mdf...better or worse than pine

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Forum topic by justholler posted 01-30-2012 05:46 AM 6388 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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62 posts in 2529 days

01-30-2012 05:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: mdf boards

I bought some soild mdf 2”X4”X8’ boards today (yeah I know, weird stuff there right?) I only gave a buck a piece . now I want to use them for frame type work on my workshop cabinetry or tables. Having only used sheet type mdf, should I be wary of any kind of issue popping up with this stuff? If everyone foresees no problem I will probably go back and buy a bunch more. They want to sell the whole stack of 200+ for $150!

-- Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most..... Twain

21 replies so far

View Viking's profile


880 posts in 3401 days

#1 posted 01-30-2012 05:54 AM

Don’t think I would use MDF for anything structural, especially framing.

Good luck.

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View Dusty56's profile


11822 posts in 3894 days

#2 posted 01-30-2012 06:12 AM

Unless you want to spend money on special fasteners , I wouldn’t use it for anything structural.
Framing is not its purpose in life : ) Very simply, think of it as paper held together by glue.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View ksSlim's profile


1290 posts in 3096 days

#3 posted 01-30-2012 06:17 AM

Nothing permant about fasteners in MDF unless you use through bolts. NOT a structural component.
Suseptable to moisture, somewhat difficult to seal against the enviroment. Supported table tops when laminated all sides(top,bottom and edges) remain mostly stable and can be used when supported with solid materials.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View Nighthawk's profile


556 posts in 2563 days

#4 posted 01-30-2012 06:21 AM

I personally wouldn’t use MDF

-- Rome wasn't built in a day... but I wasn't on that job? ...

View justholler's profile


62 posts in 2529 days

#5 posted 01-30-2012 06:31 AM

Well this is sounding a little disappointing…nobody would even use this to make a cuttoff bin or sheet good rack?? How bout a corn hole board frame? I got it! A dead man to help hold things up? Oh well.

-- Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most..... Twain

View Dwain's profile


577 posts in 4065 days

#6 posted 01-30-2012 06:35 AM

Now, don’t get too disappointed, just remember to hold off on any structural uses. There may be a lot of jigs to use these on, alas, don’t build with it, unless you are using it as a top, but I am not sure how it glues.

Good luck.

-- When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there is no end to what you CAN'T do

View LeeInAZ's profile


41 posts in 2681 days

#7 posted 01-30-2012 06:48 AM

Build what you want with it, just don’t expect to have it to hand down to your grandchildren. It would be great for the internal structure of a torsion box. Put a coat or two of some finish on it to help block moisture, and it should be fine for something to last a few years.

At the price you paid for it, experiment. If something doesn’t work right, you had a learning experience and are not out a lot of money. If it works – it works.

-- Lee - Phoenix, AZ

View JAAune's profile


1853 posts in 2523 days

#8 posted 01-30-2012 07:17 AM

I use MDF all the time for simple shop fixtures, etc. Not for framing but carcasses, spacers, fences on jigs, etc. If it has finish on it and doesn’t come in direct contact with water for any length of time it’ll hold up. If you apply polyurethane to it several coats of finish will soak in enough to create a very water-resistant layer.

-- See my work at and

View Tomj's profile


204 posts in 2588 days

#9 posted 01-30-2012 10:57 AM

I have used to make a porkchop guard for my jointer because it was missing the old one when I restored it. I just painted it heavily with the same color as the rest of the jointer. I chose it for it’s weight, takes a paint job well and mostly because that’s what I had. I’ve used it for numerous jigs also.

View GCM's profile


86 posts in 2533 days

#10 posted 01-30-2012 11:27 AM

MDF is great for just about anything not in contact with water – even then you could probably seal it in something. My MDF based CNC machine is still going great after 4 years.

There is one quality of MDF that makes it better than any other material:

It is muuuuuchhhhh cheaper!

(oh and almost as importantly – it is available everywhere).

-- Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.

View justholler's profile


62 posts in 2529 days

#11 posted 01-30-2012 02:01 PM

I reckon long pocket hole screws will have to be the fasteners in something like a torsion box application. I like the “just experiment” concept but I doubt I buy any more 2×4’s although they did have some unique dimension 1” & 1.5” stuff that I should have got. Thanks for the input.

-- Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most..... Twain

View Stosh's profile


65 posts in 3127 days

#12 posted 01-30-2012 03:12 PM

MDF is heavy and makes lots of dust when cut, and swells when wet. For 99% of stuff you can make, wood or plywood is better.

View SteviePete's profile


226 posts in 3509 days

#13 posted 01-30-2012 10:45 PM

Check the Wood Products Lab, USDA in Madison, WI lots of information. MDF makes a very stable substrate for veneer, formica, laminates. I use the thick stuff for dunnage on all my lumber, material and machinery stacks. Check out the water permeablity—some is made and sold with plastic resin glue and is claimed to be water resistant. Possibly under the name Medex (?) Use respiratory protection when working it. Good luck. On Wisconsin.

-- Steve, 'Sconie Great White North

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 3164 days

#14 posted 01-31-2012 12:15 AM

It may work for a while, but that stuff will sooner or later sag and ruin whatever it was supposed to hold. I’m with the rest, use it for small stuff but not supporting pieces. Dang good price tho…

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View bondogaposis's profile


5098 posts in 2557 days

#15 posted 01-31-2012 01:12 AM

I wouldn’t use it for anything structural. Pine has a much better strength to weight ratio. MDF is ok for surfaces such as bench tops or cabinet sides etc, because it does have good compressive strength but has very weak tensile strength. I really can’t see any use for 2×4 MDF except as some sort of space filler or to add weight to a project like a router table.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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