! ! ! GOOD MDF ! ! ! BAD MDF ! ! !





Introduction: ! ! ! GOOD MDF ! ! ! BAD MDF ! ! !

I use MDF. 

I like GOOD MDF. 

I do not like BAD MDF...

Folks I know, and myself, have been using MDF with Laser Engravers, and the BAD MDF creates the soot you see on my hand in the photo, when used with the Laser Engravers.  AND THAT's NOT GOOD!!!

I had been going to Home Depot for the GOOD MDF, since other stores were carrying BAD MDF.

Home Depot stopped carrying GOOD MDF... I tried 3 different Home Depots, and they'd all migrated over to BAD MDF... I cleaned-them-out of any remaining GOOD MDF...

So I asked one the folks at the Home Depot Contractor's Desk if he knew how to get the GOOD MDF back in the store.  The only info he was able to provide, though, was the name of the distributor that supplies them with their MDF.

I make my stuff using 1/8" and 1/4" MDF at TechShop in San Jose....

Step 1: So I Called Their Distributor...

And the good folks at Universal Forest Products chatted with me, but did not understand what I was looking for - they only deal with MDF as a commodity for its mechanical properties.

That's a rotary-dial phone, by the way.  Pretty fun, but I never figured-out how to use Speed Dial on them...

Step 2: They Clued-me-in...

So I decided to drive up to Thornton, California, to show them directly what I was talking about. I brought some sample boxes for them to take home to the children...

This is not my car, but it looks really cool!!!  I laser-engraved one of these Lamborghinis into my son's skateboard, but that's another Instructable, maybe...

And they took me into their storage warehouses to show me the MDF they have.  They had extra safety glasses handy as we searched and found the products in question - dodged a few fork lifts, too. 

Cool warehouse, by the way - right on the rail line that the San Joaquins use, I believe...

Turns out that the GOOD MDF is from Plum Creek Timber here in the USA, and the BAD MDF is from Malaysia.

Universal Forest Products was willing to sell me a pallet or (literally) a rail-car load of MDF - but, just like the Lambo, that's outside my comfort zone...

Step 3: So I Called Plum Creek Timber

And they were very happy to let me know who distributes their MDF throughout California. 

Scary part is, I once worked for Pacific Northwest Bell in the building caddy-corner to their Seattle office - MANY moons ago...

Turns out, there's a distributor very close to my local TechShop in San Jose!

Step 4: So Now I Have GOOD MDF Again!!!

And my Cub Scouts, son, and everyone else I make stuff for using MDF are as happy as ever!

Yay for GOOD MDF!!!

Oh yeah... I make my stuff at TechShop in San Jose....



    • Pocket-Sized Contest

      Pocket-Sized Contest
    • Pro Tips Challenge

      Pro Tips Challenge
    • Science of Cooking

      Science of Cooking

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.




    OK, Bwana Jim, who's the distributer?

    Aura hardwoods on Phelan just off Monterey Hwy. They only sell full sheets, though.

    I bought a bunch if you need to acquire just a bit. Let me know.

    Thank you for sharing the legwork! Good instructable author! :)

    You bet! Glad to help.


    I do not know the brands in USA, but the characteristics that you have to look are the following :

    - the color , the more yellow is the color of the panel the more softwood includes this make it smoother in processing , better fom CNC , Veneering . The darker is the color more hardwood includes , this make it stronger. So you have to choose what you need.

    - The density . All companies have data sheet of the panels . One normal MDF has to be 700-750 kg/M3 , lower than this number will cause problem in final application. More over for detailed jobs you may use HDF with density 900-950kg/m3

    - Another thing you have to check the surface , if is sanded or not, A not good sanded surface will cause problems in the final product. Imagine the veneer will unglue .

    - Last but not least is the tollerance. +/- 0,1/0,2 mm is a good tollerance. When you make a table you want all the surface to be 16mm for examble and not 15,8mm in one corner and 16,7 in the other....

    Really known MDF producers are from Brazil , France and Canada.

    Aura Hardwoods carries the good MDF


    How do you tell good MDF from BAD MDF when looking at it in the store?

    There is no scientific method to tell which is good (non-sooty) or bad (sooty) just by looking at it at the store or lumberyard.

    Most of the time, though, I have found that the GOOD MDF has more of an orange tinge to it. The BAD MDF has been browner - not so much orange.

    I will usually buy a small quantity to test to see if it's the good stuff. I have found that all the MDF from the USA has been the GOOD quality stuff.

    The picture at the top of this Instructable gives an idea of how some is more orange and some is more brown.

    I came across this article, and wanted to add some input:

    New Sanctions on MDF Manufacturing in the USA caused several MDF Manufacturers to go out of Business. The Manufacturing Process creates several environmental problems. Now, MDF Manufacturing is 'blowing-up' in local Countries, such as Chile. It's actually unfortunate- as South America is a BEAUTIFUL country, and MDF Manufacturing Plants are DESTROYING the Land and Sea Animal Population, AND the localized industries, such as fishing. (i.e. MDF Manufacturing kills the fish, thus there are no fish to fish for)

    The MDF you are looking for, is a brand called Ultralite. Ultralite is considered a Light Density Fiberboard, instead of Medium Density. Lighter Density involves a less destructive manufacturing process, which I'm lead to believe (unconfirmed) used less formaldahyde, and glues. You are left with a product that is most suitable for interior uses and crafts; and not as durable or water resistant as Exterior Grade MDF (High Density; Masonite) or regular MDF. Most notably, this Ultralite Brand, is more porous, which allows air to flow through the material very easily. I use it for a Vacuum Table on my CNC Router, and it cuts infinitely better than your traditional MDF (on Laser Cutters, and on the CNC Mills/Routers).

    This link is helpful: