Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
MDF is a superb building product because it’s relatively inexpensive, is a great choice for woodworking, is fairly adaptable and can be used for a variety of applications. But getting the best results from MDF is down to understanding the product and avoiding common mistakes. In this article we’ll take you through a number of classic do’s and don’ts when it comes to using medium density fibreboard.
MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) is a man-made product consisting of fine wood particles compressed together under intense pressure combined with resins and heat. To many unsuspecting individuals, MDF is most likely to be in every modern home in some way or another without them knowing. It is very commonly found in kitchen units, cabinets, shelves, furniture and many other everyday items yet is rarely seen in its raw form as it tends to be covered with a more attractive laminate or wood veneer.
As mentioned above, it’s very versatile but it does have it’s weaknesses as well as it’s strengths and is not suitable for all applications. Use it right and you can get amazing results. Use it or abuse it incorrectly and it will let you down.
The best and most obvious advantage to using MDF is the price. Compared to plywood or other solid wood sheets, MDF is a far better economic option. If you need to cover large areas with a paintable flat surface such as wall panelling or an inbuilt shelving system or media centre for example, you can mix and match materials. Use MDF where a solid flat surface is needed and then use timber for edging and stiffening. Once the whole thing is painted, you’ll never see the difference between where the MDF starts or where the wood trims begin.
If you plan to make something that requires a large amount of flat wood panels, save yourself a few pennies by substituting plywood or particleboard for MDF, which is just a good and will give a great finish.
Cutting and milling MDF produces a lot of dust and fine particles which contains high levels of urea-formaldehyde due to the adhesive resins contained within the material. Wearing a mask is highly advised as the dust particles produced contain formaldehyde which is a know carcinogen.
If possible, always cut MDF in a well ventilated area and wear suitable masks to cover both your nose and mouth, as well as your eyes. The fine powdery dust produced from cutting MDF is very unpleasant and can cause asthma and other respiratory issues if inhaled. Get it in to your eyes and it can be very uncomfortable and itchy.
As well as protecting yourself, make sure you cover all necessary areas of your home from dust particles. MDF dust is very light and fine, so travels easily. Any cutting indoors will swiftly lead to dust spreading and settling throughout your home.
It is not recommended that you use an electric screwdriver or impact driver with MDF without drilling a pilot hole and countersinking drill bit first, as any intense pressure or force will make it crumble and deteriorate. MDF appears as a solid, firm material on the surface but its compound is actually quite soft and flaky. It doesn’t take a great deal of pressure to cause it to split or break up, and when it does there’s no going back.
So avoid using nails and a hammer as any mishaps will most likely cause the surface to split and break up. And most certainly do not drop it as any heavy impact will destroy exposed edges.
MDF might be an innocent looking material but it is deceptively heavy and a full sized sheet can weigh up to 100 lbs. Lugging one of those around can easily cause sprains, aches and pains so if you have an extra pair of hands, get help lifting them otherwise, opt for smaller manageable sheets to avoid injury.
MDF is a superb material for painting but to get the very best results, always use a suitable primer first. The tops tend to always be nice and smooth but cut edges can look a little rough however if you prime it, then sand it and then prime it again, those rough edges can be made to look far better.
Then once fully primed, you are ready to paint it any colour you wish and you should get a far better, more even looking finish. The primer will act as a bond so that you get a consistent colour finish every time you paint.
Never ever use MDF on projects that are intended to stay outdoors - it is simply not designed to be used in any wet weather. Even with priming and lots of waterproof painting, MDF will eventually lose the battle of the elements and deteriorate fast. Any water that gets near it will be absorbed like a sponge, leading to the MDF material swelling and eventually breaking up.
There are moisture resistant versions of MDF available on the market but overall, any project that requires a high level of water resistance should really be using a suitably treated timber or alternative product that is proven to deal with water far better.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
To the unwitting public, many do not realise the fundamental differences between particle board and medium density fibreboard, with many believing they are one and the same thing. This is not the case.
Particleboard is a relatively cheap product which is composed of wasted wood chipping which are compressed and bound using a compound of resins and sawdust along with a lot of heat and pressure. MDF, a more denser product, tends to be more expensive is composed of tiny wooden fibres as opposed to dust but it again, combined using resins and pressurised heat.
In most cases, furniture that is made from MDF is considered to be superior in quality and strength compared to particle board.
Particleboard tends to be used on jobs that do not require a high end durable material and can be commonly found in cheaper furniture products, as well as used in building projects such as flooring substrates and underlays, panelling on fibreglass roofs and temporary partitioning. It’s considered to be a throw away material that has good temporary uses on building projects but seldom is applied for too many permanent structures.
It’s a fairly easy material to work with in terms of cutting and milling but due to it’s structure, tends to tear or chip frequently as pieces of wood chipping start to break away under pressure. Rarely does particleboard get used as a visually exposed face as it is not a great looking product and will often be veneered with a thin laminate to make it appear much more higher end.
It is best used flat as when put under any pressure such as bending or moulding, it breaks, snaps and tears easily.
MDF as it is more commonly known, can be found is many mass produced furniture pieces such as cabinets, shelving and even kitchen units and doors. It’s a strong material that is far easier to mill than particleboard because it is les prone to chipping and tearing. It can be shaped and moulded to a degree and tends to work well for projects requiring routing complicated and elaborate shapes.
Much like particleboard, MDF does tend to be veneered with a laminate on furniture pieces as the material isn’t aesthetically pleasing to look at, so veneers give it a high end finish. it also tends to take to being painted far better than particleboard as well as being far stronger under pressure. It is however not a great material to be used in damp conditions and like particleboard, will deteriorate fast is exposed to moisture of water for too long.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
When shopping for a kitchen, seldom do buyers consider the quality and construction of the actual kitchen carcass they come with. In most cases the doors, the colour and the finish is what either makes or breaks a sale yet the carcass is the item that will need to take the brunt of the pressure when it comes to daily use and abuse.
Of course, the quality and manufacturing process of the doors is important but in overall structural terms, they have very little influence. The materials, construction style and strength of the kitchen carcasses is what really matters to the quality of the final product and its longevity, not to mention taking the weight of the worktop and built-in appliances. They need to last!
In most cases, kitchen carcasses made in the UK are formed of 18mm chipboard with PVC coating and edge banding, where the strength of the units is focuses on the back section. Here is where you can reveal the good from the bad as the strength and quality of the back panels can vary greatly. On certain cheaper units, they are backed with a thin 3mm or 6mm hardboard which is not considered to be a rigid material at all. Flimsy at best.
Over time, if a lot of weight and pressure is applied to carcasses with thin back panels, they will start to bow and sag or worse, the back panels will pop out of place completely making the carcasses useless. The issue is, you may not even see this occurring as the back panels are frequently out of sight so by the time the inevitable break down has occurred, it’s probably too late.
