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Check out these two articles from the experts at Fine Woodworking:

"Tips for Painting MDF"

http://www.finewoodworking.com/Materials/MaterialsArticle.aspx?id=26508

"Three Steps to a Flawless Painted Finish", from Fine Woodworking #177, May/June 2005

http://www.finewoodworking.com/SkillsAndTechniques/SkillsAndTechniquesPDF.aspx?id=24144

-- Russ

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MDF is a great substrate for paint, so no problems there. I think the bigger question you have to ask yourself is if MDF is the right building material to use for something like a nightstand. But if you already thought it through and that's what you want to use, the painting should go great. I've been using lots of water-based stuff myself lately, and many times I'll coat the paint with a water-based topcoat. Plenty of protection for something like a nightstand.

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The edges on mdf is the real killer. The best cure for mdf "end grain" I've found is to use a 50/50 water/glue mix. Paint it on the edges, let dry, sand lightly, repeat til it stops soaking up the mix. Otherwise the ends will like like true crap compared to the top.

On a side note, at least around here baltic birch and red oak plywood are close in price to mdf. They would both make a better material choice to me if solid wood is off the table.

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I've also used drywall mud for the edges. I built a five piece credenza for my brother's record collection while he's been moving from apt to apt as a college student. It has held up remarkably well.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Regardless of what material you end up using if I were trying to get a smooth coat of paint on it I'd be shellacking it first, I used that technique on a birch desk once and it helped to seal the pores and I ended up with a much smoother final finish. Ifyou are thinking about oak or birch ply I'd also suggest birch, the grain will probably be tighter and you should end up with a better final painted finish.

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The edges on mdf is the real killer. The best cure for mdf "end grain" I've found is to use a 50/50 water/glue mix. Paint it on the edges, let dry, sand lightly, repeat til it stops soaking up the mix. Otherwise the ends will like like true crap compared to the top.

Derekg,

I use that trick all the time. 50/50 Titebond and water on MDF before painting and it will come out nearly as good as thermofoiled. Everytime I build a raised panel door in any cabinet that is going to be painted (normally white) I use MDF and the 50/50 Titebond trick. I guarantee any time your planning on painting a cabinet, use MDF for the raised panels, a little titebond, and it will come out better than wood.

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One option that might be worth while is to make the case out of MDF, and put a hardwood top and face-frame on it. Your gonna have to edge band the plywood anyway, if you want to paint, MDF is a good option.

I did this with a cabinet for my kitchen. The case is all MDF and it has a poplar face frame and drawer fronts. The top is 8/4 maple that I milled down and secured with figure 8 clips and then finished with BLO and wax. Not sure about the BLO option yet, but we'll see as it ages.

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