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Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/MDF or Pine wood or PlyWood


QUESTION: Hi there,  

I am starting my own furniture business. I am particularly interested in kids furniture and some home furniture like bookcases, home office desks, tables etc.

I am inclined towards using MDF as much as possible for various reasons. MDF is most economic, easy profiling, and most importantly it finishes very well (paint). The biggest problem is its density. MDF products are very heavy which makes me think of other alternatives.

Pine wood is another option which is easy to handle, not very heavy, considerably strong (good enough for me) and this also finishes well. The only problem is its surface is soft enough to be scratchable by nails.

Third option is plywood. It's strong, easy to handle but the problem is I don't think it finishes well with paint.

My biggest objective is to make beautiful yet economic furniture and I would need good mix of acrylic and lacquer paint.

I don't have a crisp question but I would like to hear from you how should I decide. I don't mind doing mix and match between woods.

I know IKEA uses MDF a lot and I think they are doing good. But is it very heavy to use??

Please advise..

ANSWER: Hello Sanjay
Very nice to hear from India.
I am in Canada and things could be different here than there but I can certainly pass on my experience such as it is.
I have used all three materials you mention so I am familiar with them.
The MDF is very heavy as you say. Its hard to handle those 4x8 sheets yourself.
Air nailing it is fine but hammering nails into its edge causes it to expand and this will ruin the piece. So air nailing is needed here. It finishes nicely, can be easily profiled etc.
It would be my choice in your case.
The plywood sheets are slightly lighter and it can be nailed or air nailed. However the edges need to be covered which adds expense and time.
I would never use pine if it was going to be painted. Its great for clear finishes though but very soft and light as you say.
Hopes this helps

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for your response Eileen. One question on pine: does it not take paint (acrylic to be procise) nicely? I would like to finish it with acrylic paint and then lacquer. Will it not look nice?

ANSWER: Hello again Sanjay
Pine does take paint nicely.
However if there are any knots in the wood it will bleed through your paint.
This could take a few hours, days or weeks but it will bleed through without question.
There are blockers to help this but none work 100% in my experience.
Pine without knots is great but it costs a lot more.
Good Luck

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Eileen. I think I will go with MDF. I am also thinking of using Pine and MDF together.

One question (rather confusion). I have a feeling that using MDF for cabinet doors will not last long. I have a feeling that hinges will not hold it well for long time. Is this true?

Also, can you suggest some joinery for MDF? I know it works well with glue, and biscuits. But my furniture will be assembled by the customers, so it should be simple yet strong joinery. Any reference docs would certainly help.

The problem is: all my workers have sometimes used MDF so I can't say they are experts. So they would need guidance.

Hi again Sanjay
I can tell you for absolute certain that I have made several sets of cupboards using 1/2 inch MDF for the doors. The hinges are never a problem and won't let go.
If there is a problem, it lies in the fact that they need painting more often than a solid wood surface does. But that is Kitchen cabinet doors I am referring to.
The joinery method of 90% of the MDF furniture we buy precut ready to assemble is dowels with glue. Dowelling jigs are very easy to use for your workers.
That is the way to go.

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Eileen Cronk


Hi..I can answer most questions about the repairing,stripping and refinishing of all your old furniture and wood items(the things we call antiques)I can give advice about what to buy/avoid at auctions/flea markets. I do not give appraisals on antiques.


I have been refinishing antiques for the past 30yrs. While I have taken several courses over the years,I have found that "hands on" learning is the best teacher. Perhaps I can help you avoid some of the mistakes I made while learning.

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