If possible, shop for kitchen carcasses that have rigid back panels of at least 18mm in thickness or sectional panels in 18mm that will take the brunt of the weight and be able to last many years. You could save yourself a lot of worry and longer term, won’t have to concern yourself with the messy job of replacing individual carcasses that may not have lasted as well as the others.
Another sure fire way to determine the quality of a good kitchen carcass from a bad one is the edge banding thickness.
Many mass produced carcasses from well-known DIY stores and even big brand kitchen retailers are commonly sold with a thin iron-on type melamine edging which is very prone to peeling, cracking and snapping. The edging isn’t just there to make the units look good. They have a very important role to play in protecting the carcass edges from damage from persistent use and abuse. Doors and drawers are constantly opened and closed so a cheap edge band will start to crack under the strains of slamming and constant closing of doors.
A good quality unit should have edge banding of at least 0.4mm to 2mm in thickness and be made of PVC or ABS, not melamine.
So if you are considering a brand new kitchen or even a simple kitchen facelift by replacing the carcasses, do not necessarily shop around for the most economical option. Chances are, it will be cheaply made and will start to deteriorate quickly after installation. As the saying goes, you only get what you pay for so if you’re investing in a new kitchen, a few extra pennies on quality is an investment well made.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
When installing a brand new kitchen, the layout is by far the most important design aspect before you even choose a single cabinet style, colour or finish. How that overall shape and plan lies will determine a whole range of factors such as usability, convenience, space and aesthetic appeal.
Nowadays, there’s all sorts of trends or unique designs features that have grown in popularity however, in many circumstances, these choices are not always practical. The shape and scale of your kitchen will ultimately determine which type of design you can realistically aim towards and how to successfully achieve it.
Let’s take a look at the most common kitchen layouts and then you can decide which will work best in your kitchen based on the dimensions and shape of your existing space.
Typically found in smaller homes with narrows rooms, the single walled kitchen is actually growing in popularity in larger homes too as it keeps all the appliances, workspaces and stored items within easy reach. No matter the size of the room, this layout instantly creates a very open concept and creates useable space for other essentials such as dining tables or even a portable island or preparation console table.
The single walled kitchen does have its pitfalls however. Naturally, every kitchen needs to find a home for the oven, cooktop, sink and refrigerator. With all four of these must-haves sat along one wall, it does become quickly apparent that countertop space will be limited. So if a single walled kitchen is your only option, you may have to opt for an integrated range cooker instead and even a smaller refrigerator to allow for more storage and worktop space.
Much like the single-walled kitchen, the galley also lends itself to the narrower, smaller spaced kitchen where walkways are tight and the dimensions are squeezed.
What the gallery has over the single wall of course is the opportunity to create separation of work areas such as food preparation and cleaning and far more countertop space. The downside is galleys can feel quite claustrophobic if the walkways between to the two sides are tight so having more than one or two people preparing and cooking meals in a galley is never a comfortable place to be.
If you’re quite cheffy though, galley kitchens are great as it means everything you need is within arms reach so preparing and cooking food is always a pleasure. It is most certainly a layout designed to please one primary cook in the house but avoid if you like to work in teams.
Like the single-walled or galley, U-shaped kitchen layouts are ideally suited to a single cook who likes to have everything at arms length.
What is great about a U-shaped kitchen is there’s no walkway to encourage people to pass through the area so the chef in the house will not have passers by interfering in the workspace and they can just get on and do their thing. The downside is the obvious lack of space for anything else so you can forget about including any tables, chairs or islands in the kitchen.
U-shaped kitchens are also poorly designed for those who like to entertain. In most cases, the person cooking will have their back to the room so it can feel quite enclosed and unwelcoming to guests. If the room is also small, a U-shape can quickly start to dominate the space and make the room feel incredibly tight.
The G-Shaped kitchen is essentially an upgrade of the U-shape with an added peninsula island to add practicality and extra workspace.
If room allows, this added little bonus can really make the difference to a U-shaped kitchen as it creates an island that can be somewhere to entertain, eat meals and prepare food. What you must avoid of course is making it into a nuisance object that gets in the way of accessing the kitchen easily so there’s a balance to strike - too large and it will block the entrance to the kitchen. Too small and it won’t be big or practical enough to use for eating or cooking.
The classic corner kitchen is mostly found in apartments or kitchens that lack a room long enough to house a single walled kitchen.
With more and more people living in apartments, the corner L-shaped kitchen is becoming far more commonplace as it is the sole kitchen design layout that encroaches on the least amount of space. With all the units tucked into the corners, it feels openly inviting but much like the U-shaped kitchen, entertaining is not ideal when the cook has their back to the guests.
What it does allow however is for the addition of a small table and chair for dining or if budgets and space allows, an island which will take it to a whole new level.
Take a look online for photos of kitchens with islands and the likelihood is you’ll find plenty of L-shaped kitchens with islands, and it’s no great surprise.
This simple design configuration fits comfortably into most room dimensions and ticks all the right boxes. Firstly, it creates distinct zones to the kitchen meaning one wall is for cooking, one for cleaning and the island is for serving up food and entertaining. For the chef in the house, there’s easy reach to get all the necessary items from cupboards and larders, so cooking is a pleasure. And in terms of space, it doesn’t take up huge amounts yet makes the entire kitchen area feel roomy and sophisticated.
As a bonus, the island gives the homeowner the choice of installing the cooktop of the sink here if desired; otherwise they can just keep the worktop and use it for preparing meals, eating and hanging out with friends.
If room allows, the wrap-around kitchen with island is like having the best of all worlds. The main kitchen area will feel like a halfway house between an open-plan single-walled kitchen and a U-shape without the closeness, meaning everything is within easy reach. With the added bonus of the island, you have the perfect addition for preparing food, dining, entertaining and cleaning up.
This design most certainly encourages interaction so entertaining and hosting dinner parties will be a pleasure, making your kitchen the main hub of the home. With it’s slightly unusual shape, it also prevents the kitchen from feeling boxy and will make the space seem more quirky and unique.
The only downside is room - you’ll need lots of it if you plan to install a kitchen of this configuration. But if you do, it could be the best kitchen design decision you ever make!
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
Whether you’re new to kitchen remodelling or a seasoned interior designer, it’s common knowledge that designing and fitting a brand new kitchen is a challenge to get right and can be a stressful and painstaking process.
It’s not just about the style, colour and finish. Nowadays, we want our kitchens to be as functional and as practical as possible. That means utilising the maximum amount of available space whilst ensuring the area feels spacious and a great place to hang out. We spend a great deal of time in the kitchen preparing food, socialising and dining so it’s no wonder we want to get it right first time and ensure we’ve ticked every box on our wish list.
Nowadays, there’s a whole plethora of kitchen options on the marketplace. From standard stock units at your local DIY store, to higher end specialist kitchen retailers, to kitchen makeover specialists and now, custom cabinet makers who offer completely bespoke units to fit every nook and cranny imaginable.
