Author Topic: MDF Countertops?  (Read 32155 times)

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Offline Richard/RMW

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MDF Countertops?
« on: March 04, 2013, 11:45 AM »
I am considering using MDF to make a couple counter tops for my office/workroom. I want something that is cheap and plain, day-to-day uses includes office work, electronics, fly-tying, misc. hobby activities, etc. No drilling or sawing, I want the keep the top in good shape without gouges, holes, etc.

My plan is to use 3/4 material and double up the edges, round over top/bottom edge about 1/4", sand well and seal with oil then coat with water-based poly. Concerns are:

  • Will the routed/sanded edge appearance be really different from the top, which I do plan on sanding also to remove the hard sheen?
  • Using the oil/poly will this give me enough protection to avoid swelling, i.e. from a water glass ring or small spill?
  • What type of oil to use, or should I use something else? I tested teak oil on a small piece and it is okay, a little lighter than I would prefer. I want to darken the MDF to a medium-dark brown.

Appreciate feedback from anyone who has attempted this.

Thanks!

RMW
As of 10/17 I am out of the Dog business and pursuing other distractions. Thanks for a fun ride!

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Offline RL

  • Posts: 3040
Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2013, 12:01 PM »
I'm not helping you very much with this response- sorry!- but I think however nicely you make it, I think it will still be mutton dressed up as lamb.

You could just buy a countertop like this and save yourself the trouble of making something. Solid beech and 1 1/2" thick.

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20057854/#/20057854

Offline jmbfestool

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2013, 12:03 PM »
If you remove the top layer "sheen" then it should look identical to the edge I can't see why it wouldn't.

I have never done what your doing. When I use MDF its ALWAYS painted.

So I can't help you with the rest.

I my self would rather use birch plywood sanded and sealed it can look nice and its very hard wearing.

Jmb
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Offline Michael_Swe

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2013, 01:03 PM »
Hi.
Have you considered Valchromat? I'm not sure if where it's available though. Valchromat is MDF but the fibers are colored. No matter how you cut or route the board it remains the same color. It's takes oil very well and it's quite polishable if you want a shine. I've seen it in matte finish as well and it looks really nice. It's quite a bit harder that ordinary MDF.

Link: http://www.valchromatsa.com/

Here are some quite bad images, but you might see how it looks like. I used red for a top for the kids IKEA bookcases. It's nice to be able to round of corners or cut in funny shapes and still have the same color.
83588-0
83590-1
83592-2

//Michael

Offline Sparktrician

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2013, 01:13 PM »
MDF is a moisture sink.  I've tried a few finishes and they all eventually fail, leaving one exposed to moisture damage from wet glasses, spills, etc.  If you're intent on using MDF, use it as a core material and cover it with Formica or Wilsonart laminates.  Alternatively, Richard's suggestion regarding the Ikea material has merit. 

- Willy -

 "Remember, a chip on the shoulder is a sure sign of wood higher up." - Brigham Young

Offline Richard/RMW

  • Posts: 2025
Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2013, 01:39 PM »
Thanks for the input guys, I totally forgot about the Ikea tops. Last time I was there I looked closely and liked them, filed it away in my leaky brain "for future use" and promptly forgot. Problem solved.

Now, does anyone know where my reading glasses are...?  [scratch chin]

RMW
As of 10/17 I am out of the Dog business and pursuing other distractions. Thanks for a fun ride!

Offline Tinker

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2013, 01:55 PM »
I treat my MFT tops with a couple of coats of wipe-on poly and then a couple coats of wax buffed w/RO 150.
It comes to a shine and very slight darkening.  I'm sure not as dark as you might want.  I do, periodically buff in another coat of wax when it looses sheen.   

I don't really know what reaction water might cause. I am inclined to agree with others about MDF being a water sponge.  I have glued MDF end grain to rabbets and dados and that stuff really gobbles up glue. I coat the MFT tops because I am interested in shedding of glue drops and squeeze out when i am assembling.  Even with the protection described, i still put down wax paper under any joints in the assembly.

