Bench/Wainscot build questions - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 01-23-2015, 12:41 PM Thread Starter
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Bench/Wainscot build questions

Fairly new to serious wood working and have a couple quick questions about a project I'm planning, hoping someone with more experience can provide some insight.

I'm planning to build something very similar to the image below in a back hall:

My questions are as follow.

1) What's the best way to do the paneling if you don't want to put a half round or bead board over the panel edge (square finish)? Most folks seem to cut panels to fit, but it seems like that might leave gaps. I can't just do a giant panel along the whole wall (which is what the folks who lived here previously did elsewhere) because the end is open (it would show). Not a huge issue, but I was thinking of routing out some kind of lap joint for each panel so that they disappear under the stiles... does that make sense?

2) It seems like the most economical option is to use NAF MDF for everything, but are there any concerns with MDF vs Ply? I'll be painting everything, but I'm particularly concerned about the bench (see picture) since we'll have shoes, jackets, and other potential incidental water. Should I use ply for the bench support and MDF for everything above that (wainscoting)?

3) I've read about the benefits of pocket screws for the wainscoting framing, which makes sense. However, will that work okay with MDF? Does MDF have the strength for screws to grab? I have both a brad and finish nailer, should I nail it instead?

4) What size material do most folks recommend? My jam at the door is 5/8", so should I use 1/2" MDF for the stiles with lap joints/inset panels? Or should I just go with 3/4"? Will that 1/8" be really apparent (about 2' apart)?

Thanks in advance for any advice or help, kind of suffering some analysis paralysis as I look to iron out the details.

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post #2 of 5 Old 01-30-2015, 11:01 AM Thread Starter
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post #3 of 5 Old 01-30-2015, 12:29 PM
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I would do a butt joint on the rail/stiles. if they had a profile, it would be done like a door with a negative profile on the top/bottom of the stiles. You could do a tounge/groove joint for strength/alignment if you so desire. seems like alot of work though. maybe a biscuit would be a good choice here.

I would use ply, or even solid wood for the bench. That nice bullnose edge with a one peice grain will stand out better IMO. If cost is a concern, go with ply. If this is an entry way where you might have wet shoes making puddles, I would make the lower cubbies out of ply. MDF above the seat all the way.

You can use screws in MDF, you should drill a pilot hole. Pocket holes typically only drill 1 side of the joint, Kreg screws are supposedly self tappingfor that reason, my experience using them on 3/4" MDF has worked fine. Never used it on 1/2" though. Maybe test that out before you go full speed ahead.

I think 1/2" mdf is par for it. you certainly dont want your wainscoting to protrude past the door IMO.
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post #4 of 5 Old 01-30-2015, 09:07 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply, great stuff.

On the rails/stiles, per your note my plan was to pocket screw the boards together, using a simple butt joint and wood glue. Whether that has enough strength to hold or not I don't know, but it seems like it just has to make it to the wall (since I'll then be nailing it into the joists). tongue and groove is more effort than I'm looking to put in, and I don't really trust myself to try and cut out biscuit holes. :)

On the MDF, I'm actually thinking of just using 5/8" with a lap joint kind of job for the 1/4" panel (rails and stiles on wall, 1/4" panel inset 3/4" underneath). A little extra routing, but it'll help hide that edge while ensuring the entire rig is only 5/8" off the wall (same as the jam). Thoughts?

My biggest concern is really the strength of the MDF with the pocket holes. What does ply look like on the edges when you use it for stiles? Does it hide or cover? Or is the only good way of getting a decent edge real wood or MDF?

Finally on the bench, yeah, I'm leaning towards ply for costs... trying to save money, and not looking to drop $$$ on real wood if I don't have to. The nice thing with the bench is that I'll be edging with 1x2 poplar, which will hide all the sides of the ply sheets. Hence my concern on that open edge by the jam, which is the only unfinished edge I have to worry about across my projects.

Thanks again for the insights!


Last edited by rtilghman; 01-30-2015 at 09:30 PM.
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post #5 of 5 Old 01-31-2015, 12:04 AM
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if its really good plywood, maybe you could paint the edge and be alright. most ply might have voids in the core that would mess you up.

I thought you were doing a half lap on the rail/stiles. I agree that it would be good for the inlay panels. certainly gives room for error with the fitment.
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