Pre-Primed MDO Finishing Issues

Finishers report mixed results finishing cabinets built using medium-density overlay (MDO) panels. July 3, 2008

Has anyone had good or bad luck using this for painted cabinets? The surface seems very smooth, and the primer sands very easily. Tear-out seems to be minimal with the MDO. I just want to know if any of you have had any problems or horror stories.
Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
You have to be a bit more specific as to the type of materials you would like to apply to this MDO. Is it an oil based Enamel, Lacquer or a Latex water based finish?

From the original questioner:
I was hoping to get a general idea of what the limitations of the material might be. I generally spray water-base acrylics, but have sprayed pigmented lacquer and some oil based product. The manufacturer tells me you can do anything you want, I just find that hard to believe.

From contributor A:
I used a pile of it about 8 years ago for some exterior flat panels. The only issue I can remember was spot priming. The way our panels were constructed we had to sand some of the wood joints and spot prime afterwards. Naturally some of the primer got on the primer of MDO.

We got print through on the top coat. This was caused by a hardness difference. The correct method would have been to completely re-prime the assembled panels. But at the time it seemed like a waste of time since the panels were pre-primed. Based upon that I would have similar concerns building cabinets. I have no idea what cabinet construction methods you typically use.

From contributor P:
The last time I used MDO (1/4", for the panel in flat panel doors) I wasn't happy with the way they turned out. The finished surface had noticeable ripples, even after a good sanding. It could've been a bad batch or just this supplier's quality, but it wasn't what I would consider good cabinet grade material. Get some and do a test before committing.

From the original questioner:
I will do some tests on a sample for sure. Contributor A - great tip on the hardness difference! It makes sense since the primer is thermo-cured in the factory. Contributor P - I noticed the wiggle in the 1/2" and 1/4" samples I saw as well.

From contributor A:
I've seen a lot of bad looking MDO signs in my day. The core is the best fir core available with a Kraft paper face. It all sounds good on paper until you add a few biscuits to patch bad spots in the veneer. I've seen serious biscuit print through on MDO.