So with so much choice on offer, which way do you go? Here’s our run down of the pro’s and cons of using either stock or customer made kitchen cabinets. Then perhaps you will know which way you’ll want to go with your new kitchen project.
With stock cabinets, you are pretty much restricted to using the standard sizes available by the manufacturer. If for example, you live in an older property, odd shaped walls, ceilings and corners are the norm. In such circumstances, you could find with stock cabinets that your kitchen could end up with a lot of unused dead space that custom cabinets could utilise and give you that all essential extra storage.
You’ll be amazed just how much potential extra space a small corner or angled ceiling has. By using custom made cabinets, not a single inch will go to waste.
As they say, everything is in the detail and nothing can be truer said than for kitchen designs. Some stock cabinets, especially those bought from your local DIY store are bulk manufactured and tend to be at the cheaper end of the scale. The edging is thin, poorly made and after a short period will peel way and crack.
On higher end custom made cabinets, the edging tends to be thicker or more hardwearing so you’re new kitchen will look much nicer for longer.
Stock cabinets also tend to also have a much cheaper finish. The classic white melamine coating is the standard across many ranges and there’s very little other choice for most. With custom cabinetry, you can opt to have practically any finish and colour, even to the insides of your kitchen base units which is a very rare thing in over-the-counter kitchen cabinets.
It’s fair to say that you get what you pay for and the same rule applies to kitchen base units.
You may be happy to pay for the lower end units seeing most of the time, the doors and drawer fronts will cover up the look and finish of the kitchen carcasses but over time, the quality and the cheaper price tag will start to show. As you remove and replace heavy items like pots, pans, oven dishes and utensils, marks will start to show and the finish will degrade quickly.
Custom kitchen carcasses may cost more but the materials used tend to be better quality and can resist the wear and tear of regular use far better than stock made DIY store cabinets.
The choice is essentially down to personal preference, your demands and your budget.
If you own a home that has a challenging shaped kitchen, in a character property that demands a kitchen to give it the wow factor, customer kitchen carcasses is your must-have route to a successful end product. If however, your kitchen demands are to simply replace it with something simple, in a space that is easy to work with and your budget is restricted, there’s no shame in going down the stock cabinet route and getting something practical and functional.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
Enter into any recently constructed building project and chances are, you’re never too far away from some form of plywood, whether visible or most likely hidden from view. As an incredibly popular material, plywood tends to be used in construction not only because it is cost effective, but it is also extremely versatile, strong and reliable.
In essence, plywood is a simple engineered product consisting on several thin sheets of timber, glued in layers at 90º angles to the corresponding layer above and below and compressed together at high pressure. This forms a strong, hardwearing material than can stand the test of time and be used is many projects that demand strength and durability.
Because it is so versatile, plywood can be found used in various items including furniture, flooring, partitions, external walls and roofs. Even in some high end cabinetry.
Plywood has a number of core properties that make it unique to any other building material including:
Due to its layered construction, plywood tends to be far stronger than traditional timber. The simple engineering process of glueing thin layers of alternating grains prevents the board from snapping or breaking under pressure. The general rule of thumb ism, the thicker the ply, the stringer it is.
Engineered plywood is capable of withstanding much heavier weight and pressure that an equivalent sheet of standard timber and thus, can handle greater stress. A heavy object placed onto a single sheet of timber would lead to bending and eventual breakage whilst plywood would spread the load over a larger surface due to it’s layered construction, with the grain direction alternating at each layer.
Plywood is also very flexible and bendy if needed as it can be constructed at pretty much any given thickness, from a few millimetres to several centimetres thick. That is why thin plywoods tend to be used on demanding projects that require a curved surface such as ambitious internal wall projects or skateboard ramps that were made famous during the 1980’s.
In certain plywoods, the glue used to construct the layers is water repellant so even if used externally where moisture and humidity levels fluctuate, it will not warp, expand, shrink or delaminate. This makes it the ideal material for outdoors projects where it needs to last for several years.
Not many people realise that plywood has the added benefit of being a very good insulator and soundproofing material. The layers naturally make it a good thermal product so if used correctly, is a great way to reduce heating bills and noise pollution from room to room.
There’s a variety of different types of plywood for different applications including:
The most common manufactured plywood, that comes in a variety of thickness is often used on construction projects.
More commonly used for more hardwearing projects that demand longevity, and constructed from stronger timbers, hardwood ply is ideal for more demanding jobs.
Usually constructed from just a few plies, these boards offer greater flexibility for projects that require curved surfaces.
As the name suggests, this ply is used on marine-based applications due to its water resistant properties.
To add greater heat resistance properties, this ply is constructed from birch.
Used where the wood grain will be on show, this ply tends to be made from beautiful woods including oak and rosewood to construct furniture and bespoke finishes.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
Storage is always a problem no matter what size home you live in. There’s never enough space to store all the clutter and items you simply refuse to part with.
In most cases, your loft provides the perfect opportunity to create useful storage space that is easily accessible, dry and cost effective, meaning you can store away items out of sight and get access to them only on the odd occasions when they’re really needed.
The great thing about boarding your loft as it does not usually require planning consent and for even the most basic of DIYers, it’s a fairly easy task to undertake. Here’s how to board your loft using standard MDF loft boards or alternatively, 18mm plywood sheets.
Before you even lay a single board, you firstly need to ensure you have adequate loft access to bring the required boards up into the space. Most loft hatches are fairly tight so measure the widest point across the diagonal length of the opening and ensure any boards you buy or not wider than this width.
Standard loft boards usually measure between 320mm to 600mm in width, so choose only those that will fit through the hatch.
Next you need to work out the floor space you want to cover with boards. In most cases, it’s not practical to board the entire loft space, especially under the eaves as the roof pitch makes the space practically unusual for storing items, let alone walking.
So measure just the areas you feel will be used for either walking on or storing items that you need to gain access to. Then simply measure the length and multiply that by the width, giving you your square meter coverage requirements.
Now all you need to do is shop for an adequate amount of boards to cover that area. Remember to overcompensate to cater for cutting odd pieces that may use partial boards and create wastage.
There are two ways to traditionally board a loft.
In the past, most home DIYers would attach loft boards directly onto the roof joists, covering up the loft insulation. Nowadays, this is not recommended as this places strain on the joists but also, compresses your roof insulation, making it far less effective.
There are no rules or regulations to suggest you cannot take this approach if this is your preferred route however, most experts now agree this is not the ideal solution.
Instead, most agree that using loft legs is better as this allows for ample room above the loft insulation and creates a sturdy raised base onto which you can build your loft floor. It also means that access to electrical cables and pipework is far easier for contractors if the need arises.
Most loft legs are very easy to attach to the existing roof joists. Simply roll back any insulation between the joists temporarily and screw the legs directly into the timber using 30mm screws and space them 400mm apart in either direction, ensuring they are accurately spaced. This will ensure your loft boards sit exactly as they were intended on the legs and will give you a perfect sturdy finish.
