Living in an MDF universe


I was killing time before my movie started this evening by doing a little window shopping and saw something new: fake "thinply" edgebanding on retail shelving!
In otherwords, plastic edgebanding with thinply-like banding and color was added to retail shelving to get that industrial, avant guard look. Funny that plywood is considered a luxury material now!
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Paul Hays says...

It is a luxury material. Crap quality furniture doesn't even use good fiberboard. It's more like dehydrated oatmeal than MDF.
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Paul,
It was over a year ago when my sister-in-law started on a kitchen remodeling that I got involved with. One of the tasks was to help come up with a design for a small cabinet / desk / storage combination. So off we went to a couple of the high-end furniture retailers to see what kind of ideas were out there. We found exactly what she wanted. It looked like a drop-front desk but was built higher so that a stool was needed instead of a chair to sit in front of this desk.
After carefully looking it over, it had 4 solid wooden legs and one other piece of real hardwood that was used for the edging for the drop-down writing area. The rest was painted MDF with a couple of ceramic drawer pulls. Admittedly, it did look good for a painted piece. I figured I could make the whole thing in hardwood for about $100 in materials and that was a high estimate.
Sister-in-law just had to know the price of this piece (they don't put price tags on items at this store) and called over a salesperson. After a song 'n dance about how and where this "piece" was made, the craftsmanship and the "top-quality" materials used in its construction, she said it was available on special order for only $1,995.....
I nearly fell over but told the nice lady that this was made from MDF - how can it cost so much? I doubt she knew what MDF was but the reply was, "Well, it's not so much what its made out of - as the craftsmanship that went into making it..." Now if you think a couple of dado cuts in the MDF sides to slide some MDF shelves into is craftsmanship....
MDF and a veneer or some other applied surface materials have taken over tabletops and other flat areas of furniture pieces from what I've seen - while still demanding high prices. Even Stickley furniture is using MDF in their line of products I'm sorry to say. Like others, they say quality but mean - cheap. Well, at least we purchased ours back when the word quality was not watered down.
Its unfortunate that most people don't know what to look for or what to ask when making costly purchases. If they did, I think a lot of the pro's that hang out here would be doing much better at making "real" furniture pieces and not trying to beat MDF prices. That boils down to educating the consumer - and who has the resources to do that?
Besides, it's made from real wood, cheap, smooth, flat, heavy and it doesn't expand or contract - what possibly could be a better material than termite barf for making expensive furniture....?
Bob S.

retail
was
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We were shopping for a new mattress & while waiting in a fairly high end, local furniture store, I looked over a lot of their pieces. A lot of 'cherry' furniture & a close look showed that it was a good thing such a dark, fake finish was used. The joinery wasn't what I'd expect & a lot of the pieces in the 'all wood' cabinets were some sort of partical board. Most were priced so high my hair curled.
I was selling some stuff at a Xmas bazaar last year & had a woman ask me how I made my Cherry items so light colored - it wasn't a 'natural cherry' color like the cupboard she had. I realized that she thought the thick, dark color they paint on was natural & that my bowls which are covered with either wax or poly weren't natural (a couple were aged) - she thought I'd bleached them. I tried to educate her. She didn't believe me. <shrug>
Is it just plain idiocy, larceny or simple justice to sell such people crap? We have several custom cabinet makers around here that would deliver a much better product than the store's garbage, probably for the same price, although I can't swear to that. (Cherry, walnut & red oak are plentiful & inexpensive from the local sawmills). Of course, you have to wait a couple of months or more. People don't want to do that, usually.
I think the moral of the story is that most people are idiots & like it that way. Makes it hard on a true craftsman, though. Most people now just want instant gratification - quality is a distant second.
Jim
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Believe it or not, that's what got me into woodworking a few years back...
I would visit these furniture stores looking for a nice piece of furniture and noticed that everything was made cheaply -- particleboard with "SOLID wood veneer". Anything I did find that was constructed well and out of real wood cost a fortune! So I started looking at how some of the pieces were built and said to myself "I could build that out of something solid for far less than they charge for the fake!" So I picked up a few power tools, and a few years later, I have a small shop (222 sq. ft.) loaded with nice tools and custom made benches, tables, carts, jigs, etc. Now it's my favorite hobby!
I was suprised when I once visited the very-well-known Thomasville Furniture store. I had heard so much about how magnificent and expensive their furniture was. So as I walked into the store, the first thing I noticed was a coffee table with this very intricate looking hash pattern on the top... That's when the brakes slammed on and I said "wait a second -- that's not possible to do out of solid wood!!!" They had a pattern that looked almost like parque (sp?) wood flooring, where some of the little planks were perpendicular to the next set of planks (perpendicular grain). That's fine, except that the whole top was so snug that these was no room at all for wood expansion -- and with a top that size, it's going to expand! So I started poking my head underneath all of their furniture and noticed that they all had some sort of underlaying protecting the bottom of their furniture -- or hiding the fact that it's all just particle board with a veneer top!
So what I've learned about "quality furniture" is that the quality is a measure of how well they can hide the seams and disguise the veneer finishes to look solid. Mass producing furniture shops have gotten VERY GOOD at doing this. The average person can no longer tell if it's solid or just veneered -- soon many woodworkers may not be able to tell either without some sort of disassembly!
Whenever I ever build something for someone, I usually make sure they understand the difference in quality first.
X_HOBBES

