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Forum topic by myxology posted 01-02-2015 07:46 PM 1516 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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myxology

43 posts in 701 days


01-02-2015 07:46 PM

Hey all,

I’m really a noob at this woodworking thing and could use some help. My brother has been a contractor for years, but I’m beginning to think that his input wasn’t as good as I was hoping it was. Basically I am building some shelves to put above a desk that I have built. I started with plywood but found that the material just wasn’t going to look good painted. So when I asked my brother about it he said to use MDF. I did, and it turned out fine, but I got some 5/8” MDF for the shelves and I just don’t think it’s going to be sturdy enough. I plan on doing some dado’s as part of the joinery and I don’t think the MDF will hold up.

So after all that, here’s the dilemma. My local Lowe’s carries oak plywood and maple plywood (3/4”) that is beautiful. I wouldn’t want to paint it, but I want to paint these shelves white. The next grade down of plywood is not smooth enough for a good paint surface, in my opinion. I have other options of stores and lumber yards to go to but don’t want to drive around all day. What kind of plywood am I looking for that will be 3/4” thick and have a good paintable surface?

Thanks for any help!


15 replies so far

View endgrainy's profile

endgrainy

237 posts in 1349 days


#1 posted 01-02-2015 07:53 PM

How about 3/4” MDF instead? You can paint plywood, but the grain will show through. The plywood end grain (even painted) may look unsightly, depending on your tastes.

If you do paint plywood, I’d go with a high quality choice. From the home center the highest grade maple would be fine. Maple is easier to paint than oak, due to maple’s closed pore nature. Don’t get a super-nice exotic veneered sheet from a hardwood supplier if you’re planning to paint it :)

-- Follow me on Instagram @endgrainy

View myxology's profile

myxology

43 posts in 701 days


#2 posted 01-02-2015 08:17 PM

endgrainy, thanks for the reply. I did the bottom of the cabinet with a 3/4” high grade MDF and it was fine. After I got this 5/8” stuff I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to work. I’ve uploaded an image of how I plan to build it. Maybe that will help. The image is from the back where you can see what I planned for the joinery.

Thanks!

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4449 posts in 3421 days


#3 posted 01-02-2015 08:36 PM

MDF is NOT a good shelf material. It will bow unless heavily reinforced.
Plywood will be the choice if the shelves are no longer than +- 36”. Over that, they (the shelves) will need reinforcing.
Proper sealing will help eliminating the grain. Use Kilz from Zinsser as a primer/sealer, sand, then finish coat as you wish.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View Tim_CPWD 's profile

Tim_CPWD

306 posts in 706 days


#4 posted 01-02-2015 09:05 PM

I would suggest using White melamine. It is sturdy and easy to keep clean and the surface is already finished. Lowes carries it. Cost is about $50 for a 4×8 sheet. Now to address the ugly edge factor. Get a stick of your favorite hardwood and rip piece 3/4” x 1/4” the length of your shelf. Paint or stain the piece and glue it to the ugly edge of the melamine. This is called edge banding. A simple way to clean up the edge of a shelf and make it look good. Here is an example of a cabinet I did in a kitchen job edge banded with oak to match the exterior.

If you have a Pin Nail gun glue the edge band on and pin nail in place. If you don’t have the nail gun glue and clamp the edge band in place until the glue dries. (For 1/4” material you can use masking tape as the clamp.) Just be careful to line up the edges. If you have a long shelf and are concerned with it sagging. Use a thicker edge band. If you cut a piece of 3/4” hardwood say 1 1/4” wide you can over hang the edge band on the bottom as decoration or on the top and have a lip to keep things from falling off the shelf. Either way this piece will strengthen the shelf and keep it from sagging.

Hope this is helpful.

-- Tim Haenisch, San Diego Ca. http://www.facebook.com/commandperformancewooddesigns

View Yonak's profile

Yonak

979 posts in 982 days


#5 posted 01-02-2015 09:08 PM

With either MDF or plywood you could put hard wood edging in a “T” shape on the shelves which would provide a paintable edge as well as additional structural support. If going with 3/4” shelves, cut a 1/2” dado in the shelf fronts and 1/2” tongue (the stem of the “T”) on your edging.