Start at one corner and lay your loft panels directly on top of the loft legs at 90 degree angles to the direction of the ceiling joists. Then when in place and laid square, attach them to the loft legs using the same 30mm screws.
Lay them in rows going across the width of the roof first and then move onto the next row as you go.
Remember, when laying loft panels, always ensure you only step onto the existing roof joists and the rest of the roof will not take your weight.
Always wear gloves as roof joists are unfinished timbers with splinters and wear safety glasses when cutting, drilling or nailing boards to the loft joists. If in doubt, ask for help as roof spaces can be very tight so cutting and placing boards is much easier with a spare pair of hands.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
Plywood is an engineered timber product made from layers (or plies) of thin sheets of wood veneers, which are glued together under pressure at high temperature to form a thicker, stronger and more flexible flat sheet. The logs used to make each sheet are prepared by steaming or dipping into hot water and are then fed into a lathe, which peels the log into the thin plies of around 1mm - 4mm thick, which are used to form each layer of each sheet.
It’s a widely used building material due to its many useful properties as well as its economical cost. High quality plywood tends to be very strong and does not warp or crack under changes in atmospheric moisture, thus making it a reliable material for a wide variety of applications.
Plywood is widely manufactured as a softwood and hardwood, and come available in various grades of finish, depending on its intended use. Here’s just a few examples of how plywood is used and why it is such an excellent choice of material for such uses:
Common wall construction on new homes, especially in North America consist of a 2 foot x 4 foot or 2 foot by 6 foot frame skinned in exterior-grade plywood sheathing. Plywood panels are used to fastened to each stud together to add strength and prevent vertical or horizontal shifting, keeping the frames structure intact and square. This technique forms a structure that performs well under high wind and during earthquakes due to its flexible properties.
Certain types of plywood are good for wood paneling or framing interior stud walls. In most cases, the plywood will not be visible for the final finish however, some highly finished A-graded plywoods are very good for facing inwards and can painted or stained to give a stunning natural wood finish.
Plywood is commonly used to sheath roofs and as a subfloor on many internal flooring projects.
On floors, plywood panels may include tongue-and-groove edges that slot together to allow them to carry the required load without shifting or movement whilst on roofs, they can act as a very durable and suitable skin prior to laying tiles, metal or a membrane. Plywood is excellent for both applications.
It’s not uncommon to find eaves and soffits covered with a plywood skin or made completely from ply. Some plywoods are made specifically for use as a siding product to appear similar to reverse board and batten siding. Builder contractors also commonly use plywood for constructing detached garages and sheds, for temporary floors and concrete forms.
Plywood can be a very practical and cost effective material for building furniture. In situations where one side needs to to look nice, a high grade plywood can be used whilst for the rest of the structure, a lower grade finish is fine. Plywood is suitable for almost any furniture project imaginable within reason, so it’s not uncommon to find it used in custom built dressers, wardrobes, built in media centres, shelves, bookcases, console tables… in fact, the list is practically endless!
Plywood is great for making cabinet carcasses for kitchens, bedrooms and more. A good quality plywood is more than suitable for use on backs and sides of cabinets in most cases and is a far superior material to traditional chipboard or MDF as it lasts longer, doesn’t split and is far more durable.
Due to its versatility, plywood is great for many other home projects from building skateboard ramps, to rabbit hutches to doghouses.
Home DIYers love plywood as it is ideal for building useful items including workbenches, sawhorses, simple step-stools and storage bins. In fact, we’ve published a few easy DIY projects of our own using plywood sheets. Why not check some of them out and see just a handful of the many practical ways you can use plywood in and around the home?
It’s a great product and is available in a wide range of thicknesses and grades, ranging from exterior with exposure to moisture to interior dry application. It always produces an excellent, strong finish and doesn’t cost the earth.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
If you ask DIYer’s what they need most in their home projects and construction arsenal, many will tell you a simple workbench would make a great addition. A workbench is useful for simple jobs, from clamping and cutting fiddly items to having somewhere to lay strips of timbers or metal for hand-sawing, not to mention the added bonus of some open shelved storage for smaller items. A retail workbench can be quite costly and bulky to store. However, with just one sheet of good quality 18-24mm plywood or MDF, its pretty easy to make a compact workbench that can sit proudly in the corner of your garage or toolshed and not get in the way.
This basic project is the perfect way to solve your cutting headaches if you need a permanent place to attach a steel clamp or simply cut strips of timber. Any novice DIY enthusiast should be able to make this with minimal hassle. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get building!
Firstly, you'll need a full 2440 x 1220mm (8" x 4") sheet of 18mm-24mm deep plywood or MDF. Either will work however, plywood is the preferred option as it tends to be stronger and will hold together better, not to mention resist moisture for longer, assuming the workbench will be installed somewhere outside in a shed or garage.
You'll also need 6 plastic or stainless steel corner brackets, a box of 1" self-tapping wood screws, a circular saw (or hand saw), a jigsaw, an electric drill and a 2mm wood drill bit.
Firstly, let’s cut out all the pieces you’ll need to make your workbench. Most of the shapes use straight edges, so there’s little in the way of complicated cutting, making this project pretty straightforward!
By following Figure 2 as shown, you will need to cut two pieces for the bench’s sides labelled (A) measuring 812mm long by 368mm wide. To prevent the workbench from rocking on the floor once built, it is recommended that you also cut out circular shapes at one end of each of our two pieces to create feet. The best way to do this is to grab a large round pot of paint and use the pot’s circular shape as a template to draw nice, exact circles with a pencil and then cut them out using a jigsaw. Simple and guaranteed to give you a good finish.
Next, you will want to cut the largest piece labelled (B) which is your bench’s back panel, measuring 1117mm long by 812mm wide. Now cut your (C) piece, which is the bench’s middle horizontal shelf at the same length as the (B) panel, measuring 1117mm long by 368mm wide.
We’re nearly done. All that is left is the penultimate piece to cut which is the workbench top, labelled (D). Cut that at 1270mm long by 432mm deep. And finally, the smallest piece which is the bench’s all-essential centre vertical shelf support to add strength labelled (E), should be cut at 362mm long by 381mm deep.
And that’s all the cutting done!
Before piecing together, make sure you are working on a firm level surface, otherwise your finished bench may not be square when constructed.
To save hassle later, it is advised to firstly attach your L-brackets to both (A) panels and the centre (E) shelf support. You will need to attached them to the shorter ends of each piece. Simply lay each panel flat on the floor and then whilst holding a bracket in position, mark with a pencil where you want to attach each bracket. 50mm from the edge is a good distance. Then using your drill, drill pilot holes for each bracket and then attach all your brackets to the panels with a screwdriver or electric drill. Now we can start to put the bench together.
Firstly, take panel (C) and measure halfway along the long length and make a mark at 558mm. Do the same along the other edge and then draw a pencil line. The line should be exactly square to both edges. Now measure 100mm in from the line’s edge and mark a visible dot (or X) ready for drilling. Do the same from the other edge, leaving with you two marks and then drill two pilot holes right the way through the panel. This will make it easier for you to attach shelf panel (C) to the support panel (E).