little
Funny
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It's worser than you think: The current (May 2005) American Woodworker has an article entitled "10 Things You Need to Know About Plastic Lumber".
Just the fact that they call it "lumber" is crushing. It's a sign of more to come. We'll get "Sunny D" instead of orange juice, plastic lumber, soilent green instead of meat and vegetables.
-jbb

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J.B. Bobbitt wrote:

What would _you_ call it? "Plastic things from which other things can be built using the same tools and techniques as for lumber?"

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On Sat, 09 Apr 2005 20:21:29 -0400, J. Clarke wrote:

To add to the confusion, consider those I-beam joists made of plywood, or termite puke. Didn't "lumber" meaning "wood" derive from "lumber" meaning "furniture," which in days of yore was made of wood cuz they didn't have plastic?
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Actually, it was an English term. When the colonists first came here, in their speech (according to Eric Sloane author of lots of books on the subject) they considered 'timber' to be good wood. The word 'lumber' was derogatory, meaning 'trash wood' or something like that. Since they were really interested in clearing land for crops & the entire countryside was forest, they started calling most wood 'lumber'. I think that was reinforced in the early 1800's when they turned entire forests into charcoal to feed the iron works. They used to use what we would consider prime wood for road beds! <sigh> They didn't know how good they had it.
Anyway, that's Eric Sloane's explanation & it made sense of a sort. When you consider that the US was first known to the world for exporting White Pine & some other woods that were highly prized, it doesn't make as much sense. When you realize that they used wood for most everything from dishes to roads, it makes less sense. When you think about how they razed the first growth forest though...
Jim
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mmmm, soylent green.
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J. Clarke wrote:

I suggest that one uses his/her brain and call it what it is. It certainly isn't lumber. Plastic lumber makes as much sense as plastic paper for thin sheets of paper. How about plastic butcher's paper. Manufactures and salesmen will do whatever they want, but one doesn't have to buy into their insanity for silly names, silly spellings, exaggerations, and, uhh, just plain falsification.
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George E. Cawthon wrote:

From the fact that you have not been able to figure out "what it is" may we conclude that you have no brain?
Or are you playing some kind of "I know but you have to guess" game like a three-year-old?

I'm sorry, but "plastic lumber" refers to something that is of the same dimensions as wooden lumber and is worked by the same means but is made of either plastic or a composite of plastic and wood pulp or sawdust or chips. It is not called that because it is "thin".
If something is a functional substitute for rag- or pulp- based paper, made from a synthetic polymeric material then I see no reason to call it anything but "paper", or, if you are going to buy some and want the polymeric kind and not the rag- or pulp-based kind calling it "plastic paper" just as you would "rag paper" or "pulp paper".

If it is a functional substitute for butcher's paper and made from plastic, why not?

So, again, what would _you_ call it? "Plastic lumber" seems pretty straightforward to me. It describes the approximate form, the function, and the material, just like "pine lumber" or "spruce lumber" or "teak lumber" and doesn't seem silly in any fashion, nor does it seem an exaggeration or falsification.
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Why not? They have Plastic Wood in a can. Good stuff but PITA to roll it out to make 1 x 6's out of it.
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J. Clarke wrote:

You are so obtuse! It is PLASTIC. Depending on the shape it is plastic cups, plastic dishes, plastic 1 x4, plastic planks, plastic 2x4's.

