MDF joinery

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Forum topic by CudaDude posted 11-23-2012 06:05 PM 8800 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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179 posts in 2363 days

11-23-2012 06:05 PM

Did a search here and a google search and didn’t come up with a definitive answer. I’m building a play kitchen for my daughter and will be using 3/4 MDF for the paintability. My question is, what method of joining should I use? Can’t use the table saw yet so my options are dadoes and rabits with router, kreg pocket holes, biscuits or just normal right angle edge to face screwed together. Thanks in advance


-- Gary

18 replies so far

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10621 posts in 3483 days

#1 posted 11-23-2012 06:25 PM

I’d suggest dadoes and and rabbets. IMO, biscuits add little strength to a joint. Good for alignment, though.
Also, you’ll want to apply a skim coat of glue on the raw edges, let it dry and then glue and clamp. The skim coat prevents the subsequent glue from soaking in to the porous MDF and starving the joint. The same applies when gluing end grain of any wood.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3703 days

#2 posted 11-23-2012 06:28 PM

Biscuits or dados will be more predictable for you if you just
want to do this one project and have clamps to close the

MDF can be screwed together but it requires meticulous
predrilling of holes to avoid splitting the MDF. One way to
split the difference is to biscuit and glue, then quickly
drill and screw to clamp the parts. You still have to
carefully matching your drill and screw sizes/threads to
avoid splitting.

Many people do it, but I don’t recommend pocket screwing
MDF, especially in flush joints.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2540 days

#3 posted 11-23-2012 08:09 PM

Good advice so far. But since it hasn’t been mentioned already, use eye protection and a good dust mask, along with any dust collection system you may have. MDF dust is super funky toxic stuff that you don’t need anywhere near your lungs.

-- Brian Timmons -

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2739 days

#4 posted 11-23-2012 08:33 PM

MDF for a box that might get some movement? It’s pretty finely compressed sawdust that works great for tops and panels attached to some real wood but on its own I’d be concerned about fastener tear-out. I’d probably go rabbet joinery with glue and a boat-load of nails.

View MrRon's profile


4868 posts in 3298 days

#5 posted 11-23-2012 09:35 PM

View CudaDude's profile


179 posts in 2363 days

#6 posted 11-23-2012 10:25 PM

Thanks for the links MrRon. Seriously considering going that route since it will give me the ability to break it down for storage once she outgrows it. Having never designed anything with these barrel nuts, would I need the centered or offset?

-- Gary

View waho6o9's profile


8242 posts in 2632 days

#7 posted 11-23-2012 10:32 PM

MDO (medium density overlay) might be used as well.

It paints up nicer than MDF.

View David Dean's profile

David Dean

608 posts in 2954 days

#8 posted 11-24-2012 12:39 AM

Well Gary do you have a kregjig I build everything with my K-2 its easyer to use the a biscuits or dados and remeber to set the cluth on your drill to 6 or 7 and use a nickle and a dime to set your stop collar the dime is for more meat to screw into.

View cracknpop's profile


297 posts in 2404 days

#9 posted 11-24-2012 04:46 AM

I have used both biscuits and Kreg pocket hole jig when building some cabinets and jigs for the shop. If I were making something from MDF today, I would use my Kreg pocket hole jig for the ease and speed of getting the job done. I echo David Dean’s comment regarding setting the clutch on your driver to avoid stripping out the screws. Good luck and have fun.

-- Rick - I know I am not perfect, but I will keep pressing on toward the goal of becoming all I am called to be.

View MrRon's profile


4868 posts in 3298 days

#10 posted 11-24-2012 10:16 PM

Cudadude; Either one would work as long as the thickness of the material is 3/4” or more. If under 3/4”, use the centered barrel nut. I haven’t used a Kreg jig, so I don’t know if they have screws suitable for MDF.

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2739 days

#11 posted 11-24-2012 11:11 PM

I still would be concerned about tear-out in MDF…”skin” side probably fine but the raw side that it screws into???

If you want to be able to dismantle, then inside corner cleats made of whatever wood you have. MDF gets attached to them rather than to another piece of MDF.

View TeamTurpin's profile


85 posts in 2116 days

#12 posted 11-24-2012 11:34 PM

I’ve not worked with MDF much until this weekend. I’m replacing my TS extension plates with a router table on the left and a larger table on the right. The router table is made from three layers of MDF that will be topped with formica. The other table will have an MDF/formica top, but will not be quite that thick.

I was not prepared for how much dust MDF creates. I had the vacuum and air scrubber going most of the time, but still the shop filled with fine paper dust. It’s everywhere. When this little project is over, I’m going to have to wash down the entire shop.


View DaveFFMedic's profile


81 posts in 2221 days

#13 posted 11-24-2012 11:40 PM

I built a TV stand out of MDF about 6 years ago and it still stands today. I would suggest hand-screwing the screws. If you take your time and pay attention you can get a sense of just how much torque the MDF can take before splitting or striping out the screw.

I used all butt joints.

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2201 days

#14 posted 11-24-2012 11:40 PM

MDF is not fit for man or beast. Nasty, cancer causing, formaldehyde infested stuff.


View CudaDude's profile


179 posts in 2363 days

#15 posted 11-25-2012 03:08 AM

Had some pieces of MDF laying around so I did some experimenting with the kreg jig. Doesn’t seem to be a question of strength with a edge to face joint even before the glue dried.

I’ll try to explain the problem I’m having. On the face part of the joint that I’m screwing into, I need to drill a pilot hole at the same angle of the pocket hole to keep the MDF from pulling up between the joint. Any suggestions on how I might drill the pilot holes at that angle?

-- Gary

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