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Best things to make built ins out of

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Hey guys,

My wife and I are going to be moving into our new house in a couple weeks and I think one of our first projects is going to be some custom built ins for our living room. My thought was doing it out of either MDF or Birch. I haven't priced anything out just yet. I'll come up with a design and show you guys and see what you think. It will just be painted white. Trying to make it cost effective but not look cheap.
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I should mention it will be about 12' wide 9' tall and 2' deep
What is the span of the shelving & what's going on it?

Adjustable?
I should mention it will be about 12' wide 9' tall and 2' deep
My thoughts right now is that the shelves would be 3' wide on each side spanning maybe 18" between each shelf. Haven't decided if we want them to be adjustable. I was thinking of having some deep drawers under the shelves on each side and some cabinet doors under the tv.
griz said:
What is the span of the shelving & what's going on it? Adjustable?
Mdf painted well. Mdo has more strength and veneered plywood is the best bet and probably lightest.
I do most of my paint grade casework out of poplar ply. I don't like the way mdf blows out when you fasten it.
Plywood. Except specifically for doors, and especially if you haven't built cabinets before, MDF is awful stuff to work with - monstrously heavy, easily damaged, and dusty, dustier, dustiest. Iron-on edge banding works miracles with plywood edges. The perception of quality is more likely to result from other design choices, and from the quality of your paint job, than from the choice of material for the box.

I hope I'm not insulting you by suggesting it, but there's an excellent Best of Fine Woodworking book, called Designing and Building Cabinets, that has some outstanding design and construction ideas, including some specifically for plywood, some specifically so that a cabinet doesn't just look like a plywood box. It's been very useful for me, anyway.

IMO.

- Bob
I've never done edge banding. I usually add a 1x apron to the front of my shelves. Cleans up the plywood edge, and adds some ridgidity to prevent sagging. I think 30" spans on mdf might be a bit much too.
I make most of my painted built ins out of soft maple. If the door has panels in it they are made from MDF. Cabinet cases are made from plywood.
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As mentioned, I'd stay away from MDF. I use birch ply usually for cabinets and benches. You can edgeband or hardwood strip the edges.
Pretty sure ive been coughing an sneezing since making a bookcase out of mdf 7 years ago
No offense taken at all, I know where my strengths are. I'll need to take a look at that. I'll try to make a design in sketch up and pick some brains. Thanks for all the advice guys.
CarpenterSFO said:
Plywood. Except specifically for doors, and especially if you haven't built cabinets before, MDF is awful stuff to work with - monstrously heavy, easily damaged, and dusty, dustier, dustiest. Iron-on edge banding works miracles with plywood edges. The perception of quality is more likely to result from other design choices, and from the quality of your paint job, than from the choice of material for the box. I hope I'm not insulting you by suggesting it, but there's an excellent Best of Fine Woodworking book, called Designing and Building Cabinets, that has some outstanding design and construction ideas, including some specifically for plywood, some specifically so that a cabinet doesn't just look like a plywood box. It's been very useful for me, anyway. IMO. - Bob
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I've built a lot of bookcases and I always use some species of plywood. I would never build one out of MDF. The last time I saw the price for a 4' x 8' sheet of MDF.....no thanks. I try and stay away from edge banding. I usually rabbit a 1 x 2 for the shelf edge and route something decorative on them and round over the edges.

I don't purchase my hardwoods from the big box stores either, it's pretty crappy.
Plywood is the best choice.

Honestly I would automatically build it out of mdf though. No need for any sort of edging aside from aesthetic's.

If you guy's get the same brand ultralight mdf I do. It doesn't really blow out. The dust is a big downside of course. But it paints up well, and you don't have to worry about sanding through a veneer.

If they could make mdf dust heavier/settle more. It'd be the #1 product for paintgrade.
Here is a quick drawing i did in sketch up pretty basic I think. I don't remember if I mentioned this before but it will all be white and the hardware on it will be a black knob of some sort. We may switch the drawers into the middle of the cabinet and have the doors on the sides but all that can be figured out later....

Attachments

I would keep the doors under the tv area, much better for all the plug/wires/cables. etc. to hook up than behind a drawer.
Since the shelves are wide use 1x on the front of them 1 3/ wide that way on that wide shelf you and use a pc of 1" angle iron behind it, or make a torsion box shelf
I built something almost the same thing a few months ago and I did the torsion box
Just to throw this out there....mdf would work just fine. Just use lightweight mdf and it won't be nearly as heavy, fasteners sink very well without mushrooming and it cheap. I get a 3/4 4x8 for for $35 a sheet. If you don't want the shelves to sag, edge them with solid wood....poplar or maple...or even pine.

I don't know how you plan on finishing, but I have done simple built in place built ins out of mdf and primed finger joint pine. They then got brush painted by painters.

That being said, shop built ins get made from birch or maple plywood with maple or poplar solid stock. Primed with Shellac and sprayed with acrylic lacquer.

It all depends on what your after
I hate working with mdf I think it looks like [email protected]@p painted
Really? I think that's where it shines. I've used it for door and wainscoting panels and it's always looked great.
I hate working with mdf I think it looks like [email protected]@p painted
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