All Replies on Using MDF for furniture style projects

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Using MDF for furniture style projects

by MT_Stringer
posted 03-21-2013 06:15 PM

32 replies so far

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 3808 days

#1 posted 03-21-2013 06:28 PM

I stay away from it all costs.

View higtron's profile


237 posts in 2699 days

#2 posted 03-21-2013 06:30 PM

It’s great for painted projects I built some pantry shelving units for some friends they turned out great I was able to do all the cutting and, routing outside with a stand fan pushing the dust away fom me. You have to think about sagging for the shelves themselves I added stiffeners across the fronts and a cleat at the backs.

-- A friend will help you move, a good friend will help you move a body

View ChrisK's profile


1972 posts in 3103 days

#3 posted 03-21-2013 06:32 PM

If you are making a lot of something it might be beneficial cost wise to use MDF or other low cost material in areas where it does not make a difference. However, I found that unless you can replace several sheets or board feet of pricier material it is not worth the effort.

I have used MDF on a lot of projects that are painted, because it is less cost and paints easier. Other than the weight I like the way it machines.

-- Chris K

View upinflames's profile


217 posts in 2183 days

#4 posted 03-21-2013 06:53 PM

In my neck of the woods it’s cheaper to get paint grade plywood than it is to get MDF. Even if you paint MDF, the least amount of moister to get in at a scratch or dent, it’s headed for the burn pile.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3172 posts in 3252 days

#5 posted 03-21-2013 07:14 PM

Good answers. That’s kind of what I was thinking also.

I think for sure I am going to make one of those kitchen islands out of white pine with pine beadboard and stain it. That’s is what my sister in law wants. Cutting board top shouldn’t be a problem for me to make. I have made some before.

The other SIL probably wants hers painted white. UGH! I will have to research what paint to use and how to get a smooth finish. Prolly paint the beadboard first, then install it.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Marty5965's profile


158 posts in 1967 days

#6 posted 03-21-2013 07:19 PM

I would have not considered MDF for furniture either…..until I saw this guys work:

To be fair, he uses plywood as well but his stuff is beautiful.

I guess it’s not necessarily about what it’s made out of, but how it looks.

-- Marty, Columbus, OH, learning every day....

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3180 days

#7 posted 03-21-2013 07:35 PM

It’s heavy. That, more than anything, makes me not want to use it for furniture.

-- jay,

View Woodknack's profile (online now)


11758 posts in 2401 days

#8 posted 03-21-2013 07:49 PM

For kitchens use plywood. I built a nightstand from MDF, painted it. I really didn’t think it would last long but I built it around 10 years ago and my daughter is using it now, it’s as solid as the day I built it. The biggest downside was all the dust.

-- Rick M,

View RockyTopScott's profile


1186 posts in 3500 days

#9 posted 03-21-2013 08:42 PM

Marty5965, I have watched all of Andy Pitts videos. He is an unreal craftsman.

-- “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” ― Thomas Sowell

View fstellab's profile


86 posts in 2107 days

#10 posted 03-21-2013 09:12 PM


MDF is not allowed in my shop any longer. I creates really nasty fine dust that is very had to clean, it some places its almost like a paste. I am sure it not any good for you lungs and nose.

I cut 2 shallow dados for a table saw sled, the packed dust got every where, its like a fine dirt. I am still finding in places.

I might use MDF if it really fit the project, but I will not rout or cut it in doors.

-- Fred Stellabotte (

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


4800 posts in 2430 days

#11 posted 03-21-2013 11:07 PM

I used it form making the tops for my workbenches, glued two 3/4” pieces together and lamainated. It works well for this but I am not much to work with it for much else. It has some good uses but if I make a piece of furniture I want to show off the wood, not paint. Maybe it is just me…. (laughing)

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2819 days

#12 posted 03-21-2013 11:57 PM

MDF is an excellent substrate for marquetry and veneering in general as it is very flat and uniform and unlikely to move. Many fine furniture pieces are made with an MDF base but you’d never know it. For utilitarian pieces however I’d go with good paint grade birch.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View runswithscissors's profile


2762 posts in 2046 days

#13 posted 03-22-2013 12:44 AM

I’m imagining archeologists in a few hundred years or more running into particle board and mdf furniture. Will any of it still be intact? If moisture gets to it, seems they would find only clumps of brown sludge, maybe with a marquetry overlay.

