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Droogs

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As do IKEA products @Jacob, it is human hubris that causes them to have a short lifespan. A bookcase made of a modern man-made material will outlive any wooden version in a modern home with central heating on in winter and off in summer. The massive difference in humidity (caused by this unnatural cycle) will cause stresses that will over a relatively short time-span cause the "true" wooden furntiture to fail. The amount and speed of cell shrinkage caused by CH is never fully negated in the natural material upon re-expansion when the CH is turned of thus leading to structural failure. Been there done that., had a beautiful bedroom suite hand made in the early 30's very high end Art Deco, moved from a house with 2 coal fires to one with central air CH and within 6 months the suite was quite literally only good for firewood. Yeah Yeah Jacob - I could have fixed it but the avaerage person can't. The chipboard and the mdf pieces of furniture coped with the move far more successfully. the production of mdf is not a massive producer of carbon as it uses plantation and recycled wood and is part of a cycle in which as wood is cut down it is replaced. the whole process uses atmospheric carbon or can do depending on who supplies the power. It need not use any newly release carbon in the system at all and actively has measures that help captre excess carbon by planting more trees than they take.

As to durability, my MIL is still using the bookcases and side tables she proudly bought in a certain blue and grey shop (the first in the country) in Warrington 33 years ago.
 
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Jacob

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As do IKEA products @Jacob, it is human hubris that causes them to have a short lifespan. A bookcase make of a modern man-made material will outlive any wooden version in a modern home with central heating on in winter and off in summer. The massive difference in humidity will cause stresses that will over a relatively short timespan cause the "true" wooden furntiture to fail. ......
Couldn't be wronger!
Trad furniture is largely designed with humidity/temperature variations in mind, which is why it lasts so well.
Had to be in the old days of draughty rooms, steamy kitchens, open fires, icy rooms, single glazing, much wider extremes than modern interiors.
Every detail designed to take into account grain direction and potential movement, including joints left loose to allow movement; drawer runners loose fitted in solid sided cabinets, table tops fixed with buttons in slots, breadboard ends with just one fixed point and slotted holes for dowels, panels in frames loose, or glued on one long grain edge only, pegs through M&Ts fitted close to the stile to keep the joint tight, and so on.
I've got bits of my grandparents stuff over 100 years old including items which have never even needed repair or maintenance.
It can go wrong if some eagle eyed amateur decides to glue or screw in the drawer runners or drawer bottoms and then blame the furniture for the splits which follow.
Bin there dunnit - I split a 4' diameter round Georgian mahogany table top by 'cleverly' fixing the sub frame and taking no notice of the careful design details. It went off with a loud crack weeks later. Got it back together again and did it properly and its been OK for a few years now.
 
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Droogs

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Yes Jacob for a slow gradually changing cycle through the year where the average humidity in the UK through the year is 87%. Not for a modern cycle where the house can drop from a rough internal average of 60-70% to less than 30% in the coarse of 3 days and stay there for 5 months before rocketing back up. Cellular degredation and deminishing elacsticity of the woods cell wall due to such rapid changes means solid wood in the long term can not adapt fast enough or cope with those rapid extremes. The process is too fast in a modern home and just like in a kiln running too fast will lead to shakes and other failures.
 

Droogs

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I like what you say Droogs but I've never done any veneering. Have you got any tips/pointers as to how to get started on that ? (eg Veneer suppliers, method, tools, veneer press etc)
I will try to put a small resource article together and get it up in the next couple of days
 

Jacob

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Yes Jacob for a slow gradually changing cycle through the year where the average humidity in the UK through the year is 87%. Not for a modern cycle where the house can drop from a rough internal average of 60-70% to less than 30% in the coarse of 3 days and stay there for 5 months before rocketing back up. Cellular degredation and deminishing elacsticity of the woods cell wall due to such rapid changes means solid wood in the long term can not adapt fast enough or cope with those rapid extremes. The process is too fast in a modern home and just like in a kiln running too fast will lead to shakes and other failures.
You obviously don't remember the bad old days where you could wake up with thick ice on the windows which didn't melt until you had a roaring fire going for an hour or so, driven by a draught from under the door! Levels were much more extreme and rapidly changing back then, otherwise what would be the point of modern gently controlled heating, ventilation and insulation.
 

