

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JackDuren

1212 posts in 1730 days


#7 posted 05-30-2020 07:15 PM

I use particle nboard and MDF since I van remember. Particle board or cord is used in a lot of cabinetry. MDF is used the same and a lot in cabinet doors.

Remember cabinet and commercial shops arent shopping at the big box….research materials…..

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LeeRoyMan

1179 posts in 497 days


#8 posted 05-30-2020 07:16 PM

MDF is completely different than Particle board, I don’t know why anybody would say they are the same.

It has it’s place for sure. I’ve used a ton of it.

You have to know how, when and where to use it. I build a lot of painted projects using it and have never been called back for a failure.

I don’t know of any man made wood that is tough enough to sit in water. I have repaired just as much water damaged plywood as anything else from kitchen leaks.

Can anybody tell me why it shouldn’t be used for a center door panel for a paintgrade cabinet door?

-- I only know what I know, nothing less, nothing more -- That doesn't count what I used to know..

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JackDuren

1212 posts in 1730 days


#9 posted 05-30-2020 07:46 PM

Whole cabinet doors are made from MDF using this type machine…
Notice door on tge right in the picture

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Fred Hargis

6236 posts in 3264 days


#10 posted 05-30-2020 08:12 PM

Can anybody tell me why it shouldn t be used for a center door panel for a paintgrade cabinet door?

- LeeRoyMan

The only things I don’t like about using it for painted grade doors are 1) weight and 2), if there are exposed edges (raised panels) getting them to take paint as smooth as the field takes some extra work. Included in that raised panel thing is the mess incurred while machining them. The weight problem only becomes a problem with larger doors. But some of the things listed above make it very good for door panels.

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

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LeeRoyMan

1179 posts in 497 days


#11 posted 05-30-2020 08:54 PM


The only things I don t like about using it for painted grade doors are 1) weight and 2), if there are exposed edges (raised panels) getting them to take paint as smooth as the field takes some extra work. Included in that raised panel thing is the mess incurred while machining them. The weight problem only becomes a problem with larger doors. But some of the things listed above make it very good for door panels.

- Fred Hargis

When weight is a concern there is Ultralight Mdf that weighs about 30% less than regular mdf.

I don’t find treating exposed edges that much more work. A lot of people try all kinds of tricks to treat the edges first, but I find a few extra coats of primer, and a little extra sanding seals and smooths the edges just as well.

I have no answer for the mess other that a good mask and vacuum.

-- I only know what I know, nothing less, nothing more -- That doesn't count what I used to know..

View Nubsnstubs's profile

Nubsnstubs

1723 posts in 2500 days


#12 posted 05-30-2020 09:28 PM

I agree with Leroy in both his posts. MDF’s name is Medium Density Fiberboard. It starts it’s life as a 16” batting? and is squeezed down to 3/4” and sold to cabinet shops that can produce paint grade cabinets that most people would be hard pressed to identify them as being made of MDF.

Particle board is just that. Certain sized wood particles mixed with glue and sized for certain thicknesses. It’s not as tough as MDF, and you can get a lot of splinters where MDF doesn’t have any to give. ............ Jerry (in Tucson)

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

View JackDuren's profile

JackDuren

1212 posts in 1730 days


#13 posted 05-30-2020 09:45 PM

Particle board is used a lot in box building, melamine and counter tops. Hard to get away with it in an industry that has used it for many years. I use it in my standard cabinets.uppers and bases. I use upgraded materials when asked up upgrading the set…

I made a good living using it. One may not like it but you may have in your house and not know it…

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

2751 posts in 1985 days


#14 posted 05-30-2020 11:04 PM


MDF is completely different than Particle board, I don t know why anybody would say they are the same.

It has it s place for sure. I ve used a ton of it.

You have to know how, when and where to use it. I build a lot of painted projects using it and have never been called back for a failure.

I don t know of any man made wood that is tough enough to sit in water. I have repaired just as much water damaged plywood as anything else from kitchen leaks.

Can anybody tell me why it shouldn t be used for a center door panel for a paintgrade cabinet door?

- LeeRoyMan

+1 I use a MDF product Medite and for outdoor use Medex (outdoor sign companies use it) The particle board at the big boxes are a c grade product compared the professional outlets ( and yes they will let you shop)
Once you use “good stuff” ...

Here is a call lumber cart that I made years ago. Medite MDF

Secret: good material and “CASTERS”

-- Desert_Woodworker

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Desert_Woodworker

2751 posts in 1985 days


#15 posted 05-30-2020 11:18 PM


When weight is a concern there is Ultralight Mdf that weighs about 30% less than regular mdf.

I don t find treating exposed edges that much more work. A lot of people try all kinds of tricks to treat the edges first, but I find a few extra coats of primer, and a little extra sanding seals and smooths the edges just as well.

- LeeRoyMan

Th edge of a MDF. IMO yes and I LOVE it but the edges need extra attention. I would love to hear on how you do it.

-- Desert_Woodworker

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