Tinker

Wayne H. Tinker

Offline Wooden Lungs

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2013, 02:04 PM »
I too would use a hardwood or softwood option instead of MDF or MRMDF. I have seen it sanded and varnished before and it did'nt impress me. Ok for garage shelving etc but ugly.

You could get some softwood flooring boards from a timber yard cheap and just glue them up and use for the top. Or salvage some real wood from somewhere! Much better wearing and more aesthetic.

Valchromat is fun to use but the colours aside from black are a bit odd! The dust seems worse too  as it shows up more than plain mdf....

(I am aware black is not even a colour  [wink])
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 02:07 PM by Wooden Lungs »
Don't do anything by half. If you love someone, love them with all your soul. When you go to work, work your ass off. When you hate someone, hate them until it hurts.

Offline panelchat

  • Posts: 190
Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2013, 02:09 PM »
There's a top in my kitchen like you describe and the roundover and edge looks fine, consistent.

I would encourage a thick oil based finish, preferably sprayed. This will keep water out and help impacts glance off the surface.

Water borne finish may have compatibility issues with an oiled surface so I would watch out there if you do decide to go that way, maybe do tests.

The MDF is a sponge, so it drinks up huge amounts of thinner and oil from a "danish oil" or similar very thin sealer type liquid. Then it takes forever to dry- in my tests a week later it still felt sorta wet or uncured...

OTOH, a thick oil, like Surfix or especially Osmo Poly X, might be worth trying. Osmo has color options and dries much faster, a huge benefit given the sponge effect of MDF taking in lots of liquid that then has a hard time drying.

The smooth factory surface on MDF is a great bit of engineering and is one of its very strong benefits as a panel product- I suggest keeping it as smooth as you can. Smoothness adds to durability too.

You might consider melamine- ugly but cheap, extremely durable and quite inert chemically. My old melamine outfeed table cleaned up to new easily, after a few years of poly glue, titebond glue, dye, stain, abrasion, getting smashed with hammers, etc.

You might also look at Richlite, a paper based panel product bound with phenolic resin. A bit expensive but the brown color looks like a dark MDF, it requires little/no finishing, machines with wood tools, and you can drive a car over it without really hurting it. Thin and thick sheets available. Use .25" on top of a substrate, or use solid 3/4".

Online Peter Parfitt

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2013, 02:11 PM »
I would avoid using MDF oiled or waxed. As JMB says, painting works well and I have made loads of raised panel doors entirely of normal MDF then painted and they look great. For a desk top you need some tough paint preceded by good sealers and prep work. Why not spend a few extra Dollars/Pounds/Euros and go for veneered MDF - it is stable, can be oiled properly and will withstand some abuse - oh, and it looks great too. Edge it with solid wood - I must have done a video about that - Table Project I think.

Peter

Offline mastercabman

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2013, 05:18 PM »
you could use a 2 parts epoxy.
I don't understand!?! I keep cutting it,and it's still too short!

Offline Richard/RMW

  • Posts: 2025
Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2013, 05:23 PM »
Thanks for the additional input. One issue I deal with at the Jersey shore is a near total lack of easily accessible material suppliers, anything other than the big-box stores is typically an hour drive. This is coupled with transporting in a SUV, 4 by 8 sheet goods end up on the roof rack. Overall just a PITA. It tends to make me reach too far to adapt available materials to the use, rather than getting the right material.

That said, I did like the IKEA tops Richard mentioned, the beech in particular, I had just forgotten about them. Nearest Ikea is still over an hour away in Philly but they are easier to transport and will save fabrication time. I am leaning toward that option and scuttling the MDF idea.

I appreciate the ideas.

RMW  
As of 10/17 I am out of the Dog business and pursuing other distractions. Thanks for a fun ride!

