View Full Version : Cutting Melamine and MDF

03-19-2001, 12:25 AM
I wanted to make some cheap cabinets out of melamine or mdf. Which is better? Which is cheaper? But most of all, how do you cut either one. Would it be okay to use a standard wood cutting blade on my table saw? Also, what do you cover the edges with. I have never used melamine or mdf, but I want to give it a try. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks,

03-19-2001, 01:32 AM
Melamine is a bit more expensive than MDF, but both will work. Meamine has the advantage in that it has a factory paint coverage already. You need to have a good blade to cut ether because they chip with poor quality blades. My Oldham Professional 40 tooth combo cuts it without chipping.

Home centers sell tape that can be ironed on the edges to cover them. I use hardwood frames that cover the edge.

03-19-2001, 01:47 PM

Around here (Portland, OR) a 4'x8' sheet of melamine is cheaper than a 4'x8' sheet of mdf. It's very close though. Last I looked melamine was about $18 and mdf was about $19.50. As far as which would be better for a cabinet, it depends on what kind of cabinet, where it's going to be, & what kind of look/finish you want. Melamine is actually a high pressure laminate (not paint, sorry Lou). It's similar to the kind of laminate that you would do a counter top in, but it's thinner and comes already on the substrate (you don't use contact cement to put it on). It will chip unless you use a "good" blade. A lot of people use "triple chip" blades for melamine. I'm sure if you went to a home center & told them what you're cutting they could point you in the right direction. Mdf isn't as particular. A fine 80 tooth blade would probably be okay. Typically, melamine is "laid-up" on particle board, but you can get it on mdf or plywood too. Personally, I make my cabinets with melamine on pb, then "cover" it with 1/4" mdf if I want to paint it (as long as it has doors). If this is an open cabinet to be painted, I'd probably just use mdf alone. If it's a base cabinet, I put an add-on plywood toe-kick. Plywood makes a good toe-kick because it resists moisture better than pb & mdf (especially if the cabinet is something for the garage-tends to be more moisture there). Of the 3, mdf will swell the most if in contact with moisture (or water from a broken pipe--ie sink cabinet). You can also make the case out of melamine & then "cover" it in any wood you choose (1/4" ply for any finished ends & hardwood for the face). Whatever you choose, I recommend using 3/4" material. Although it's more expensive & heavier, it makes a stronger case/shelf, it's easier to shoot pins or use screws in the edge, & makes stronger biscuit & dado joints. Hope this helps. Good luck.


03-19-2001, 04:55 PM

I was using the term paint for simplicity. It is closer to paint than Plastic laminate. It uses some of the same material that is used to make a plastic laminate but the process of application is much more like a paint. It is no where near as resilient as Plastic Laminate, and as you have pointed out is much thinner.

Plastic laminate is a multiple layer of paper saturated with a plastic resin and coated with a thicker color coat. The melamine uses the color coat on top of the substrate of PB or mdf or ply.

To me it is still a "paint" factory applied and cured. Good stuff I use it for lots of stuff. But it is now where near a Plastic Laminate in its resilience or use.

03-19-2001, 06:03 PM

Interesting! I've never heard how it's made before. I use it quite a bit too. You're right, it's not as durable as laminate is. Still, it's more durable than most surfaces for cabinetry case parts and it's easy to clean. Not to mention that you don't have to "finish" it, like wood veneer products.


03-19-2001, 06:51 PM
Thanks Lou and Kelly. The information that ya'll provided was great. I dearly appreciate it. I would rather ask people on this forum about woodworking rather than people at the home centers. Most of the time they feed me BS. Anyways, thanks for the info.

Dave in the Charlottes
03-19-2001, 10:04 PM
No matter which one you choose make sure you pre-drill and coutersink if you yse screws. There are special screws you can get for the melamine but I use just the regular and works fine for me. My 2cents Dave

Sonny Edmonds
03-21-2001, 06:03 PM
I use an 80 tooth triple grind laminate and glue joint blade. Cuts it s m o o t h.....
feed speed is kinda critical to avoid toasting the cut edge where you might hesitate for a moment to shift your hands.
I use a feeder for consistant speed, myself. No browning.
Oh, and down here it's actually 49" x 97" for MDF, @ $18.75 per sheet of 3/4".