Droogs

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Jacob those are the current good days for me. My house has half a floor and no CH only a woodstove as heating. The floor collapsed it all had to be replaced but worked stopped due to first lockdown and me being put into shielding. I wake up to beautiful Ice leaf grain crystals on my windows every morning at the moment and they only go once the woodstove heats ups. Yes I have very quick temperature changes but not humidity changes

rapid humidity changes are what kills wooden furniture not temperature changes (unless they reach 451F) :)
 

Jacob

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Your relative humidity is what counts and will be changing as fast as the room heats or cools.
Trad woodwork is designed to cope with your environment! Short of actually being rained upon!
If it kills wooden furniture how come so much of it survives?
Incidentally the loose drawer runner thing is something which puzzled me at first but was reminded of it in a thread a bit back where somebody had glued them in and split the sides of his chest of drawers. Can't find it now I'll have a search.
PS found it 1840's Scottish chest
 
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Spectric

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Hi all

Yes as much as I dislike MDF it has its uses, it is as cheap as chips and suits our modern way of living where people value cost and looks more than underlying quality and don't need it to last long enough to become a family heirloom. We all remember MFI, wall units that had to be proped up and doors that fell off and once in place could not be moved otherwise you just ended up with a mess.

The one big advantage of MDF furniture is that once you have had enough of it then with a simple push it returns to its flatpack state and is easily transported to the nearest recycling centre. MDF is ok for our workbench tops and jigs where it gets abused and then is easily replaced.

Having used Birch ply it's only downside is cost, plus you need to edge it unless you like the exposed look. How many people here would continue to use MDF if Birch ply was only say 20% more expensive?
 

JBaz

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Coming back to the 900mm wide bookcase, for a painted finish MDF (Moisture Resistant preferably) will do a good job provided the shelves are braced.

For me 22mm is overkill. If it is yet to be bought, 18mm will be fine.

To cover the edges I use Tulip/Poplar fixed with biscuits or a loose tongue. Tulip has very few knots, works easily and has almost no visible grain when sanded. It takes paint very well too. If you make the edging slightly wider than the thickness of the MDF it can be sanded back flush. If you need to, fill the join with P38 car filler and sand that back. You can use P38 to fill the edges, but an edging strip is better.

MDF has has very little resistance to sagging and books are heavy, so the shelves will need some help. I tend to make the front edge strip 30mm deep (still with Tulip, but any hard wood will work) and put a 50mm strip at the back protruding 32mm (for 18mm MDF) above the shelf. This will stop things on the shelf falling off the back as well.

To join the shelves to the sides I use biscuits. I'm sure dowels will work as well, but not screws as MDF will just split if you try to screw into the edge. It might be worth considering only permanently fixing some of the shelves and leaving others adjustable in height.

For painting, spray it if you can. If not, thin the paint (I use Farrow and Ball Estate Eggshell, which is water based and gives an excellent finish) and apply more coats. Also, a good brush (I use Purdy) makes a world of difference and if you wash it with soap and water after each use* it will last a long time.

*Even if you use oil based paint, wash with soap and water after getting the paint off with solvent

Hope this helps.
 

recipio

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If there is no back to the bookcase then you need absolutely rigid joints. If you are not into cutting dados then consider screwing the whole thing together using confirmat screws. They use a dedicated drill bit with a 10 mm head so can be plugged and painted over. They make unbreakable joints imo. Personally I hate painting over good solid wood so I would consider using blockboard which is the most rigid sheet board of all. It costs almost as much as 18 mm baltic ply but you are good for a few more projects out of one sheet. ;)
 
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TheTiddles

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Anyone who considers MDF as only for disposable cheap furniture has been living under a considerable misunderstanding.

We used to have a desk in the show-room/office and people would occasionally come in and demand pieces “in solid wood... like this” gesturing at the desk, made from MDF.

Aidan
 

TheTiddles

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I recently made a run of built in units, used turbo gold #8 screws into the side of cheap and nasty 19mm veneered MDF with no pilots driven in by impact driver. Not one single split.

Yes, I did several tests first.

Aidan
 

boggy

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Remenber that Jesus, a carpenter, did not use MDF, nor ply though I suppose he would have if it had been available
 

Droogs

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i would love to do everything in solid but it is just not practical, economical nor ethical.

For the man in sandals ply was old hat even in his day having been invented at least 1500 years before he came along.
 

TheTiddles

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i would love to do everything in solid but it is just not practical, economical nor ethical.

For the man in sandals ply was old hat even in his day having been invented at least 1500 years before he came along.
50 shekels if you can do a 4-way match in solid ;)
 

James555

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I appear to have started a debate....
FWIW I do like the stability of MDF, no knots, no breakout.
I'm sticking with 22mm MDF as I'm committed now.
A snag is that Festool domino 500's seem to be widely out of stock (I was about to buy one for this and future projects).
In light of this and comments above, I'm thinking of lipping the shelves front and back with redwood (glue and biscuits) and fixing to the uprights with biscuits, glue and screws through the sides. I can fill the holes with with two-part filler.
The shelf spans are actually 856mm after accounting for the 2x22mm uprights, so a little less.
 

robgul

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