Laser MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) and veneered laser MDF are engineered wood-based products that are used extensively in the construction and furniture/cabinet making industries, as well as the DIY and Maker markets. Its popularity has followed a steady upward slope since first being mass produced in the 80s.
The popularity is down to its impressive list of qualities when balanced against its cost. It's versatile, easy to work with, laser cuttable, and it's highly cost-effective. Although it retains the light brown colour of the woods that it has been made from, it is uniform in appearance, on both sides, due to the absence of grain or knots. This means that wear and tear on your tools is often less with MDF than with other wood products.
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What Is Laser MDF?
Although there is no official classification for laser grade MDF, Kitronik only sources MDF that conforms to E1 (low) formaldehyde levels. We also ensure that they comply with the lower levels required by CARB phase 2 (CARB Phase 2 compliant <0.11ppm).
We believe that E1 conforming MDF is the safest and best MDF for using in a laser cutter. Though all of our laser MDF sheets can be laser cut, the thicker the material the more prone scorching they are. It is worth bearing this in mind when choosing your material sizes. If a finish such as paint is to be applied, then this is less of an issue. In cases where a covering finish will not be applied, sandpaper can be used.
What is veneered MDF?
Veneered Laser MDF, typically, is a sheet of MDF with a thin wood veneer on each side, usually with one side being a better finish grade than the other. This helps to keeps costs down whilst also providing a premium finish where required. They are ideal for structural projects requiring a high-quality appearance and finish on both the topside and paneling. Veneered MDF is suitable for laser cutting.
A veneer is often a better choice than a solid wood sheet as you get the best of both worlds. You get all of the great mechanical properties of MDF combined with the aesthetics of a natural wood fascia.
There are two different cuts that can be used in veneer production:
- 'Quarter Cut' are cut at 90 degrees, producing the effect of a straight grain.
- 'Crown Cut' are sliced through the log, producing 'Crowns' and adding more character to the finish (as used on this product).
How is MDF made?
You can find MDF that is made from a variety of different base woods and with variations in the manufacturing process. The wood is first turned into wood chips, which pressed together into plugs in readiness for the next part of the process. The chips plugs are then fed into a machine called a defibrator which uses rotating disks and centrifugal force to separate the wood chips into fibres. The fibres are then mixed with wax and resin, which improve moisture resistance and reduce clumping respectively.
The fibres are then laid out into mats and subjected to pressure and heat. The heat activates the resin and the pressure sets the density. The boards may go through several stages of pressure forming and they may also be laminated for extra tensile strength.
What can MDF be used for?
As has been touched on previously, MDF is used for all sorts of purposes across many industries. The construction and furniture industries both use MDF extensively. It is as easy to work as Laser plywood, with which it can be used interchangeably. It has proven to be a popular choice in schools for making this such as project enclosures. With little more than a bit of sanding with 320 grit sandpaper, it's ready for the finish of your choosing.
It is also a great material for making routing templates as it's easy to work and its smooth surface allows for easy pencil marking. You can find MDF templates being used anywhere where there is a wood router. Luthiers, furniture makers are just two examples that spring to mind.
How can it be worked?
MDF can be worked in many of the same ways as other wood products, by hand, with powered tools, and with a laser cutter. It cuts easily with saws and routers and the edges/surfaces can quickly be cleaned up with a touch of sandpapering. Similarly, when laser cutting any scorching can usually be sanded out. The added bonus is that it won't wear tools bits as quickly as some other wood products.
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