Medium Density Fiberboard as substrate for photo mounting
January 12, 2006 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for pre-cut/sized MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) in the 8x10 inch range. It is fairly easy to come by in the UK but it is proving difficult to acquire in the US in pieces smaller than 4x8 foot sheets.

I'm familiar with art-boards, but I am looking for other sources. I've checked all the usual suspects including big boxes (lowes, HomeDepot, etc.) and online art stores (dickblick, etc.) with no luck. Any ideas?
posted by shoepal to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Home Depot will cut it to size for you. I'm not sure if you then have to pay for a whole sheet, but perhaps you can find someone else who needs part of a sheet.
posted by bondcliff at 10:03 AM on January 12, 2006

In NYC most lumber yards will cut for $1 per cut. Don't forget to consider the 1/8 inch consumed by the blade if you are working out a cut list.

It can be quite tricky minimizing the total number of cuts if you are doing a variety of sizes from one board.

MDF is unusual in that it comes in 5' x 10' as well as 4' x 8'.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:20 AM on January 12, 2006

That's odd. My Home Depot(s) sells 2x4 and 1x2 (foot) sheets of MDF in a few different thicknesses. It's in a different aisle than the big sheets, but it should be there.
posted by GuyZero at 10:44 AM on January 12, 2006

I'm trying to avoid having HD do the cutting as they don't tend to be very, um, accurate or particularly friendly, especially when dividing a 4x8 sheet into more than a dozen or so smaller pieces.

GuyZero, I'll check my HD again tonight. I found some MDF-like shelving on a separate aisle, but they were still huge pieces in comparison to what I want/need.
posted by shoepal at 11:18 AM on January 12, 2006

"'I'm familiar with art-boards, but I am looking for other sources."
NFMP- 8x10 7 3/4" x 9 3/4" $13.11
At those prices no wonder.

Most home reno places that offer cutting don't even try for any accuracy though panel saws are pretty good even if you don't try. If you can handle the smaller 2X4 sheets easy then MDF is easy if very messy to cut with just a jig saw or skil saw. If I didn't have the ability to cut this myself and I needed at least a full sheet worth I'd see if I could find a local woodworking club who could help me find someone to cut it up. With a sled for a table saw (or sliding table) you could crank out 8X12 (or whatever) sized pieces pretty quick. No way it would work out to $13 a piece. (48 pieces per sheet * $13 = $624!) Even at $2 per cut 4+(12*4)=$104 + cost of materials would give you a cost of less than 1/3. You'd have to make the hanging slots though. If you can't find anyone local drop me an email maybe we can work something out Shipping from Canada will be harsh because of the mass of MDF but it would still work out to less than US$13 each I'd bet.

StickyCarpet writes "MDF is unusual in that it comes in 5' x 10' as well as 4' x 8'."

This isn't that unusual, any decent plywood supplier can get 4X8, 8X4 (the grain runs the other way) 5X10, 5X12, and 5X5, plywood in assorted cores (block, veneer, particle, ply) and finishes (CD, AC, veneer(sliced or rotary cut), MDO, etc.).
posted by Mitheral at 11:28 AM on January 12, 2006

At my home depot and lowes as well there's a section with a bunch of cubbyholes with different 1x1 up to 2x4 pieces of plywood and MDF in different thicknesses. The price is kinda stinky, however, compared to buying 4x8 and cutting it down.

Any hostility you're experiencing on getting cuts done, aside from basic sloth, is probably because you're looking for a precise cut. In theory they don't do precision cuts, they offer this service just for rough rips. In practice I've found them quite agreeable if I just chat them up a bit. They'll also do them if you push about it, just to avoid a row with the customer, but usually there's a sign claiming they don't do precise measurements.

Depending on your need perhaps you should consider picking up a $100 table saw and just getting HD to cut the MDF down into transporable sizes....
posted by phearlez at 11:33 AM on January 12, 2006

Look in the same area where they sell smaller sheets of plywood, pegboard, etc. Like phearlez, it'll be in cubbyholes, stored vertically.
posted by GuyZero at 11:49 AM on January 12, 2006

Thanks for the offer, Mitheral. I'll keep that in mind. I'm sure customs would be beyond perplexed by a box of MDF.

I've considered the skil saw option. Also, I have access to a table saw (my dad's), so that is a possibility, especially if I can get HD to slice the 4x8 sheet into more manageable pieces.

I was hoping to avoid the "cut it yourself" option, but it seems like it is by far the cheapest and most readily available. Though neither the skil nor the table saw are going to be as accurate as something pre-cut by a machine. Oh well.

Thanks for all your help. (I'm off to start a company that sells pre-cut MDF in the US!)
posted by shoepal at 11:50 AM on January 12, 2006

Like phearlez, it'll be in cubbyholes, stored vertically.

Like phearlez said, it should have been. I have no idea where Home Depot stores phearlez.
posted by GuyZero at 12:18 PM on January 12, 2006

If you want smaller, manageable MDF look for the MDF shelving. I've seen it both primed and bare, and if you have access to a table saw it's no sweat to cut. One cut at the store, maximum--and that's just if it's too long for you.

This is assuming you want 3/4 inch thick. At my local Home Depot I have had problems sometimes getting MDF shelving that wasn't bullnosed on one edge, but if you're ripping it down to 8x10 it doesn't really matter to you.

Also, look for the bin in the back by the saw that stores all their offcuts/waste/bargain pieces. You can get stuff there like half or quarter sheets/lengths, or slightly damaged stuff for a few bucks apiece. Perfect if you didn't want the whole piece anyway. I've gotten, for example, 4' lengths of 2X4 (didn't need it longer than that) and half sheets of 1/4 inch melamine for templates for extremely good prices.

Use your first purchase to set up jigs to cut up subsequent purchases if you're going to be making a lot of these.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:31 PM on January 12, 2006

Oh, forgot to mention that MDF shelving is 1x12 inches (nominal, actual can be slightly less) and various lengths (approximately 4-8 feet or so). Much easier than a sheet.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:33 PM on January 12, 2006

A custom kitchen cabinet-making shop would likely stock MDF (it's pretty standard for bases and non-visible sides) and be well-equipped to cut it. I bet you could find a shop that'd be happy to do it pretty cheaply.
posted by TimeFactor at 4:13 PM on January 12, 2006

Thanks, TimeFactor. I thought about checking out cabinet-makers for scraps, but having them cut pieces to order would be even better. I'll call a couple in the morn.
posted by shoepal at 6:37 PM on January 12, 2006

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