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Forum topic by Drew - Rock-n H Woodshop posted 12-15-2011 10:28 PM 1665 views 1 time favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Drew - Rock-n H Woodshop

638 posts in 1446 days


12-15-2011 10:28 PM

Hey fellow LJ’ers,
First of all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!!!
I am in the process of designing my cabinets for my garage shop. Since cabinets in a garage doesn’t increase equity that much, I want to keep my expenses to a minimum but still be good quality that will last.
My question to all of you is, if I made the cabinets out of MDF, since it so stable, and I elevated them off the shop floor with french cleats do you think they will last? The next step up is Arabou (not sure of the spelling) plywood. MDF is around 25 dollars a sheet and Arabou is 28-30ish???

Also, I will probably paint them with a high gloss paint to help with dust and cleaning purposes and MDF takes paint very well.
So let me know what you think, please….

Drew

-- Drew -- "I cut it twice and it's still too short!"- Rock-n H Woodshop - Moore, OK


24 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112943 posts in 2332 days


#1 posted 12-15-2011 10:35 PM

If the french cleats are attached to the wall and cabinets properly then there’s no problem using MDF. Have you priced melamine ?

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View mainwoodworks's profile

mainwoodworks

112 posts in 1403 days


#2 posted 12-15-2011 10:48 PM

The problems I have found with MDF is that screws can pull out very easily. There are fasteners for MDF that are supposed to help with that problem. Another problem is that MDF is very heavy, so I would not trust the french cleats made of MDF to hold it up on the wall. Sense there is no grain to MDF, be careful of the length and width of shelves.

As long as you understand the rules, MDF would be my choice

-- Measure twice, cut once, and hope for the best.

View Kelby's profile

Kelby

133 posts in 1166 days


#3 posted 12-15-2011 10:51 PM

There are plenty of MDF cabinets out there (they are a common material for inexpensive kitchen cabinets). However, IMHO, plywood is a significant upgrade in quality for not that much more money.

The reasons I prefer plywood:
  • Plywood weighs less. So, installation is much easier. Also, if you are using French cleats, it will be much easier to move around lighter plywood cabinets when you feel like it.
  • MDF chips much easier if you knock something into it. In my shop, bonking into things happens.
  • You can put a coat of Poly on plywood, use some scrap for face frames, and have some very nice looking shop cabinets for not a lot more than MDF cabinets, which will always look like MDF cabinets.
  • For me, plywood holds up much better over time.

With all that said, there are many perfectly functional MDF cabinets out there. If the small increase in price isn’t worth it to you, MDF will work just fine. One caveat: MDF does not react well to extended contact with moisture. No wood does, but MDF seems to suffer more than any other wood product.

-- Kelby

View jusfine's profile

jusfine

2280 posts in 1681 days


#4 posted 12-15-2011 10:54 PM

I agree that plywood would be my first choice, but you could also build a base out of 2×4 and have your mdf cabinets sit on that – no worry about cleating it to the wall, and makes it easier to move around should you need to.

If you paint them, MDF will be very durable and last a long time.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Drew - Rock-n H Woodshop's profile

Drew - Rock-n H Woodshop

638 posts in 1446 days


#5 posted 12-15-2011 11:20 PM

Good points about the easy dinging and chipping Kelby.
I never thought about the weight issue. That is really something to consider.
The reason for the elevated cabinets is for moisture and easy cleaning of the floor. if I ever had to wet the floor or wash it out or even snow melting in the garage from a parked car the elevated cabinets wouldn’t suffer. The cleat will be a continous cleat around the room so no matter where I want to put a cabinet it can go there. Well I guess that plywood would be a much better choice for the cons with MDF. I don’t think in the long run it will make that much of a difference to go with plywood for the extra money.
question about the cleat though. Would you anchor it with 3 or 4 inch screws to studs??? I don’t think that there will be a crap load of weight in them except in the lower cabinets, but a FC should hold them up without a problem, right?

