Putting a finish on MDF

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Forum topic by dakremer posted 05-08-2010 06:35 AM 13436 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2742 posts in 3294 days

05-08-2010 06:35 AM

Topic tags/keywords: mdf finishing

How do you finish MDF? I want to make a couple of modern furniture pieces (like a modern coffee table) and thought that maybe I’d use MDF. I want it to be glossy (very glossy) BLACK. I was wondering how you finish MDF… you sand it til smooth, paint it, and then coat it? Simple as that? I’ve never tried it – and just wondering if this is something thats even done? Thanks!!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

14 replies so far

View BOB67CAM's profile


269 posts in 3275 days

#1 posted 05-08-2010 07:03 AM

ill throw my 2 cents in for ya since its probly not a normal thing but anyways i tried about a million things when i was trying to do about the same thing, altho mine was to be metal flake dark blue
anyways what i found was pretty much nothing worked except some stuff from minwax, the name was something like poly-stain or something, its a mix of poly AND stain, mine was black but i would assume any color would work altho u want black anyways but let as much soak in as it will take and do 5 coats sanding a lil bit in between but do NOT sand past the finish or yer finish coat will soak right in wreck the finish, anyways when its all nice and smoot the do your finish coat..if u need the name of the poly stuff let me know n ill geab it for ya, good luck ;)

-- if you dont have it, build it, especially when its a stupid idea

View joey's profile


396 posts in 4107 days

#2 posted 05-08-2010 08:41 AM

The best I found is auto lacquer, I work in a shop and we did several piece that was high gloss black. we use a high body primer on it first then spot puttied any dings or cracks with a good auto spot puddly. sanded the primer to 220 then spayed 3 coats of black lacquer then 4 or 5 of clear sanding between each coat. The last coat was wet sanded then bluffed with a polishing compound, but be careful you can really mess it up at that point if your not careful. If I had to do this again I would practice on a couple of scrap pieces of mdf first to see if I could get the results I wanted before investing the time and money. we also did a high gloss pink which was truly ugly, but the customer loved it.

-- Joey~~Sabina, Ohio

View albachippie's profile


773 posts in 3238 days

#3 posted 05-08-2010 09:07 AM

Car body paint is a great plan. I’ve used two part paints for mdf with decent results. Like BOB said, just be careful not to go too deep with your sanding between coats. I’ve found the ambient temperature a problem for two-parts unless you can keep a constant where you are spraying, but I live in Scotland, so probably not in issue for you!

-- Garry fae Bonnie Scotland

View bluchz's profile


187 posts in 3577 days

#4 posted 05-08-2010 12:39 PM

I made a train table for my son. I painted it but i used a drywall primer for the first 2 coats.MDF will really soak up some paint and the primer seemed to help seal it.

-- flash=250,100][/flash]

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 4026 days

#5 posted 05-08-2010 01:52 PM

sand&sealer and then any high gloss finish to your desire

View Ger21's profile


1075 posts in 3334 days

#6 posted 05-08-2010 04:35 PM

If you have exposed edges, coating them with epoxy first will make them harder, and seal them from absorbing pant.

-- Gerry,

View cstrang's profile


1832 posts in 3371 days

#7 posted 05-08-2010 04:57 PM

The process that I use and see used most often is 1. sanding sealer 2. coat of paint 3. 2nd coat of paint 4. lacquer. Sanding between each coat is a must but if you follow this process or one of the ideas above you should be fine, there are many ways to seal MDF but in the end I think it all comes down to personal preferance. Good luck.

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4302 days

#8 posted 05-08-2010 05:36 PM

I use pigmented lacquer top coated with clear lacquer.

Unlike auto body lacquers, the finish does not get wet sanded. This is unnecessary work for the lacquers used in the wood shop.

If you paint and then top with a clear lacquer, you need to make sure that the lacquer will be compatible with the paint or the solvents will act as a stripper and eat the paint. That is why I use pigmented lacquer.

Don’t bother looking at woodworking suppliers and the big box hardware stores. Go to where the pro cabinets shop. There are more Sherwin Williams, ML Campbell, and Columbia dealers nearby than people realize and they specialize in the finishes that a woodworker needs. Those are the places that will give you pro support and products even if you are a hobbyist.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View UncleFester's profile


33 posts in 4390 days

#9 posted 05-08-2010 05:47 PM

I have seen spackling compound used to seal the edges, I really like using edge banding veneer tape.

I build a lot of cabinets using MDF. I use it for the sides and use poplar for the face frames. I spray all my finishes using my Accuspray 23K H.V.L.P. I usually spray 4 light coats of paint.


-- Uncle Fester

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3208 days

#10 posted 05-08-2010 08:35 PM

In making paint grade Raised Panel doors the center panel is usually MDF. I always used a special primer/sealer ro MDF from M L Campbell. It still took a few coats on the edges to seal them properly but it worked will.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3189 days

#11 posted 05-09-2010 12:32 AM

I’ve had great luck with MDF.. priming it first (with an oil-based primer), lots of sanding, using drywall mud on corners and any rough spots, lots more sanding, and then the final paint. I prefer lacquer, but I’ve also had good luck with very ordinary Rust-oleum spray paint if it has been properly sealed.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 3163 days

#12 posted 05-09-2010 01:08 PM

does anybody know if it’s possible to paint or protect mdf without darkening it? i would like to make cabinets partly with mdf. it’s color goes well with pine or any other light colored wood, but once you put on laquer its turns dark. i have this special water based finish that doesnt darken wood, but it still darkens mdf somewhat.

View 2007rusty's profile


35 posts in 4031 days

#13 posted 05-09-2010 01:53 PM

MDF is a great product for furniture and finishing. I use it considerably. The finish you desire will be based upon your limitations of equipment. If you have the necessary spray equipment try Joey’s method it’s a very professional technique. Now if you’re like most woodworkers just starting who have limited tools try this. Seal the edges with Sherwin Williams primer for MDF and the rest of the table. Apply all paint with a sponge roller, sand with 320 grit between coats. Spray the topcoat with lacquer. If you don’t have a sprayer and you use aerosol cans make sure you apply several coats. The aerosol cans are a thin product. Gloss will show every defect, you may consider semi-gloss.

-- I know all about hard work. It's that R & R I need to learn

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4280 days

#14 posted 05-09-2010 08:51 PM

I just seal the edge either with the topcoat (several applications) or if painting I use a vinyl spackling compound and then paint. I have used latex, lacquer and shellac as topcoats.

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

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