Can You Use Router on MDF?

Routering groove on a mdf board.

Well, the answer is “Yes.” Of course, you can rout MDF using specific router bits. Moreover, you can do well routing MDF by knowing how to operate the router on MDF. Besides, it will be best to use spiral router bits when working on MDF because these bits have better chip evacuation, can create cleaner edges, and allows for less heat buildup. Nevertheless, such router bits are expensive.

You can never stop a woodworker whose mind is fueled by creativity, and you can surely expect excellent works from such a mind. And if that woodworker has all the necessary tools like a router equipped with an extensive router bit set, you can expect overflowing creativity from his hands. Speaking of the router, one question I often get asked by beginners is whether the router can work with MDF. 

Understanding the Facts on MDF Before Route MDF with Router

A good understanding of MDF will help you cut it best using a router. MDF is the acronym for Medium-density Fiberboard. It is a versatile material and is relatively affordable. Besides, it is durable. Hence, it is an excellent choice for storage cabinets and shelves projects. It is ideal for decorative projects because of its smooth surface, perfect for painting. 

MDF is an amalgam of sawdust and glue combined under intense heat and pressure. It exhibits varying colors from chocolate brown to tan. Moreover, its thickness ranges from a quarter of an inch to one inch. Nevertheless, you can also find 1/2″ and 3/4″ in most home centers. The standard dimensions of a full sheet of MDF are 49″ x 97.” 

The good thing about MDF is that it is inexpensive. You can buy a full sheet of MDF for $30 or less. You can also find various dimensions of MDF boards. Besides, you can fashion out MDF sheets as you would work on plywood or wood. Moreover, you can use the same tools to work on MDF.

If you intend to use a router on MDF, it will be best to select the appropriate router for MDF. Choose a router with sufficient speed to cut quickly and smoothly on the MDF. You should also choose something that has the ideal cutting features. 

Besides, it will be best to choose the perfect routing bits for use on MDF. The perfect router bits for MDF are the carbide flute bits. However, these router bits are expensive. 

If you don’t want to shell out more money for router bits, it will help to switch to straight plunge bits. These router bits can also work well with MDF. Before cutting, you need to sharpen the cutting edge of the router bits. It will also help if you align the MDF perfectly.

Types of Router Bits You Can Use on MDF

Although MDF is not offered in fractional thickness, you can still find the router bits that can make grooves on standard MDF. You will discover undersized plywood bits likewise. Besides, you can deal with MDF with nominal fractional dimensions like 3/4.” 

If you’re dealing with a nominal 3/4″, you can make a 1/4 or a 3/8″ groove. Afterward, you can make a tongue on the adjacent part for a perfect match. The good thing is that you can adjust the thickness of the tongue to fit the groove. 

You can derive additional strength because of the glue line and the interlocking of the joints. You can also use MicroFence’s micrometer to let you cut accurately. Complemented by a 1/2″ bit, this fence would allow you to cut any dimensional groove with thickness between 1/2″ to 1″ with two passes.


Additional Tips on Using a Router on MDF

You might be at a loss as to how to go about routing an MDF if you’re a beginner in using a router. In such a case, you can take note of the following tips to get good results from your router:

Utilize the Appropriate Bits

It will be best to use the appropriate router bits for your project when using the router. Router bits come in a wide variety of sets and styles. You only need to select those bits that work well with MDF. Most woodworkers generally use the straight plunge bits when cutting chipboard and MDF. Nevertheless, you can also use spiral bits. 

Install Router Bit Properly

Whenever you use the router, installing the router bit properly is a must. Otherwise, you might ruin the MDF stock if you improperly install the bits. Ensure that the bits are snugly installed. This way, you can lessen vibrations that could damage your workpiece and tool. It will be best likewise to keep your bits sharp.

Clamps to Secure the MDF

Clamps are accessories that would surely come in handy when routing MDF. In this way, the MDF will be stable and steady when you route along its surface. So, ensure that you clamp the MDF sheet before working on it.

Regulate the Router’s Speed

You can break or damage MDF if you use excessive speed when routing. Ensure that you strike a balance in the speed when routing. The speed rate of the router should match the routing bit. For example, if you utilize something like a 1″ bit, it will be best to go less than 20,000 rpm. 

Use Wide Board

You want to get more control of the routing process when routing MDF. Thus, it will be best to work on a wider board. Afterward, you can use your table saw to cut the board into smaller pieces.

Wear Your Safety Gear

Routing MDF will indeed produce billows of dust that could hang for hours in the air and cling to your coat. Thus, you need to wear safety gear to protect yourself from dust. Likewise, it will be best to cut MDF in the open air because of the billows of dust it produces. 

You must drape the shelves and other tools in plastic sheets to prevent the dust from lingering and settling in them. By draping them, you can protect them from damage due to dust. 

Besides, you must have a dust collection system to quickly collect dust and prevent dust from spreading all over your room or place. It will also help likewise to cover the doorways and vents. Vacuum the area once done with your routing.


Frequently Asked Questions

Aside from knowing the straightforward tips on how to route MDF, it will be best if you are cognizant of the following FAQs, for these might also be the questions you have in mind:

Can MDF Wood Materials Damage Router Bits?

Yes! Using router bits on MDF might take its toll on the router bits. Thus, it is not advisable to utilize costly carbide bits on MDF. MDF comes with resin. This substance stiffens the edges and dulls the bits quicker, especially if you use it at high speed. Experts will also not recommend you use the cheapest router bits when routing MDF. Use the standard bits instead. 

Would the Router Bit Split the MDF?

MDF got low tolerance to bending and tension. As such, MDF might also split even if it is dense. The elasticity level of MDF is less compared to plywood because MDF is wrought in minute fibers held by powerful glue. For this reason, MDF might break when routing it.


Conclusion

You will find that many household renovations and craft works necessitate the use of MDF. This is because MDF has appealing characteristics like hardness, durability, and resistance to the pest, making it ideal for many applications. Nevertheless, sometimes, you need to reshape the MDF to fit your desired results. Besides, it will be best to route it to achieve the desired results. 

Understanding the characteristics of MDF can help you use the router on it safely without damaging it. Moreover, if you know the tips mentioned above on routing MDF, you can avoid the usual mistakes committed by beginners when routing MDF.

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