View myxology's profile

myxology

43 posts in 701 days


#6 posted 01-02-2015 11:07 PM

Hey Guys, thanks for all the input. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to use. I’m not a fan of MDF and think I’m just not going to use it for this project. Now I need to figure out the right plywood to use. I understand the use of edge banding or the iron on wood edging, and I would use that if needed, but it won’t be necessary. I’m going to make a face using poplar to cover all of the edges.

My image didn’t load last time so I’m going to try it again. Please let me know what you think of my plans too, if you don’t mind.

Thanks!

Mickey

View endgrainy's profile

endgrainy

237 posts in 1349 days


#7 posted 01-02-2015 11:18 PM

Your drawing is helpful. A common recommendation for plywood is “baltic birch” available at most hardwood dealers. High quality plywood from a hardwood dealer tends to have more plys, better adhesive, and less voids.

Since you’re already planning to use poplar face frames I agree with plywood as a good choice.

I used baltic birch and poplar in a painted dresser project earlier this year:

http://lumberjocks.com/projects/104649

If you can’t get baltic birch, the higher grade maple ply from the home centers should be good.

Plans look good.

Btw – welcome to Lumberjocks!

-- Follow me on Instagram @endgrainy

View Moron's profile

Moron

5032 posts in 3354 days


#8 posted 01-03-2015 12:42 AM

being a Noob ? I guess your name is as bad as mine and I might be a Moron but I definitely not a Noob lol so without further adieu your question reaffirms your intuition as to where you lie on a skill set excell spread sheet and I think its page 1

Cheap, isnt always a bad word. Your brother probably gave good advice, mdf is cheap, forgiving, paintable for centuries, and at the beginning of the learning curve, will thank you at the end of your curve, for not wasting money : )

we all want to build the heirloom from the starting line

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Tim_CPWD 's profile

Tim_CPWD

306 posts in 706 days


#9 posted 01-03-2015 09:52 AM

Mickey,
You mentioned in the first post that you are going to put this above your desk. If this is the case I recommend you add nailers to this design in order to secure it to the wall. A nailer is a piece of hardwood secured to the inside/back of the cabinet used to secure the cabinet to the wall. Refer to the kitchen cabinet picture I posted in this thread and you will see the nailers in the top and bottom with screws through them into the wall. I would recommend a 3”- 4” wide hardwood for these. These should be screwed in on both ends through the sides, and through the top and bottom of the cabinet into the nailers. During the install find the stud in the wall and run some 2 1/2” #6 wood screws through the nailer into the wall. This will hold them secure.

In looking at your drawing I would caution you on the areas where the shelves line up on both sides of the divider. Your plans show this occurs in three places. If you use 3/4” material and cut a 1/4” dado on each side there will only be 1/4” of material left in between the dados. That is not much for strength. You might consider drilling adjustable shelf holes on the side with all the small shelves. You can edge band the shelves with the same hardwood you use for the face frame and make the depth of the shelf match the front of the face frame. This would still make it look like it has a face frame where the shelf is. That way you only have to dado one side of the divider which will maintain strength. This also gives you storage versatility because you can change shelf height when ever you want. This option will also simplify the build process from a face frame perspective.

-- Tim Haenisch, San Diego Ca. http://www.facebook.com/commandperformancewooddesigns

View RussellAP's profile

RussellAP

3059 posts in 1747 days


#10 posted 01-03-2015 09:44 PM

As long as the width is under 20 inches I prefer to glue up some pine 1×8s. They are not hard to work and with a little bondo, (use bondo only for surfaces you intend to paint) I can fill in any voids for a nice painted surface. Just glue them up and after they dry run them through a planer and cut to size. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View myxology's profile

myxology

43 posts in 701 days


#11 posted 01-20-2015 01:56 PM

Ok, gentlemen. I know it’s been a while since I posted this originally but it’s really taken me that long to get back to it. So here’s where I ended up. I have bought some 3/4” maple plywood that looks great. It’s going to pain me a little bit to paint it rather than stain it, but I’ve already chosen white paint and that’s the look I need to continue with. At $15 more per sheet between the premium MDF and the maple plywood, I decided it would make me feel better to work with the plywood and the offset of cost was worth my headaches.

