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Old 06-16-2003, 11:18 PM   #1
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MDF for lighting fixture

has anyone used MDF as a material for building lighting fixtures out of?

I was thinking of using it instead of plywood because:

plywood's top and bottom look nice, but the sides look nasty, which means you'd need trim, which is extra work

unless I wanted to get a good workout, sifting through 4x8 sheets of plywood at HD to find one without big knots is too much work

every time I try to screw something into plywood, it likes to splinter on one side, and have a 'bullet hole' like exit wound on the other

so, I was feeling up a piece of mdf (next to the plywood), and found it's surface remarkably smooth, uniform and free of warping, crowning or bowing ... I also read that in California, mdf will give you cancer and or reproductive harm ... I'm not sure if it's equally harmfull in Michigan, but it can't be worse than being a second hand smoker for a good 22 years

so, back to my question ... has anyone worked with this stuff, either hobby related or otherwise? Can I use regular saw blades, drill bits, screws, glue ... or does it need an arsenal of custom made propritary tools and fasteners? How does it take paint? Latex or Oil?

I know since it's a particle board, it's probably not a big fan of getting wet, but how about just the humidity of a tank ... (my current hood has a particle board (the old fashioned rough kind) lid, which is painted white/black, and hasn't shown any problems related to moisture

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Old 06-17-2003, 02:20 AM   #2
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I have never used it in a location where it was exposed to water or high humidity. The rough particle board you referred to is usually made with weatherproof glue and will withstand a lot of water. The MDF, if you're talking about hardboard, is basically super cardboard. If you want to use it, you'll want a 60 tooth or finer blade on the table saw. If it was me, I'd go with some cabinet grade plywood. Either birch or oak. You can dress the edges with a router and they look pretty good. Always drill the screw holes before you put in the screws and it won't splinter as much. Or, you can get some 3/4 square stock and glue it to the edges of the plywood. Then trim it with a flush cut bit using the router. As long as you use the same type wood as the outer veneer on the plywood, the seam will be indistinguishable once it's sanded. Then your top will look like one big wide piece of lumber. You could also join some 3/4 thick boards for the top (like a tabletop) and use lumber for the sides. I would be skeptical about using the MDF though as I don't think it will handle the humidity long term.

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Old 10-29-2003, 10:05 AM   #3
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I plan to use a piece of MDF for the surface of my DYI stand, another way of saying this is the MDF will be in between the stand and tank, is that gonna be a problem? I do plant to put the MDF thru some sorf of water proof coating.
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Old 10-29-2003, 10:24 AM   #4
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Why do you want to use MDF? I would go with a finished plywood which is no knots and is much better made. MDF is mostly composed of glue and sawdust if im thinking of the right stuff Moisture will warp and rot away at is very easily and may also begin to bulge. Putting some polyacrylic will be very hard to do since the glue will mostly stop the polyacrylic seal from curing and even stopping it from soaking in the wood fibers. JMO
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Old 10-29-2003, 10:29 AM   #5
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Thanks for the info, already cut the piece of MDF to fit the top, now can I turn this piece in to the stand door?? If it is hard for polyacrylic then it won't be stainable isn't it?
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Old 10-29-2003, 05:16 PM   #6
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I actualy just put together a light hood for my FW 20 gallon and used 1/4" hardboard and 1x2" pine. I think as long as the wood is sealed well with a good paint you should be alright. I just set it up about 4 or 5 days ago so as far as long term, we'll find out. But I will say that it is VERY easy to work with and finish. I've been meaning to get some pics up, i'll have to do that soon so you can see what I came up with. And I had no problems cutting it with a ripping blade. I got smooth edges as long as I didn't go FAST when cutting (was using a cordless trim saw w/ 5" ripping blade)

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Old 11-02-2003, 10:20 PM   #7
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We used MDF for the outer skin and floor of our stand. The frame is 2x4's and 2x6's though. We sprayed painted it black.

I was in the same boat as for the looks. The ply looked like crap. I guess I will see how well this stuff looks after a few years of water changes

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