MDF for Raised Panels

Pros discuss the characteristics of medium-density fiberboard for making cabinet doors. November 10, 2006

I need to make a few paint grade raised panel doors. MDF is somewhat foreign to me as I always use hardwood. Here is my question: For just a few doors, can I purchase a sheet of MDF at Home Depot or is the stuff they carry different from my supplier? The reason I ask is I have to have all my wood delivered from my supplier. They will not allow anyone to pick up at their facility. Any order under $500.00 they charge a $50.00 delivery charge. Im just trying to avoid the charge if the MDF is the same.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
I have built many raised panel doors using MDF purchased at Home Depot and I have never had any problems.

From contributor J:
I'm sure it would be ok, but have you thought about just using hardwood (maple or poplar) for the panel? My supplier sells a super refined grade and it may not be the same as the Home Depot product. I made 10 MDF door panels once and the abrasive MDF practically ruined my panel knives - it dulled them terribly.

From contributor A:
I've made a lot of stuff out of MDF. It's a good product within its limitations. I like MDF doors. Home Depot stuff (I assume) is regional. I think locally its GP. But I also assume they bid it out and whoever is lower in price is the one they go with. Personally I like Trupan brand. I've found it does not fuzz as bad when you finish. But my HD stuff is fine. Use sharp carbide blades. If you glue it, try to reinforce joints. Think of it as a bunch of 4x8 sheets of paper glued together. If you cut it apart and use traditional 5 panel door construction, glue it up, prime, sand well and prime again. Then paint.

From contributor R:
I have done quite a bit of MDF raised panels and after some painting difficulties early on I made 2 changes I have never regretted. First I only use the premium grades of MDF like the Trupan or Ranger board etc. Second I always use gluesizing where I have milled a profile. You are opening up the endgrain of the board and need to seal it closed. Gluesize, allow it to dry 24 hours then sand with 240 grit and it's ready to go. I like to use a ready made gluesize but they're hard to find and I have run out. I think you can simply use a white glue and water it down maybe 20% but I have not tried this yet.

From contributor M:
I would suggest using a poplar cope and pattern with an MDF center; it looks great and makes hinges more secure. Also, if you have access to an airless or an HVLP, common lacquer sanding sealer is what I always use for prep. Any MDF will do for that purpose. I have included an image of a poplar framed MDF core example.

Click here for full size image

"Photo by Josh Mitchell of J&S Custom Woodworks, Inc".

From contributor F:
As soon as you spend more than a few seconds shaping MDF, your carbide cutter is too dull to cut wood. You can keep cutting MDF, maybe all day, but it is pretty much dedicated to MDF once you use it initially.

From contributor T:
I do MDF doors quite often when the kitchen is to be painted but I only use MDF as the center panel. The frame is usually made of poplar. This keeps things stable and poplar will not chip like MDF does over time.