Could anyone ever regard a well-aged piece of Ikea furniture as a valuable antique? I suppose so (sigh). Stranger things have happened.

Maybe even particle board stuff with wood-grain contact paper will be looked on with admiration. (gag)

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Woodknack's profile (online now)


11758 posts in 2401 days

#14 posted 03-22-2013 08:06 AM

Any furniture will degrade over time if you don’t take care of it.

-- Rick M,

View TheRoux90318's profile


30 posts in 2193 days

#15 posted 03-22-2013 08:27 AM

Made shelving for pantry and a couple low profile show racks for the Bride using MDF…all painted. Not worth much of any other use IMHO.


View David Dean's profile

David Dean

608 posts in 2920 days

#16 posted 03-22-2013 11:44 AM

I dont know MT some poeple love it but down here in southeast missouri they love there oak and I have had customer’s who like’s the desgain but not it being made of MDF and than I have a lote of mom’s and dad’s who are pissed becouse they go out a spen $100 for a dresser and it only last a year if that long and I got poeple that has been waiting a mouth of two for dresser thats how far beheen I am. her’s a pic of a peice I done for one older wamen but its made from oak now.

View EPJartisan's profile


1118 posts in 3147 days

#17 posted 03-22-2013 01:29 PM

MDF has it’s place in the shop. Mostly for jigs, drill boards, cauls, bending forms, and other project assisting items. I have this conversation with people all the time. For me.. MDF, HDF, and LDF are just boards of dust held in place by a binder and the density being how much pressure is used and they all have the same problem… longevity, and I mean if you want your table to be around as long as egyptian wood furniture (2,000+ years) fiber board just won’t make it. It expands with moisture like a sponge, it can last and has durability but only for a lifetime. But the benefits of the material make it worth having around… no movement… flat… no grain = easy to carve and manipulate (easy to dent unless it is HDF) and can come in affordable thicknesses up to 1.5”. You can seal it with a wood hardener and a coat of varnish and any template will last a decade… but it must be sealed completely or a month later it will be useless. I can not abide building with it.. but that is only a personal preference for wood color and figure… and that my ego wants to make things that will last four or five generations. and fiber board just has no inherent strength for tight joints and wracking movements… screws and glue can rip out… so I use knock down hardware where I need strength.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View waho6o9's profile


8204 posts in 2598 days

#18 posted 03-22-2013 01:50 PM

MDO (Medium Density Overlay) paints up well and I’d rather not use MDF.

Nice piece you made there David Dean!

View dhazelton's profile


2771 posts in 2318 days

#19 posted 03-22-2013 02:02 PM

I think it’s fine to use in conjunction with real wood rails and stiles for painted pieces. I wouldn’t use it any place that could it could get wet, however. I also think one of the above posters should respect readers a bit more and spend the time to punctuate and spell check. Reading a paragraph long sentence is tiresome.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3172 posts in 3252 days

#20 posted 03-22-2013 02:42 PM

Lots of good input. Thanks to all for taking the time to offer their thoughts and opinions. Y’all petty much confirmed what I was thinking about using MDF.

Hopefully this thread will benefit other readers that have had similar thoughts about MDF.

@David Dean – like your project. I have a microwave stand to build. It might turn out looking somewhat similar to your project. :-)


-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View bondogaposis's profile


4753 posts in 2373 days

#21 posted 03-22-2013 04:27 PM

I use it for shop cabinets.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3265 days

#22 posted 03-22-2013 04:59 PM

A lot of store bought furniture these days is made with MDF. Nothing wrong with it other than it’s heavy weight. The stability of MDF is a big plus, especially for table tops. As long as you can cover the edges with solid wood and apply veneers to the surfaces, you can produce good results. I would not use it for drawers or furniture backs. This is where plywood is best; baltic birch for sides, back and bottom, hardwood for drawer fromts.

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3670 days

#23 posted 03-22-2013 05:06 PM

MDF is used a lot in high end furniture as a substrate on top of which >>THICK<< veneers are pressed. this is done to minimize natural wood movements, as well as reduce costs (both production and long term maintenance/support costs).

