MDF (medium density hardwood) is a material that has been engineered by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals until they become fine particles. These are then combined with wax and a resin binder before high temperatures and pressure is applied.
MDF’s surface is usually very smooth which is ideal for painting on. Its texture is supremely consistent throughout and cut edges appear smooth with no voids or splinters. Due to these smooth edges, a router can be a great tool for creating decorative edges on MDF.
Nonetheless, there are some safety cautions you should adhere to when using a router on MDF. Always wear a mask as the dust from the wood can be extremely fine. When you begin cutting into this material, you will realise the sheer thickness of the dust clouds that are emitted. A respirator is recommended such as 3M Rugged Comfort Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator from 3M.
Whenever you use a router on MDF, make sure you do it in a well-ventilated area. Urea Formaldehyde is one of many compounds that exist on the resin that binds the MDF together and this has proven to be highly volatile. This compound is continuously, but slowly, released from the MDF surface. You can seal Urea Formaldehyde inside the MDF by adding an entire coat of paint to the product.
Can I use a router on plywood?
When it comes to woodworking, cutting intricate trims or extravagant projects with boards can be very satisfying. The question many ask is “can I cut plywood with my router?” The good news is, yes, you can! However, the wood needs to be sufficiently prepared first.
Firstly, the plywood has to have been edge banded. This is when a narrow strip of material is used to cover the exposed areas of the wood. This helps the plywood become more durable as well as more aesthetically pleasing.
Secondly, there can not be any voids in the plywood. Voids are naturally occurring holes that can appear in many plywood sheets. You can tell if your plywood has any voids by inspecting it for noticeable and sizable bubbles along the breadth-side of the piece. If there are any gaps evident, then you are staring into a void.
You can use a router on plywood for hollowing out a section and create fine cuts in the edges. If you’re feeling artistic, you can also apply grooves and different decorative patterns but this is generally done by more experienced router users.
When you work on plywood, an unfinished edge is not the best to look at. However, you have a few options to choose from to get that finished, stylish look. You can either coat, cover, or fill the edges.
If you want to coat the edges, this involves painting. Just hide the layer of ply behind a coat of paint. This is probably the easiest method but the paint may not fill and mask all the exposed areas of the wood.
For edge banding, this involves covering the wood. This is a quick and easy process but not to everyone’s tastes.
The final option is to fill in the plywood edges with putty. This may be the best option as putty tends to mask and smooth out edges. You can even use it to seal any problematic voids too.
How do I stop my router from chipping?
You don’t have to rely on large, bulky woodworking machinery to get the job done these days. You can get excellent results with palm routers. These are more versatile, easy and safer to use. However, if you’re not careful, you can come across some issues, such as chipping.
To prevent your router from chipping you should:
- Dial it back and slow the router down – The larger your bit diameter, the faster it spins at its cutting edges. Some wood such as cedar or oak are prone to splitting so it is worth turning your router’s speed dial down when using these types of wood.
- Rout like clockwork – The correct way to feed a router is generally against the bit’s rotation. Although this is mainly for safety reasons, it will improve the router’s cutting action. Feed the router clockwise when routing around the inside of a workpiece. When you are cutting the outside edge, move counterclockwise. If you feel the router is resisting your efforts slightly, you are feeding it correctly. If it suddenly pulls forward and jerks through a cut, it could result in a climb cut.
- Clamp a piece of scrap wood to the outboard edge – Cut across your board and slightly into the scrap. This should support the fragile edge and result in a clean, smooth exit cut.
- Take smaller bites/cuts – Rout big cuts in numerous passes of increasing depth. The bit should be set low for the first pass. Expose more of the cutter in the next pass until you get to the amount of profile you desire. The final pass should be made wafer-thin so minor burn marks or torn grain are shaved away.