Making tool table surfaces from MDF - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 Old 11-09-2013, 08:00 AM Thread Starter
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Making tool table surfaces from MDF

I need a table saw and had plans to get one earlier in the year, but life happened and plans changed. I currently cannot afford the Craftsman 21833 I was eyeballing. Also been watching Craigslist for a deal but all I've seen is overpriced junk.

However, I need/want a saw so badly that I took the old jobsite saw I had and disassembled it completely, with plans to spend about $100 and build a new, larger table and cabinet, patterned after the appearance of contractor saws, using MDF for the sides and the surface and also make a clamp down fence from the same materials. I am/was going to mount the old motor and all the controls and adjustments to the new table. Since I was going this route I was also going to make a dust collecting area below the saw with a vacuum hose port. I even have a plan for how to make the splayed leg design of other new and modern contractor saws. I even thought I might add a wing for a router table and share the fence with it.

My question is, with just a purely MDF surface, how long will this last before beginning to show signs of surface wear? It won't help to do this unless the surface remains smooth and slick, and also flat.

Finally, let me say I know it's a wild idea, and I may be better off just skipping it, but I need a saw to work with now and the way mine was set up just wasn't working. I feel that with the plastic, light weight cabinet it was in, and the poor, rickety sheet metal leg stand it was mounted to, and also the crappy fence that would not stay tight or square on the table, I was getting poor quality cuts even for a jobsite saw.

My plan is to make this much heavier cabinet, get a Freud Diablo 10" rip blade, and have a much more stable saw with a lot less vibration, and have a larger work surface (32" x 32" so it fits out the door if needed, 32" x 48" if I add the router wing). If it doesn't work as well as I wanted, I can sell it for the little money invested. As the saw was though, I don't feel it was worth even $50 so at the risk of losing that resale value I'm willing to try this idea. It will be at least worth what I spend when finished. I've also thought of using a laminate top but the local Lowe's sells sheets of laminate for countertops at nearly $100 alone.

Last edited by Duane Bledsoe; 11-09-2013 at 08:14 AM.
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post #2 of 13 Old 11-09-2013, 08:52 AM
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Just plain laminate shouldn't be that expensive. Buy it from a cabinetmakers supply near you. Look in your local Yellow Pages for 'woodworking supplies', 'plastics...sheets rods, tubes', or 'plastic laminate'. Look for suppliers, like Formica, Nevamar, Pionite, Micarta, Laminart, Wilson Art. Those distributors also sell a wide variety of sheet goods and general woodworking supplies to the trade. Most have a 'walk up counter' or a 'cash sales' area, where non trades can buy.

In lieu of using a laminate, just start off with Melamine. It will work out well.






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post #3 of 13 Old 11-09-2013, 08:57 AM
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mdf appears to be sawdust solidified with binders employing paper surfaces. i'ce used it a lot for trim and moldings but don't much care for it for structural projects. IMHO, the paper surface of the mdf wouldn't hold up in a TS environment as well as a good cabinet grade of plywood would.

there is a poster on bt3central, rod kirby, who uses mdf extensively in all his shop projects, including shop cabinets. maybe a posting over there to him would provide some good, first hand info.

there's a solution to every problem.....you just have to be willing to find it.
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post #4 of 13 Old 11-09-2013, 09:19 AM Thread Starter
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Toolguy1000, when you mention cabinet grade plywood, is the 3/4 oak ply, or the one they call blonde wood, either one, at Lowe's comparable to this, or is it the same thing? It's only about $10 more than MDF is. I know it's just veneered though so the surface would be fairly thin. I suppose I could put a Varathane finish on it. That would make it slick and a lot more durable, two traits that I would think would be desirable in a table saw surface.

Last edited by Duane Bledsoe; 11-09-2013 at 09:36 AM.
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post #5 of 13 Old 11-09-2013, 09:23 AM Thread Starter
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Cabinetman, you just gave me a great, great, great idea. I completely forgot my brother in law owns a cabinet and countertop shop. He lives out of town, and I don't often think of family as resources for anything I need, but there's probably a source of surface materials right there. Heck, I could probably score a granite slab for much less than I'd think, though I believe that would be a little overkill for a project like this. I'm sure I can get something there, maybe even free if it's scrap or blemished materials. There's also corian with plywood backing. Similar to granite in looks, and very durable. With the plywood backing I can mill the underside to hold the saw guts like the old aluminum table top was. Man, this might end up being the nicest cheap saw anybody ever did see.

Last edited by Duane Bledsoe; 11-09-2013 at 09:33 AM.
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post #6 of 13 Old 11-09-2013, 09:23 AM
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How about this instead. These are darn good saws.

http://swva.craigslist.org/tls/4176203533.html

The tools don't make the craftsman....
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post #7 of 13 Old 11-09-2013, 10:19 AM
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It sounds like your plan is coming along!