Next grab your support panel (E) and attach the edge (without the L-brackets) to the middle of panel (C) using two wood screws through the pilot holes you just drilled to form a T-shaped piece.
Now take one of your (A) side panels and measure 390mm from the top edge where your L-brackets sit. Do the same along both edges and draw a horizontal pencil line where to two marks meet. Again like the (C) piece, measure 100mm in from either edge of the drawn line, make two pencil X marks and drill two pilot holes into the panel right the way through using your marks. Once done, do exactly the same with the other (A) panel then attach both at either end to the short edge of the (C) panel (now attached to the E panel as a T-shape) using wood screws. You should now have a basic H-frame that may be a little wobbly so be careful when moving the frame.
To make the frame more rigid, let’s now attached the back panel. Carefully lay your constructed frame onto it’s front facing edge so that the back edge is facing upwards. Now lay the back panel labelled (B) in place and manoeuvre it into the correct position, ensuring it fits square and snug. Once in position, attach it to the frame by drilling and attaching wood screws from the edges at both end of your (A) panels. To make the frame extra sturdy, measure halfway along the width of the (B) panel to 558mm and draw a perfectly square pencil line. Use that line as a guide to drill and screw the back panel (B) to the support (E). Once attached, your frame should feel much more solid.
For extra rigidity, you could also drill screws through the back panel (B) into the (C) panel shelf as well. If so, your frame will be super-sturdy!
Finally, your workbench needs a top! So now lay your constructed frame on its back and then place the top panel (D) in place and attach it to the frame by screwing through the L-brackets you attached earlier. That’s it, your workbench is built.
All you have to do now, is turn it to the correct upright position and place it somewhere where you can use it for all your cutting and clamping jobs.
If your workbench has any rough edges from cutting, grabs some course sandpaper and give the edges a good rub down. This will remove any sharp corners or splinters which can cut your hands. To make your bench more weather proof, you could either stain it with some good quality wood varnish or paint it with hard wearing exterior wood paint.
Now you have the perfect compact workbench and all it cost was a single sheet or plywood or MDF, some brackets and screws. It’s as easy as that!
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
Most DIY enthusiasts who regularly make home projects or repairs will start to build a collection of timber cut offs and pieces that they are loathed to part with. Wood is expensive and there’s always a small job that may require just a tiny piece of timber to complete it, so why throw away cut offs when they can be so useful? A pile of loose wood cut offs can start to clutter up a corner of your shed or garage and this becomes a nuisance, not to mention messy. So why not build a simple, portable cut off bin to store them all?
This simple home project is the perfect answer to organising your timber pieces and takes just minimal materials and time to complete. Any novice DIY enthusiast should be able to make this with little difficulty. So let's get started and find out how you can make your own portal timber bin in under one hour!
Firstly, you'll need a full 2440 x 1220mm (8" x 4") sheet of 18mm deep plywood or MDF. Either is good however, plywood is the better option as it tends to be stronger and will hold together better, not to mention resist moisture for longer, assuming it will be stored outside in your shed or garage)
You'll also need 4 casters (wheels) to make your bin portable, 4 corner L-brackets (or similar), a box of 1" self-tapping wood screws, a circular saw (or hand saw), an electric drill and 2mm wood drill bit.
Firstly, let’s cut out all the pieces you’ll need to make your bin. All of the shapes use straight edges, so there’s no complicated cutting involved, making this project really easy!
By following Figure 2 as shown, you will need to cut three pieces for the bin’s 2 sides and centre panel labelled (D) measuring 794mm long by 394mm wide. To achieve the angles on these panels, measure and mark your cut piece with a pencil at 152mm from the edge along the short side and then mark 375mm from the edge along the long side. Then using a long straight piece of timber or ruler, draw a diagonal line connecting the two marks you have just made. Then with a hand saw (or electric saw) cut along the line to complete your first piece.
Give is a light sanding to remove any rough edges or splinters and then use this piece as a template to mark out and cut two further pieces at exactly the same size. Once done, you should now have three "D" panels.
Next cut 2 pieces measuring 812mm long by 394mm wide, which will be used as both your "A" and "C" panels which have exactly the same dimensions. One will be used as the bin’s front panel whilst the other will be the base panel.
Next, cut your "B" piece, which will be your bin’s back panel at 812mm long by 812mm wide. This piece should be square, with the length and width being exactly the same dimensions.
Finally, cut your two "E" pieces to 590mm long by 378mm wide. These are your bins dividers, giving your bin a total of four compartments to organise various different sizes and types of timbers.
First off, make sure you are working on a suitable hard flat surface, otherwise your finished piece may not be square when constructed. Once ready, we’ll tackle attaching the three "D" panels to the base panel "C". You may need some assistance from another person to tackle this first stage so grab and extra pair of hands!
The easiest way to attach the panels is to firstly measure exactly halfway along the length of the base panel (C) and draw a pencil line marking the centre. Then along the pencil line, mark two holes at 50mm from either edge and drill two pilot holes right through the base panel.
Now, with the "C" panel sat upright on its edge (being held by your friend), marry it up to one of your "D" panels to create a T-shaped formation and screw your base panel "C" into the edge of the centre divider panel "D" with two 1" wood screws. Now do exactly the same with the remaining two "D" pieces. Drill pilot holes at the ends of the "C" panel and then screw your remaining two "D" side panels to the base, to form a W shape.
Next, carefully turn your constructed frame to the correct upright position and marry up your back panel "B" to your frame so that it touches the rear edges of both the three "E" panels and the base "C" panel. With your helper holding them in place, drill pilot holes along the four touching edges and then screw the back plate to your frame using 1" wood screws through the pilot holes. Once done, your frame should be sturdy and solid and your helper can now go take a break!
We’re close to finishing but firstly, we need to get your divider panels (E) ready. With a tape measure, mark 50mm from the end of the long edge at both ends on just one side of both panels. These marks will tell us approximately how far down our divider panels we want to attach our L-brackets which need to be attached now.
So, once you have your two marks in place on both "E" panels, place an L-bracket up to the edge and mark the two holes with a pencil. Now lightly drill with minimal pressure to make two shallow pilot holes but do not drill all the way through the surface of the sheet. Screw your L-brackets onto your "E" panels at both ends and leave to one side.
Now return to your constructed frame and measure exactly halfway from the back edge of the centre and a side "E" panels touching the back "B" panel and draw vertical lines from top to bottom with a straight edge such as a spirit level. Do this on all the internal sides. These marks will tell us where we wish to place our interior divider "E" panels so that we can align them and screw them in place using our recently attached L-brackets.
As the above suggests, slide your interior "E" dividers inside the constructed frame, then firstly screw them to the centre "D" panel with the L-rackets. Once in place, then hold them square to the outer "D" panels using your pencil marks nice and steady. Then screw the outer "D" panels to the interior divider "E" panels by drilling pilot holes and 1" wood screws.
