A silk purse from a sow's ear... #4: More extreme cheapskate measures...

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There’s a midi tallboy part to this job. Originally it was going to be made from bb ply with a poplar face frame, but as the client didn’t want to shell out for high end materials (for a painted job), I revisited the quote and priced it to be made from mdf.
All this week I have been thinking about ways to bring the materials in, on – or under budget. Ideally, I would have liked to have made the carcase for the tallboy with a poplar face frame, mdf sides. But then I was thinking, if I do that, isn’t there a danger that the poplar will move more than the mdf? A pet hate of mine is when joints not exactly open up, but no longer are perfectly where they should be, due to the climate, central heating and humidity. That can happen when you mix materials damhik (don’t ask me how I know for those not familiar with interweb acronyms).
So again, I was faced with a decision. Make the face frame in poplar the same depth as the dividers, so that wood movement in the front part is equal all the way around, or just make the whole thing out of mdf?
A quick look at the offcuts of 7/8" mdf reveals that there is enough material left over to make all the dividers and rails necessary. Done right, this could work… Besides, the face frame route would mean another trip to the timber merchants, another plank of poplar and probably half a day machining and doing stopped housings (dados) to get it right.
Now obviously, if this wasn’t a paint grade job, I wouldn’t even consider doing it this way. I don’t know why I’m even beating myself up over this. It’s the purist in me I guess.

In the previous installment of this blog I tempted fate by proclaiming there hadn’t been any stupid mistakes yet…

So tell me before you scroll down, what’s the dumbass thing wrong with the above picture?

While you are still thinking about that, here’s something that I never did before, just to speed things up…

…that is, use a stick the correct distance of the openings to position the dividers. Worked like a charm.

So the dumbass thing I did, was carry the ‘ladder’ on to the top, where it should have been stopped below the height of the first row of drawers, and separate drawer runner carriers added for the three drawers on top.

Reasons why I love my plunge saw #37

Trimmed off the offending piece and put it right. That stick for determining the correct distance between dividers came in handy for supporting the saw.

It’s all glued and screwed together very tightly, hardly anything to correct with a block plane. No issues with the mdf splitting, just used a big pilot hole for the screws – i.e a 3.5mm bit for a 4mm screw, and the head still countersank itself.
All the load will be carried down the sides and through the centre. It’s perfectly square before I’ve even put a back on it.
Gave it a quick sand, painted the edges with emulsion (latex) before priming, and for what it is, it’s all good.
Incidentally, weird paint.
This is causing me concern. I got the primer tinted, so it’s the same colour as the topcoat, under direct light, it looks like a light golden sand type colour, but further away from the light, it’s distinctly pistachio. Go back and look at the piece resting against the wall by the stereo in the first pic if you don’t believe me.

-- Doing the best I can with what I've got

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I’m confident that you will build it strong enough.
Nothing wrong with blogging about mdf. I’ve used and painted plenty of it and I’m sure others appreciate seeing the process as well. Keep up the good work.’

All thoughts and comments appreciated. The drawers for this job will be inset so the rails won’t take any load at all. I was a little concerned about the rails sagging under their own weight, but they are really rigid – but while the back is off I will take the opportunity to reinforce them from behind and add the corner blocks. I don’t want to get a phone call in 18 months time…
Moment, I have to admit that I never thought I’d be blogging an mdf build, but I am really beginning to feel that this job will be indistinguishable from a job made from higher priced materials. Tomorrow will be a big day, rearranging the shop and assembling the main carcase in preparation for hanging the doors. This puppy has to go up the stairs and be assembled in the room, so you can expect to see some biscuit jointing and cam and dowel action. Now for that beer, Cheers!

-- Doing the best I can with what I've got

That looks like a pretty good grade mdf, but I would be a little concerned about the strength of the rails to the sides. I might have bit the bullet and splurged for the poplar. I think with wood movement you’re going to have the same effect at the joints with the mdf as you would with the poplar, but I could be wrong. I just hate screwing or nailing into mdf endgrain. If it were me and my drawer fronts were overlay, I would glue and pin some 45 deg.angled blocks onto the top and bottom of the rails just to make me feel better.
It is what it is though, it’s not a deal breaker, and once it’s installed it’s not going anywhere anyway so I wouldn’t worry about it. Just putting in my thoughts.(which don’t always mean much)

When I read there was a midi tallboy , I at first thought you were speaking abot beer
Where I am from ,’tall boys ’ are 16 oz. cans of beer . Boy was I wrong .
You were talking about a cabinet of course . I hoped you might be downing
a few pints and go off on a huge rant about MDF . Disappointed a little, as I read
on a bit and found that you were using pistachio paint , story stick , plunge saw , and seemed quite normal and sober in the description of said procedures and in conduct of execution thereof . Nevertheless, I continued reading on quite enthralled. This is probably one of the finest ,albeit my first ,witness of a documentation of the use of MDF of this caliber . Well done .

“It’s perfectly square before I’ve even put a back on it” I wish I could ever say that after a carcass glue up.
I usually have to bring it to square with clamps diagonally.

Nice tip about the wood movement.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

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