Offline Sparktrician

  • Posts: 3982
Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2013, 05:42 PM »
Why not spend a few extra Dollars/Pounds/Euros and go for veneered MDF - it is stable, can be oiled properly and will withstand some abuse - oh, and it looks great too. Edge it with solid wood - I must have done a video about that - Table Project I think.

Peter

Admittedly veneered MDF does look good and is dimensionally stable, but it is NOT impervious to water damage.  My dining room table has a couple of swollen places under the veneer where a former beloved spouse failed to heed the gentle guidance so lovingly imparted regarding not watering plants on said table.  There's no way of getting the bubbles to go back down due to the way MDF swells.  They will be there until I choose to get rid of that table, dernit!!!   [mad]

- Willy -

 "Remember, a chip on the shoulder is a sure sign of wood higher up." - Brigham Young

Offline Alan m

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2013, 05:58 PM »
Why not spend a few extra Dollars/Pounds/Euros and go for veneered MDF - it is stable, can be oiled properly and will withstand some abuse - oh, and it looks great too. Edge it with solid wood - I must have done a video about that - Table Project I think.

Peter

if you routed a hole into the underside of the area with the bulge. then clamp something solid ont ehtop side. then fill with body filler.

Admittedly veneered MDF does look good and is dimensionally stable, but it is NOT impervious to water damage.  My dining room table has a couple of swollen places under the veneer where a former beloved spouse failed to heed the gentle guidance so lovingly imparted regarding not watering plants on said table.  There's no way of getting the bubbles to go back down due to the way MDF swells.  They will be there until I choose to get rid of that table, dernit!!!   [mad]


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Online bruegf

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2013, 07:13 AM »
I have a workbench top that's 1.25" mdf and I glued a 1/4" masonite sheet on top of it and then coated with epoxy.   I did this about 30 years ago for a garage workbench and its still in great condition.  No problems with the broad range of temperature and humidty, plus the masonite is much more resistant to chips and dings.

Fred
Fred

Offline Chris Wong

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2013, 04:36 AM »
Exterior-grade MDF can be bought.  It might be a special order for the lumberyards in your area.  I've never worked with it or seen it in person, but it's an oddity that's out there.
Chris Wong, http://FlairWoodworks.com
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Offline jmbfestool

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2013, 06:02 AM »
Exterior-grade MDF can be bought.  It might be a special order for the lumberyards in your area.  I've never worked with it or seen it in person, but it's an oddity that's out there.

Also very  expensive!! 
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Offline Chris Wong

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2013, 11:57 AM »
Exterior-grade MDF can be bought.  It might be a special order for the lumberyards in your area.  I've never worked with it or seen it in person, but it's an oddity that's out there.

Also very  expensive!! 

Why am I not surprised?  Is it three times as much as regular MDF?
Chris Wong, http://FlairWoodworks.com
First Festool was a free pencil.
Shipping live-edge cribbage boards around the world since 2010.

Offline bholmsten

  • Posts: 30
Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2013, 01:53 PM »
Another option for maple tops is Lumber Liquidator they sell buther block I made a work bench with 2 layers of MDF (1-1/2" thick) and then 1-1/2 " thick butcher  block for 3 inch 3 work surface. I want to say it was about $200 for 8 feet.

Offline Joseph C

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2013, 05:22 PM »
Extira (waterproof mdf) is around double typical mdf prices around here, which makes it a little more expensive than shop ply, and less than marine ply.  We use it as a core for outdoor kitchens. 
Due to an unfortunate callback recently, I am also going to start using it for dishwasher panels and surrounding areas. :(

As Ikea goes, they will often deliver from the store for $50
TS75, OF1010, PS300, Domino500, MFT/3, CT22 + WCR, CT MIDI, RS2e, RO150, ETS150, DS400, RO90, Grex 2" micropinner (festool green), and packing everything else into systainers, too.

