Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/MDF/PineWood


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!

I don't see any problem with MDF except that it ships "heavy".  We used to make fireplace mantels in MDF and ship them around the country via UPS or FedEx.  We had to package them with extra care so if a box was dropped the contents inside would absorb the drop and not get damaged.  Pine or Hemlocks, in my opion, are too soft.  A good hardwood to consider is poplar.  Poplar paints up smooth and hard and is light for shipping.  We produce a lot of stair parts in poplar.  

Thank you!


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QUESTION: Thanks for the reply Joseph. How expensive is poplar as copared to MDF?

Poplar can be found at reasonable prices.  It is cheaper than Hemlock, though quite a bit more than MDF.  We sell baluster "blanks" that are S4S.  List price for these in 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" x 31" Red Oak is $4.37.  For Poplar it is $2.44 (wholesales for $1.96 each).  Hopefully that will help on the perspective.


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Joseph G. Swallow


I can answer all staircase balustrade questions where handrails, newels posts, balusters (wood and metal), and stair treads are concerned. I cannot help with cabinetry and floor (outside of stair-related treads and risers), as well as stain and finish issues unless staircase related.


30 years in the stair industry. Founder of Hardwood Creations in Southern California and CEO of Westfire Manufacturing, Inc. I was a stair builder for 10 years, both in custom and production housing. Have estimated over 750,000 single family homes and provided materials to lumber yards and builders for 12 years. Was an expert witness in several staircase related law suits in Southern California. Stair codes, installation help, stair handrail and balustrade installation are what I know best.

NAHB of Portland, OR. Was a member of ICBO for 9 years.

Cal State Fullerton, Cypress College

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