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Picture of ! ! !  GOOD MDF   ! ! !  BAD MDF  ! ! !
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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....


 
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Step 1: So I Called Their Distributor...

Picture of 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...

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!!!

Picture of 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....
bgerens2 years ago
OK, Bwana Jim, who's the distributer?
togo1919 (author)  bgerens2 years ago
Bob-O!
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.
oldmicah2 years ago
Thank you for sharing the legwork! Good instructable author! :)
togo1919 (author)  oldmicah2 years ago
You bet! Glad to help.
bschrempp4 months ago

Aura Hardwoods carries the good MDF

http://aurahardwoods.com/locations/

bschrempp4 months ago

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

togo1919 (author)  bschrempp4 months ago

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.

togo1919 (author)  togo19194 months ago

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

P. ZachA5 months ago

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:

http://www.primelineinc.com/brochures/prime-lite_vs_%20ultra-lite.pdf

P. ZachA5 months ago

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).

mikeasaurus2 years ago
I liked the story, but after disclosing all the people you spoke with to hunt down your MDF you don't disclose who your end contact/source was. An "end" to this story that others, not in California, could replicate would be such a resource.
togo1919 (author)  mikeasaurus2 years ago
The name of the manufacturer is provided. Their number can be located online and they can be contacted by anyone in the USA.
I see it there now.
So you're saying MDF from good ol' USA is better than form overseas, but don't say why. Is it the method of construction, or maybe the glue used? How do you know the same process isn't done domestically and you got a "good" batch? I think this is a good experience, but crave more on "why" one is better.
makermike2 years ago
Hey, did I see your Cub scout token sitting above the laser cutter yesterday? Anyways, thanks for doing the legwork on this. I plan on starting to use MDF soon and want to use the good stuff!
togo1919 (author)  makermike2 years ago
Yup. That was the one that looked like a half-eaten cookie...