A small guide to MDF and its safe use

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What is MDF

As many of you are aware MDF is a versatile product, manufactured around the world by a multitude of companies.

Medium Density Fibreboards come in differing qualities and have differing results when used in a project. There are other densities of the product for differing uses. HDF and LDF included.

MDF is porous, similar to paper or wood, so it will absorb moisture if left exposed. Normal atmosphere includes moisture which will leech into the product if it is not sealed. Conversely it will dry out, similarly to wood if kept too dry.
Your choice of sealant is dependent on what the end result is going to be for the product after you have machined, cut, or decorated it. Choosing the correct sealant for the surface is important and following manufacturers instructions for anything you cover it with is essential. Water based products for sealing are preferable for craft use unless you are printing onto it or applying oil based finishes. Water based, or "emulsions" or "Acrylics" are suitable for covering as a base or topcoat paint, and are easily cleaned off by water.  Oil based coverings will require thinners, involving fumes and perhaps unwanted smells.


MDF is manufactured using formaldehyde, this is a chemical that can be harmful when ingested. Obviously you must wear the correct protective equipment and if machining in bulk quantities you need to comply with the Health and Safety recommendations in your area for dust extraction and PPE for yourself if using in a business.

A very good breakdown and explanation of the product is shown on
Wikepedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medium-density_fibreboard
Local authorities in your area will advise the best solutions when using the product in a business or  manufacturing environment.

Hobby use at home also carries the same risks of exposure to the dust and debris from using MDF, so always look after your health and wear appropriate protective equipment when drilling, sanding, cutting and finishing the products.

In our situation we have extensive dust extraction, protective measures and equipment in place to reduce to as low as possible any contamination or risk. Common sense prevails and when using any product of the ranges we provide it is wise to be aware of the hazards. MDF does not "Splinter" like normal wood, so generally is fairly unlikely to give to cuts, but when handling be aware that it can be heavier than a corresponding product of wood construction.

We machine our products using a CNC machine. This actually cuts the product using a rotating cutter and cuts shapes from the board. There is little if any smell from machining in this way.
Laser cutting results in an acrid smell on the end product which many find unpleasant. Intricacy or detail can be better with a laser cutting machine at the expense of the machinery cost, extraction of fumes, disposal of the burned remains and other considerations. Nonetheless it is a popular method of shape and machining with some excellent results gained.

There are many machines in varying powers for laser cutting with results based on higher investment in the equipment giving the results you see commercially available.

CNC machines tend to be cheaper and easier to use in the craft and hobby industry.


Hand finishing, CNC, laser and other methods of manipulating this material can be researched using search engines with many forums and websites dedicated to its usage.

Hopefully your projects and creations turn out how you want them to be without unnecessary failures and mishaps.









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