It does produce nasty super-fine dust.

for hobby use, if you cannot properly control that fine dust, it is best to look at alternatives unless you really have an abundance of free supply and want to make the best of it – in which case, make sure you use a proper respirator and use dust extraction as much as possible.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View David Dean's profile

David Dean

608 posts in 2920 days

#24 posted 03-22-2013 08:35 PM

Thanks guys I thank still have the plans for that but it has two tops the very top can move left and right and I dont know where you would get the ring that lets it go in cicles.

View GCM's profile


86 posts in 2348 days

#25 posted 04-15-2013 01:15 AM

I use MDF quite a bit – but the overwhelming reason is cost – in the US plywood seems to be so cheap compared to what we pay here in Oz that I would have thought for most purposes it would be the better alternative. There are, however, some other benefits of MDF particularly for painted pieces, machinability and stability being probably the main ones. The main disadvantages are weight and edge finishing. Obviously it is quite a good choice for built-ins where weight is not an issue and edges are generally covered up with a face frame.

-- Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.

View Illinoiswoodworker's profile


36 posts in 1911 days

#26 posted 04-15-2013 01:37 AM

I’ve used MDF and there are upsides. It doesn’t warp and you don’t have to worry about knots or splits. It is dead flat but it sags. It is annoying to me when you hit a corner and it chips out. And water will cause it to swell.

I try to avoid it like the plague now.

-- I love the smell of red oak in the morning..........

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3265 days

#27 posted 04-17-2013 09:06 PM

If it’s going to be stained, you can’t use MDF. I would confer with the customer and explain the differences between wood and MDF construction, cost of each, durability, etc and let him decide. The difference in cost between MDF and say Baltic Birch plywood for the sample project might only amount to $20.00 at the most for material. Woodworking techniques would be about the same with either material with BB ply having the advantage of being easier to work with.

View OliverArts's profile


21 posts in 1887 days

#28 posted 04-18-2013 02:41 AM

I’ve use it for templates and patterns in the guitar shop and it works well for that purpose…it’s stable and good for that purpose. Tried it in a couple of painted furniture projects…not a fan of it.

While it’s made out of wood fiber and just isnt the same as wood…and the dust is horrible.

-- Travis Oliver - Luthier and Furniture builder...Thanks dad and grandpa for teaching me how to build it and fix it

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3669 days

#29 posted 04-18-2013 04:36 AM

It can solve problems… especially in paint grade work
where cost and speed are factors. It’s about the
fastest material to make paint grade beadboard from –
though you can buy MDF beadboard too and use
it as inset panels.

If price is a factor in selling paint grade cabinets, MDF
can help you please those clients. Whether those
are the types of clients you want to cater to is
another issue. It is certainly unpleasant to work
with from a dust standpoint.

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3072 days

#30 posted 04-18-2013 04:39 AM


One thing to consider is the fact that you’re likely competing with Chinese crap. Don’t sell yourself too cheaply. Use the cost of real wood and solid American craftsmanship to help justify making a reasonable profit. Remember, you can allways come down. You can NEVER come back up.

Also mdf swells up like a centerfielder on steroids.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View GCM's profile


86 posts in 2348 days

#31 posted 04-19-2013 12:51 PM

Hah – it boils down to this – if you live in the US or Canada use the most expensive timber/lumber you can find – it will STILL be cheaper than anywhere else in the English speaking world – but be quick – the greenies are coming to get you too – it is just a matter of time.

-- Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.

View GCM's profile


86 posts in 2348 days

#32 posted 04-20-2013 01:14 AM

I just noticed on another site that a sheet of 3/4” 4’x8’ plywood is $45 in the states. It is around $120 here so there is definitely a place for MDF in my workshop ($30 a sheet) but I don’t know why it is ever used in the US except for areas where you want it’s flatness and stability.

I don’t agree that MDF swells significantly – I built my CNC machine from MDF 5 years ago and there is no sign of swelling at all and I live in a very humid environment AND I haven’t treated it with any moisture resistant finish. It DOES sag though so any long horizontal sections need to be supported in some way – for instance on a CNC machine a torsion box type construction is advised.

-- Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.

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