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MDF face frames1/25/20
framed inset cabinets. nested cnc shop...the door sits in the opening, euro hinge plate screwed to the 3/4" box. the frame imo gets zero abuse. it would seem this would be a natural thing to run yet i see no where in any searches the industry even talks about this.
currently my frame making (46 yrs) is mortise and tenon...if i can cut frames on the router , omg the productivity leap i envision.
no joints, perfectly square openings, time savings...i'm no spring chicken either but this cabinet business hates change. someone tell me they do this or considering the potential?
Begs the question is the increase material cost less than the labor saving?
Weíve been doing this for a year or so, works great for us.
Well, my typical frame job takes literally four to seven days to build from ripping stiles and rails to complete frames. I used to make frames and I was much faster but busy running the shop these days.
One big road block is getting cabinet vision to see a face frame as one piece. Currently I run a frame only door to mimic a frame..
I've often wondered if you could cut the drawer fronts and doors [inset] with the face frame.Of course this would be paint grade. Could one use an 1/8 in. tool with .1 stepdown for the door and drawer cutouts. this would produce a perfect 1/8. in gap. Machine the profiles on door drawer parts first.
We started doing this and our test job was our showroom so far so good one piece nested door and frame
guys thanks so far.
what software are you using to create that?
again, its all about edges and to me to do these frames is a massive edge.
attached is an end panel frame i cut today overlaying over typical 4/4 maple mortise and tenon frame.
The two main challenges in doing this that I can see are going to be
1) Getting an acceptable finish on the frame inner edge. You may get better results if you switch to HDF. We've found HDF routed doors to be a bit easier to paint but the difference isn't a salvation experience either. But, worth suggesting.
2) Hinge screws splitting the MDF. If your hinge screws are going into the edge grain of the MDF, that's not ideal by any stretch. Especially if using the large #10 pan head type single-screw hinges.
Either way, a pilot hole will help but I fear that any time a client opens a door and leans on it will stress that spot on the MDF and potentially start a small split.
We use Medex which machines and finishes nice. We use both Cabinet Vision and V-Carve pro. You can approach this two ways,
I use ecabinets. If you use their profile modeler it would be possible to do beaded faceframe and raised panel doors.
When installing do you screw through the box in to each other? I seems like it would be risky to screw though the frames due to splitting.
We actually use Tenso and Clamex fasteners using the Lamello Zeta I can do it on the cnc but fixturing and spacing for the cutter make it very inefficient.
Just switching to dowels or pocket screws will speed up your frame making...
An old voice in the wilderness, here.
MDF is not a lumber replacement. It is a sheet good that has outgrown its purpose and been moved into the cabinet shops for doors. And now face frames?
Just because you can does not mean you should.
MDF edges have no integrity other than that lent to them by a finish. And that is not much. MDF cabinets will not age well - long a maxim of wood cabinet makers, knowing their work will look better over time and age very well. As the MDF edges get hit and bumped, they will flake and fuzz and deteriorate. Then there is no easy touch-up for owners or cabinetmaker.
Working wood should be an enjoyable endeavor, whether a 1 man shop or 100 workers. Wood is a marvelous material, while MDF is the opposite. At some point in the future, I feel this will be recognized, and those that embrace an MDF faced box now will find the market has moved on, perhaps without them.
If you are cutting Sugar Pine, or Maple or Cherry or any other hardwood, does not a visitor point out how nice the shop smells? The next thing they do is reach out and touch the wood.
With MDF, one must be defensive, wear defensive measures of several sorts, it stinks and covers the entire shop with a brown, slippery, devilish dust that is dreadful to clean.
If you think you must use MDF to compete, you have chosen the wrong field in which to compete. Money is not everything, but enjoying life and working with fine materials is.
Respect the craft.
I'm with David completely on this. FWIW
Another vote for MR. Sochar.
Another vote for David.
In order of dusty jobs Iíd pass on:
1. Asbestos miner
Iím sure thereís a few others that belong I. There.
At the end of the day this becomes a question for your customers. Our customers will not buy solid mdf doors. They ask us if we make real doors.
If moisture gets anywhere near that frame you are doomed.
Iíve spent my career avoiding the use of mdf. We use it where itís better than wood or ply. Cabinet door raised & flat panels, wainscotting panels, beaded paneling. Not much else.
very thoughtful post and i agree on many of your points; although i stand by my point this industry at the same time is notorious in its refusal to look forward.
Do I like the dust in the shop even with my great dust collection? Of course not! But I want to offer the best for my customers and also maximize shareholder returns. So I will continue to work through this concept.
