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Thread: wood for Garage cabinets

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Northeast North Carolina

    wood for Garage cabinets

    Hi folks, I'm a newly retired mechanic trying to convert my home garage from auto shop to wood working shop. I have limited experance and I plan to build some cabinets for the garage to learn on before tackling the kitchen ones. This site is absolutly the best and I thank everyone in advance and for all the info I have already read. Now my question, should I use MDF or plywood for the cabinets or can I use 1X12 pine? They will be painted in so finish is no problem. Thank you Keith

  2. #2
    Hello and welcome. In my humble opinion a decent plywood is the best all round choice. You could use MDF but if you make base cabinets make sure to get it up off the floor a couple of inches as MDF will wick up water and swell like a sponge if there is a leak or big liquid spill. For uppers MDF is a good choice as long as you donít make the horizontal spans more than a couple of feet as MDF, unsupported, will start to sag with any kind of weight on it. Pine would be nice as well, but probably would cost more. If you use pine, stain, or other wise put a finish on it other than paint. It would be good practice and look real nice at the same time. Good luck and have fun.

    I know it was here a minute ago ???

  3. #3

    Plywood, Plywood, Plywood

    Some guys do use it, but MDF has just too many moisture issues for shop cabinets IMO. MDO is the best but expensive. You can find some 3/4 birch ply at decent prices at the big box stores. So just get the best 3/4 ply you can afford.
    Yes Dear, I could build that for you if I only had that new ...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Quad Cities, Iowa
    Welcome Keith,

    I'm a mechanic as well. A noob in the woodshop, but have messed with MDF enough to know it doesn't belong in the garage for reasons already stated. A 3/4 scrap piece was 5/4 left on the wet ground overnight. Can't be afraid to splash a little water in a garage shop. I have been using the $28, 3/4 birch paneling at Home Depot. I guess it's a paint grade due to inconsistencies in color, and very minor surface flaws. To me, it seems every bit as solid and 99% as smooth as the $40-45 hardwood ply. Holds screws FAR better than MDF if you need to do that at some point. If you have never used decent plywood before, you won't believe the difference. Almost like you're working with solid wood. Better in many ways. Especially in comparison to less stable species such as pine.

  5. #5


    You might also look for used kitchen cabinets from remodeling companies that want to throw them away. a good place to look is CL list dot com.
    good luck

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Mpls, Minn
    I'd also stay away from MDF, or anything that will not react to any liquid spilled on it, you could paint it though.
    The under $30 plywood from menards I got works just fine, not much of a veneer on it, so be careful sanding..
    Also bring a friend and piece though them at the store, not all are straight.
    Another choice would be shop grade plywood from your lumber yard, but figure another 15-20 bucks for that.
    I'd learn on the cheaper stuff first though.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    In your part of the country, plywood may be better than MDF. In SoCal I use MDF and seal with poly, no problems. I also use plywood and seal with shellac or poly, again no problems. MDF should not contact the concrete floor, if present. A plywood lift / toe-kick will solve your potential moisture wick problems to some degree. MDF is heavier so depending on the size of the piece it adds some nice heft for stability.
    Buy a man a plane ticket and heíll fly for a day.
    Push a man out of a plane
    and heíll fly for the rest of his life.

  8. #8
    Why not PTl for the frame on the floor, melamine for the box, and whatever for the face frames and doors? I used melamine for the box on a couple of bathroom vanities a few years ago, and the are holding up fine.

  9. #9
    Some have been know to use MDF for raised panels in cabinetry projects that are painted and are mostly in the living area of a house, and has worked well. When building cabinets I go the little extra expense (compared to MDF and such), and use $30-$40/sheet plywood on shop/garage/utility cabinets. It holds fasteners (screws as well as glues) much better and you don't have to be as concerned about the moisture as you would with MDF, melamine, or particle board. IMO I believe the plywood is more durable. Plus I like the look of a natural finish on the birch or maple plywood. Welcome and Good Luck. Looking forward to pictures as you build your cabinets. Keep asking questions, that is how we all learn. Regards, Bill

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Northeast North Carolina

    Garage cabinets

    Thanks everyone for the help. I can rule out MDF because Iwant to practice on the same thing I will use in the kitchen. My first project will be wall cabinets. I already have a kreg jig so if I use 3/4 ply for the carcass do I rip strips for the face frame or do I use 1x boards? I am trying to decide on a inexpensive table saw because I'm on dissability and can't spend big bucks for one so 1x would be easier until then. Any advise on a decent beginers saw? Thanks for the responces, Keith

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Keith, since you're going to be working with sheet goods for this project and othere in the future, consider a guided circular saw system, such as the Festool or EZ-Smart or similar rather than trying to manage with an inexpensive table saw. The latter will actually cost you more in the long run than saving for a decent mid-range machine that is full-sized and has enough power to do meaningful work. Avoid a "benchtop saw" at all costs...

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Quad Cities, Iowa
    "Avoid a "benchtop saw" at all costs..."

    Heed Jim's warning. I had my Dewalt jobsite TS for about 30 days before I knew I had to upgrade. A benchtop saw is handy for trimming dimensional lumber while throwing up a shed. It's a last choice for precision cutting, or cutting anything at all that is large. Even for a beginning woodworker, you need about $500-600 absolute minimum for any saw worth hauling home. Used bargains excluded of course.

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