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closet organizer - can I used MDF ?

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Forum topic by AAANDRRREW posted 11-18-2016 05:21 PM 793 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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AAANDRRREW

210 posts in 1012 days


11-18-2016 05:21 PM

I’ve been instructed to built a closet organizer by my wife. She wants essentially a shelving unit with dimensions roughly 8’ tall and 2’ out. Haven’t decided on the width of the shelves yet though. On either side of the shelves we’ll have clothing rods going to the walls of the closet.

My question is – I’d love to do with MDF due to cost. We’ll be painting it anyway, so I don’t see a need to get nice plywood or even solid wood. What I’m concerned about is anchoring to the back wall. I was thinking of using my kreg jig, but I’m worried that it could rip right through the MDF when attached to the wall, especially if the shelves are hung and not supported by sitting on the ground.

Any thoughts on this? Would it be ok, or should I allow it to sit on the floor? Maybe plywood or some decent pine boards will be a better route?


16 replies so far

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

341 posts in 2301 days


#1 posted 11-18-2016 06:24 PM

MDF is just fine for that project. I’d just do two frameless cabinet boxes and stack them on top of each other, and utilize the nailer strips on the top and bottom box that can be securely screwed into the closet studs. that is an easy project, and MDF is actually 3/4 so the measurements should be a snap.

Bump up a few bucks, and get a MDF core ply with a nice veneer face and you could edge band and actually finish with wiping varnish or something. To me, painting is a mess and a pain the arse, unless you can spray solid color lacquer or something…. MDF has edges that suck up paint and finish, they need sealed, MDF IMO doesn’t sand all that well on those cut edges.

If you’re going to do this once and do it right, i’d do a veneered ply and edge band… easy, peasy.

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jmartel

7531 posts in 1989 days


#2 posted 11-18-2016 06:27 PM

MDF Can sag under weight much easier than ply or solid wood. If you use it, make sure you use thick edging strips or keep the lengths of shelves down.

You can calculate the expected sag yourself with this tool:

http://www.woodbin.com/calcs/sagulator/

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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AAANDRRREW

210 posts in 1012 days


#3 posted 11-18-2016 06:33 PM

OK, so you’re saying do NOT use pocket holes to anchor it to the studs – but just a bracket or something similar?

After thinking more and how heavy mdf is, I’m hoping I can get by with a pine 1×12 or worst case, edge glued 1×16 or 1×18. Then I’m not screwing around with a 4×8 of mdf and can sand it nice and its actually solid wood.

Thought about plywood, but to get a grade that looks decent enough (even though I’m just painting) I’m over $40 a sheet already.

As for sag, that calculator seems to be a handy tool! Would it be safe to say that mdf would sag more than plywood and playwood would sag more than pine? I thought someone told me that due to the opposite direction grain plywood doesn’t sad that bad…

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AZWoody

1138 posts in 1063 days


#4 posted 11-18-2016 06:34 PM

I used oak plywood for 2 of my closets. The main reason is the sag as someone mentioned and another is that mdf can off-gas for a while and the clothes can take on the smell.

I also have seen too many cabinets that have the edges fray. Even when they have banding on them. It doesn’t hold up to abuse as well.

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jmartel

7531 posts in 1989 days


#5 posted 11-18-2016 06:38 PM


As for sag, that calculator seems to be a handy tool! Would it be safe to say that mdf would sag more than plywood and playwood would sag more than pine? I thought someone told me that due to the opposite direction grain plywood doesn t sad that bad…

- AAANDRRREW

That’s correct. Solid wood is stronger along the grain than plywood, but weaker cross grain. Plywood is stronger in the cross grain direction because half of the layers have their long grain running in that direction. MDF doesn’t have long fibers. Just a bunch of pulp pressed up and glued. It all depends on what direction you need it to be strongest in. And if you want to use MDF, you can. Just keep the runs shorter and put a thicker front edging band on it. So it would be like 1.5” thick at the front of the shelf with the lip pointing down instead of the 3/4” piece of MDF for instance.

As far as the cost of plywood, That’s $40-45 for essentially 32 boardfeet. The pine at home centers cost more than $1.40/bdft typically. Something to consider. It depends on how much material you need and how efficient you can be with the plywood to minimize waste.

Melamine is also something you can consider. It’s what most closet organizers are made out of. You will need to edgeband it, but it requires no finish and it cleans easily.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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GregD

788 posts in 2975 days


#6 posted 11-18-2016 06:59 PM

You may want to consider melamine; no painting and then iron-on edge banding. But if you want it to look nice you’ll have to figure out how to avoid chip out when cutting. If you use a track saw, set the depth of cut about 1/8” or less and do a climb cut (push the saw backwards through the cut) first, then cut through the normal way.

Given the amount of time I usually end up putting into a project I rarely use MDF except for jigs and utility stuff. Decent plywood is more expensive to buy, but easier to work and more durable.

-- Greg D.

