Okay. I know that this group is for woodworking and MDF is not really wood.
But it is cheap and easy to buy in unblemished pieces.
Most of the projects I have built have been with pine and plywood. But my
daughter wants some a CD rack - something painted funky. So I am considering
MDF. The rack would require a little routing (grooves) for the CD trays and
Any tips on working with MDF (glues, joints, strength, shaping edges)? I am
also considering building a desk for her room.
Do not try to screw into edges if you want strength (someone passed on the old
trick of boring a hole and filling with a chunk of dowel for such work in
another thread yesterday---I think, 1/12/04). Do make sure spans are fairly
narrow (should be no problems at all with CDs, but you'll need to think about
the desk top if it is to support a heavy monitor: double layer or light bracing
on the underside). Edges shape just fine with SHARP bits. Standard PVA glue is
Wear a mask, though. This stuff makes super fine dust that will irritate your
lungs (if not now, years later).
If God had wanted me to touch my toes he would have put them higher on my body.
I have a cheap computer hutch that I think is MDF. It sags badly under the
monitor. This sag causes the legs to spread and periodically my keyboard
tray will fall out. Poor design, poor materials, who knows?
MDF is great. Easy to work, stable in service, cheaper than plywood.
It's a lot nicer than particle board. It's heavy, so it's not too good
for portable items, but this does give some stability for smaller
things like a CD rack.
I suggest getting a biscuit jointer, and a fine toothed blade for
whatever sort of saw you use. You'll also want a dust mask if you're
1/2" MDF is fine for most pieces, or something like a CD rack where
the shelf spans are narrow. But it is prone to sagging under load, so
don't use it for bookshelves, and go to 5/8" or 3/4" for wider shelves
It screws easily into the face, and awkwardly into the side grain.
Always pre-drill and use MDF screws; parallel thread, twin start.
There are also lots of patent and knock-down fittings around - barrel
nuts and bolts are good for knockdowns.
For a CD cabinet, I'd work on a basic carcase with biscuit joints, and
internal dividers. Racking the CDs vertically, on shelves of about 9"
width is my favourite. You can read the spines and they won't usually
fall over, assuming it's fairly full. All the specialist racks and
dividers I've seen work badly, or don't work at all for non-standard
jewel cases. I'd fit a back panel, but this would be thin MDF and
applied by screws. It also helps to support the shelves.
Avoid boring straight edges. It routs well, so dont be afraid to
jigsaw a big sweeping curve, then run some sort of rounding cutter
over the edge.
These were done with a single-sided Queen Anne cutter.
For a painted finish, use MDF primer first. Using water based paints
instead will raise fibres on the surface. Another option is to use
Valchromat instead of MDF - this is MDF with extra adhesive and a
pigment. It's self-finished straight from the router, even on moulded
edges. Comes in several colours and is more moisture resistant too.
Do whales have krillfiles ?
Thanks for the reponse and the great tips.
Good to hear that it accepts routing and biscuits. (Got a biscuit joiner for
x-mas - looking for an excuse to use it).
I'll try 1/2 and 5/8 MDF for the CD rack. I 've never seen Valchromat in the
local lumber stores.
Sound like the desk should be a combination of of wood and MDF or maybe it's
time to try a bigger project with hardwood.
You can make some nice desks from MDF. It's omnidirectional, so you
have a really free hand in how you shape it.
A friend of mine's work in the same fairly small flat:
(I like the shelves on this one)
The second two used welded steel tube to get the support strength
under a carcase of minimal size.
I treat MDF as any other wood except for the following:
MDF will split if you screw into it, even if you drill pilot
holes first, over time it seems to end up cracking anyway.
Wear a dusk mask!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Use it for light projects only (CD storage great). It will sag
for heavier uses (i.e. desk)
My first choice for jigs (does not expand and warp like wood or ply).
Joey in Chesapeake
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