By now, your timber bin is really starting to take shape and there’s just a couple of stages to go and that is to attach the front "A" panel. Simply lay your constructed frame on its back, place the "A" panel onto top of the front opening, drill pilot holes along the bottom edge, the two side edges and the centre line and attach with 1" wood screws.
Your bin frame in now constructed! All that’s left to do to make it portable is to attach the casters. Simply lay the bin on its back, hold each caster up to the corner edges of the base, mark the holes with a pencil, drill pilot holes appropriately and then screw to the base with your 1" wood screws.
That’s it, you’re done! Return your timber bin to its upright position and admire your handy work.
If you want to give your timber bin the finishing touch, give it a light sand with a thin coarse sandpaper along the cut edges to remove any splinters and then you can either stain it with some good quality wood varnish or paint it with hard wearing exterior wood paint.
Now you have a suitable place to store all those timber cut offs that were cluttering up your tool shed. Happy organising!
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
If you're regularly involved in DIY projects, no doubt you've had many scenarios where a sawhorse would have saved you a lot of time and effort. Yet many retail sawhorses can be expensive, impractical and bulky. So what’s the answer?
We have the ideal home project that involves the simple construction of a multi-functional sawhorse using just a single sheet of 8” x 4” 18mm plywood that will do more than just a single job. This design will give you a strong frame to use for cutting long lengths of timber, large sheets of plywood or MDF and act as a sturdy scaffold platform that will take your weight for hard-to-reach jobs indoors. So let's get started and find out how you can make your own lightweight plywood sawhorse in no time!
Firstly, you'll need a full 2440 x 1220mm (8” x 4”) sheet of 18mm deep plywood. Unfortunately, MDF is not recommended as it is not strong enough for this particular project.
You'll also need boxes of 1” and 1.25” self-tapping wood screws, a jigsaw (or circular saw), an electric screwdriver (or regular screwdriver) and some good quality wood glue.
Your first task is to cut to shape and size all the components of the main support frames of the horse. Firstly, you'll need to cut a total of 4 side panels labelled (A) on the Figure 2. Each of these panels need to be the exact same size at 762mm tall by 406mm wide at the base and 101.5mm at the top centre point. By cutting them to this size, you should be able to get four from your single sheet of plywood, simply by cutting them alternately with two upright and two upside down, laying side-to-side.
Don't forget cut out a semi-circular shape at the base of each side panel. This will create “feet”, preventing the horse from rocking on uneven surfaces. The cutout doesn't have to be accurate but it's essential to have this to avoid an unstable sawhorse when in use.
Next we move onto the sawhorse worktop. Cut 2 lengths of plywood at 1651mm long by 400mm wide. These will form the table top of the sawhorse and be attached together later on to create a strong, weight bearing surface.
Now we need to cut out the support joists for the sawhorse frames. From the plywood you have left, you should be able to cut out 12 lengths of plywood measuring 406mm long by 102mm wide.
And finally, cut yourself two pieces of plywood at 400mm long by 25mm wide, which we'll attach the your final sawhorse worktop near the end of the build which will act as cleats to hold the top in place, when in use.
Firstly, create a set of 6 double-lined joists by attaching two together each with wood glue, labelled (C) on Figure 2 and as illustrated on Figure 3. Clamping them together whilst they dry will ensure they set accurately with no movement.
Once your double-lined joists have set, attach them along the centre vertical line of your side panels as marked in Figure 3, 51mm from the top of the side panel and then spaced top edge to top edge 228mm apart vertically. Use your 1.25” wood screws to attach the joist at either end to create your two horse bases, as shown in Figure 3. Once done you should have two sturdy based.
To create the worktop, you can take one of two directions. You can either simple attach the two sheets marked (D) in Figure 2 using a combination of wood glue and 1” screws to make a simple 36mm thick plywood base which will be sufficiently strong enough for basic jobs.
If however, you intend to use the sawhorse for other tasks such as a step scaffold that needs to bear significant weight, you will need to build an integrated subframe to add strength and rigidity to the sawhorse worktop. By following Figure 4, you can build a basic frame from leftover plywood or ideally from a few lengths of rough sawn kiln dried timber lengths at 19mm wide by 38mm in depth.
The subframe is fairly easy to build by cutting two strips to exactly the same length as your worktop at 1651mm and then adding 5 side joists incrementally 406mm apart, cut to 324mm in length. Attach the subframe simply by using 1” screws through the plywood worktop surface and additionally through the base sheet.
By adding the subframe, you significantly increase the overall strength of the worktop and reduce the possibility of bending, warping or even breaking under extreme pressure. If you have the materials at hand to do this, we highly recommend you follow this part of the instructions.
Finally, once your worktop is constructed, attach the two remaining cleats marked (B) on Figure 2 approximately 150mm from either edge. These will act as stops so that your sawhorse remains in place whilst in use.
Now you are ready to assemble and use your sawhorse for various cutting tasks and use any one of the three different set heights of the support joists as your scaffold platforms depending on the requirements of the job.
If you want to give your sawhorse the finishing touch, give it a light sand with a thin coarse sandpaper, especially along the cut lines to remove any sharp edges or splinters and then you can either stain it with some good quality wood varnish or paint it with hard wearing exterior wood paint.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
No matter how tall you are, there’s always something in the house that’s either out of reach or too high to grab. Accidents in the home are extremely commonplace and falls are amongst the highest incidences that occur. An rickety chair or use of an unstable object can quickly lead to a slip or collapse under your weight and before you know it, you’re being rushed to the emergency room to check for broken bones due to a nasty fall.
Yet the construction of a simple, compact, lightweight and sturdy step stool could be all you need to solve those common problems of reaching objects safely and securely without the risks of doing yourself harm or having to go and grab a bulky step ladder from the garage outside.
All you need is approximately a 1/4 of a full-sized plywood board or sheet of MDF and you should have enough material to make the stool. Ideally, the thicker the board, the better. We recommend 12mm (1/2”) plywood or MDF minimum, however 18mm is ideal for a studier frame. That way, the finished piece will be stronger and won’t warp or bend under pressure.
To build the step stool, you’ll need a box of 1 - 1.25” self-tapping wood screws, a jigsaw (or circular saw) and an electric screwdriver (or regular screwdriver).
Firstly, you’ll need to cut out two L-shaped sides from a square piece of plywood or MDF that is approximately 380mm (15 inches) in length and depth (see Fig. 1) - the same dimensions both sides and then remove block that is one quarter of the size to create the L-shape. This block should be approximately half the length and depth of your main square piece so should measure 190mm x 190mm (7.5” x 7.5”).
Next, you’ll need to cut four batons of equal length to connect both your L-shaped plywood or MDF panels together which will start to form your frame (see Fig. 2). Each baton should be 400mm (15.75”) in length and 50mm (2”) in depth.
