Looking for easy MDF built-in guide

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Old 03-21-19, 01:10 PM
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Looking for easy MDF built-in guide

I have a couple of areas where I am going to be placing built-ins and am looking for an easy effective no-frills guide as this will be my first time building these.

The painters are coming in a couple of weeks to finish painting trim and calking, so I need to have these built and installed by then.

Below is a picture of where the built-ins will be placed.
 
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Old 03-21-19, 02:16 PM
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Do you have a more specific question other than "tell me how to do everything"?

What tools do you have available?

In general I would avoid MDF. It is not very strong for shelving. It swells terribly if gotten wet and it's surprisingly difficult to fill nail holes so they don't show. I would use real wood either whole planks or laminated butcher block planks. If using real wood I would consider having it primed with oil based stain blocking primer to prevent any knots from staining through the finish paint.
 
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Old 03-21-19, 06:42 PM
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Sorry, I was just hoping there was a general way people in the trade did these. Everything I found on Built-ins was fancy custom cabinetry. I'm just looking to build some rectangular boxes to slide in the holes without them falling apart.
 
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Old 03-21-19, 08:08 PM
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Well, it IS a cabinet- just a cabinet that is set into a wall- so that would explain why everything you find makes it sound like cabinetry.

In simplest terms, it's a box with a back and a 1X2 face frame. Nothing you can't do if you have a table saw and Kreg jig.
 
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Old 03-22-19, 07:45 AM
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Thank you Xsleeper I have both a table saw and a Kreg jig. What thickness wood should be used for the sides and back panel?
 
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Old 03-22-19, 08:44 AM
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3/4" is a pretty common thickness.
 
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Old 03-22-19, 09:12 AM
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Sounds good, Thank you. Sorry again for being so vague with my question.
 
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Old 03-22-19, 02:41 PM
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Building cabinets, shelving is basically pretty simple. The difficulty comes in the accurate measuring and cutting. A cut almost 90 degrees is good enough for most things but cabinetry is where you want exactly 90 degrees.
 
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Old 03-27-19, 03:38 PM
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So I did a little research and 3/4 birch plywood seemed to be a popular choice. So I went to home depot had them rip me what I needed only to find out it was 3/4 sandewood! Because I asked for birch, they gave me it half off.. so I took it home.

I know its not as good as the birch but has anyone used this??

https://www.homedepot.com/p/18mm-San...4559/203414066
 
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Old 03-27-19, 03:51 PM
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It's not the highest quality since it is only about 7 ply... it can warp on you so be sure to store it perfectly flat until you use it. Baltic birch is better as its 11-13 ply which just means it will stay more flat.
 
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Old 03-27-19, 04:30 PM
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Got it. I have them all laying flat in a dry area.

I don't know how they charge only about $10 less than the birch a sheet if it's half the layers.

Hopefully, it will be fine for what I am using it for as the builtins are only 6" in depth.
 
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Old 03-27-19, 04:38 PM
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Well, I think Home Depot's birch ply is also 7 ply... you generally need to specifically look for 11 to 13 ply baltic birch, and no, it would not be comparable in price at all.

yes, what you have will be fine.
 
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Old 03-27-19, 04:48 PM
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Oh, one more question if you don't mind. What wood is best to use for deep window jambs and deep door jambs? My friend mentioned poplar?
 
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Old 03-27-19, 04:59 PM
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Depends how deep. If it's more than 1x8 you should probably use plywood and band the cut edges. Otherwise poplar is nice.
 
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Old 03-27-19, 06:21 PM
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Ok, they a are more than 8". I have 9" 11" and 13".
 
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Old 03-27-19, 06:29 PM
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If you don't like the idea of banding edges you can also often find edge glued pine stock that is wider. Edge glued stock (narrow boards glued together to make one wide board) is less prone to warping and cupping than a 1x12 would be. Example

You could also easily make up your own edge glued stock if you have a kreg jig and or clamps.
 
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Old 03-27-19, 06:48 PM
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Caseing will be goin around all doors and windows. My thoughts were that I could just cover the ends of what ever I use to extend the jambs. So there should be no need for banding correct?
 
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Old 03-27-19, 06:57 PM
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Typically you have a 1/4" reveal when you put casing on. You don't put the casing right to the edge... that's an amateur move. But it's your house, do what you like.
 
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Old 03-27-19, 07:59 PM
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Ok, I have never trimmed out a window or door. I guess I need to research that before I go forward. I want to do it correctly definitely not half ass.
 
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Old 03-27-19, 09:29 PM
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Here is an example....................

When working with paint grade material, the joints formed by the reveal get caulked with painters caulk before painting. That gives everything a seamless appearance.
 
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Old 03-27-19, 11:31 PM
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Got it! Thank you for the example. See my house was built in 1972 and it appears some of the caseings were done wrong. So I'm thankful you corrected what would have been a mistake on my part.
 
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Old 03-28-19, 03:55 PM
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Ok, back to the built-ins. I drilled my pocket holes now, what is the best method for attaching the back? This is what I came up with online ( bottom picture) but looks like they added blocks of 1x1 or something. I will lose some depth doing it this way so is there a better way?.
 
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Old 03-28-19, 04:13 PM
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Just get some 1/4" sanded plywood and glue and brad nail it to the back. Next time you make them you could cut a dado in all your pieces so that the plywood can just be slipped in before you fasten the 4th side piece.
 
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Old 03-28-19, 05:10 PM
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A dado would be perfect but I don't have the tools for that. Seeing I already have the right size pieces for the back in 3/4", what do you think about this method if I also use wood glue?
 
