Kitchen table...Laminated MDF vs. pure wood

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by CompleteRookie posted 11-12-2009 08:04 PM 10518 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View CompleteRookie's profile


18 posts in 3250 days

11-12-2009 08:04 PM

My wife has asked me to build a kitchen table. I have the overall design and dimensions. I have also read some threads regarding the type of finish that would be best. Based on the research, it looks like I am going to go with, a cherry table top with tapered cherry legs. It will have bread board ends (I think that is the right description) and possibly a side rail. The rails and bread board will be walnut. I also since we have granite in the kitchen I was going to cut a square shape in the middle of the table and inlay a piece of the granite in there. Overall dimensions of the table will be 3’ by 5’.

I have now started the research on the wood and I have come across something that I did not expect. I have found high quality cherry laminated mdf. I did not know that existed. Given this, I have a dilemma.

Should I go with the cherry laminated MDF or get some cherry boards join them together?

-- I can make firewood with the best of them!

14 replies so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3302 days

#1 posted 11-12-2009 08:21 PM

i vote for keeping it pure…real wood all the way..this will be a well built table and end up as a hierloom..and building a table top will give you more experiance then going with the mdf…my 2 cents

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View LesB's profile


1726 posts in 3441 days

#2 posted 11-12-2009 08:28 PM

My opinion is that MDF may be OK for cabinets but I would not use it for “furniture”. Go with the solid wood.
One small problem with cherry is getting a uniform color between boards. Some people use stain to do that. The cherry will also darken in color with age and or exposure to sunlight.
For a kitchen table I prefer to use an water base varathane made for floors. It is much harder than normal varathane.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Bret's profile


166 posts in 3493 days

#3 posted 11-12-2009 09:24 PM

I’ve been considering building a dining table from cherry-laminated plywood for the top, based on a project in Woodsmith magazine. I’m not sure if that qualifies as “pure wood”, but it’s something I’m considering while honing my skills.

-- Woodworking is easy as 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510...

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3696 days

#4 posted 11-12-2009 09:27 PM

Solid wood

View kenscraft's profile


37 posts in 3345 days

#5 posted 11-12-2009 10:11 PM

Solid wood is the only way to go, mdf is only compressed cardboard, if you want it to last, my suggestion is solid timber.

-- Kenscraft, Caboolture q.l.d....

View Gary's profile


9331 posts in 3431 days

#6 posted 11-13-2009 01:19 AM

WOODWORKERS use wood. MDFWORKERS use MDF. Ahh….use wood. You’ll be glad you did

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3367 days

#7 posted 11-13-2009 01:25 AM

Another vote for real wood!

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4245 days

#8 posted 11-13-2009 01:46 AM

I wish I had wood, for a table that is.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Thuan's profile


203 posts in 3816 days

#9 posted 11-13-2009 01:47 AM

If it’s an everyday Kitchen table and the shape is angular, then I’m voting MDF for the following reasons:
It’s dead flat, dimensionally stable and it’s harder than solid cherry planks, it’ll handle the abuse of everyday use from kids doing homework with ball point pens to someone pounding the utensils on the table demanding food.

Solid wood if you’re a wood worker who just loves to work with cherry, because there are few wood that works so well into fine furniture.

-- Thuan

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3671 days

#10 posted 11-13-2009 02:13 AM

I would do real wood.

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 3805 days

#11 posted 11-13-2009 02:27 AM

There seems to be a popular misconception that the use of MDF or Particleboard or even hardwood ply would somehow make the project less of a wood working project vs using 100% solid wood or that the quality would be compromised. If you are veneering then the best choice is either MDF or Particleboard for stability and flatness as Thuan mentioned. I use solid wood, veneer, particleboard, MDF and hardwood ply because I use the most appropriate material for each situation. I also only tend to build high quality custom furniture.

Given the fact, however, that you mentioned you are going to have breadboard ends and a center tile of granite then you are better off to sticking to solid wood construction since your design would dictate solid wood. What I mean is that the whole purpose of a breadboard is to keep glued up solid planks from cupping. If you used a breadboard on a mdf top it would be purely aesthetical vs. functional. Which brings me back to my point use the material that is most appropriate for the design.

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 3524 days

#12 posted 11-13-2009 03:10 PM

If I was building the table for myself, then I would most definitely stick with solid wood. I just feel as though the real top makes it more unique and durable. Sure the mdf veneered with wood MIGHT be harder, but it sure won’t look as nice over the years when it gets the inevitable scratches in it from daily use.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

View CaptainSkully's profile


1599 posts in 3557 days

#13 posted 11-13-2009 05:44 PM

If you use MDF, you’ll end up jumping through a lot of hoops in order to hide that fact and make it look like real wood. MDF won’t have the strength at each end for the tenon to handle the torque on the breadboard ends, whereas the fibrous structure of real wood can. Imagine going through all that work, and someone leans on the end and cracks the tongue.

I have no experience with making MDF tops, but I would be concerned with moisture and heat on the top. I know the same applies to real wood, but with wood, you at least have more wood underneath the surface.

Also, I like the look of slightly mismatched boards side by side. I think that gives it an authentic hand crafted look. I would be afraid that MDF might actually look too uniform. Wouldn’t an MDF table end up like one purchased from Ikea?

I don’t want to sound prejudiced against MDF. I’m actually using it for the mock up of our dining table. The corners feel a bit like they could snap off if given a little incentive. Breadboard ends would help, but now we’re back to the strength issue. I think veneered MDF might be very cool for non-working surfaces like cabinet sides, but a table top gets a lot of use and abuse. I actually tried to be as objective as possible and not just summarily dismiss MDF, but writing this made me think that real wood is the way to go. I hope this helps.

BTW, I like the granite idea, it’s like a built in trivet. Have you thought about using MDF for a 3’x5’ mockup? It’ll be a cheap and easy way to tell if that table size is right for you and the room. Then you can always make some jigs out of it.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

540 posts in 3480 days

#14 posted 11-13-2009 06:10 PM

There are advantages to both. The MDF is dead flat and won’t warp. The down side, if it’s got standing water on it for any real length of time it can end up swelling and you can’t really fix it, plus there’s always the risk of sanding through the veneer. Also, it’s pretty heavy. With solid, if it gets damaged you just sand it down and refinish the top. If those are your only two options, go with the solid wood, spend a little extra money and you’ll love the outcome. However, if you’re not opposed to the idea, I’ve used plywood for table tops with a breadboard edge and they turned out real nice. Similar problem of the possibility of sanding through, but less likely to be damaged by water. Just a thought. What you described sounds really nice, can’t wait to see it, whatever you choose.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics