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Thread: Building cabinets with MDF core plywood

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Central Ohio
    Posts
    72

    Building cabinets with MDF core plywood

    Sorry for the long post but I feel I needed to explain my reasoning for using the MDF prior to asking my question.

    A couple of years ago I was at an auction for a cabinet shop. At the end the auctioneer asked for a $5 bid on a 6' tall stack of hardwood plywood. Thinking I couldn't let it go for that I became the happy owner of over 100 sheets of mixed MDF core sheets. There is cherry, walnut, maple, alder, and white oak. Since I have so much of this I want to use it for shop cabinets. My plan is to just build square boxes with rabbets in the sides for the top and bottom. I'll cut a 1/4" groove for the back. Then glue and screw the top and bottom on so no fasteners will show from the sides. My drawers will be full overlay so I'm not going to bother edge banding the MDF core. All of the boxes will set on a platform style toekick.

    Is this an appropriate method for constructing the boxes?
    What screws would work best for going into the edge of the MDF?

    I will be predrilling.
    I'm planning on using baltic birch for the drawers but thought I'd ask if there is a more cost effective material?
    Some of them will be large (32" wide by 12" deep) so whatever I use needs to be strong.
    Does anyone have recommendations on sources for full extension drawer slides?
    I just saw Jon Bonham's posting on the Gliderite slides and their prices look like the best I've seen.

    Thanks for everyone's help,
    Wes Billups

    P.S. If anyone in central Ohio needs some MDF core plywood let me know.

  2. #2
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    Apr 2007
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    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
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    That's the method I used for this little module. Solid as a rock but I sank a 3/4" back on him. Pic is without full overlay false fronts on: http://familywoodworking.org/forums/...2&d=1189360066 Just remember you basic rules for screwing into MDF; your pilot hole should be a bit longer than your screw depth, countersink a bit where the two surfaces will meet to avoid 'volcanos' that can create gaps and don't over-torque your screws. I used McFeely course thread screws but Hi-Lo or Confirmat screws are good as well although the Confirmat should use the appropriate drill bit to speed things along.
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 01-09-2008 at 12:37 AM.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    1,448
    A few years ago I learned that a local lumber yard was selling far more MDF core than ply core in hardwood plywood. Therefore I bought a sheet, and built a library bookcase to try it out.

    I used dados into the sides for the top, bottom, and the usual fixed shelf in the middle. I used rows of 1/4 inch holes for shelf pins. I used plywood shelves, rather than MDF core, out of fear (ok, messed up that part of the test). Screws only used for the door hinges. Nails only to attach a 1/4 inch ply back in a 3/8 deep rabbet (same as I use with ply core). Bottom line, it has stood up well, looks good, etc. No external hint that it is MDF rather than ply core. EXCEPT that sucker is HEAVY! In fact, it is located in a half-bath (yeah, a big half bath... not as humid as a full bath, but not the attic either) with no sign of moisture problem. Finished with lacquer like most of my furniture.

    I wouldn't constrain myself to using that good sheet goods in the shop... based on sales by the lumber yard, it gets a lot of use. Based on my experience it is good stuff. The only reason I don't use it all the time is that it is HEAVY, and isn't enough cheaper than ply core for me to bother with stocking two different materials.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Billings Missouri near Springfield Mo
    Posts
    4,552
    Hey everyone if you are still able to get Baltic Birch ply treat it like gold the wholesale suppliers in my area (SW Missouri) cant get it anymore and what they have is going at a very hight price.
    Jay

  5. #5

    Gliderite drawer slides

    Quote Originally Posted by glenn bradley View Post
    That's the method I used for this little module. Solid as a rock but I sank a 3/4" back on him. Pic is without full overlay false fronts on: http://familywoodworking.org/forums/...2&d=1189360066 Just remember you basic rules for screwing into MDF; your pilot hole should be a bit longer than your screw depth, countersink a bit where the two surfaces will meet to avoid 'volcanos' that can create gaps and don't over-torque your screws. I used McFeely course thread screws but Hi-Lo or Confirmat screws are good as well although the Confirmat should use the appropriate drill bit to speed things along.
    Hey Glenn, good job on your drawered cabinet. I assume you used the Gliderite slides? I emailed the company to get the installation instructions sent to me. I've attached that.

    The instructions says you trip a lever to disassemble the parts, does that work well? Once you get the drawers installed, can you still get to the lever to pull the drawer out of the cabinet? The instructions only show installation on a frameless carcass, are you going to have to add some wood to install on a face frame cabinet? I've only built face frame cabinets and have used the European slides so far. I don't love that they are 3/4 extend, but they are easy to install.

