Built-In Bookcases and Mantel Surround #3: MDF prices are soaring! (Or maybe it's the riftsawn white oak veneer on top of that MDF?)

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Blog entry by Jonathan posted 05-19-2010 09:01 PM 1559 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Getting Things Underway... Bookcase Mock-Ups Part 3 of Built-In Bookcases and Mantel Surround series Part 4: Possibly adding a drawer, or discreet compartment? »

I went to the lumber supply store last week and purchased 1-sheet of 3/4” riftsawn white oak MDF core plywood and 1-sheet of 1/4” riftsawn white oak MDF core plywood for the bookcase carcasses and backing material.

Holy cow, that put a dent in the plastic! Good thing that card has a high deflection rate.

The 3/4” sheet was $124, plus tax and the 1/4” sheet was $70-something, plus tax.

The grand total for a couple of sheets of MDF was $212.37!

Wow, MDF has gotten expensive these days! Of course, this was made in the USA and not Asia, so at least it’s safer to breathe any residual sawdust hanging in the air.

Or maybe the steep price was a direct result of the riftsawn white oak veneer that was riding on the MDF that drove the price up? ;)

They wanted to charge me $5/cut and I wasn’t about to pay $10 on top of the $212, so the employee let me pick through the stack and then helped me load 2-full sheets of the stuff into the back of my Cherokee. I drove the plywood home with it hanging out the back of my vehicle. I unloaded it into the garage just before it really started to rain. I counted a grand total of 2-drops of rain on one of the sheets. Good timing!

After unloading the plywood, I went to the Big Box store and picked-up 4-little plastic folding sawhorses.

The next day I went out to the garage with the new sawhorses, my circular saw, and my 50”-All in One Clamp.

I set up all 4-saw horses and had my wife help lift and center the plywood on top of the sawhorses. I centered and squared the clamp, accounting for the 3.75-inches of offset for the circular saw, and locked it down.

Never having cut a full sheet of plywood down before, I figured I’d start with the lighter, thinner (read “less expensive”) sheet first.

I slid my dusk mask on and my safety glasses down.

I crosscut the 1/4” sheet first, without issue, other than feeling like it was a bit of a stretch getting the saw all the way across the sheet. Then I crosscut the 3/4” sheet… even more of a stretch, but still no other issues.

(As a sidenote, I’d highly recommend this clamp for crosscutting sheets of plywood. My regular circular saw rides along the clamp nicely, with enough room for the motor to glide above it without any contact.)

I breathed a sigh of relief, and thankfully no sawdust as I was wise enough to wear a dusk mask for the task. My lungs were unscathed, but everything else in the garage was covered in a fine layer of MDF sawdust.

We then got the 1/2-sheets of plywood down into the basement. I’m telling you, they barely fit down our staircase! Definitely a tight fit. Leaned them on-edge against the toolbox and decided that was enough for the day. I needed to clean a bit of a mess up before I could rip them down on the tablesaw anyway.

Fastforward a day or two…

With my mess cleaned up, there was just barely enough room to maneuver myself and a 1/2-sheet of plywood behind the tablesaw and still have enough room for my ironing board…err… outfeed table to catch the outcoming piece on the back side.

I ripped 8-pieces down to about 10.5”, leaving a bit of room for error in case there were any issues. I’m glad I did too, as one of the pieces went off course, momentarily angling away from the fence. I then took the first piece and made sure to rip it nice and square and used this piece as my guide for the others, deciding if either side wasn’t straight, then ripping the offending side (if one was not quite straight,) off as the waste side.

That brings the project up-to-date. I now have 8-pieces of 3/4” RS white oak MDF core plywood that are 10” wide. The next step will be to crosscut 4 of them down for the sides of the bookcases, and the other 4 down to about 37-1/4” or so, for the top support and fixed bottom shelf of each bookcase.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

4 comments so far

View supervato's profile


153 posts in 2898 days

#1 posted 05-20-2010 03:36 AM

Have you tried this for cutting down big sheets. Buy a 4×8 sheet of 3/4 inch thick foam insulation lay it on the ground and then put the sheet your going to cut on top of it. Set your blade just enough to cut through the wood sheet. you need no support or help and the blade just leaves little grooves in the insulation but you can keep using it over and over for a while. I like it cause i get good clean cuts with no help and dont have to worry about pinch points or things falling off the horses after i finished the cuts. You can also move across the sheet as your cutting it so thier is no stretching.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3303 days

#2 posted 05-20-2010 12:08 PM

That sounds like a great way to do it Supervato, but storing such a large piece of foam can be a problem for many of us who don’t have the space. In that case a wooden framwork between sawhorses as featured in the latest Shop Notes magazine might be a good alternative.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3020 days

#3 posted 05-20-2010 03:10 PM


I seem to remember reading about using an 4×8-sized piece of foam in a book somewhere and thought it was a good idea at the time. I will remember that for future reference, but don’t really have a good place to store a full sheet of foam right now. I’m thinking that cutting it down into smaller sections would still work, but that it would lose a bit of its overall effectiveness (strength, rigidity, etc.). Has anyone cut it down into smaller sections for storage and then used it afterwards? If so, how did that work in comparison to one full sheet?

It may be a short time before any more of the building phase happens, as I’ve decided I am going to apply the finish to all of the carcass pieces before assembing it, as I believe this will allow for a more evenly applied finish and also forego any worrying about getting into nooks, crannies and corners.

The only other thing we need to figure out soon is what we want the final height to be. Then I can crosscut the 4-side pieces down to size and be ready to begin finishing the carcasses once the Charles Neil Blotch Control arrives, which is scheduled for tomorrow. My mother-in-law will be in town for about 5-days, and I haven’t seen her in quite a while, so I’m looking forward to spending time catching up while she’s here, so I probably won’t make much physical progress on this while she is visiting. I still have a few other things to figure out for down the road, so I may be posting ideas, thoughts and questions on those things to get some feedback.

Stay tuned!

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View supervato's profile


153 posts in 2898 days

#4 posted 05-26-2010 02:01 AM

I have not heard of anyone cutting it into pieces but i think it would still be ok. I mean your still getting the wood off the ground.

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