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AAANDRRREW

210 posts in 1012 days


#7 posted 11-18-2016 07:01 PM

agreed – but my dilema is my table saw (the new delta one at lowes, not the folding contractor one) has no outfeed table and I’m a one man operation – the wife would normally help me rip plywood (i can do 1/2” no problem, but 3/4 is a bit cumbersome for me) but shes 7 mo pregnant, so I won’t let her lift much, nor go near by running saw. so if its a few bucks more for pine boards I almost lean that way.

View jmartel's profile

jmartel

7531 posts in 1989 days


#8 posted 11-18-2016 07:07 PM

Grab some 2×4’s while you’re there and a couple pieces of the 2×4 plywood project panels and make a quick outfeed table. Doesn’t need to be fancy. It will improve your work tremendously.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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GregD

788 posts in 2975 days


#9 posted 11-18-2016 07:53 PM



Grab some 2×4 s while you re there and a couple pieces of the 2×4 plywood project panels and make a quick outfeed table. Doesn t need to be fancy. It will improve your work tremendously.

- jmartel

+1 on outfeed table improving your work. It also makes it MUCH safer.

I recommend making the top from melamine. Even better is plastic laminate, although that could be more work unless you can find a cheap or discarded counter top.

Kreg jigs make quick work of this sort of stuff.

-- Greg D.

View BinghamtonEd's profile

BinghamtonEd

2286 posts in 2209 days


#10 posted 11-18-2016 08:22 PM

I cut a lot of 3/4” with my circular saw and a homemade edge guide, with the ply on some 2×4s that sit across sawhorses. I have the Bosch4100 contractor saw on the folding stand, so doing large panels on that is out of the question. Your pieces are pretty much all, if not all, going to be the same width. I’d rig up a edge guide that references off the stock edge of the ply, and spaces your circular saw blade 2’ in. Then it’s just a matter of running that along the edge. Or, if you lay it out right, crosscut everything first with a circular saw guide, and rip the smaller panels to 2’ wide on the table saw.

The HD/Lowes plywood will take paint just fine. Pockets screws, too. You’ll get great results spraying them, but if that isn’t an option, using a roller with a short nap on those panels would do well. The bookcase in my projects used a white acrylic paint with some Floetrol mixed in, applied with brush & roller, it leveled out great. The cop-car storage box used a Target EM6000 tinted laquer, I was very happy with it. Both were primed first, and sanded to get a smooth surface to apply the final paint/laquer to..

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Loren's profile

Loren

9637 posts in 3487 days


#11 posted 11-18-2016 09:42 PM

MDF is great to work with but consider that wider
shelves may sag if you don’t add a lip on the front.

If the shelves are to be fixed, you can add nailer
strips under the shelves to stiffen them and
attach to the studs. The pocket hole method
puts you in a position of having to pre-drill
the holes and if you get the stud locations wrong
you’re up a creek. Pocket screws work pretty
well in MDF.

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woodbutcherbynight

3650 posts in 2248 days


#12 posted 11-19-2016 04:37 AM

Many good options offered here. Something that has not been mentioned is to buy and install wire shelves. These are pre-finished, not too bad to put in and when you are done and wish to remove them have minimal repairs to put the closet back in order. Yes they will sag under heavy loads, probably not a good idea to be climbing them either. But they offer more options and add-on’s with less work involved. When I had to organize the closets before my kids were born this is the way I went. Now that they are older I have removed them and the closet is as it was with only some patched holes and paint. If you want to have a shelf without the holes just cut down some 1/4 ply, finish and install using spot ties to hold it fast.

Having saved the shelves I have used some of them and the hardware elsewhere so I did get more use out of them than I expected.

Just a suggestion.

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

View mike02130's profile

mike02130

167 posts in 512 days


#13 posted 11-19-2016 01:52 PM

Simple. I’m a finish carpenter and have done many closets with MDF. Use solid wood 1×4 s as cleats horizontally on the wall. Make sure you’re hitting studs; some overhang without a stud is OK. Take MDF and nail into the sides of the cleats. Now you have an open three sided box. Nail 1×2 cleats to the sides(MDF is fine) for shelving. The cleats for the pole need to be 1×4. Face the MDF off with 1×2s. On the verticals, center the 1×2.

It ought to take half a day.

-- Google first, search forums second, ask questions later.

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mike02130

167 posts in 512 days


#14 posted 11-20-2016 11:36 PM

I wonder if the poor guy is in jail, hospital or some other predicament. Maybe a millennial? So much information given to him and no response.

-- Google first, search forums second, ask questions later.

View AAANDRRREW's profile

AAANDRRREW

210 posts in 1012 days


#15 posted 11-21-2016 03:16 AM

Haha – none of the above. Just terribly busy building this closet thing, among other things. We just moved into a new house so we’ve been super busy, plus we have a baby due in Jan…

I ended up making it out of the edge glued wood. Price wasn’t the absolute worst and required less hauling of heavy materials minimal cuts. Not sure what being a mellenial (which I’m not and personally can’t stand them) has to do with it haha.

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