Drilling: MDF vs Other Woods


How does MDF actually act in comparison to other woods when being drilled? I assume that it drills easier in some respects because it has no "grain" compared to other woods...
Does it compare to a typical hardwood or is it soft enough that it fills up the flutes on a drill bit quickly like pine does, etc.
Regards, Joe Agro, Jr. (800) 871-5022 (908) 542-0244 Automatic / Pneumatic Drills: http://www.AutoDrill.com Multiple Spindle Drills: http://www.Multi-Drill.com
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You might try Darell Wong at Forintek. He is doing similar research for us and is very good.
Tom
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I find that it drills just fine. Nothing unusual other than a bit fuzzy on larger holes when drilled with a regular twist drill. Forstner bits do just fine. Because it is so dry I have no problems with it sticking in the flutes.
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wrote:

Like other timbers, but even more so, you should drill it with a brad point drill where outer spurs cut the fibres and the flutes merely lift them. You can get long spiral shavings this way. If you drill it with a more acute twist drill sharpened for metal, the waste loses cohesion and clears less well.
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Hmmm, Drilling seems to be your business, I'm surprised you'd ask here before actually trying it.
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Experience is learning from your own mistakes. _Wisdom_, is learning from the mistakes of others. He's just showing he's capable of wisdom.
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We make drills. We don't do drilling often - except to test materials where we want to sell drills. If I can learn before I sell, I can sell without delay.
We have sold lots of units for MDF and similar materials... However, we have never once received a sample to try ourselves. I simply build my machines with a large margin of capability that way I know it will work in the field.
30 years from now, I want someone to say, "I wonder if we will ever have to rebuild that unit" rather than "What was that piece of junk we bought back in 2005?" LOL.
Thank you all for the information you provided. It basically confirmed a lot of what I had guessed about the material. It is easy to work with but needs to be drilled "cleanly" or the ID edges can be affected. It is also very dry so through the tool air flow could possibly be used to clear the "chips" as well...
Merry Christmachanukwanzika to everyone. And a simple happy holidays to the rest of you. :)
Regards, Joe Agro, Jr. (800) 871-5022 (908) 542-0244 Automatic / Pneumatic Drills: http://www.AutoDrill.com Multiple Spindle Drills: http://www.Multi-Drill.com
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Hello Joe;
The other guys didn't mention it, but there's a big difference between grades of MDF. The heavy "standard" high-formaldahyde MDF drills and machines quite nicely. A sharp brad point bit will drill cleanly.
However the modern, lighter weight, environmentally friendly grades of MDF can be really frustrating to drill. They have a hard paper-thickness surface, but everything in the middle is soft, stringy mush. A drill bit will rip out big chunks, flare up a cone on the top surface, and punch an ugly hole out the back. I'm not sure what the best approach is.
So if someone is asking for a setup to drill MDF, make sure you know what type they mean, and run some tests on it.
Bruce Johnson Johnson's Extremely Strange Musical Instrument Co. Burbank, CA
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Bruce,
Thanks for the info...

Do they still offer both kinds for sale? Most, if not all of my customers would be using brand new product in production-type settings.
We build in a "feed control" that keeps the drill plunging into the work at a steady pace. In other words, it does not mushroom out the back as easily because there is a steady feed from entry to exit. Do you think it would still "cone" on entry with this? Think of it as a machining center rathe than a drill if that helps... Something that can be roughly programmed to stroke the drill at 1" per second or 1" per minute regardless of RPM or hole size.

Great info and advice. Thank you. What flavor coffee would you like should we ever meet? <g>
--


Regards,
Joe Agro, Jr.
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Hello Joe;
I'm glad to help! I'm a veteran mechanical engineer, machinist, and fabricator, as well as a woodworker, so I'm quite familiar with the types of machines that you offer.
One of the bigger manufacturers of MDF is Sierra Pine (www.sierrapine.com). Check out their website for technical info on the various grades of MDF.
In my shop, I mostly use MDF for templates, fixtures and light duty tooling. Sierra Pine's "standard" MDF, which weighs 48 lbs/cu.ft., is my favorite. It drills and machines beautifully. The various Lite grades, at around 30-35 lbs/cu.ft. are much more difficult to work with. The low-emission Lite grade is the worst for drilling. There seems to be so little resin holding the core together, that as soon as you pierce the skin, it's like drilling a stack of newspaper. But the low-emission lite grades are popular with furniture factories because of the lighter product weight and reduced employee health hazards. So, that's probably what many of your customers are using.
I would guess that the solution to production drilling it is mostly in the fixturing. The key would be to tightly clamp the MDF between two flat-faced drill guide bushings, to prevent the surface skins on either side from flaring, which then allows the inner layers to rip. A brad point or even a reverse-ground drill bit would probably be the best, with a fast spiral and very sharp outer flutes. If the MDF is properly clamped and supported, you can probably run a very fast feed profile. The trick will be in clearing the swarf out of the drill bit and the bushings.
Bruce Johnson Johnson's Extremely Strange Musical Instrument Co. Burbank, CA
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(Top posted because you wouldn't have wanted to scroll down for my two line response anyhow...)
Any people wonder why I asked here about this process. Excellent, and well "aimed" response that is much appreciated!
Regards, Joe Agro, Jr. (800) 871-5022 (908) 542-0244 Automatic / Pneumatic Drills: http://www.AutoDrill.com Multiple Spindle Drills: http://www.Multi-Drill.com
V8013-R

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Actually, _Wisdom_ is a gift offered by a higher power. With wisdom one is capable of learning from ones own and others mistakes.
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MDF is termite puke and snot and as such it drills accordingly.
--

-Mike-
snipped-for-privacy@alltel.net
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With experience you learn.
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