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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 05:40 AM Thread Starter
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Default First project with MDF

I'm setting up a shop for my "retirement" hobby - hopefully creating something more useful than designer sawdust. My first project is making the Wood magazine's Mobile Tool Cabinet - actually two of them. I'll be so glad to get my stuff organized so I don't have to remember which box I stored it in.

The project called for 3/4" Baltic Birch plywood, but being the cheapskate I am, I picked up 5 sheets of 3/4 MDF at the Habitat ReStore for $10/sheet. I hope I haven't sabotaged my plan already by not using the Birch Ply since I've already cut all the pieces for assembly.

First question - I have a new Kreg pocket jig which I have enjoyed for the lack of gluing and clamping. Will this technique work for assembly with their 1 1/4" coarse thread pocket screws? I'm not sure what kind of glue I would even use on the slick pre finished maple colored surface.

Second question - the shelves are 4 1/8" and 10 1/2" 3/4" MDF 22 1/8" long on adjustable steel shelf standards. The plans call for a 1 1/4" edging ripped from the same material as the shelves. I have a couple of problems with that -

a - the rip edge that will be showing will look pretty nasty for a finished product
b- I was thinking of an iron on edge banding but wonder if I will actually need the structural support of the edging on a shelf that is less than 2' long.
c - if I use some real wood - pine or birch for the edging, I'm afraid the texture of the finish will stand out even if painted; well maybe not if I get clear stock. Your thoughts?

Third - The finish on the panels don't all match so I was thinking of painting the interior and exterior different colors (tan and burgundy) but was wondering if paint would adhere to the slick surface. Any special primer or paint type you could recommend? Also - if I go the edge banding route is there a paint grade veneer so I don''t have to paint over some prefinished cherry banding.

Well I guess that's it for now. At least I made my insomnia productive, just in time for my wife to get up so we can go to the gym and try to keep these decaying bodies working as long as we can.

Thanks in advance -

Marc
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-06-2012, 06:27 AM
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You said so much that I associate with.
Decaying bodies. Mine started at 15 but you do what you do to keep them going.
Productive insomnia. I have problems when the project I am working on at work works it's way into the project in the workshop.
Cheapskate. We are all considering costs when planning. Even Lamborghini's have recycled product in them.
You obviously are cluey from your questions so you are already on a good foot, but I cannot answer your questions sorry.

Under construction, always.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-07-2012, 06:15 AM
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Sounds like they should be fine in my shop. Iwouldn't put them the living though.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-07-2012, 07:31 AM
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Can' t answer the first two question, but as for the third, yes it will take paint, usually 2 coats. Roll it on though cause spraying will just soak in. Hope this helps
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-07-2012, 12:05 PM
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The guys that do the projects for the magazines are not spending their money. I have a mix of plywood ,no Baltic birch, just cabinet grade, and mdf cabinets, roll around stands and etc. Either one is fine for a workshop. Medium density fiberboard is different from plywood in that you have to watch out for splitting when putting screws in it. There are several special screws on the market for MDF (google McFeeleys). It will dull blades & tools faster than Plywood. Use a dust mask, it has some nasty dust. It will paint, take edging and etc. You can paint the edges and get a smooth surface that you can not get with plywood. With ply the layers will show through. I personally don't like iron on edging. It is not a lot of extra work to add wood edging, but as I said I wouldn't bother edging MDF. Stained plywood looks better than painted MDF but you are building shop furniture. It's a personal choice. Most reasonably priced furniture on the market is MDF covered with a woodgrain paper product. Most of us can't afford REAL wood furniture anymore. Use it, you'll probably be happy with the results, besides its a good learning experience. All that said, for the purist, there is no finer plywood than Baltic birch.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-07-2012, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
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Great suggestions and so timely. I spoke with the folks at Woodcraft and they seemed confident that the coarse thread will work fine on the MDF. The fine thread would probably strip out. I think what I will do is a 3/16 dado where the shelves will sit and drill a 1/4” hole from the outside and glue and drive 2 – 1/4” dowels in each side. Since they are going to be painted. I can fill and finish and nobody should know. For the other joints, I’ll stick with the Kreg anchors (hey I just got the kit and I want to use it) .
I’m at the beginning of my learning curve and shop storage seems a good place to start before I rip out the kitchen cabinets and the tuition will be a whole lot less when I goof.
Will keep you posted and post pics when I finish.
Thanks all –
Marc
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 07:29 AM
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Just one extra tip about the edges of MDF: PVA wood Glue (the standard white stuff, Poly Vinyl Acetate I think), watered down a bit and brushed on the edges works great as a cheap alternative to buying a pot of primer. The faces will largely be fine without primer, but it depends on how scratch resistant you want it / perfectionist you are

As someone else mentioned, but its important so Ill repeat it, MDF dust is highly carcinogenic, so you MUST use a good mask when making dust with it, even if you have secondary extraction.

Have fun in your new tidy shop,
Cheers
Jim
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 07:44 AM
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Marc, fine thread pocket hole screws are for working with hardwood. Be sure to adjust the clutch on your drill so it does not ream out the screw hole. You can buy white melamine edge banding that is used for the ends of pre fabbed shelving. I would remove the finish from the areas you want to glue for best results and the router is the perfect tool to do this. Use the pocket hole screws from the inside of your project. This is much easier than trying to hide screws from the outside. Trust me on this, I found out the hard way on some magazine racks I built.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 09:07 AM Thread Starter
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Cool magazine rack Mike. I think my wife would like me to make one next to my recliner in the Family room. She just doesn't seem to understand the organizational process I go through when I make my many piles on the carpet surrounding my chair. I have a new kreg kit that I think I'll go ahead and try on this project and learn from the experience. I have wood cut for two units but I'm just going to assemble one at a time. Thanks again for you input.
Marc
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 09:59 AM
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Marc, the rack shown was for retail sales and would hold about 500 magazines. I built other larger units that would hold about 1000 and they are still in use in many party stores in my area. Scaled down this type of rack works great for home use. I would add some small shelves on the ends for looks and additional storage.

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