MDF vs. Plywood — Differences, Pros and Cons, and When To Use
Lately we have had several people ask me questions about MDF. What is MDF? How is it different from plywood? Why wouldn’t you just use plywood? So today I want to share the differences between MDF and plywood, the pros and cons of each, and how we decide which one we decided to use four our business.
MDF – Medium Density Fiberboard
MDF is an engineered wood composite that is similar to particle board, but is much denser and stronger than particle board.
Imagine if all of the sawdust was swept up from other wood product manufacturing processes, and then that sawdust was mixed with binders and pressed into large sheets the size of plywood, That’s way oversimplified, and it’s not exactly the process they use to make MDF, but that gives you an idea of the makeup of the product because it’s composed of such small wood fibers, there’s no wood grain in MDF and because it’s pressed so hard at such high temperatures, there are no voids in MDF like you find in particle board.
Just like plywood, you can purchase MDF in different thicknesses depending on what you need for your project.
Advantages of MDF
MDF is generally cheaper than plywood.The surface of MDF is very smooth, and you don’t have to worry about knots on the surface because it’s so smooth, it’s a great surface for painting. I recommend first priming with a quality oil-based primer.(Don’t use aerosol spray primers on MDF!! It just soaks right in, and is a huge waste of time and money. It will also cause the surface to become rough.)
Also because of its smoothness, MDF is a great substrate for veneer.
MDF is very consistent throughout, so cut edges appear smooth and won’t have voids or splinters.Because of the smooth edges, you can use a router to create decorative edges.The consistency and smoothness of MDF allows for easy cutting of detailed designs (such as scrolled or scalloped designs) using a scroll saw, band saw, or jigsaw.