    The Gliderite slides sound like a great deal, I had been looking at Blum, but now I will look at these.

    Take care,
    Kevin
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Gliderite.JPG  

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Central Ohio
    Posts
    72

    Max drawer width?

    I'm trying to design some shop cabinets to store many of my hand held power tools. A couple of the bigger items will require a cabinet at least 32" wide. To utilize the 1/2" baltic birch plywood, I've determined a 36" wide cabinet (approx. 34" drawer width) would work the best.

    Is this too wide for a 22" deep (front-to-back) drawer? I won't be overloading any of the drawers but am worried about binding with such a wide drawer. I'm hoping someone here has built drawers this wide and can tell me I'm not going to create problems.

    Thanks,
    Wes

  7. #7

    32" wide drawers

    Quote Originally Posted by Wes Billups View Post
    I'm trying to design some shop cabinets to store many of my hand held power tools. A couple of the bigger items will require a cabinet at least 32" wide. To utilize the 1/2" baltic birch plywood, I've determined a 36" wide cabinet (approx. 34" drawer width) would work the best.

    Is this too wide for a 22" deep (front-to-back) drawer? I won't be overloading any of the drawers but am worried about binding with such a wide drawer. I'm hoping someone here has built drawers this wide and can tell me I'm not going to create problems.

    Thanks,
    Wes

    Hey Wes, I'm going to say this is not too big of a drawer, provided you get a good slide. I'll attach a picture of one of my computer desk drawers that is 32" wide but only 19" deep. I've recently upgraded the slides to 150 lb load rated full extension ( http://www.dlawlesshardware.com ). I believe I paid about $15 a pair for them. They are ball bearing and nice. I will look into Gliderite next time. My old slides recently failed due to the load and poor install on my part.

    I bought all of these drawers and doors from a woman that had them all replaced in her kitchen by the manufacturer, under warrantee I assume. This was before I could build my own stuff. I just built carcasses for them and used here drawers and doors. Anyway, they are very poor quality; 1/2" coated particle board, butt joints and rabbet joints, glue and staples. They are straight from the factory this way. They have held up well. Your baltic birch will blow away the quality of my drawers.

    Good luck,
    Kevin
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails DSC02759.JPG  

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
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    9,076
    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Caughron View Post
    Hey everyone if you are still able to get Baltic Birch ply treat it like gold the wholesale suppliers in my area (SW Missouri) cant get it anymore and what they have is going at a very hight price.
    Jay
    The price is still about double out here but, you can get it. Many folks switched to appleply and of course the price on that jumped as well. I assume it will be like the coffee drought a couple decades ago; one bad season and the price stays high forever.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  9. #9

    Gliderite FYI

    My excitement for the Gliderite slides has subsided. I just found out they are made in China.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Central Ohio
    Posts
    72

    MDF cabinet updated

    I wanted to update everyone here on the shop cabinets. I finally got a start on them today and ended up using some Spax screws I'd bought a few years ago. They work amazingly well. I ran some trials to see how close I could get them to the edge before causing the MDF to separate. With a pilot hole they never split the MDF even to 1/4" from the edge. Without a pilot hole they split the MDF at 1-1/2". I'm going to complete the assembly with these screws and will definetly use them again.

    I have some of the Confirmat screws from Mcfeely's and will try those at a later date. For now the Spax screws are working great. I also found this link which shows a Spax screw specifically made for MDF. Spax link I may have to try those if I get into a really big project with all of this MDF I have.

    I'm happy as I only got about 1-1/2 hours in my shop tonight as my wife is out of town and my 4 and 2 year old can't seem to play for 5 minutes without someone ending up crying.

    I decided to screw the top on from above as it will be hidden by the counter top. My construction method was to cut a 3/4" wide by 1/2" deep rabbet in the sides to receive the top and bottom. This is shown in the first picture.

    I then screwed down from the top into the side doing my best to keep the Spax screw centered in the side panels. Second picture

    The center divider isn't sitting in any dado as I just screwed through the top and bottom panel. The last two pictures are just to show where I ended tonight. I'll cut and install the backs tomorrow night as well as get a frame/toe kick built underneath this thing.

    For those that are really observant the top is quarter sawn red oak, bottom is white oak, and the ends are maple. The future cherry counter top is leaning against the jointer. I'm thinking of using walnut for the drawer fronts.

    Thanks for looking,
    Wes
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 2008-01-27_22-39-56.jpg   2008-01-27_22-40-02.jpg   2008-01-27_22-40-29.jpg   2008-01-27_22-42-20.jpg   2008-01-27_22-40-41.jpg  


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