MDF vs Plywood

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Forum topic by woodworkingdrew posted 05-14-2014 05:10 AM 1325 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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189 posts in 1573 days

05-14-2014 05:10 AM

Going to build a cabinet for my closet tomorrow. What are the major differences between MDF vs Plywood? advantages? disadvantages?

-- Andrew, California

14 replies so far

View JAAune's profile


1788 posts in 2281 days

#1 posted 05-14-2014 05:21 AM

Here are a few differences off the top of my head.


Cheaper to purchase
Smoother surface which can be useful for painting or veneering
Edges are prone to damage
Prone to water damage unless it’s a waterproof variety like Extira
Poor screw holding ability on the edges


Holds screws better on the face but not much better on the edges
Less prone to sagging
More resistant to flexing and less likely to break under flex load

-- See my work at and

View MT_Stringer's profile


3160 posts in 3196 days

#2 posted 05-14-2014 05:36 AM

I vote for birch plywood and poplar for the face frame if you are building the cabinet with one. You project should paint up nicely.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View NiteWalker's profile


2736 posts in 2541 days

#3 posted 05-14-2014 06:42 AM

Columbia purebond plywood is my go-to plywood now.
Lightweight, flat, good veneers, little to no voids, not too expensive.
Good stuff.

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

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4951 posts in 2458 days

#4 posted 05-14-2014 11:28 AM

Buy a piece of mdf and try cutting it…that will send you running for plywood. It has it’s uses, but not for cabinets (IMHO).

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View OldWrangler's profile


731 posts in 1559 days

#5 posted 05-14-2014 11:32 AM

I have yet to find a project or use that plywood isn’t better than MDF. MDF is kinda like thick cardboard on steroids.

-- I am going to go stand outside so if anyone asks about me, tell them I'M OUTSTANDING!

View pneufab's profile


113 posts in 3045 days

#6 posted 05-14-2014 11:39 AM

For a closet? Melamine particle board is my vote. :)

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1833 days

#7 posted 05-14-2014 12:09 PM

I don’t have a disdain for MDF, as it does have its place. That place is anywhere but in my hands wherever possible.

That said, the surface does paint up to an automotive finish with little effort. Small spans? Not a bad option. It’s just heavy, and the dust is yucky~. (~The proper term isn’t polite to use in a forum). It’s also generally less fun to use than plywood, which is less fun to use than solid lumber.

Another consideration is durability. In my opinion, plywood is easier to maintain over the long haul. When MDF begins to turn on you, it will remain your enemy. There is little chance to win back its allegiance. You must kill it.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1833 days

#8 posted 05-14-2014 12:16 PM

In re-reading my post, it seems I have used poor sentence structure. My apologies. It’s the sentence in parentheses. The structure itself is sound, it’s just not grammatically correct. Sure… I could have used this time spent to correct it, but there wouldn’t be much fun in that. Woodworking should be fun, no?

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View waho6o9's profile


8164 posts in 2541 days

#9 posted 05-14-2014 01:26 PM

MDO ( medium density overlay ) and poplar face frame

is my vote for paint grade.

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1833 days

#10 posted 05-14-2014 01:50 PM

I hadn’t heard of MDO before. Thanks, Wahoo.

Oooops. Wrong image ;-)

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View RockyTopScott's profile


1186 posts in 3443 days

#11 posted 05-14-2014 02:02 PM

What NiteWalker said.

-- “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” ― Thomas Sowell

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2781 posts in 3402 days

#12 posted 05-14-2014 02:21 PM

Plywood, get whatever grade you feel looks the best and fits your needs. MDF is breakable and the dust it produces is volumous and nauseating.

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

View RogerM's profile


792 posts in 2364 days

#13 posted 05-14-2014 02:28 PM

You will get what you pay for. I would never use MDF in cabinetry.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View b2rtch's profile


4851 posts in 3013 days

#14 posted 05-14-2014 02:29 PM

I hate working with MDF because of the weight, the dust it makes and it is brittle.
I much prefer working with plywood.

-- Bert

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