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MDF or Ply for a newbie making small cabinets

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Andy1989

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Im planning on making some small shallow cabinets to store my metal working lathe tools. What material would you recommend? MDF, plywood, ... chipboard.

I have made some simple draws and a small table from the garbage ply you get from BnQ and pocket hole joinery. But i want to use this new project as practice for making stuff that the other half will let in the house. So im planning on venturing out to my local timber merchant to get some better quality materials, and also maybe try some finishing techniques.

Assuming i go for either veneered material or a painted finish, are there any major differences between the cost, work-ability, and durability of MDF and Ply?

Any other advice for a new woodworker would also be greatly appreciated.
 

MikeG.

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You don't actually learn any joinery until you use actual wood. Joining sheet to sheet is useful, but isn't any great help when it comes to making nicer stuff that'll be allowed in the house. Why don't you buy some wood instead?
 

powertools

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The op has asked what material is best for making cabinets for his workshop but has not said what he wants to make in the future for the house.
For the workshop using pocket hole method natural wood would be his worst choice MDF would be a far better choice.
 

basssound

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Even with MR MDF it will swell given time in a normal outside shed/workshop unless it's insulated and the temperature regulated like a house.
I would use the best quality ply you can afford, birch ply if possible, if not then a good quality hard wood ply will be ok.
Pocket joinery is very fast and simple and seems the way forward if you watch the videos on YouTube from our American friends.

Me personally I would biscuit joint and hardwood ply with a few screws to aid in clamping until the PVA has set, I don't own many clamps and no long clamps for that.
 

Doug71

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Birch ply is good for workshop and can look great in the house if you like a modern, simple, Scandinavian type look.
 

ED65

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Andy1989":qmg8hjme said:
Im planning on making some small shallow cabinets to store my metal working lathe tools. What material would you recommend? MDF, plywood, ... chipboard.
All of the above. Honestly they're all suitable, you can find workshop storage (and more, including workbenches) made from any of these. Plywood is the strongest of the three but you'll generally pay more for decent stuff, if you just need cheap 'n' cheerful then arguably it's overkill.

And if you're painting then MDF becomes the default choice for many. It's arguably the easiest to paint, tends to look best painted and the edges take the least work of the three to make them look good.

Andy1989":qmg8hjme said:
But i want to use this new project as practice for making stuff that the other half will let in the house.
Nothing wrong with pocket screws, if you locate them carefully nobody is the wiser that's what's holding stuff together :) Maybe take a look at dowel joinery if you want another simple joining option that is hidden from sight from all angles. A commercial dowelling jig, or a couple of simple homemade ones that can be knocked up in one afternoon, a drill and a couple of bits and you're off and running.

Andy1989":qmg8hjme said:
Any other advice for a new woodworker would also be greatly appreciated.
Don't buy tools you think you might need, only buy things you have an immediate use for.
Practice practice practice.
Read everything you can get your hands on, and don't be surprised if you find the advice is sometimes conflicting.
Be careful of YouTube, especially American content.
 

MikeG.

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powertools":2yj4eiqk said:
The op has asked what material is best for making cabinets for his workshop but has not said what he wants to make in the future for the house.
Hang on a sec. He's talking about veneers and finishing techniques. That suggest a desire to make some reasonable furniture. His stated desire was to practise for indoors furniture.

For the workshop using pocket hole method natural wood would be his worst choice MDF would be a far better choice.
That's interesting. Natural wood would be worse than chipboard. OK, why? Bearing in mind that he wants narrow storage for metalworking stuff, I'll be watching your answer with interest.
 

Inspector

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Having a metal lathe and milling machine myself you will want to use cabinet plywood. The metal tool stuff get heavy fast. You haven't said what woodworking tools you have or have access to. If starting from scratch I would say a basic track saw to cut and size your material and a router to cut dados, rabbits and lap joints in addition to rounding over edges. The router doesn't need to be a big one for what you need. Clamps are needed unless you are going to use screws to hold it together until the glue dries as was pointed out earlier. Also very important is to get good eye protection, dust mask and ear protection. A hobby is no good if it hurts you. If you find a love of woodworking then you can run down the road of ever more tool acquisitions. The saw and router don't take up a lot of space and will be handy no matter how much woodworking you do. I would also recommend you go to the local library and borrow all the books you can to build your knowledge of woodworking. Lots of the EweTuber videos have bad advice and are a safety nightmare.

Enjoy yourself
Pete
 

ED65

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Is ply really needed, much less cabinet-grade? How much weight could a "small shallow cabinet" reasonably be loaded with, even if packed to the gunwales with cutter heads and tool rests?

I'm just looking back at the kitchens I've used over the years and the weights some shelves and drawer bottoms have withstood, stacked high with crockery or loaded with cast iron cookware. Surely with spans and depths much smaller than this even chipboard would be strong enough if used right, not that anyone is recommending chipboard anyway.
 

Andy1989

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Thanks for the advice guys.
For reference the cabinet will only be 500 or 600mm wide, and no more than 150mm deep, so the spans will be pretty small.
Also its only a mini lathe so non of the accessories are particularly heavy, so strength shouldn't be an issue. The whole machine is only 40kg ish.

Tools wise iv got one of the titan track saw which a pretty happy with, (much better than the workzone / aldi one i sent back anyway!) and a small trim router. I threw together a dado jig too last night so im planning on making use of that.
Very good point about glasses, masks, and hearing protection. I never use any tool with glasses, but i must admit i dont wear a mask as much as i should even though i have some of the cheep disposable ones.

Gona head down to the timer shop tomorrow and see how much a half sheet of 12mm birch ply or simular is. Should be plenty for this job with extra left for mistakes!

I really like the look exposed ply edges. Is it just a case of lots of sanding and a clear coat?
What clear coat would you recommend?
 
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