Working with MDF

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 wall mounting.
Any tips on working with MDF (glues, joints, strength, shaping edges)? I am also considering building a desk for her room.
Thanks.
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Novice asks"

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 fine.
Wear a mask, though. This stuff makes super fine dust that will irritate your lungs (if not now, years later).
Charlie Self If God had wanted me to touch my toes he would have put them higher on my body.
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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Yea. Don't use it, look at the weight to strength factor. Plywood or Baltic Birch is a better choice even though it cost a little more! You more bang for the buck. . . .
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Novice wrote:

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?
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On Tue, 13 Jan 2004 07:15:45 GMT, "Novice"

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 routing it.
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. http://codesmiths.com/shed/furniture/gothshelves.htm 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 ?
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Folks,
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.
Peter

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On Tue, 13 Jan 2004 15:43:49 GMT, "Novice"

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: http://www.jarkman.co.uk/catalog/furnitur/aerofoildesk.htm (I like the shelves on this one)
http://www.jarkman.co.uk/catalog/furnitur/blobdesk.htm
http://www.jarkman.co.uk/catalog/furnitur/wavystereo.htm
The second two used welded steel tube to get the support strength under a carcase of minimal size.
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On Tue, 13 Jan 2004 07:15:45 +0000, Novice wrote:

Wear a good respirator.
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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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MDF would be a poor choice if you're routing slots for the CD cases. Use a solid wood liner for the slots.
--
McQualude

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On Tue, 13 Jan 2004 07:15:45 GMT, "Novice"

MDF is cheap, smooth and flat. It's rather hard on blades and bits, it's heavy, it's not very strong, it does cut a nice clean profile. I recommend ply instead.
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