Machining Scallops or Flutes into MDF Panels

      With CNC equipment, you can machine any kind of regular or irregular scallops, waves, or flutes into MDF but it can be pricey, and makes a lot of dust. January 26, 2008

I'm looking for a source of fluted MDF panels. You might call it a "cove" panel. It would be rows of 2" - 3" wide flutes/coves (concave) across. Panels could be any size from 2' x 3' up. They are for both veneer and paint grade projects. I know they exist because the job site already has them installed. Unfortunately that millwork company is not in business for source info. I've checked many sites and haven't been close except for a few shops in England. I realize it could be possible to rout the panels, but most cove bits size out larger than the width we are after.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor T:
Something like this? I can configure as needed.

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From contributor D:
To the original questioner: Could you post a picture?
Contributor T, how much will your panels warp after you machine the waves?

From the original questioner:
Thank you for your posts. A drawing to show what panel I am after. I will need two panels, 20" x 32" (rough, not final size) out of standard 3/4" MDF. The coves are 2" wide with a 1/16-" flat between. While your organic cuttings are spectacular and I will show them to the designer, the straight rows of coves correspond to other elements in the room.

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From contributor D:
Your drawing is more of what I suspected from your description. This should be fairly simple for any out there with CNC capabilities. You do know cuts like that in MDF will warp the sheet.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the input. The cove panels will be mounted to a solid substrate so I don't expect the bowing to affect the final profile. Of course, you never know.

From contributor T:
"How much will your panels warp after you machine the waves?"

1/8 - 1/4 on 4" to 5" of outside edges. The middle stays flat. Nothing Liquid Nails can't handle. It took some time and a lot of dead ends but we got the process down. Material, tooling, and tool path strategy is key to keeping it flat. The hard part was the hairs that lift in the MDF when painted. Now it's relatively easy considering what we went through to refine the process.

From contributor J:
You can cut those on a table saw with a skewed fence. Just fiddle with your fence angle and blade depth to get the width and depth required. For two panels, hardly worth the effort and tooling for CNC. Not to mention shipping and related damage. Might give it a look.

From contributor D:
You are right. If someone wanted to have this made for a one off project it could get expensive. Luckily, I've got a cove bit sitting on the shelf that's 2.5" across. I use it for some of the cabinetmakers that come by my shop for specialty kicks and what not. The bigger issue is the mess involved. That bugger kicks the chips and dust. I'm setting up to run the bit today for some straights and I'll cut a sample of what the questioner's drawing shows.

From contributor D:
Don't tell the boss ;)
Yes, it will be a little fuzzy.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor T:
Looks great! It does get messy. We're dumping 12-15 55 gallon drums of MDF dust a day.

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