Machining MDF

      Tips for machining MDF. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

I am presently preparing a bid for some raised panel wainscote. The final finish will be painted white and I am thinking about using MDF for all components panels, stiles, rails, etc. in place of poplar. I have used MDF mouldings in the past and my client does not have a preference for solid wood vs. MDF. What I need to know is if the standard shaper cutters I presently use for solid wood will machine the MDF in a similar fashion and also any tips that you may have for achieving a quality job; cutter speed, feed rate, sanding, etc.

I do not have much expertise in this area--I have experience with "real, solid" wood and not composites! But, I can share with a comment or two.

First, always machine composites aggressively--if you are feeding too slowly, you will get a lot of rubbing, subsequent heating, and rapid tool dulling. With dulling comes more heating, and essentially impossible, intolerable results (quality).

Second, (not with MDF) we are always concerned about the amount of ash in particleboard--ash comes from debris during accumulation and manfacturing of the chips. High ash content means instant dulling of the tools, etc.

I would suggest that carbide or stellite tooling is essential.

Contact Sandy Stewart at Mississippi State University's Forest Products Lab for more information. He is the top machining researcher, especially with respect to tool dulling. He adds the theory to what we know from experience.

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Click on Wood Doctor Archives to peruse past answers.

If you would like to obtain a copy of "The Wood Doctor's Rx", visit the Wood Education and Resource Center Web site for more information.

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Woodworking Miscellaneous: Woodworking

  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.

    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2019 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB

  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers

      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article