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Shop Drawers out of MDF?

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  • Shop Drawers out of MDF?

    Hey guys. I've been redoing my garage/shop and now I'm ready to add drawers to my main workbench.

    I've got a full sheet+ of 3/4 MDF to use up and a 4x4 of 1/2 hardwood plywood. Just trying to make some quick and easy drawers under the span of the bench.

    Please advise if it would be foolish to make drawers out of 3/4 MDF and/or 1/2 hardwood plywood.

    Thanks much.
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  • #2
    I would go with the ply just because of the weight. I work for a cabinet refacer and we use both mdf and ply for drawer boxes, both in half inch though the mdf is laminated in vinyl. just predrill your but joints and it should be fine.
    A good carpenter makes few mistakes, a great carpenter can fix his own.

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    • #3
      MDF joint

      Is MDF worth using a blind dovetail?

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      • #4
        use the ply for shop....use the mdf for a toy box.just my 2 copper pieces

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        • #5
          I wouldn't use MDF for drawers. But, then I'm not a big fan of MDF for much of anything. IMO, it's not much more than compressed dust. It's certainly decent enough for anything where compression strength is important (table top, base, etc.; but its weakness is that it de-laminates all too easy if you try to fasten into the edges with screws or brads. If used for a the drawer bottom, or shelf, it will sag or bow under any weight. As mentioned in one of the earlier posts, it would also be quite heavy in comparison to other materials.

          I can't comment on the quality of a dovetail joint, so perhaps someone with experience using MDF in that manner will address that.

          CWS

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          • #6
            "Handy Panel", not Hardwood Ply

            Thanks for the feedback guys. I will likely return the full sheet of MDF and buy more 1/2 plywood. Just a correction on my part - it's actually "1/2 handy panel", not 1/2 hardwood plywood. Probably doesn't make much difference for drawers unless someone tells me otherwise.

            I'm just trying to use what I bought without spending more $$. I realize the 3/4 MDF is not the best and IS heavier. Seemed worth investigating whether a good idea for drawers or not.

            More comments welcome before I head back to the shop tonight...

            Thanks.
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            • #7
              Re: Shop Drawers out of MDF?

              Keep the MDF, imo. It's useful for things like fences and such. It makes a fine "sacrificial fence" for the TS. While it will bow under weight, and screws don't like it much, it can be used for a lot of other things. I got one panel a year ago, and still have a bit of it left. I've made several jigs with it, but mostly fences for the band saw and drill press. It glues well, too. I made an extension wing for the band saw with a small panel. 3/4" MDF is stable enough in small pieces to hold light weights. It worked well for the extention wing. I glued hardwood blocks on the bottom for the bolts to attach it to the BS table. If you're going to screw into it you need to get screws designed to hold in MDF. It means a deep thread and a large washer-style head. In general, it's handy stuff. Just not great for drawer bottoms where you have a large surface and no support underneath. Plus screwing it into the drawer sides would be near impossible.
              I put it all back together better than before. There\'s lots of leftover parts.

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              • #8
                Re: Shop Drawers out of MDF?

                I made my shop drawers out of 1/2" MDF. First good pull on a fully loaded model and the tongue of the lock rabbet sheared off. Go with the ply. One comment was made about MDF being compressed dust, yep, mill some and it uncompresses real easy. I'm not sure if I've even seen MDF chips yet, it all seems to go directly to dust.
                Only a surfer knows the feeling. Billabong ca. 1985 or so

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                • #9
                  Re: Shop Drawers out of MDF?

                  Well, the general concensus seems to be no drawers out of MDF. Thanks for all the comments - helpful as always.

                  My workbench is 8' long, constructed out of 2x4s, doubled up in some places. The bench top is 3/4 MDF as well as the shelf. I built a pegboard storage unit out of 3/4 MDF as well. It will be interesting to see how it holds up/sags over time and weight.

                  Here's a couple pics to see what I'm talking about. The shelves will be across the bench length, maybe about 6" deep.
                  Attached Files
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                  • #10
                    Re: Shop Drawers out of MDF?

                    I was about to ask the same question about drawer boxes. I have already made 10 drawer boxes out of 1/2 MDF and they seem to be pretty strong. We make a lot of drawer boxes out of MDF at work and they seem to be great. I guess I will find out and keep you guys posted on how they work. I went with MDF because of money but if I had the money I would definetely get 1/2 inch baltic birch.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Shop Drawers out of MDF?

                      I have built lots of drawers out of MDF. This is how I do it. I use 3/4 for the front and back of the box 1/2 for the sides. I dado the sides for a plywood bottom. The front and back are only as tall as the distance of the side top to the top of the dado. I glue and use narrow crown staples to secure the sides to the front and back slide the plywood bottom in and secure it with narrow crown staples.
                      SSG, U.S. Army
                      Retired
                      K.I.S.S., R.T.F.M.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Shop Drawers out of MDF?

                        Well, they're done. I built 4 drawers to fit under the benchtop. Ultimately, I made them out of 3/4 plywood for the front, back and sides and 1/2 plywood for the bottoms. Only the face was made from 3/4 MDF. My choices came from what I had on hand in the shop. My goal was not to buy more wood, rather use what I had on hand. To many of you this may seem trivial, but as a "woodworker in training", I'm having a blast with this stuff!

                        Thanks again for all the info. It all was considered in making this project.
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                        Attached Files
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                        • #13
                          Re: Shop Drawers out of MDF?

                          Very nice looking! I would guess most on this board fall in line with the "having a blast" mindset rather than thinking your questions trivial. There is nothing like solving a problem with your own mind and hands, even if you created the problem yourself with that purpose in mind!
                          A good carpenter makes few mistakes, a great carpenter can fix his own.

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