Being an extreme amateur, I want to accomplish building a media cabinet,
roughly 5 1/2" H x 2' D x 4' W. I plan to use MDF and poplar for the face
since we plan to paint it and being my first real big project, screwing up
on more expensive wood doesn't appeal to me, but I would like to dress it
fairly nice with a top and bottom decorative type molding or something.
Therefore, I'm asking for a starting point, dos and don'ts, tips, tricks and
perhaps a website or video which may help me move along.
I would like to make the doors raised panels. There will be four doors, two
on top, two on bottom with a center shelf secured and movable shelves
elsewhere, but the bottom half will have a center vertical divider which
will have smaller shelving on each side.
Also, I plan to dado the secured shelf and divider but is it better to dado
the face boards, biscuit (which I don't have), nail into place or something
MDF is heavy, smooth, flat, and not particularly strong. It splits
easily when going into the edge. You might consider using plywood instead.
You don't gain much strength dadoing MDF. I'd probably just butt join
it with glue and then reinforce with screws from the outside. Always
predrill and countersink MDF when screwing, and don't overtighten.
Lo-root screws work well, confirmat screws are best but relatively
Since you're painting the face frame, I'd recommend glue and small nails
for fastening the face frame to the MDF cabinet. An air nailer works
well if you've got one, don't use anything bigger than 18-gauge nails or
the mdf will tend to split. The nails are there to hold it until the
glue dries, so you don't need a lot.
Lastly, you don't give much detail about your design but if you have any
shelves which span the full 4', you'll probably want to use plywood or
solid wood for them. MDF will almost certainly sag. You'll also want
to use a lip on the front. A poplar 1x2 glued to the front edge of the
shelf (so the 2" dimension is vertical) will go a long way to combat
Decent hardwood ply shouldn't have knots...they should be patched/filled
at least. A good primer should cover any colour variation in the plywood.
Plywood is lighter, stronger, less likely to split, and takes screws
better. It's more likely to warp slightly with humidity changes, but
this usually isn't an issue for furniture. If you use plywood, there
would be some benefit to dadoing the fixed shelf. I'd still glue/screw.
It'll sag less over a long shelf span, but I'd still add the lip for
Yeah, I'd think unless it is an express purpose to keep something small
from rolling off the edge one would find a raised lip on the upper side
a real pita after a while (like the first time went to take something
off :) ). Certainly for a bookshelf or something on that order.
You can use finish nails and fill the countersunk holes with glazing
compound (or Bondo) before you prime. The biscuits may be a better
choice for clear finishes provided you have enough clamps. The MDF is
good for panels, but sags if used for shelving. If using standards,
install after the finish.
Chris and others, thank you very much for your insight and advice. I will
start to tackle this project once I finish the room in the house it will be
Any more guidance is always appreciated.
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