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What is the best way to finish red oak MDF plywood? Answered

I am looking for a matte finish - but have heard that MDF can be really hard to stain.  Will I be ok if I just apply a satin finish or tung oil?  Anyone yielded good results with other methods?


The mdf is in the core only right? Finish the red oak as you would any solid red oak. The edges should be banded with red oak edge banding tape that can be finished the same way as the faces.

Ah ok - yes I was misinformed. It is an mdf core with double sided veneer. I know this is probably a really newbie question, but you can sand veneer without going through it right?

The veneer layer should be 1/32" to 1/16" or so thick. There should be enough material there to get a really smooth finish without going thru. Be careful if you're using a power sander.


7 years ago


1. Sand
2. Satin finish
3. Sand or scrape
4. Satin finish
5. Sand or scrape
6. Satin finish

Yep, that should do it. By "scrape" I mean scrape with a cabinet scraper - basically a sheet of precision-cut sheet metal that scrapes off a thin layer of wood or finish. In this case, it scrapes off all the tiny imperfections that "raise" after the first coat of finish, as well as any dust particles that get trapped in the finish and make it feel bumpy.

What grit sand paper should I use? Do I have to sand lightly to avoid going through the veneer or does that not matter?

Oh, you'd have to sand pretty aggressively to go through the veneer! An oscillating sander would work fine, but avoid using a belt sander.

As for what grit to use, start at 100 or 150 (first sand), then 220, then 320 (last sand). You could use 220 straight through if you don't want to buy so much sandpaper, though.

With MDF it is very important to seal out moisture so some sort of varnish is necessary. The problem with staining it is that cut edges take up the stain much more readily and end up darker than the flat surfaces. You are probably best applying a satin varnish. If you use a polyurethane varnish (easy clean, low vapour, but water based) you will need to sand down well after the first coat as it will make the surface fluff up. If you can find and use an oil based varnish you will get a better finish. I have no experience with tung oil on MDF so cannot comment on that.