-- Drew -- "I cut it twice and it's still too short!"- Rock-n H Woodshop - Moore, OK

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112943 posts in 2332 days


#6 posted 12-16-2011 12:30 AM

I like to use plywood for cabinet but you said you were on a budget. If you use MDF you don’t use MDF french cleats you use solid wood fir or southern yellow pine,poplar or what ever wood you can get in your area that’s hard but not expensive.
Go with the plywood if you can afford it. If you have good screws 3” is plenty unless your storing anvils in you cabinets haha

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Drew - Rock-n H Woodshop's profile

Drew - Rock-n H Woodshop

638 posts in 1446 days


#7 posted 12-16-2011 12:39 AM

Okay, I think that I will use plywood for the construction then.
However, for the cleat, could it be ply or does it need to be a hardwood? I am afraid that since the grain will be running the direction of the stress being put on the cleat that it would break. Would a plywood cleat be better since it is laminated cross grain to cross grain?

-- Drew -- "I cut it twice and it's still too short!"- Rock-n H Woodshop - Moore, OK

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112943 posts in 2332 days


#8 posted 12-16-2011 12:45 AM

I’ve used both but I like solid wood better . I’ve seen people have trouble with french cleats because they don’t connect the cleat to the cabinet very well . I usually put the cleats in place on the cabinets with just a few15 nails make sure their level take them down and mark them remove the cleats and then glue and screw them on the cabinet.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View brtech's profile

brtech

714 posts in 1677 days


#9 posted 12-16-2011 12:54 AM

You got convinced to go ply, which is fine, but here is another idea: OSB with hardboard.

OSB is the cheapest of the sheet goods, and the specs have it equal to ply/MDF in the ways we care about. It’s just rough and kind of ugly.

So, put some (maybe replaceable) hardboard on it. Maybe, for cabinets, a faux hardboard “panel” on top of the OSB.

Around here, the OSB+hardboard is cheaper than MDF. For shop cabinet’s I’m planing on using the hardboard on the front and countertop faces, so it’s actually fairly cheap.

Ply is still stronger and lighter.

View David's profile

David

196 posts in 1418 days


#10 posted 12-16-2011 01:27 AM

Personally I would be careful about MDF in the garage if you live somewhere with varying humidity. I had some MDF shelving in my garage that the previous owner put in, and it was pretty substantially warped after the years. Cheap plywood with a french cleat to hang it, then run a 2×2 furring strip above and below to lock it in place vertically would be my choice. Otherwise you could try to find some kitchen cabinets that are being replaced and reuse them. I got my garage cabinets that way, all they cost me was gas and sweat to drag them out of the persons basement.

-- Perilous to all of us are the devices of an art deeper than we ourselves possess. --Gandalf the Grey http://davidwahl.org/category/woodworking/

View NiteWalker's profile

NiteWalker

2710 posts in 1332 days


#11 posted 12-16-2011 05:39 AM

I’d not use MDF; I’d go for the cheap plywood.
MDF is heavy, hard on tool edges and swells in higher humidity even if finished IME.

Not worth the hassle.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile

TCCcabinetmaker

925 posts in 1110 days


#12 posted 12-16-2011 07:22 AM

China birch costs less, and holds up better to moisture.
Humidity in the area in which you live can also be a factor if your garage is not sealed well.

So again, go for the plywood.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View live4ever's profile

live4ever

983 posts in 1765 days


#13 posted 12-16-2011 07:49 AM

I think you’re thinking of Arauco ply, which has a Radiata Pine core. It’s actually a pretty decent plywood and considerably cheaper than birch ply. I have also found it to be significantly more void-free than the hardwood plywood sold at the big box store. The 1/2” stuff can warp/potato chip pretty badly but the 3/4” is fairly stable.

The Arauco faces are a little whiskery, but they sand nice enough. Also, the face veneers are pretty thick compared to other plywoods that are available right now.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile

TCCcabinetmaker

925 posts in 1110 days


#14 posted 12-16-2011 08:39 AM

I forget I do not buy mine at the box stores… it does make a major price difference.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2420 posts in 2192 days


#15 posted 12-16-2011 12:01 PM

I’d shoot for the plywood but… I’d avoid the mdf simply because of the stupid brown powder that will fill your shop and coat everything with if you plan on making a bunch of them!

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

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