What is MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)?

Medium Density FiberboardMDF, medium density fiberboard, is a building material that is made to look like real wood. It is often used in the mass manufactured furniture industry. The primary motivator for its use is its low cost. Using this material can cost as much as one-tenth the price of real wood, according to Wood Magazine.

How It’s Made

Medium density fiberboard is composed of small particles of wood, usually the logs that are not included in the production of direction lumber for use in building. The logs are chipped into tiny pieces after being debarked and removed of the cambium layer. In order to ensure that pieces are small enough for use, they are run through a screen. Pieces that are too large will go through the chipper once more. The pieces are then wash and removed of impurities, mixed with resins and waxes, then pressed together to make boards. The boards will go through a finishing process in which they are dried, laminated, trimmed and packaged so that they are ready for use.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Beyond the price, MDF provides a number of advantages in the building process. There are no knots in this material, and it comes in dimensions that work well for the production of mass manufactured furniture. It runs through the machining process easily, and is easy to insert materials into such as dowels.

Screws and mechanical fasteners, however, can be problematic. In addition, it is hard to route and dulls blades quickly. Pilot holes are necessary so the material doesn’t split. Also, medium density fiberboard contains formaldehyde, so masks must be worn in order to avoid breathing harmful sawdust.

This inexpensive material will likely be found in less expensive furniture items. Hobby builders can decide, based on personal preference, whether to use MDF in their projects after weighing the pros and cons.

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