Position the batons as shown in the diagram and attach using a combination of wood glue and two self-tapping wood screws at each end through the sides of the L-shaped pieces. If you are skilled at wood work, you could alternatively, attempt to make jig holes in your batons which will hide screw-heads better and make the finished item look more professional. When done, you should have your basic frame assembled.
Next, cut your top step piece with a jigsaw (or circular saw) at a size of 460mm (18”) in length by 230mm (9”) in depth to allow for plenty of overhang and attach to the top step of your frame using screws through the surface into the batons below (See Fig. 4). If you're feeling confident, you could even cut out a carrying handle shape on the top step to make your stool nice and easy to move and store away.
Finally, we need to cut and attach the bottom sheet to your step-stool. Firstly, cut a piece of plywood sized 400mm (15.75”) in length and 460mm (18”) in width. Now we need to trim the edges halfway to allow for the step to slide and fit snugly inside the frame and then overhang at the front. To do this, you’ll need to cut both edges of your bottom piece 43mm (1.67”) in depth and 190mm (15”) in length to create a fat T-shaped piece (see Fig. 3).
Once cut, the thin edge of your sheet should then slide into the back of the lower step of your frame, allowing you to attach it with screws and wood glue (See Fig. 4). Congratulations, you should now have a finished step stool!
If you want to give your step stool a quality finish, give it a light sand with a thin coarse sandpaper, especially along the cut lines to remove any sharp edges or splinters and then you can either stain it with some good quality wood varnish or paint it with furniture paint.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
MDF (Medium Destiny Fibreboard) is now one of the most commonly used composite boards on the market and it’s easy to see why.
Most important of all is it’s relatively inexpensive. You can usually purchase MDF boards at the fraction of the cost of real wood such as plywood and by and large, it is just as good, if not better at certain applications. With it’s composite construction, made up of tiny wood chips, fibres and resin, it offers a strong and adaptable solution to many building projects needs.
When cut, it tends to leave a relatively smooth edge unlike some timber boards that split and splinter, and the overall finish achieved when edged or painted can be of a particularly high standard. It’s dense, heavy and durable under most conditions.
However, most MDF’s are not great in damp or wet conditions and if put under a lot of strain, can split or crack if put under too much stress. MDF also does not tend to take nails or screws as well as real wood boards, due the fibres not being able to thread as well. That said, it still offers an excellent, cost-effective way of producing great looking finishes for a number of items such as furniture, shelving, laminate flooring, mouldings and doors. In most instances, every home in the country will have MDF somewhere or other.
MDF is ideally suited to dry, internal environments only. Standard MDF tends to absorb rather than repel moisture, so if there is water near by, watch out! It won’t take long for the boards to soak up any damp nearby and that’s when the resin in the MDF starts to break up and deteriorate. If this happens, the boards will have been compromised and will most certainly need replacing.
There are however, certain types of MDF which are adapted to cope better under damp conditions. Both Veneered Fibreboard and Moisture Resistant Fibreboard are both designed to deal with moisture far better than Standard MDF.
As the name states, this type of MDF is veneered with a thin layer of wood such as ash, cedar, cherry, oak, maple, pine or walnut to name a few. By veneering the MDF, it dramatically improves the aesthetic appeal of the board but also its water resistant properties. By choosing a strong wood as the veneer, this will inevitably improve is ability to resist water when used outdoors on all veneered facing sides.
Remember however, that if any edges are cut and exposed, these need to be veneered or protected to prevent water from penetrating and damaging the boards.
Unlike Standard MDF, MR MDF does not use urea-formaldehyde based resin and instead uses a moisture resistant phenol-formaldehyde glue instead. Due to this type of resin being more expensive, MR MDF invariably comes with a higher price tag. But if you’re in need of an MDF that can deal with the wet, this the most suitable option to go with.
Even if your MDF is veneered or uses moisture resistant phenol-formaldehyde resins, its is still advisable to paint or seal the MDF to improve its water resistant qualities. Where the MDF is unfinished or has exposed edges, a water sealant or paint will give you an extra insurance policy against water damage if you intend to use the boards where water is ever present.
Some MDF boards may not take a waterborne polyurethane based paint so well on first application which is perfectly normal. If binding does not occur, try applying a seal with a shellac first, then apply the sealant polyurethane once dry.
Remember, MDF was never designed to be used is extremely wet conditions. Even if you choose to use a veneered or water-proofed MDF, they are only suited to environments with a modest level of damp. If the area you intend to use the boards is consistently wet, perhaps you should consider using another material that can cope with such applications better.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
If you’re stuck for ideal storage solutions or can’t find a piece of furniture to suit a particular room in your home, the solution may be a great deal simpler than you first thought.
Kitchen cabinets and many off-the-shelf carcasses are the perfect way to build your own pieces of furniture that will deliver on all fronts whether it be for storage, making use of dead space and alcoves or creating a piece that you simply can’t find in the stores. Better still, it’s a great deal easier than you may have first thought.
By modifying unfinished or even painted cabinets, you can create custom pieces specially designed for your home and needs.
Here’s just a few ideas that you can create with just a basic set of tools and a little DIY knowledge.
Nowadays, most homes have large screen TVs accompanied by a whole host of set-top boxes, games consoles and a large collection of DVD’s and Blu-ray discs to deal with. If this is you, finding ways to store and display all of these items is demanding.
By using kitchen cabinets as a base, you can easily create a custom fitted entertainment centre sized perfectly to fill an entire wall or odd gaps either side of a chimney for instance. By screwing each of the cabinets together, you can then use sheets of MDF or plywood to build the main surface of the unit and then construct display shelving either side.
Then a simple lick of interior furniture paint will give the piece the professional finish it deserves and before you know it, you’ll have an amazing looking custom TV unit that will be the envy of your friends. Your TV will sit proudly centre-stage whilst all your gadgets, boxes and cables will be perfectly hidden away from view.
With all your entertainment gear in one place, you’ll free up space in the rest of the room for furniture and accessories.
There’s nothing worse than having nowhere to store shoes, gloves and other items in hallways that are lacking in storage. A bench is easy to build using shallow height kitchen wall cabinets.
Attach three or four carcasses together in a row and then finish of the piece with a nice slab of wood for the top, four simple blocks for the feet and you’ll have a great looking piece that keeps all the entranceway clutter out of site. It will also double up as a great place to put on or take off shoes, with its height being perfect for sitting.
Paint it any colour you like to suit the room and give it personality.
If your kitchen lacks a little storage or preparation area, and you have space for an island, why not build you very own customer kitchen island?
Nowadays, kitchen islands do not need to match the rest of the room so instead of ripping out the entire kitchen and replacing all the cabinets, add a focal point to the room by creating a unique kitchen island to any style you like.
All it takes is two or three standard floor cabinets. Attach them together, add a nice piece of butchers block for the top, finish the edges with mouldings and you’ll have the ideal preparation unit that will only take a couple of hours to build and offer much needed storage space and display shelves.
