Hardwood edging on mdf

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Forum topic by dw1015 posted 11-07-2013 06:12 PM 1604 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1661 days

11-07-2013 06:12 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question joining

Ok, i am still fairly inexperienced, I have done a few small projects in the past but this is my first big project. I am putting the finishing touches on my new workshop (been in progress for over a year just due to life and limitations). I am building based off of a plan that I downloaded. I went that route to work on improving my skills in multiple areas while getting a fully stocked garage workshop. Money was an issue so I am sticking with MDF for my bench top. I know there are other ways to go with the top, I’ve read all the arguments already. I figure I can always replace it when it wears out and hopefully do something better. But for now, I have some poplar that I want to use as edging on the 2-layer MDF top. My questions are about glue-up: I have read a lot about glue sizing MDF edging, is it necessary to glue size prior to attaching the poplar? I was planning on just rolling out a layer of glue on both surfaces and then attaching it with brads to keep it in line. And second, will the brads be enough to act as a clamp or should I still clamp? And lastly, if clamping is recommended and my clamp collection is limited, what would be the best way to go about clamping with minimum numbers of clamps. My largest work surface is 24×86 without the edging.

I have a thought about the clamping… I have 8 6” bar clamps that I used on another project. If I clamp them evenly spaced along the edge of the MDF and then used shims between the poplar and the bar of the clamp…. I think I remember that trick from a magazine article…

Would love to get some opinions.

-- I swear I DID measure twice...

6 replies so far

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2816 days

#1 posted 11-07-2013 08:22 PM

Hi dw—


MDF, in my opinion, makes a great bench top. No apologies needed!

The poplar edging will look nice and work well. Brads will not hold well in the MDF and will do little more than keep the edging in the neighborhood of where you want it. You will need to clamp, truing up the material as you go.

Your idea of using your small clamps is certainly workable—a doorstop-shaped wedge per clamp and you’re in business.

Start with the ends, cut them flush, then do the long sides and trim them after the glue is cured.

You’ll want the poplar to be flush (not necessarily perfect) top and bottom so that clamping things to the bench will be easier.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View JAAune's profile


1788 posts in 2282 days

#2 posted 11-08-2013 01:03 AM

One other thing to keep in mind is that water-based glues will cause the edge of the MDF to swell when the edging is applied. Wait 24 hours for the MDF to shrink back to normal before flushing the edging otherwise you’ll end up with an unwanted ridge at the joint because the MDF wants to shrink more than the edging as the glue cures.

-- See my work at and

View Loren's profile


10262 posts in 3613 days

#3 posted 11-08-2013 01:09 AM

Sizing to paint, yes, but for gluing edging I roll on one coat
it usually sets up for a second coat. I edgeband this
way on a big press. While the glue does suck into
the MDF a bit, the second application leaves enough
usable glue in the joint. Do clamp well.

View randywarner's profile


4 posts in 1754 days

#4 posted 11-08-2013 01:49 AM

Do you have a pocket hole jig or access to one? I would simply drill pocket holes on the bottom of the MDF then attach your hardwood edging. This would allow you to replace the MDF in the future very easily.

View dw1015's profile


3 posts in 1661 days

#5 posted 11-08-2013 04:40 AM

Ok guys, thank you for all the replies. I actually posted this question a couple of weeks ago, but it just got approved today, not really sure what the delay was. My first attempt at my clamping idea was kind of a disaster, as all the wedges did was pull the clamp further out without putting very much pressure on the joint. I used the same technique for both ends of the long work bench. I wasn’t thrilled about trying the same thing on the long edge, so I ended up making a couple of cauls from some extra 2×4 stock I had laying around. They were definitely not perfect (the cauls), but I got a pretty decent glue line. I was able or get the rest of the edging on. The only thing I have left is to throw a couple of coats of finish down and I can move on to the next part of the project. I will try and post some pics when I have a few minutes, I think this project has turned out quite nice.

-- I swear I DID measure twice...

View Picken5's profile


250 posts in 2657 days

#6 posted 11-08-2013 04:56 AM

Sounds like you’re off to a great start! My first workbench also had a double layer MDF top — and I still use it today. I wasn’t smart enough at the time to design the bench so the top could easily be replaced. So I added a 1/2” thick layer of MDF a couple of years ago when the original top was too beat up to use. I edged it with some cherry I had left over from something else. I also applied a couple of coats on polyurethane to the top — it seems to have made it a bit more durable. I figure I can do that once or twice more before the bench is too high for me — probably 5 or 6 more years! I love MDF for stuff like this.

Have fun with this. It’s a learning experience—and pretty addicting.

Please post a photo or two once you’re done.

-- Howard - "Time spent making sawdust is not deducted from one's lifetime." - old Scottish proverb

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