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Does MDF Belong in Fine Furniture?comments (98) November 22nd, 2010 in blogs
While MDF is widely considered a "material of choice" when it comes to constructing workshop jigs and fixtures, the thought of getting it anywhere near fine furniture is enough to induce a heart attack in most any serious woodworker. Let's face it, it's not wood. Rather, it's what some might call an odd, space-age concoction of wood fibers and urea-formaldehyde-yes, formaldehyde. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
Truth-be-told, I don't often see MDF in the FW shop unless it has something to do with a jig. With that in mind, I posed a simple question to the staff and figured I'd share the responses. If you feel strongly one way or the other, be sure to sound off in the comments section of this post. And don't be shy if you disagree with any of my quoted editors, make yourself heard. Yes, WE DO read those comments at the bottom of every blog post!
Should MDF have a spot in your shop?
In chatting with my colleagues about MDF, four of the most common topics we touched upon were weight, dust control, vapors, and fasteners.
- If you're purchasing 4-ft. x 8-ft. sheets of MDF for a specific project, consider having it pre-cut to rough sizes before loading your car and taking off. MDF is a heck of a lot more dense--and heavy--than conventional plywood. Cutting it down to size beforehand will keep your back happy.
- Perhaps the single most important key to working with MDF is dust control. Use a dust mask, tool source dust control and a workshop air filter (if you have one). Long story short: the more dust control, the better.
- Stay away from nails and pre-drill all your screw holes. MDF edges are very brittle, so pre-drilling and countersinking are a must.
- Be sure you've got adequate ventilation. While ventilation is a good idea anytime you're kicking up sawdust, it's especially true when cutting MDF. The formaldehyde vapors given off by this product need to go somewhere. Better that it go out a window or door than into your precious lungs.
- Consider gloves. The MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet) of manufacturer Temple Ingland suggests woodworkers use gloves while handling MDF in the shop. And while a conventional dust mask is OK, these folks recommend using an NIOSH/MSHA approved respirator instead. You can easily find a decent respirator for around $40 and you'll find plenty of other uses for it in the shop, so don't hesitate to purchase one if you do intend to use MDF from time-to-time.
posted in: blogs, veneer, mdf, high density fiberboard, medium density fiberboard, painting mdf, hdf
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