Building & painting MDF kitchen cabinets

Old 02-01-06, 07:32 PM
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Building & painting MDF kitchen cabinets

Debating whether to buy or build kitchen cabinets to replace 20 year old oak cabinets. Want cabinets to be painted an ivory color with either some mild distressing (i.e. a bit of brown in the recessed areas) or with a glazed brushed-looking finish. Have seen high end cabinets made out of MDF--which surprised us--then started us thinking about building our own out of MDF (likely a 5-piece door with a raised panel). Tried a couple of prototypes (without any painting/finishiing) and they look good but seem heavy for their size. Questions: Will MDF chip around the frame? Will the doors be too heavy (we have 2 larger pantry doors)? What thickness of MDF is suggested for the frame and panel? What about MDF centres and wood frames? Finally, what about finishing to achieve the above looks? Have done a lot of painting/antiquing but not at all familiar with lacquers, etc. Is the glazed technique difficult and how is it done? Have read that oil based paint is more durable but that the topcoat yellows (want to avoid that). Is latex durable enough? What about brands? We have an airless spray set up, ventilation system, large shop with all imaginable tools, decent knowledge of woodworking, etc. Any suggestions and advice appreciated!
Old 02-01-06, 07:55 PM
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Hi Kim. I've dabbled with building raised panel doors out of MDF... I practiced by building my dad 4 cabinets for his shop. You're right about the doors being heavy. MDF routers fairly well, but it's hard on blades and bits, and also creates a LOT of fine dust that is hazardous to breathe. 3/4 thick MDF would be the standard size you'd use for the doors and the raised panel, although I suppose you could use 1/2" MDF if you wanted to save a little on weight. Actually, if you didn't mind staying away from the raised panel look, you could use 1/4" plywood instead of a raised panel and the doors would be MUCH lighter. If you wanted to add something to the 1/4" plywood panels, some solid 1/2" x 2" vertical slats would dress it up, but that depends on what kind of look you are going for. For MDF doors, I'd recommend 35mm euro "cup" hinges, which will hold the weight of the door much better. I'd also recommend against using MDF for the face frames. If you're going to paint them, use poplar or some paint-grade clear species of wood.

MDF will certainly chip if it's bumped very hard. Remember it's only pressed paper. It's durability will largely depend on the finish, so you're right to be concerned about getting that advice before proceeding. I've had good results both painting it, and other times just polyurethaning it. I've also lacquered the bejesus out of it until it looks like glass. In addition to the occasional cabinet and door, I like to use it for some of the jigs I use.
Old 02-03-06, 09:13 AM
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if you use mdf be sure to "seal" all surfaces.
water/moisture is everywhere in a kitchen.

check into the plus/minus of using varathane vs poly. then "finishes"

the more you read the better the choices?

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