I would go with buying an older saw over making one. With about $10 in sand paper and WD-40 you can turn a rusted saw into a shinny one.
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post #8 of 13 Old 11-09-2013, 11:25 AM
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I second Cabinetman, the average cost of 5/8" mdf is around $32 a sheet around here, 5/8" melamine is $30 a little cheaper and structurally stronger, not to mention already has laminate on it. I used to use mdf for all my jig, I have almost completely gone to melamine for jigs, they work ssooo much better.

edit: ok way way off topic, but when I seen your post (from the OP Bledsoe)... I immediately started thinking about the movie "Run Silent Run Deep" with Burt Lancaster, being a retired Navy man, one of my favorite movies. That's my trivia useless info for the day...old folks will get the connection....lol

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post #9 of 13 Old 11-09-2013, 04:05 PM
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Man, I took a quick look at your local Craigslist... and you are in no man's land when it comes to used tools. I never really realized how lucky I am to have so many around here.
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post #10 of 13 Old 11-10-2013, 12:33 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ryan50hrl View Post
How about this instead. These are darn good saws.

http://swva.craigslist.org/tls/4176203533.html
I saw that but Bluefield VA is a heck of a long way away from me. I'm in Ashland, KY.
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post #11 of 13 Old 11-10-2013, 12:46 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Doomi View Post
Man, I took a quick look at your local Craigslist... and you are in no man's land when it comes to used tools. I never really realized how lucky I am to have so many around here.
Oh man, it sucks. Add to that, that I'm probably overly picky when it comes to things being used. As in, I never go there, mainly because I'm afraid of buying somebody else's problematic junk. Another reason is I've never really seen anything used that's been taken well enough care of for me to be interested in it. Rusted table tops would be one thing, but missing parts, damage not shown in pics online, and boxes and old auto parts piled on the table all covered in cobwebs and years worth of dust from just being nearly abandoned out in some shed, and maybe $50-100 overpriced on a lot of stuff, this is the sort of conditions I tend to find used items in when I go to look at anything. Some stuff is advertised as working, but then I get there and I'm told, "well it was working the last time I used it". When was that exactly, five years earlier? LOL. That will turn a fellow off to used stuff fast after a few wasted trips. I've been seeing cheapy, used jobsite saws on there for $75, and on up to $150. I can buy a new one as cheap as $200, NOT even on sale. I see old contractor saws looking like they've been through a war for sale for $200+ at times.

Last edited by Duane Bledsoe; 11-10-2013 at 12:52 AM.
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post #12 of 13 Old 11-10-2013, 12:58 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by GoNavy429 View Post
I second Cabinetman, the average cost of 5/8" mdf is around $32 a sheet around here, 5/8" melamine is $30 a little cheaper and structurally stronger, not to mention already has laminate on it. I used to use mdf for all my jig, I have almost completely gone to melamine for jigs, they work ssooo much better.

edit: ok way way off topic, but when I seen your post (from the OP Bledsoe)... I immediately started thinking about the movie "Run Silent Run Deep" with Burt Lancaster, being a retired Navy man, one of my favorite movies. That's my trivia useless info for the day...old folks will get the connection....lol
I haven't even seen any melamine coated wood other than 12" wide particle board shelves that Lowe's sells. They don't have sheets that I've seen. I didn't think particle board would be good to use for much, given its tendency to swell when moistened and also breaking easily. I really only think of that material as a bad choice for underlayment on floors. I never use it at all. Don't really know what its intended purpose is or why they make it, other than cheap underlayment. Maybe speaker boxes, but even there MDF is better. Are we talking about the same stuff?

Here we have 3/4 in MDF. They don't sell the 5/8. Home Depot does but I don't keep up with what they have too much since they're almost an hour away from me. They might even have the Melamine coated wood there.

Last edited by Duane Bledsoe; 11-10-2013 at 01:02 AM.
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post #13 of 13 Old 11-10-2013, 01:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duane Bledsoe View Post
I haven't even seen any melamine coated wood other than 12" wide particle board shelves that Lowe's sells. They don't have sheets that I've seen. I didn't think particle board would be good to use for much, given its tendency to swell when moistened and also breaking easily. I really only think of that material as a bad choice for underlayment on floors. I never use it at all. Don't really know what its intended purpose is or why they make it, other than cheap underlayment. Maybe speaker boxes, but even there MDF is better. Are we talking about the same stuff?

Here we have 3/4 in MDF. They don't sell the 5/8. Home Depot does but I don't keep up with what they have too much since they're almost an hour away from me. They might even have the Melamine coated wood there.
You'll probably not going to find it in the box stores (lowes, home depot) and even if you do find it, most likely will be small portions 4x4 or 2x4 and 1/2 inch cheap stuff. I have a local lumber yard that carries good melamine in various thicknesses and full sheets. It is used allot for cabinet making, book cases etc..very little if any finish work needed. Might be able check with some cabinet shops in your area if you don't have a real lumber yard as opposed to over price box stores.

If you seal the cut ends correctly there is very little chance of swelling. In fact I have an outdoor cat tree right now that has melamine platforms with just outdoor carpet on them, been outside for about a year now. Hasn't swelled up yet. If you can get a hold of contractor grade melamine it is almost like a Formica, it is actually very water proof, but you do have seal the cut end and any screws if you plan on it being in a wet environment. The contractor grade stuff is denser then regular particle board I believe, and the formica type covering will be thermally fused onto it. I wouldn't think your shop would not be a wet environment...lol... I haven't bothered sealing anything I do in the shop, haven't had any problems. I have to admit, I am a convert, I love this stuff.
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