Workshop cabinets out of MDF instead of Plywood?


Hi all,
I'm making a new workshop (8'x10' shed) in a few weeks and I'm going to be making some small cabinets (3' x 3') with a worktop on top. I'm going to be using 2x4's for the frame of the worktop then either plywood or MDF for the top.
For the cabinets I was going to be using 18mm plywood (think Norm's Garage Workshop, Mitre bench and Storage or Workshop Hutch projects).
However, I'm on a tight budget for the work and am wondering whether 18mm MDF would hold up as well. The cabinets will be built and screwed to the wall at the back and left so racking won't be an issue.
I know MDF is heavier than plywood but it's also 50% of the price (here in the UK).
Can anyone give me a quick "should be fine for the sizes you're looking at" or "it'll fold under it's own weight"?
I guess you'll need to see a diagram explaining the construction to give a proper answer, but they'll be constructed the same as the last two New Yankee Workshop projects listed above if that helps.
Cheers,
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Should be fine for the sizes you're looking at. Tom
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On Thu, 19 Jan 2006 07:23:58 -0800, tom wrote:

Fantastic, thanks Tom.
Cheers,
Andy
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Actually, MDF should be OK. Keep in mind it's brittle compared to ply, so use fender washers/whatever if there's a straight pull on it. MDF also does not like moisture/humidity and especially water. MDF paints well too.
HTH,
Pop
: : Hi all, : : I'm making a new workshop (8'x10' shed) in a few weeks and I'm going to be : making some small cabinets (3' x 3') with a worktop on top. I'm going to : be using 2x4's for the frame of the worktop then either plywood or MDF for : the top. : : For the cabinets I was going to be using 18mm plywood (think Norm's Garage : Workshop, Mitre bench and Storage or Workshop Hutch projects). : : However, I'm on a tight budget for the work and am wondering whether 18mm : MDF would hold up as well. The cabinets will be built and screwed to the : wall at the back and left so racking won't be an issue. : : I know MDF is heavier than plywood but it's also 50% of the price (here in : the UK). : : Can anyone give me a quick "should be fine for the sizes you're looking : at" or "it'll fold under it's own weight"? : : I guess you'll need to see a diagram explaining the construction to give a : proper answer, but they'll be constructed the same as the last two New : Yankee Workshop projects listed above if that helps. : : Cheers, : : : -- : Andy Jeffries | gPHPEdit Lead Developer : http://www.gphpedit.org | PHP editor for Gnome 2 : http://www.andyjeffries.co.uk | Personal site and photos :
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On Thu, 19 Jan 2006 15:35:46 +0000, Pop wrote:

Cool. Was planning on using washers on the handles anyway. The doors will be hung by 35mm european hinges (which may be better in MDF than normal butt hinges anyway, due to screwing in the sides).

Yep, not planning on using water in there (and top work surface will be covered with replacable hardboard anyway).

That'll be the wife's job :-) I'm construction, she's decorating (even in my workshop).
Thanks for the nod though Pop.
Cheers,
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Yep, as long as it's not structural and won't get soaked with water, MDF is fine. Washers are a good idea under screws. My basement shop is about 8'x10' right now, so I know storage and work space are both at a premium. My walls are lined with hanging tools, and both my "stationary" power tools (bandsaw and drill press) are on lock-able wheels so they can snug up against walls when not in use. The only thing I wish were different right now is to have space on the right end of my workbench for crosscutting. Apparently the previous owner was left-handed or clueless. Anyway, enjoy your new shop, Andy
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On Thu, 19 Jan 2006 10:16:40 -0800, Andy wrote:

I've been trying to convice SWMBO to go for the 8x12 shed, but it's an extra couple of hundred pounds which is a push too far on the budget we've got available...

ROTFLMAO!!!
Fortunately I'll have space on the right end of my worktop/bench to go the full length.

Thanks mate.
Cheers,
Andy
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I built all of my shop cabinets out of MDF and a lot of the painted built-ins in the house. You could just butt joint or dado them together, but I recently started using FWW's method which essentially amounts to a tongue and groove type of construction. My most recent projects were a 36" high, 20" deep, and 1-54" wide, 1-52" wide MDF cabinets. The FWW method works extremely well. One thing I started doing is using a full 3/4" (or I suppose 18MM) thick sheet of MDF as the backboard of the cabinet and always including at least 1 fixed shelf (either vertically or horizontally) and securely attaching that to the backboard. Yields a rock solid cabinet. I don't use any screws either.
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On Fri, 20 Jan 2006 07:48:34 -0800, Woodchuck34 wrote:

They'll be constructed using Norm's method of cut out strips screwed to the edges. Difficult to explain, maybe I'll take some photos when I do it (with the weather it looks like it'll be delayed for a week - gonna be snowing when the guy was going to be doing the concrete base for me).

Interesting. They'll actually be screwed to the back wall, but I'll see how strong they are. The left side will be screwed to the left wall and I can always screw a batten to the right side (and back wall) to keep them from exploding in the middle if they look like they may.
The fixed shelf (yes mine will have one too) will be in a dado and toe-nailed.
Cheers,
Andy
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They use mdf for kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Since you'll have a frame, the mdf should be fine.
Andy Jeffries wrote:

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On Thu, 19 Jan 2006 13:35:17 -0600, Mike Berger wrote:

Y'know, I didn't think of that before, but you're right, very common in kitchen cabinet construction.
Thanks for that...
Cheers,
Andy
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At a width of 36" the MDF will sag substantially under its own weight. If it can be fastened to a surface that will keep it from sagging, it will be fine. I am not familiar with your application but it sounds like the top can be fastened to the underside of the top of the bench and the bottom will have to be blocked up or have a base that can keep the MDF from sagging. If you use MDF shelves at this width, it would be best to incorporate at least a built up front edging, with either a rabbet to receive the shelf, or perhaps a bisuited connection between the edging and the shelf material, and provide a point of support at midspan along the back edge of the shelf.
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entfillet composed a while back: >At a width of 36" the MDF will sag substantially under its own weight. >If it can be fastened to a surface that will keep it from sagging, it >will be fine. I am not familiar with your application but it sounds >like the top can be fastened to the underside of the top of the bench >and the bottom will have to be blocked up or have a base that can keep >the MDF from sagging. If you use MDF shelves at this width, it would >be best to incorporate at least a built up front edging, with either a >rabbet to receive the shelf, or perhaps a bisuited connection between >the edging and the shelf material, and provide a point of support at >midspan along the back edge of the shelf.
Just reading some of the older posts, and thought I'd give my $.02 here from my (very limited) experience in case anyone is doubtful about the relative strength/sag-resistance of MDF. I built a U-shaped receptionist's desk for my office out of 3/4 MDF that was just under 8 feet wide, 30 inches deep at the front, and about 6 feet back alongside the walls/and 22" deep. I reinforced the desk along the bottom at the edges with 2&1/2 inch wide strips of MDF, glued and nailed with a nail gun. On top and on the edges I glued on laminate. Only the ends of the 6 foot sections were supported by under-the-counter cabinets, and the rest of the desk was supported only along the walls by sitting on top of a 1x4 screwed flat around the wall like a cheap French Cleat without the bevels. That desk did not warp or sag at all in the 5 years I used it, and only very slightly at the edge under my weight when walking on it while running wiring in the ceiling. Sag in MDF is, in my experience, from either poor design, improper finishing allowing moisture, or some combination of those. So using a little care, it can be a good material for a workbench or cabinets, even in a shed or garage, that will hold up for years.
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