Is MDF good enough for a huge toolbox?

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Forum topic by abadr posted 12-19-2010 06:38 PM 5803 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 3378 days

12-19-2010 06:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: toolbox mdf question modern

I was wondering if MDF is a suitable material for building 2 HUGE tool box that will carry my auto, metal and woodworking tools. The tools will range form spanners to routers and angle grinders. I’m considering MDF because they’ll be painted mimicking the look of metal toolboxes. The tool boxes will run on 5” casters and will be pushed around a bit around the workshop.

Dimensions are roughly 70”h x 40”w x 30”d. It will have many drawers of different sizes and a cabinet at the top. I’m thinking of using ¾” or 1” MDF for the carcase rabbet jointed and 1/2” for the drawers.

I haven’t used MDF before for such a heavy loading carcase, so my questions are:
1) Will the sides be strong enough to hold the weight and handle being pushed around?
2) Will the drawer slider’s screws under the weight of the tools they carry eventually pull out of the MDF?

Any suggestions or opinions ares appreciated

-- A.B. -- "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment" -- Mark Twain

25 replies so far

View BobG's profile


172 posts in 3201 days

#1 posted 12-19-2010 06:45 PM

Abadr, you shouldn’t have any problem with the case of the tool box. I would put a divider upright in the center of the box, sort of a separator between drawers. Also a couple, they used to call them dust shields, horizontally to keep it from racking. MDF is fairly tough stuff. That would be similar to the roll around Machinist chests they make. One more thing, be sure and build a good base.

-- BobG, Lowell, Arkansas--------My goal in life is to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am! Make more saw dust!!

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3543 days

#2 posted 12-19-2010 10:31 PM

i would not use mdf…if your going to paint these, i would use birch plywood..and i would use at least 1/2 ply for the back, but if it were me..i would go 3/4 all the way…with the heavy tools you will have…you only want to make these tool boxes once…you wont regret it….good luck…and post your projects when your done, i would like to see how they come out.

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

View canadianchips's profile


2616 posts in 3236 days

#3 posted 12-19-2010 10:36 PM

I would NOT use MDF.
”but I hate building ANYTHING out of sawdust particles”
I would pay a few more dollars and use Baltic birch plywood.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View TheOldTimer's profile


226 posts in 3325 days

#4 posted 12-19-2010 10:42 PM

I have been using MDF for various projects since it was first introduced (yes I am that Old) and have never had a failure with it. All my shop cabinets are constructed with MDF inclusing the drawers. They have been in use at this house for the last 16 years and have never failed. At my age, the only problem I have with it is the weight. I now use birch plywood for my projects. Dust collection is a must when using the product along with a good dust mask. It is also very hard on cutting tools.

-- TheOldTimer,Chandler Arizona

View b2rtch's profile


4868 posts in 3288 days

#5 posted 12-20-2010 12:27 AM

MDF “sucks”
Use plywood.

-- Bert

View tooldad's profile


660 posts in 3954 days

#6 posted 12-20-2010 12:40 AM

I would use plywood, however about 8 years ago, MDF is all I could afford since I had it on hand from a lumber yard auction. So that’s what I made my toolbox out of.

It has been to 3 different houses and even the drawers are mdf. Holding up fine. However it is a beast when loaded to roll around. My cabinet is 3ft wide, 4ft tall and 16” deep

View Pop's profile


429 posts in 4185 days

#7 posted 12-20-2010 01:21 AM

I’ve worked with MDF for years, very tough & sturdy stuff. “JUST DON’T GET IT WET” If you would like to know what wet MDF looks like picture a wet bag of saw dust. I would stay away from 1 in. it’s ungodly heavy to handle. The suggestion about central uprights is a good one.

-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

View Don's profile


517 posts in 3312 days

#8 posted 12-20-2010 03:28 AM

I wouldn’t touch MDF for something portable, it’s way too heavy. I’d stick with a cheap hardwood like poplar, or just use plywood if I wanted to cut costs.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View abadr's profile


11 posts in 3378 days

#9 posted 12-20-2010 10:12 PM

Thank you guys for the great insight. I didn’t take into account the weight issue. I’ll go with plywood to save on the weight especially since it will be loaded with heavy tools.

A question about the longevity of plywood: Since I’ll be priming and painting it do I still need to edge it with wood?

-- A.B. -- "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment" -- Mark Twain

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3354 days

#10 posted 12-20-2010 10:33 PM

I mhope this link can inspire you when you make plywood box´s
the plywood is thin and the way they are build can hold up to the abuse
for many years and has been in the rainy wether we have I Denmark
here is the link not from the maker of them just to give you the idea

good luck

View pintodeluxe's profile


5817 posts in 3052 days

#11 posted 12-20-2010 10:39 PM


-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Don's profile


517 posts in 3312 days

#12 posted 12-21-2010 12:22 AM

The edges will be a little stronger and take paint much better if you edge them with solid wood. It’s up to you how nice you want it to look initially but since it’s it’s going to take a lot of abuse no matter what I wouldn’t bother with it myself.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View Pop's profile


429 posts in 4185 days

#13 posted 12-21-2010 12:50 AM

The quick cheap way to edge shop furniture plywood is to use screen door molding. I’ve used it in my shop for many years & if it tears up because of abuse just strip it off & replace it.

-- One who works with his hands is a laborer, his hands & head A craftsman, his hands, head & heart a artist

View DrDirt's profile


4526 posts in 3981 days

#14 posted 12-21-2010 12:58 AM

Huge + MDF = no

Actually to me it is the movable issue. Once this is loaded with a gazillion tons of tools, the racking of this thing whenever it bumps a crack, or wood scrap on the floor it is going to loosen up- especially around the casters

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View RetiredCoastie's profile


999 posts in 3422 days

#15 posted 12-21-2010 02:17 AM

I used MDF for my mini lathe cabinet made from plans from WOOD magazine that called for all MDF construction except for the drawers and doors and it has held up for several years of daily movement around the shop. With that said like others in this post MDF is extremely heavy and does require careful joinery especially when using screws. If I were to build another cabinet I wouldn’t use MDF due to the moisture issue, it’s weight vs strength when compared to plywood. MDF is great for built up counter tops due to it’s density and it’s stability. In the Pacific North West I have found that MDF is just as expensive as Birch Plywood (blemished seconds) (not Baltic birch) at SHURWAY Plywood store here in Portland Or. For anything that isn’t going to have a natural finish but is painted I use the blemished sheets which usually only have issues in the cover ply which can be worked around. The blemished plywood sells for $24.00 13/16” x 49” x 97”, MDF is $25.00 a sheet.
Good luck A.B.!

-- Proud Supporter of Homes For Our Troops

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