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Old 03-28-19, 05:29 PM
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What you have pictured will work fine, but, personally, I think what Sleeper suggested is an easier and better way to do it, and just for future reference you do have the tool for it because you could have cut them on your table saw. As PD mentioned earlier, building boxes is pretty straightforward, but it does require accurate measurements and cuts, and, in this case, thinking through the entire process beforehand. That's not a criticism at all by the way, just something to throw in your toolbox along with everything else you've learned in building these. Something you might want to put on your shopping list too if you enjoy doing this is some woodworking clamps. They can be indispensable for fitting something like this tapping things around before and during final assembly, and they can get real expensive real fast, but the last ones I bought were at HF, and frankly they work just as well as my more pricey ones.
 
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Old 03-28-19, 05:52 PM
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Thanks aka pedro. I know I should have planned this better and I usually do but I am now in a rush to get what is now going on a five-year project done.

This is part of my basement studio apartment project and recently my buddy had to move in due to his divorce so it will be the living quarters for one of us very soon.

I am going to swing into HF this week and grab some of those clamps you mentioned. I have been eyeing them for a while but never had a use until now!

PS
Oh, I wasn't aware the dado was done on a table saw. I thought it required a router. Thanks
 
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Old 03-29-19, 04:32 AM
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Yes, you can use a router to cut dados, but in this case it's a toss up, and unless you had a table to go along with a router probably quicker and easier to use the table saw anyway. Again, just something to throw in what I call the toolbox, that corner of your mind that stores all the tips and tricks you pick up as you go.
 
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Old 04-03-19, 08:51 AM
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Ok, so I got the built-in framed ( still need to get some 1/4 plywood for the back ). I need to add shelves that wont sag. I read that the max length for a 3/4 plywood shelf is 36" and I have a span of 40.5".

I was thinking maybe either put a 1x1 cleat under the back and sides along with a 1x2 across the face of the shelf. Would this work? I'm open to other suggestions.

Also, how many shelves should I add? I was thinking 3 or 4...I've obviously never built one of these so I really have no idea.
 
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Old 04-03-19, 09:17 AM
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Depends what you plan to put on them. Too many shelves limits the height. 4 shelves also takes out 3" of space. So if they are 36" tall inside... you really only have 33" of space. Divided by 5 sections, that's about 6 1/2" each. You won't have to worry about the shelves sagging. You can nail the back to each shelf, which will prevent any sagging.
 
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Old 04-03-19, 09:37 AM
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I really don't have a set plan on what would go on the shelves. I was really just trying to utilize that space the best I could. I was thinking stuff like flowers in a vase, family picture frames etc...Do you think 2 shelves would be sufficient?

So, I should be good If I just nail the back and pocket screw the sides?
 
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Old 04-03-19, 09:41 AM
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2 or 3. Depends if you are putting pictures or books or vases on them. They don't need to all be equal either... although being symmetrical or at least looking like they were well planned is good.

You won't use pocket screws for the shelves. Just nail or screw straight in through the sides of your boxes.
 
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Old 04-03-19, 09:52 AM
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Got it, thank you.

I'm sure I will be back with more questions on the other built-ins.
 
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Old 04-04-19, 11:08 AM
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Now that I have the built-in part figured out. In looking through google images at builtin bookcases for ideas on how to trim both the bookshelf part and the cabinets underneath, I am finding that the majority of these built-ins are built in front of the wall, not into the wall.

Therefore most of them are not trimmed out with any sort of casings. Any suggestions on how to go about trimming this out to make this look like one unit and not "picture framed" individual components??

Hope that made sense..

I was thinking something like this, using colonial style wood trim? and smoked glass doors for the bottom cabinets with magnetic catches.
 
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Old 04-04-19, 12:01 PM
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You will need to set them in place temporarily and shim them around to get them aligned where you want them so they are level, plumb, parallel. Shims at each corner will prevent them from moving.

Once you do that you can measure for trim. Measure like you will be making a face frame, leave a 3/16" reveal around the perimeter of each box. If you want rosettes you can, but that may complicate matters if your measurements don't work out, such as at the ceiling or corner. You might be better off just using plain flat poplar. Once you have your measurements you can cut it all and sand it and put it together with pocket screws.

Sides are always floor to ceiling, the top, middle and bottom fit between. Any vertical mullions fit between them.

Depending on how you want to fasten the face frame, you would either secure your boxes permanently (If you're going to glue and nail it on) or take the boxes back out (If you intend to glue, biscuit and clamp... or pocket screw through the outside of the boxes from behind the face frame... making it all one unit that is hanging on the face frame.
 
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Old 04-04-19, 12:37 PM
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Great explanation XSleeper.

"Sides are always floor to ceiling, the top, middle and bottom fit between. Any vertical mullions fit between them."

See I figured there was a method to this

As for the built-ins I will just shim and nail to the wall studs/frame, measure and build the face on the floor and finish nail the face to the wall as I don't plan on removing the built-ins..
 
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Old 04-13-19, 08:26 AM
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I'm ready to trim out the built-in. Just wanted to get opinions on the final plan before I go buy the stock.
 
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Old 04-13-19, 11:15 AM
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Looks fine. You could also stiffen your shelves by facing them with 1x2.
 
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Old 04-13-19, 12:49 PM
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I had the top decorative portion of MDF baseboard that I had to rip off , laying around. I was going to use that for the face of the shelves. I know it wouldn't be as strong as the 1x2 but do you think it will work?
 
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Old 04-13-19, 12:53 PM
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Whatever floats your boat.
 
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Old 04-14-19, 05:11 PM
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Took your advice and went with the 1x2 face for the shelves. The whole thing is going to be painted white and I will have dark tinted glass doors over the cabinets. I don't think it came out that bad for my first time.

Thanks again for all the help.
 
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