Give the finished piece some personality by painting it a complimentary colour to the rest of the kitchen and hey presto - you have an awesome kitchen island that will transform your room from boring to extraordinary!
If your kids bedrooms are cluttered with toys and games, finding places to keep them is almost impossible in small spaces.
By creating a raised bed base using cabinets, your kids will have plenty of places to store their clutter and have a really cool bed to sleep on. All it takes is a couple of kitchen cabinets and drawer units each side of the bed, plus a little bit of framing and strengthening with either MDF or plywood sheets, and you have the makings of an ingenious bed base that will solve all your storage headaches.
Millions of people work from home nowadays yet finding an extra room to set up office is practically impossible and very space consuming.
However, by using just a single wall in one of the rooms in your home, you can create a bar height work area that will solve your office storage and desk space needs all in one. A few painted kitchen cabinets with drawers and cupboards topped with a good slab of butchers block will give you the perfect place to work and store stationery, papers and work material, meaning you do not have to dedicate an entire room to your home office.
If you’re fortunate enough to have bay windows in your home or a window that overlooks a lovely view, why not enjoy it more by building a padded bench?
A few low height kitchen cabinets, a simple MDF frame and a nicely upholstered padded top will make for the perfect area for reading, relaxing and watching the world go by.
You can easily paint your finished piece the same colours as your walls to make it blend in naturally to its surroundings or paint it a vibrant signature colour to make it the centre piece of the room. A simple yet great way to enhance a classic feature of your home.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
Both plywood and MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) are engineered wood products but both have very different traits and applications.
Plywood has been available on the market for a considerable length of time and is still considered to be a very reliable, pliable product for various applications. It is manufactured by binding pressed sheets of wood veneers together using an adhesive bond into one solid sheet, and comes in various thicknesses and species including softwoods and hardwoods such as oak, birch, maple, mahogany and ash to name a few.
Like MDF, plywood is available in various grades and thicknesses, allowing you to choose the correct one for your projects needs.
Lower grade plywoods tends to be used for the interior of house builds whilst higher grade plywoods are used for furniture and cabinets that demand a much nicer finish and grain, as they tend to demand the display of attractive looking knots, wood grain and consistent finishes.
MDF on the other hand is used more as a utility product to build housings, carcasses and structures, rather than the outer shell to be put on show. MDF boards are made from a dense material consisting of broken down hard and softwood residuals, and these fine particles are then pressed with wax and resin bondings under high pressure and temperatures, leaving a smooth, consistent finish.
Side-by-side, plywood and MDF are two very different looking materials and in practical use, are likewise only best used for differing demands.
Advantages of Plywood
• Is very strong and malleable, and made from multiple layers of wood veneers
• More weather and water proof than MDF and won’t absorb moisture as quickly, so less susceptible to damage
• Is stainable so is perfect for projects that demand a high end finish with wood grain on display
• Hold screws and nails very well due to its multiple layered timber structure
Disadvantages of Plywood
• Costs considerably more than MDF and can be fairly expensive when choosing higher grade plywoods
• Requires edge banding or decorative mouldings at the edge due to exposed layers on the sides
• Harder to cut a smooth edge and can split and splinter using more courser cutting blades
• No suited to complex cuts or designs and tends to split or splinter when used with a router
Advantages of MDF
• Is generally a lot cheaper to purchase than plywood
• Has a consistent smooth surface so is ideal for painting and finishing
• Consistent smooth surfaces make it ideal for projects requiring a sharp finished edge
• Easy to cut complex shapes and designs using a jigsaw, router or band saw
Disadvantages of MDF
• Terrible in moist or wet conditions as the particals will soak up water like a sponge and rot
• Doesn’t hold screws or nails well due to its fine particle structure
• Can be extremely heavy and difficult to work with due to its density
• Can’t be stained as the particles will soak up any liquid and leave a very poor finish
• Contains VOCs such as urea-formaldehyde, so care should be taken when cutting or sanding
Which product is right for my project?
The general rule of thumb is, if moisture is an issue, always opt for plywood over MDF every time. MDF will rot very quickly and will disintegrate rapidly if exposed to water over a prolonged period.
With that in mind, MDF is much more suited to indoor projects and is a popular material for those looking to build out cabinets, shelvings and other pieces that will be painted or finished off with mouldings or trims. Never attempt to stain MDF as this will not look good at all. But if you have an intricate design that requires cutting curves and odd shapes, MDF is very suited to this application.
Plywood is more weather versatile as it can be used for both interior and exterior projects. It is generally used to skin doors, as well as a good materials for custom cabinets, flooring and furniture that need a natural wood grain finish. It’s also great for projects that have a curved surface - made very popular during the 80’s at the height of the skateboard halfpipe craze.
Although far more resilient to moisture than MDF, it can still break down over time and delaminate if not treated. Exterior plywood works best if it needs to be used outdoors and regular retreating is advised to prolong its overall finish and life expectancy.
Author Chigwell Building & Joinery
Using our online “Cut To Size” custom order facility, we allow customers to purchase complete, full-sized sheets as well as boards cut-to-size to the exact dimensions you require. It is our policy to be as transparent as possible and this is why all costs are displayed on every product we sell.
We know how frustrating it is having to take the time to complete detailed online forms or call and have to wait for email quotations to arrive to purchase specific sized boards and materials, so we’ve gone out of our way to make our order facility as quick and as hassle free as possible.
We hope using our website will be pleasant experience, right from the moment you visit our website, to placing your order and receiving your goods.
Once your order is submitted, our internal system receives your project requirements which sends an optimised cutting file to our specialised cutting machines, which are the latest in CNC controlled technology Holzma Beam Saws. These saws are capable of handling exceptionally large parts, with the only limitation being the size of the board.
Note that our online “Cut to Size” service offers straight cuts only. If you require specialist custom shapes, we can accommodate using our 5 Axis CNC machine which has a bed size of 1500mm x 4200mm. We guarantee straight and clean cuts with cutting accuracy +/- 0.1mm.
Part labels are printed automatically during the cutting process to mark your order accordingly. These labels ensure all parts are collected for delivery using label scanners and are delivered safely. This also means you can track and trace your order by unique reference number.
Cutting Limitations: We can not cut parts smaller than 50mm wide. There are no limits on length.
If you have special requirements such as shaped cuts, please contact us for a quotation.
General Summary: Figures are shown for the whole job which include, board costs, edging costs, hinge costs and spray finish costs.
Board Summary: All boards used to create your project including costs and cutting time. By clicking on 'Board Preview', you will see how your parts are laid out and make changes to some parts in order to minimise waste. Please bear in mind our saw is 4.5mm thick.
Edging Summary: All edging materials chosen, meters including edging costs calculated as well as Application costs.
Hinges: Number of hinges selected, costs for drilling
Part Summary: Here we display the project selection in detail. You can print or save as a PDF download and check the whole job before adding to cart.