Choosing materials: MDF, Ply, Masonite, Laminate

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Forum topic by MasonJay posted 10-08-2020 06:48 PM 774 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 436 days

10-08-2020 06:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: masonite table saw work station tool cart mdf plywood mobile shop question tip resource planer jointer tablesaw finishing veneering

Hi all,

Lots of options out there and lots going through my head in regards to how I want to finish my future work surfaces. This is a longer post with a few questions and appreciate the help. A while ago I built a mobile tool cart that is home to my planer and jointer on top then filled with hand tools, fasteners, and more misc heavy items, then peg board on the back to hold clamps. This cabinet is nearly as heavy as the table saw with everything in it. (Still need to do drawer fronts.) My tools are not secured to the top yet to prevent a quick snatch and grab.

When I built it, I was not thinking through material options and just cut up a sheet of 3/4 ply then lightly glued masonite w/ brads on top and did pine edge banding. This cart is only used for holding tools and isn’t a work surface so flatness isn’t a big deal here. The masonite and pine were just sitting around and I wanted to use materials and clear the shop of clutter. Inside the cabinet are cleats that I can screw through to attach my top. What I am now wondering is if MDF with the masonite could have been used instead of plywood just to save material and cost. Would screwing through the cleats into the MDF provide enough holding power when pushing this cart around the garage? Would edge banding be a challenge with only MDF/masonite? I’ve never used MDF but am attracted to the cost, flatness, and color when sealed. The masonite also provides a nice visual appeal for me.

Next project of mine is a table saw work station that I am leaning towards using a formica top since there is likely hood of glue contact and I want easy clean up. I think for this I will likely build the carcass with cleats to attach the top in very similar manner. But instead of using ply only, I thought I would do 3/4 ply on bottom glued to 3/4 mdf in the middle with a formica top surface. And of course for visual effects, edge banding with solid wood. Thoughts this?

One thought of mine is to just start doing everything with the laminated formica tops so I can visually feel more at ease. In fact, I’ve thought of re-building the tool cart to match the appearance of the table saw station. Like I said, this would only be purely aesthetic and not necessity.

Just trying to provoke some conversations to help encourage me one way or the other.


3 replies so far

View Ruscal's profile


120 posts in 424 days

#1 posted 10-08-2020 08:11 PM

MDF on top of some sort of frame. Quarter inch hardboard over MDF. Pin nailed in place, no glue. Edge banding attached to the frame. Replace the hardboard when it gets messed up.

-- Have a hobby? You should have a business.

View bilyo's profile


1408 posts in 2348 days

#2 posted 10-08-2020 08:30 PM

I think your cart looks and functions just fine for shop furniture. I wouldn’t change a thing. I also like plastic laminate for tops for certain functions. Several years ago, I built an outfeed table that is actually multipurpose. It is also used extensively as an assembly table. As such, I used a salvaged solid core door because it is stiff and flat. I put a plastic laminate top on it for the same reasons you stated. Glue, stain, and paint, etc, are easy to remove. Plus, it is pretty slick. So, cut-offs slide out of the saw easily. Also, I clamp assemblies down to it while the glue dries to keep it square and flat. Because of it’s expense, I don’t use laminate on everything. I have used both MDF and plywood. Each has it’s good points, but ether can do the job.

View WoodenDreams's profile


1433 posts in 1156 days

#3 posted 10-09-2020 03:44 AM

One of my friends used 3/4” plywood for his benchtops. easy to ding-up.

I don’t use plywood and MDF much for customers. But, I’m frugal, built my work benches with 2×4’s and MDF shelves and worktops. My workbench tops are 3/4” MDF. If they get wear on them, I can unscrew them from the frames and screw on another sheet.

For my assembly/glue-up station I use a 2”x24”x96”’ melamine workbench top, sitting on two saw horses. durable enough so it doesn’t bent in the middle with weight on it sitting on the saw horses. Able to clamp easily with cauls, easy to scrape excess glue off it and clamp things to lay flat. Got it at Menards three years ago, they no longer sell this, but it’s similar to this

Another advantage with Melamine worktop is you can use a dry erase marker on them for making notes, writing measurements or diagrams and then erase off with rubbing alcohol or window cleaner.

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