No, I wasn't playing some kind of game, I thought the correct name would be obvious. Silly me.

You are really an inexhaustible idiot aren't you? Plastic is not a paper, it is plastic. Paper made from wood is commonly called PAPER. If it contains a high content of cotton, it is called rag paper.

Because it ISN'T PAPER. It is just a plastic sheet, a plastic film.

"Plastic lumber" isn't straight forward, it is stupid. You don't call mdf lumber because it isn't lumber, you don't call plywood lumber, because it isn't lumber. You can call it a plastic plank, but that is close to stretching it. Lumber means sawn from wood.
BTW, plastic doesn't really describe anything, since there are all sorts of plastic material that are quite different from one another.
It describes the approximate form, the function,

You obvious have a problem in logic. Pine, spruce, and teak are the names of the trees the lumber was sawn from. I have never heard of or seen a plastic tree growing. And I am sure that your "plastic lumber" is not sawn from plastic trees.
Here's a question. Why don't they call all that other manmade material, even if it is made from wood fiber, "xyz" lumber? BECAUSE IT ISN'T LUMBER. Never saw an mdf tree, never saw a chipboard tree, never saw an osb tree.
Bye bye.
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George E. Cawthon wrote:

So what generic term would you use to encompass "plastic 1 x4, plastic planks, plastic 2x4's" that would exclude "plastic cups, plastic dishes".

And what is it called if it contains a high content of plastic?

Huh? Plastic film is not a substitute for butcher's paper. It's a useful wrapping material in its own right but it is not a functional equivalent. For one thing it's not absorbent and for another writing on it is not clearly visible.

Generically you call them "sheet goods"--they are not lumber because they have a different shape, not different properties.

According to who?

So now you say that it not only shouldn't be called "lumber" but also not called "plastic"?

What you are seeing is a linguistic shift from a definition based in source to a definition based in function.

You are correct. I have never seen a plywood or MDF 2x4 available for sale.

You keep on with your crusade. Good luck. The rest of us have more important things to worry about than the purity of the English language. Perhaps you would find a more receptive audience in France, but they are unlikely to take kindly to the rantings of an anglophone concerning the purity of their language.
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On Sun, 10 Apr 2005 15:50:34 -0400, J. Clarke wrote:

It's called spun olefin and it's used in rite-in-the-rain brand notebooks. Oceanographers use it for field notes because it's waterproof. Been around for years. We call it "paper."
Cellulose is a polymer. Plastics are polymers. OP was barking up the wrong tree.
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Australopithecus scobis wrote:

There's that, (nice stuff by the way, I inadvertently washed my field notebook once--came through it just fine), but there's another material I've seen that seems to be more like thin sheets of solid plastic--seems to work as well as the spun olefin but has a distinctly different "feel".
By the way, do you have a good source that doesn't charge 50 cents a sheet?

OOF.
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"Lumber" by definition is wood, from trees. I'd call it "plastic boards" or "plastic stock", "plastic", "artificial wood", or something else.
And if you intend to spend hours tuning a plane, sharpening saws and chisels and plane irons (all the things you call "the same tools you techniques as for lumber"), and selecting the perfect "boards" from which to make your heirloom piece, then actually using those tools to work your plastic boards, go right ahead..
-jbb

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J.B. Bobbitt wrote:

By whose definition?

But you'd make that same heirloom piece out of balsa or wood salvaged from the head in a tuna boat? Sorry, but the fact that a particular product is or is not suitable for a particular class of furniture has no bearing on whether it is or is not lumber.
If in fact I encountered plastic boards which were perfect for the particular piece then I would use them without hesitation. I can't see that happening anymore than I can see finding the perfect board in the reject pile at Home Depot, but that doesn't mean that the contents of that reject pile are not lumber.

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wrote:

Plywood *is* a luxury material. It doesn't expand or contract like solid wood panels, and it looks just as good. I'd bet the old masters would have loved to get their hands on it. With a face frame, it's superior in many ways to solid timbers.
Particle-board covered in con-tac paper is an entirely different story, of course. I'd rather laminate sheets of construction paper together than use that crap for anything I make.
Aut inveniam viam aut faciam
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