Medium Density Fibreboard
MDF or medium density fibreboard are made from the fibres of different board is hardwoods and softwoods that are then combined with wax and a resin adhesive with high pressure and heat. MDF panels are smooth to the touch and have no visible wood grain.
MDF is often mistaken for particleboard but there is a crucial difference; whereas particleboard is made from wood dust, MDF is made from small fibres. As a result, MDF is stronger than particleboard. It also costs more.
Plywood suppliers in the UK will first select straight trees that are relatively free of knots. These are called peeler logs or ply logs.
They are called peeler logs because after they are debarked and cut into 8-inch sections, each section is then peeled into ribbons by a lathe. These ribbons are then further processed into veneered sheets that are treated to prevent rot. These sheets are in turn then stacked on top of each other to the desired thickness, patched with glue, and then baked in a press at 284 degrees Fahrenheit and with a pressure of 280 psi.
Plywood vs MDF
With its smooth surface with no visible wood grain, Medium Density Fibreboard is ideal for surfacing doors, baseboards, and interior furniture. MDF is far less durable than plywood, however, and it can be damaged easily if it is not handled with care. For instance, if you don’t use a countersink drill bit with MDF it will likely split. What’s more, MDF is not meant to support that much weight and it will start to sag, so it’s not to be used for shelving—only to surface the shelves.
In contrast, the cross grain of plywood makes it far more stable across all dimensions. It also stands up to extreme outdoor temperatures and humidity; whereas MDF panels will warp when it’s cold and wet, plywood will maintain its strength and shape.
Simply put, plywood is what you need for structural panels and for the exterior, while MDF is to be used to surface furniture inside the home or office.
Another consideration is the price, and MDF is almost always less expensive than plywood. However, plywood suppliers in the UK will vary the prices of plywood according to its grade and the type of peeler log, with the pricier plywood being better looking with natural grains. Lower grade and cheaper plywood is suitable for sub-flooring and other construction applications where it won’t be seen.