Tim, thank you for all your input too. Your point about the nailer is well taken and will be added in. Also, I’m not sure my plan is showing through well on how the horizontal shelves will be joined to the vertical support shelf in the middle. So I’m attaching a couple of photos that should clarify. Also, Tim, your point about the 1/4” of material left on the dado was one of my major concerns with some 5/8” MDF that I bought. I think these photos will help clear everything up. Oh, also, the small shelves in the lower left section will be adjustable with edge banding as you suggested. I just didn’t put it in the drawing. There will also be a cabinet door covering them.

Thanks for everything guys!

View Tim_CPWD 's profile

Tim_CPWD

306 posts in 706 days


#12 posted 01-21-2015 08:50 PM

If this is going to be mounted above your desk I think you are better off with the plywood as MDF is much heavier.

I think I understand what you are doing here and that can work but I would still caution you on support strength. In the picture it looks like you are planning to dado the dividers in the area beyond the slot you are going to cut. If I understand this design correctly it appears you have completely removed material from the first half of the divider and two thirds of the material from the back half. That will weaken the support considerably (IMHO). To avoid reducing the material down to 1/4” by cutting a dado on both sides you might consider not cutting a dado but rather change the width of the slot and add a 3/4” x 1 1/4” piece of hardwood just below where the shelf sits on both sides of the divider as supports. These pieces would run front to back. That would allow you to maintain the full strength of the divider as there is no longer a dado. If you make the stiles of your face frame wide enough the ends will be nicely hidden. As stated before another option would be to run a dado on the long shelf side of the divider and secure the long shelves. Then drill adjustable shelf holes for all shelves on the short shelf side. This is how I would do it but there are many ways to build things. Hope this is helpful.

-- Tim Haenisch, San Diego Ca. http://www.facebook.com/commandperformancewooddesigns

View myxology's profile

myxology

43 posts in 701 days


#13 posted 02-14-2015 05:35 PM

Hey Tim, thanks for all the help. I’m finally getting back to this today. I’m just going to rip down the sheet goods and start cutting the shelves down to size. Before I do that, I have one more important question… Am I really just creating more trouble than all of this is worth by doing all of these dados? I feel like it’s going to make the whole thing a lot stronger than if I just butt fit them and use pocket screw joinery. To be honest, I’m a little afraid of all these dados because I haven’t done very many of them. This could be a big ol’ expensive learning project. :) Any thoughts before I take the plunge? (Pun made completely on purpose. You may begin groaning now.)

View Tim_CPWD 's profile

Tim_CPWD

306 posts in 706 days


#14 posted 02-16-2015 02:48 AM

Just using screws is an option but I don’t believe it will make for a stronger option. All the weight put on the shelves will be held by the screws alone. If you don’t want to use dados, another option would be to cut some pieces long enough to go the full depth of the cabinet to act as shelf supports. I would recommend 3/4” X 1” at a minimum. Screw them in at the desired shelf height and screw the shelf down into the supports. It is not as clean as a dado but it will be much stronger than just screwing the shelf into the side of the cabinet. For added strength you could run a support under the shelf across the back. This would help reduce bowing of the shelf over time. Hope this is helpful.

-- Tim Haenisch, San Diego Ca. http://www.facebook.com/commandperformancewooddesigns

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myxology

43 posts in 701 days


#15 posted 02-16-2015 04:39 AM

Hey Tim, thanks for chiming in again. I ended up doing some dados today. It worked better than I thought. I’m getting a little more confident with them. I’ll know better how I’ve done when it comes time for assembly, but I think it’s going well. I’ll keep you posted.

BTW – I visited your Facebook page. Great stuff! Are you a veteran? I’m a Navy vet. Desert Storm. USS Missouri.

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