Offline Davej

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2013, 05:55 PM »
I first came across ' exterior ' grade mdf about 10 years or more ago , a firm i was working for was doing 2 shop fronts in different locations , the one i did was for a chemist very close to the sea, it was an old fashioned style frontage and i used ply and it still looks good to this day , the other joiner did a similar style frontage 4 miles inland and used 'exterior' mdf for all the panels ,after less than 2 years it was absolutely rotten and had to be totally replaced . Needless to say i wouldnt touch it for exterior work but thats just my experience and maybe its better now but i still wouldnt trust it , after all its just glorified compressed cardboard
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Offline srzsrz

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #21 on: March 21, 2013, 10:39 PM »
I like IKEA wood countertops. In my current apartment, I have a big freestanding IKEA kitchen cabinet. I went to the local IKEA several times over the course of two months, hearing every time that they had run out of the top that went with the cabinet I wanted. At one point, I got fed up. I bought a full sized wood countertop and talked the panel saw dude at the Home Depot across the street into chopping a piece off.

This solution worked, sort of. IKEA wood countertops are amazingly cheap, and they are almost as good as the wood countertops you buy elsewhere. I say almost because the problem comes in if you cut off a piece. IKEA strictly only makes the top and sides look nice. The bottom will have shoddy filling and the internal will have lots of odd sized pieces and voids.

In my case, that was no problem, since one side of the countertop was right up against a wall. But in a situation where you want an IKEA countertop that is shorter than size the panel comes in, and just chopping a bit off would lead to the sawed face being exposed, you'll probably want to take a piece out of the middle and glue the ends back together.

All of this is of course a big tangent and entirely off topic since you are apparently fine with MDF, and IKEA countertops, with or without slightly messy cut faces, are a big step up from there.

Offline Sparktrician

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #22 on: March 22, 2013, 10:54 AM »
There are some other options here

- Willy -

 "Remember, a chip on the shoulder is a sure sign of wood higher up." - Brigham Young

Offline Richard/RMW

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2013, 11:22 AM »
I basically dropped the MDF idea a while back. I did look at the countertops available from Lumber Liquidators yesterday, they are nice however there have some filled voids on the "Good" side that turn me off a bit. The filler is pink & looks for all the world like Bondo. I assume it can be tinted and won't really be a big issue, but in some of the online feedback there is mention of interior voids as well.

Grizzly also sells nice maple tops, similar to Global, but in my use I want a medium brown so if I go this route it would be either the beech, cherry or walnut options form Ikea or Lumber Liquidators.

Bottom line is I have not pulled the trigger on this but MDF is off the table.

Thanks for all the input.

RMW
As of 10/17 I am out of the Dog business and pursuing other distractions. Thanks for a fun ride!

Offline JasonSerpent

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Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #24 on: August 14, 2013, 06:51 PM »
A bit late to the Party,
I could strongly suggest the Valchromat,
We have used the material both as worktop and also as our living-room table.
My other half use it regularly in consumer areas (interior architect)

Several ways can be used to 'close' the material and we have found that a combination of Osmo Top oil with a finish of Osmo hard wax –satin works.
For heavy 'traffic' an Epoxy compound could be used.
We have used Bona varnish just as a test and it works well with a well sanded (>600 gritt paper) board even if the board has been oiled or waxed.

Offline leer

  • Posts: 262
Re: MDF Countertops?
« Reply #25 on: November 12, 2013, 11:43 PM »
RMW,

Sounds like you have decided against MDF, but if you might still consider it, I'd avoid water-based anything as a finish.  To seal it I'd use a regular wipe-on poly instead.

I didn't see a mention in the posts of overall size you want, but I bought a birch laminated workbench top at Woodcraft this summer for $100 on sale.  It measures 27" X 60" and is 1-1/2" thick.  Perhaps overkill or more than you want to spend, but something like this would make a really nice top for desk or hobby use, besides being a nice top for a workbench.
Lee