I ran across this picture, along with quite a few more awesome kid’s rooms at a cool Australian community site here.
I’ve always been a fan of really cool themed kids rooms, so I naturally took a moment to look at what was going on in this room and it just reminded me how creative you can really get using the ultra-versatile material called MDF.
Medium Density Fiberboard
When you look at the picture above, chances are that all of the flowers and sculpted shapes (such as the baby blue painted boards) are made of MDF, or medium density fiberboard. I’ve written about MDF before and it really is one of my favorite materials, which surprises me because it’s not what you might call a “natural” product like solid wood.
MDF has a number of endearing qualities which, if you really look at them, will have you a lifelong fan as well:
- MDF is cheap, yo.
- MDF is easy peasy to cut. You can easily cut shapes with a jig saw or a router.
- MDF is solid, so unlike (most) plywood you can gut a shape out of it and get a clean nice edge
- MDF is reasonably durable
- MDF is easy to connect to other materials because it holds fasteners well and glue adheres pretty well if done correctly
- MDF, when finished properly, can look nearly perfect (smooth, flawless, flat)
- MDF is flat…like really flat, which makes it great for table tops, cabinet drawer fronts, and building up in layers for projects that require thickness
I could go on, but you get the point. MDF is some serious good sheet.
Tips for Working With MDF
Working with MDF is hard at first, because it does a few things differently than wood. You get used to it quickly, but here are a few pointers to help out.
Don’t Expect Smooth Edges to Just Happen
When you cut MDF, the edges tend to be a little “fuzzy”. If you just paint over this fuzz and expect it to become smooth you’ll be upset. Instead, you need to sand the edge with some high-grit sandpaper (like 220) or a good foam sanding sponge (dry, of course). If you want the corners to be sharp be careful when sanding because if you go over the edges at all, they will round over a little (usually that’s what you want).
After you sand the edge, hit the edges with an extra coat of primer before you start your finishing project overall. The edges sometimes need to be sanded and primed two or three times before ready for finish work. This sounds hard but it goes really fast and is worth the effort.
Don’t Get MDF Wet
Seriously. You’ve seen Gremlins right? Well MDF won’t multiply into a hundred sheets but it will expand and get all upset if you get it wet before it’s painted. Once it’s finished with paint or another top-coat, it’s much more durable.
Don’t Cut MDF at High Speed
Cutting MDF is an interesting paradox. It cuts “easily” but it doesn’t cut well at high blade speeds. The edges of the board start to burn and make a mess. With most common cutting tools like table saws and circular saws, controlling the blade speed isn’t much of an option (like it is with reciprocating saws, jig saws, and routers). With fixed speed tools, you need to use the correct blade. If you’re only cutting a little bit, any 30 or 40 tooth carbide tip blade will work. If you’re going to do a large project or want really fine cuts for glue joints or finished edges, use a good blade like this one.
Take Precautions for Dust
MDF makes a very fine sawdust when you cut it and sand it. The general rule with sawdust is that the finer and lighter it is, the more careful you have to be with it. It not only goes everywhere within a range of about 40 feet or so, it also can really get into your nose and lungs if you don’t wear a dust mask while working with it, especially indoors. A simple particle mask will do the job just fine.
Not The Pain in the Rear it Sounds Like!
Reading through these tips you might have forgotten the first part… MDF is awesome! You can do so much creative work with it and at a low cost. It’s great for DIY remodeling projects on a budget. Give it a try!
Have you ever worked with MDF? Any tips I’ve left out? Any questions? Leave me a comment and let me know you stopped by!