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The weather is getting warmer and the car will soon be parking outside and I get back my garage - workshop.
I want to make new cabinet doors for my kitchen and I would like your advice.
The style will be shaker.
What are the pro's and con's of making them out of MDF or Wood
Using MDF worries me because of wear to the bits and you get sharper edges.
I will be painting them. Also which would be the best paint for each MDF and wood
Thanks for the advice in advance.
Stuart
 

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I wouldn't use MDF for doors. Not very robust and very hard to make paint look good on it.

Consider using plywood, and glue a strip of matching wood on the edges so you can cut the shaker profile on it. This would be for a solid door. If you are making a paneled door, you are basically makng a solid wood frame, and using thin ply for the panels.

The ply and solid wood edges will take almost any finish you want to apply. Stain, oil, wax paint, it won't be a problem. Just don't over sand the ply.

Splurge and go for some Baltic Birch ply. You'll love it.

Make certain you table saw blade is exactly 90 to the table or you'll have trouble gluing on the solid wood trim to the ply. Apply a pre coat of glue to the plywood edge, then glue again to help make the trim stick. Use lots of clamps and cauls to hold the trim firmly in place while the glue dries.

Use a trim bit to make the trim the same thickness as the ply. Work face down so the front trim and ply edges align.
 

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My friend and I have built many kitchen cabinet doors including banks of drawers fronts using MDF - never had a problem. We knock down the edges with a bit of sanding, which also helps the paint adhere better. When we spray them we put on two coats of primer with sanding after each coat and finish with a coat of latex sprayed on. Built a set of cabinets for my daughter's kitchen. Carcasses were made from melamine, doors and drawer fronts were MDF. Here's a couple of pictures, that don't really do the finished product justice but you'll get the idea.
 

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Here's a very informative video showing the process of making Shaker-style cabinet doors.


He states that MR (moisture resistant) MDF must/should be used. He seems to have a pretty well thought out process using loose tenons so measurements are pretty straight-forward. If you check his YouTube channel, he has another video on making doors, showing his old method and explaining why he doesn't make them that way any more. One drawback may be his use of 22 mm (7/8") thick material for the stiles and rails, but he explains his reason for using the thicker material - and I think it has something to do with the use of Euro hinges and the relative strength of the MDF when used with 3/4" material. FWIW, I have several sets of doors here made of 3/4" MDF, all over 25 years old and still going strong, but they're not doors that see a lot of opening and closing. He also has a video that shows his method of painting the MDF doors in detail. His channel has a lot of good information, well worth a couple of hours spent looking through the various videos.

If you're concerned about the MDF, or even problems finding the thicker material, make the rails and stiles from maple - or even poplar - and stick with the MDF panel if they're going to be painted.
 

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Good video, Tom...besides his well-organized small shop, I especially like the fold-down track saw...who'da thunk...

...and I'm lookin' for a 3-car garage for my shop...might be time for a new strategy... LOL

Thanks for sharing...
 
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If you are worried about the abrasive effect of MDF on tools, consider the Third World alternative: simply cut strips of thin MDF (I think you get 1/4 inch in N. America?) to the desired width of the rails and styles, and then cut the strips to rail and style length. Then glue on a faux frame to the front of the plain MDF door. Once painted, only a persnickety type that inspects the insides of cabinet doors, would know that it is not a genuine rail-and-style construction. Sand and fill the edges with a sealer, and the glue line disappears.
Quick and dirty, but you have a full 3/4 inch door, with extra thickness where the euro hinges will be placed - no external dimpling of the hinge hole by the point of the Forstner bit.
 

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Stuart,

No problem using MDF. I have done it many times and it's fine. I am thinking of doing the same to my kitchen (currently all Pine with ugly doors that have 6 or 8 squares in each door and the old laminate counter top is also wood grain strips. I want to paint everything white and use a more up to date counter top), but having a hard time convincing my wife on the Shaker style. If not then I have a cabinet door router bit set from Freud that will get used.
Enjoy the project.

Dan
 

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I would use the MDF for the door centers and something like poplar for the frames. I have used MDF for the complete doors but do not think that the small tenon left by the bit is strong enough. I like it for the centers because it is a full 1/4" thick. With MDF you get a much nicer surface to paint on than plywood.
 

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All of the cabinet doors you see that have a vinyl coating have an mdf core. The mdf gets sprayed with a heat activated adhesive and then goes into a heated vacuum press. I worked in a cabinet factory for a short while and it had a press to do that. The raised panel effect is done with a CNC router and a bit like this one : Ogee Panel CNC Cabinet Door Raised Panel Router Bit - 1/2" Shank | Faux Panel | Precisionbits.com You don't make a frame out of the mdf. That probably wouldn't be very strong.

