We’ve already had previous discussions about what makes MDF the wood of choice for some types of project, so here are a few more useful tips about the advantages plus disadvantages of it too. First of all, exactly what is MDF?
MDF – or medium density fibreboard – is a manufactured board not dissimilar to particle board. The only difference really is the larger wooden chips which are used in particle board whereas extremely fine wood dust is used to manufacture medium density fibreboard.
MDF is constructed by gluing fibres (the fine wood dust) together using a resin before compressing it under a heat source. After the glue has dried the board can be but into required lengths and is ready for use.
The resin which glues the fibres together is toxic and the fine fibres make it incredibly easy for them to be breathed in – for this reason this type of timber should always be cut in well ventilated areas or using some sort of dust collection system.
Fibreboard is particularly useful in cabinet making, thanks largely to the affordability of the product, the vast range of sizes available and the absence of any natural defects. It is quite common to cover MDF with plastic laminate plus sealant, the benefits of which are two fold. Firstly it increases the aesthetics of the wood and secondly it can help to prevent the fibres from getting loose and floating in the air.
Advantages of MDF:
Affordability and cost effectiveness
Availability in a wide range of sizes
Lack of natural defects
Very easy to machine
Disadvantages of MDF:
The toxic resins make the MDF sawdust dangerous
MDF is unsuitable for many joints
It must be completely sealed so that the toxins cannot escape
It can split
It must be cut in a well ventilated area or location with a dust collection system
These are the advantages and disadvantages of working with MDF. Handle with care – you do not want it to poison you, but it is a great material to work with for certain applications.