Building a Media Cabinet

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 else?
Thank you
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On 11/03/2009 03:13 PM, SBH wrote:

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 expensive.
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 sagging.
Chris
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I thought about using plywood, but I am always concerned about the knots somewhat displaying through even after painting. Though, I'm painting a dark brown, I suppose I could reconsider.

Thanks for the tips, would everything still apply if I use plywood instead of MDF?
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SBH wrote: ...

_What_ knots???? Buy a decent piece of material, not construction ply...
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On 11/03/2009 04:41 PM, SBH wrote:

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 reinforcement.
Chris
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I've decided on the plywood. When applying the face across the center stationary shelf, do I center the face, use the top portion flushed with the shelf or bottom with a lip at top?
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On 11/04/2009 01:30 PM, SBH wrote:

It's really up to you. I would consider the usual method to be with the top of the shelf flush and a bit of lip on the bottom.
Chris
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Chris Friesen wrote:

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.
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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.
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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 in.
Any more guidance is always appreciated.
Thanks
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