Making a frame out of wood and installing an mdf panel is possible but you would likely see a difference through the paint between the wood and the mdf just like you see plywood patches through paint. The wood will have some grain showing through and the mdf won't as well as the two possibly having a different sheen because of the different properties of the substrates. The most natural looking combination would be wooden frame and a plywood panel of the same species of wood.

Mdf comes in different grades. A lot of what is being sold now is the lite grade. There is a cabinet grade and it may also be more waterproof. The cabinet grade machines with better detail.
 

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Correct Charles on the different grades. We order our material from a supplier in Oakville and they carry more than one grade of MDF as well as melamine. Always order the better grade.
We make the full door, frame and panel from MDF and have not had an issue with strength. The tenons are 3/8" long and we add glue to the middle of the groove for the panel - no shrinkage/expansion with MDF so gluing the panel in is not a problem.
 

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If you are worried about the abrasive effect of MDF on tools, consider the Third World alternative: simply cut strips of thin MDF (I think you get 1/4 inch in N. America?) to the desired width of the rails and styles, and then cut the strips to rail and style length. Then glue on a faux frame to the front of the plain MDF door. Once painted, only a persnickety type that inspects the insides of cabinet doors, would know that it is not a genuine rail-and-style construction. Sand and fill the edges with a sealer, and the glue line disappears.
Quick and dirty, but you have a full 3/4 inch door, with extra thickness where the euro hinges will be placed - no external dimpling of the hinge hole by the point of the Forstner bit.
What a coincidence, I watched this video yesterday where he did exactly that.


The hinged track is a Festool feature, and comes with the MFT table.

 

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All of the cabinet doors you see that have a vinyl coating have an mdf core. The mdf gets sprayed with a heat activated adhesive and then goes into a heated vacuum press. I worked in a cabinet factory for a short while and it had a press to do that. The raised panel effect is done with a CNC router and a bit...
I have bathroom cabinets like that, Charles. The back and edges are just flat MDF. The front is machined to look like panels with a (vinyl?) white, woodgrain finish applied. The builder ordered them to size from a factory and built the cabinets himself, out of coated and edge-banded particle board. He had his own machine for drilling multiple shelf-pin holes and euro hinges.

One observation about these MDF doors is their weight. They seem quite heavy. They close harder with the same hinges. My kitchen cabinet doors have a flat panel, similar to shaker but have a small detail on the frames. They have a nicer feel to them and I think it's the weight. The panel seems to be about 3/16" (metric maybe?).
 

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Correct Charles on the different grades. We order our material from a supplier in Oakville and they carry more than one grade of MDF as well as melamine. Always order the better grade.
We make the full door, frame and panel from MDF and have not had an issue with strength. The tenons are 3/8" long and we add glue to the middle of the groove for the panel - no shrinkage/expansion with MDF so gluing the panel in is not a problem.
You're right Vince. If the panel was glued in to make it a solid unit then it should hold together. I just wouldn't have much faith in mdf holding up to racking forces over a long period of time without doing that.

We also had different grades of melamine coated particle board as you mentioned. Some of it was much denser than the other. The poorest grade wouldn't hold screws. Even the confirmat type didn't want to hold in them.
 

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Good video, Tom...besides his well-organized small shop, I especially like the fold-down track saw...who'da thunk...

...and I'm lookin' for a 3-car garage for my shop...might be time for a new strategy... LOL

Thanks for sharing...
Nick,

If you do a search on his YouTube channel, he has one video where he gives a shop tour, it's amazing what he's able to cram into that smallish space and still turn out the work he does. He does however get a lot of his larger parts cut to size by the"lumber yard" - apparently he gives them a cut list and they break down the sheets on their CNC equipment.
 

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Hinges don't take screws well. Stiles and rails don't do well under stress unless fully glued. Any breaks due to stress will create an open wound for moisture if in wet locations...

It doesn't matter to me if one uses it or not. To each can do as they please. After 30 years as a professional cabinet maker I have fixed and replaced it enough to not use it for hinged stiles...
 

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Hinges don't take screws well. Stiles and rails don't do well under stress unless fully glued. Any breaks due to stress will create an open wound for moisture if in wet locations...

It doesn't matter to me if one uses it or not. To each can do as they please. After 30 years as a professional cabinet maker I have fixed and replaced it enough to not use it for hinged stiles...
I've repaired quite a few over the years too. The fix is simple. Either glue in some toothpicks or drill and install a dowel and put the screw in the dowel. The toothpicks do a pretty good job. The glue and wood are tougher that original hole and they hold up pretty well but if the old screw hole is too badly damaged then you have to dowel it first. The reason of course for going with mdf or melamine is cost. Not everyone can afford oak cabinets. Sometimes you have to settle for less and work with the issues. Nothing organic holds up well against water.
 
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