David We'd all like to work with nothing but the finest materials, but depending on what part of the country you are in you have to do what you have to do to be competitive. we put mdf in the mix where it is non structural, and if moisture is a question we switch to moisture resistant material. yes it does not hold a screw in its edge, but what he is showing here is inset cabinetry, which if using euro hinges, all you have to do is switch from a face frame plate to a euro pate and mount it to your division. Also in regards to paint grade cabinetry, how would a ding repair be any different than that of solid wood. patch and repaint... All that said Im personally gonna stick with wood frames.
edges do ding easier i find on mdf doors. i think most of the damages occur in the manufacture to installation part of the process and not once in the customer hands.
so in our history we did a good share of mdf doors in frameless vanities back in the late 80's to mid 90's then we just stopped for no particular reason other than to keep my 5 piece door dept busier.
so back to those 30 yr old mdf doors; i get one time a month at least, customers bringing in broken hinges with mdf doors attached or blum meta drawers with the zinc plating broken and no one is complaining about the door! sure they look like hell (i would argue 30 yr old painted maple doors look worse than mdf ) but what lasts 30 yrs anyway?
i'm gonna keep testing and tossing in some end frames made of mdf on the next job and will post pics. my goals continue to be : make production faster (via less time to create frames and less finishing time) and an end product that looks new longer (eliminate hairline cracks).
imagine a better product and earn more?
Buy yourself a Castle pocket screw machine and you will be way ahead on every job.
We each need to do what we need to do to get by. But choosing lesser materials starts a process that ends with children working in a 3rd world factory owned by Ikea.
Or, think of it this way: You and your competitor have similar shops, and compete on many jobs. You use the same vendors, and draw from the same labor market. your pricing is the same.
The difference is that you borrowed money to get some equipment, and your competitor already has all that equipment and owns it, along with all his other equipment. Debt-free. Not equal.
When he figures his costs, he will be lower than you every time, by definition, since he does not a machine payment to make. Many shops have large debt burdens that will force, due to competition, them to chase the cheaper whatsit forever. It is easy to see that if your overhead is 15% higher than your competitors, then you will have a hard time competing.
As a Nation, we are all pretty dumb when it comes to debt service, banks prefer it. The effects of debt on competing entities is rarely discussed.
What does one do?
Find your niche. Exploit an area and become the expert. Do all you can within your niche and ignore everyone else. Define your niche well enough, and your competition vanishes. You can then borrow when necessary to improve or just replace equipment. That loan will not put you into a descending spiral.
Think of the poor guy that borrows from the shark, can't pay on time so the amount increases, etc. In no time the poor schlub is robbing banks trying to pay off the screw.
For us, it is MDF, or plastic, or outsourcing, or minimal whatever. Not as a choice, but as survival.
MDF is over used and it is junk.
It used to be used in tracts quite a bit a century ago on linens
It paints out pretty good, the edges IIRC were hit with a lacquer primer first
They were pocket screwed together which had a tendency to split the mdf.
Double refined offers a better edge or panel
I think it is ok for a panel, I used to make quite a few man doors routed out of a slab with double refined panels and panel molding.
For cabinet frames I'm thinking this is more trouble than it is worth and a poorer product.
pocket screws (change from mortise and tenon) started out as the main plan but since studying the implications of even partial MDF (Medex) frames I put that on hold. chances are really high i do move to Castle but also work on doing partial jobs in the MDF until i can fully decide.
Leland, I think that's a great Idea. Now if there was a way to get a beaded face frame ? the fact the shape of the door could easily be curved or round top, etc.
The first year on my own I switched to pocket screws & uv finished clear maple plywood. The quality was much better and way faster. It was truly a better product.
The only people that know there are m/t in a face frame is yourself and the people you tell about it. Unless you are building real furniture, it would be hard to convince someone there is a benefit that justifies the cost in a cabinet.
Iím one of those experimental guys who tries different things in all aspects of the business. The ideas and methods Iíve learned on the ww have greatly influenced my approach.
Give the mdf a try and update us as you learn the pros & cons. Good Luck
Hi Paul we are still using V11 everyday I am experimenting with V12 especially the connection manager which is a real game changer. I posted some beaded face frames that we did for a customer that requested MDF frames for a very $$$ mansion in Boston. Please excuse the primer color
Leland, thank you for all the pictures.
those frames and beaded frame panel must be through v carve ?
i'm still in ver 11 also and will soon migrate to ver 12 CV. do you think connection manager will help with my quest to do mdf frames all in CV? i'd like to know how you see it as a game changer.
Why did they want mdf? I guess It would look like plastic if you threw two coats of catalysed primer and sanded it perfectly.
How are you fixing the mdf to the box?
Yeah the customer/builder specified it they wanted it seamless which it is. We used clamex and tenso fasteners which work great and you can remove them if you are working on a cabinet with doors and pre-finished maple interior
Iíve used mdf on several jobs for face frames with no problems and or complaints. Ok so I do miss the hairline cracks associated with using solid wood.