My Workbench #2: First Glue Up

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Blog entry by Jimi_C posted 08-19-2009 03:53 AM 1465 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Day 1 Complete Part 2 of My Workbench series Part 3: Getting Close to Being Done »

Didn’t get a chance to work on this last night, so I headed home with a purpose tonight. Started by getting everything prepared for cutting the MDF – I’ve read the dust can be nasty so I opened my garage door and put a fan behind me to blow out. I also got some dust masks out, unfortunately not the best but I figured better than nothing, and with the fan blowing the dust away from me I thought it’d be sufficient for now.

I propped up the off-cut side so it wouldn’t slump down on the cross-cut, and setup my fence to cut. My poor circular saw did not like cutting this stuff. At even only 1/2” thick, if I tried to keep the saw to tight to the fence, it started bogging down – and burning MDF. So, I let it take the path of least resistance and ended up about an 1/8th of an inch off my pencil line. No big deal, I’m cleaning it up with a router later anyway. Same thing went for the long cut, but in the end I nearly had a perfect 1/2” overhang on all sides.

First skin cut

Here’s a quick pic of the weights I plan on using to hold the skin tight to the frame:

First time I've used these in a while...

It was a decent workout just hauling all these up from the basement…

On to the drilling: I sank holes all around the perimeter, figuring I could either back them out later when the glue dried, or just fill them in with wood putty or epoxy. I didn’t want screws in the center, thus the weights above. My plan was to lay a couple of 1×4’s on top of the sheet after gluing and putting screws in the corners, then I’d pile the weights on and finish screwing in the perimeter.

Holes around perimeter drilled

This is when I hit a snag… I couldn’t find my caulk gun. Being too lazy to run up to the store to buy another one, I opted to just glue the top down with the Gorilla glue I bought. No guts no glory, and I need to learn to work under a clock when gluing anyway, right?

So, on with the glue! Mental note: have a wet rag handy before starting to glue. I had glue all over my hands from trying to get the top centered, and the glue started holding the MDF in place making it damn near impossible to slide anymore. I managed to get the overhang correct on the front and back, but the sides were off a bit, a fact I found out when I tried to put a screw in the side and it came out of the 1×4 underneath. I just decided to skip putting screws in the sides, and grabbed 2 more 25lb weights from downstairs to put nearer the ends. The rest of the screws for the front and back edges went in without a hitch, and I wiped down the excess (not a lot of it, hoping I didn’t skimp on the glue…). I felt I had a pretty decent bead squeezing out most of the way around the table, and tightened a few screws down around the edge and adjusted the weights where I thought it wasn’t putting enough pressure.

Weighted, now I'm waiting

I really hope glue isn’t dripping down the inside and locking the frame to my makeshift MDF table top… I’ll flip it over tomorrow morning and find out! If it’s screwed up in some way, I’ll just put screws into the cross members and use that side as the bottom of the torsion box.

So, a question for the pros: How well does MDF handle routing on the edges? I’m kind of afraid it’s going to fuzz and shred, so I’m likely to pick up a jigsaw tomorrow and trim up as much as possible before cleaning up with the router. Also, is there any kind of sealant I can put on the edges of the MDF to try and keep moisture out?

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

5 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117060 posts in 3539 days

#1 posted 08-19-2009 04:15 AM

Looking good look forward to an update

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View blackcherry's profile


3337 posts in 3785 days

#2 posted 08-19-2009 04:23 AM

It should router fairly nice shredding should not be a problem. I found that sand & sealer works great on MDF, good luck…Blkcherry

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3197 days

#3 posted 08-19-2009 03:01 PM

A little research says that for a clear finish, I should use polyurethane formulated for MDF – do one coat, sand and scuff, then topcoat. Does that sound about right?

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View AaronK's profile (online now)


1506 posts in 3427 days

#4 posted 08-25-2009 03:38 PM

no sure if you’ve done this already, but i’ve “case hardened” mdf with any old poly or varnish. and i spruce it up any time i have a little extra – wipe it on and rub it in. it absorbs the finish like a sink, so you wont have to worry about non-level build-up. i haven’t tried a true topcoat like you mention, but i havent had the need. once that finish soaks in and it cures it’ll be plenty hard. also, for a workbench i doubt the need to sand at all. the top surface of the mdf is quite smooth.

View rogerfitz's profile


2 posts in 3456 days

#5 posted 09-05-2009 10:32 PM

When I built my router table I had 2 3/4” mdf sheets contact glued together. When I qasked at my local Woodcraft store what finish t use, thet suggested Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO). Put it on until the table stops absorbing it. Well that has lasted my 5 years with fairly heavy use. all I have done is wax it with Renaissance was occasionally.

What you have done so far looks great I look forward to the rest of the tutorial.


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