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Thread: What wood to use for a painted bookcase?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    New Jersey

    What wood to use for a painted bookcase?

    What wood would you recommend I use for a bookcase which will be painted?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Constantine, MI
    Every time I've seen this question come up everyone seems to recommend poplar for those areas that must be wood (frames, etc.) and MDO or MDF for panels.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Charlotte, NC
    A agree MDF for the panels.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    WNY, Buffalo Area
    If you want a hardwood, go with poplar. I you want a soft wood go with pine. Either will paint well, and at a reasonable cost.

    Poplar is very common for painted projects. Most people don't like how the greenish tint of the wood finishes with stains.

    MDF is fine for painted panels. If you are planning on raising the panels make sure you have good dust collection at you router table/shaper. The dust created from routed MDF is terrible, and terrible for your lungs.

    The only time where I have heard MDF to sometimes be a questionable choice, is in a damp setting. It probably depends on how or how well it was finished, as to how it holds up.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Houston, Texas
    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis Thompson View Post
    What wood would you recommend I use for a bookcase which will be painted?
    I would build the boxes out of construction/paint grade birch veneer core plywood and cover the visible end grain of the plywood with poplar. Molding can be finger joint/paint grade pine. Back to help retain squareness I would use 1/4" or 6mm birch good one side. If it is worth the effort to build it, it is worth the cost to make it better ( even if it is paint grade).
    But....... it is your project and it is your choice, you know your budget, just do the best work you can.
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  6. #6
    I agree with most of what others have said with one caveat, make sure you get the right thickness/type of wood for the span of the shelves. Check out for making that calculation particularly if the unsupported shelf span is over 18". Larger spans may require something other than poplar and/or thicker wood than you might imagine especially if they are going to carry books or other heavier objects.

  7. #7
    I've used poplar and MDF with good results. And Chip noted a good resource for those of us that can't calculate a load from experience. I used the sagulator for a set of shelves and it prevented a big mistake.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Indianapolis area
    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned using poplar and MDF. That's what I would use.


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