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mdf raised panels, mdf quality

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  • mdf raised panels, mdf quality

    i raised several panels for doors in a built-in. i originally thought that the coarseness of the raised area would be easy to handle by light sanding. what i'm finding is that the area might get a little smoother...marginally better...but i'm unable to get the panels completely smooth because of how the mdf is made.
    are there different grades of mdf? do some of them give a good clean face where sawed?

  • #2
    Re: mdf raised panels, mdf quality

    Not really different grades, but different densities. The densities range from "regular" to "super light".

    You didn't mention that you were going to paint...but I would assume so. No matter which density that you use, if you are wanting a smooth finish you need to use some type of filler before painting.

    Prepping to paint, I do a quick scuff sand of the whole piece with 150 grit paper to give the primer a uniform "tooth" to stick to. To smooth and fill your cut edges, try using drywall compound. Apply it fairly liberally with your finger to the edges and anywhere you have cut or routed the piece. Works great as a filler and sands easily when dry. Once dry, sand until smooth with 150 grit.

    For primer, make sure you use a solvent based primer (not water based). Water based primer will get in and make the pores swell and make the piece "grainy".

    Once primed though, you can paint with pretty much anything you want. Although for doors and cabinetry, I would recommend an oil or laquer based paint (laquer based if spraying).
    Last edited by tomapple; 03-28-2009, 10:39 AM.

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    • #3
      Re: mdf raised panels, mdf quality

      thanks for the reply and good information. i'm trying to think of a way to put sheetrock compound on the panels without creating a big mess. do you thin the mixture first?
      how do you normally apply it, a putty knife or fingertip?
      Also, why do you recommend oil-based paint? Is it because it dries harder?

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      • #4
        Re: mdf raised panels, mdf quality

        TOMAPPLE, sorry about not remembering that you had already told me to apply it with a fingertip.

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        • #5
          Re: mdf raised panels, mdf quality

          I like oil based (ie alkyd enamel) paint because it dries slower and "flows" out somewhat. Makes it easier to get a smooth, higher gloss finish. Hard enamels also provide a scuff and scratch resistant surface.

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          • #6
            Re: mdf raised panels, mdf quality

            I like to mix some retarder with my lacquer to get a slightly slower drying time even when humidity isn't an issue.

            To me the faster turnaround allows for more coats which translates to a smooth finish. There are some good oil based sealers, but lacquer sealer is one of the best sanding products I've ever dealt with.

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            • #7
              Re: mdf raised panels, mdf quality

              I just finished making some raised panel doors out of mdf. Did some research on sealing the cut edges and found lots of ideas. I didnt like the idea of using drywall compound so I went with this routine:

              1. Sand all cut edges progressively from about 120 to 400 grit. It will get very smooth. Almost like the surface. lightly sand the flat surface with 220 or so. This just helps with the paint adhesion.

              2. Seal the edges with a solvent based primer. I used B.I.N. shellac based white primer. It was also suggested to use a laquer based primer but I couldnt find any. I used 2 coats and lightly sanded between coats with 400.

              3. Paint the remainder. I used white melamine paint with a foam roller but I understand that spraying them produces a fantastic finish.


              Remember to throughly clean the dust before painting. I used a vacuum, tack cloth and then wiped everything down with dna.

              Everything came out quite nice. A little bit of work but worth the effort.


              Hope this helps

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              • #8
                Re: mdf raised panels, mdf quality

                Originally posted by E Fisher View Post
                i raised several panels for doors in a built-in. i originally thought that the coarseness of the raised area would be easy to handle by light sanding. what i'm finding is that the area might get a little smoother...marginally better...but i'm unable to get the panels completely smooth because of how the mdf is made.
                are there different grades of mdf? do some of them give a good clean face where sawed?

                What your looking for is Rangerboard. Its an MDF made exclusively from one type of sawdust and is by far the besting milling MDF available. You can spot it by its much lighter color than standard MDF.

                http://www.westfraser.com/products/panels/pan_prods.asp

                You probably need to go to a plywood specialty distibutor to find it. We used to make 100's of 1 3/4 think interior panel doors with this stuff. it came in 5 x 12 sheets, 1 3/4 think. We used a forklift to move the stuff around.

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                • #9
                  Re: mdf raised panels, mdf quality

                  Thanks for all of the replies and advice. I think I'll try to find Rangerboard because I'm not much into all of the extra sanding and prep work regular MDF requires. I love to build stuff but run out of steam when it comes to finishing or painting. If only my wife would show some interest at that point.

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