Big box of MDF - good deal?

I think it would depend on shipping cost. I use scrap MDF boards I get from work. I wouldn’t use them for my final projects. But for testing and mock ups, it’s great. Cheap and sturdier than cardboard. Are you looking at the 12" x 12" sheets? The 4" x 6" are going to be pretty small.

I was looking at the 12x24. The guy said he’d chop them down to 12x20 at no additional cost.

These would also be for prototyping and general playing around.

I’ve read on these forums that not all mdf lasers equally. I don’t price mdf by the sheet, but his 12x24 box of 24 sheets for $48 compares favorably with medium :proofgrade: draft board ($4 sheet.) The draft board is four inches shorter but it is masked. I find it nice for prototyping and making boxes for their utility as opposed to looks.

Reading his comments people say it cuts well. One thing I’ll note about draft board: it is smoky when cut so you probably will want to mask the mdf unless it is true prototyping. I’ve read that Sign Warehouse sells 12" wide rolls of masking material.

I would think you could score the mdf with a utility knife and achieve a reasonably clean break on the side of a table if you want the extra 4x12 piece.

Edit: With shipping its a $3 vs $4 comparison (assuming you buy $100 of :proofgrade:.)


Also, you can go to Lowes or Home Depot and buy a 4x8 sheet of MDF and they will rip it for you. So, you can basically get it cut there in the same dimensions for free and the entire sheet costs about half what you would pay on etsy. Just something to consider.


Mdf is a good material if you are going to paint as well. Or simply need something thicker/stronger than cardboard but don’t need the expense of actual wood or acylic.

Because it doesnt have a grain it will give you a very consistant engrave compared to wood as well.

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Could you break down a full sheet of mdf? and have you checked your local lumber suppliers? (not the Home Depot or Lowes)

I’ve got a local lumber yard where I live that sell 49"x97" sheets of 1/8" mdf for $8/sheet. You can get 32 of the 12"x12" squares from a single sheet.

I’d look locally first and break down the sheets yourself if you can. It would be much cheaper and you can cut the sheets to the specific size you need (12x12, 12x20, etc.)


A note of caution - some MDF and plywoods are made with toxic glues. I’ll move this into Beyond the Manual for further discussion.


Now that this is in beyond the manual, I have a question about this that has always been bugging me.

I saw the tests on how you determine if a piece of plastic is toxic, but is there a test you can do with MDF?
I plan on using a fair amount of MDF and I was hoping there was a way to easily tell if the glue used is safe. I know some sites will advertise as laser safe, but what about testing hardware store brands?

I buy my MDF at Home Depot. I buy a 2’ x 4’ board and have them rip it for me. That sive gives me four 20x12 and two 8x12 sections per board. It comes out to about $1 per 20x12 sheet (with the 8" one being “free”). So that’s my baseline price for MDF.

This is in Canada, so your mileage may vary in the States.


Not so much of a test. You need to get the MSDS from the store (and make sure it is relating to the manufacturer that they getting the MDF from).

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Is there a list of “safe” manufactures or name brands for some of these iffy items like MDF? It would be nice to be able to know the brand X has tested safe, or Oh Jesus, don’t buy brand Y!

Dan has said this is the reason, or at least one of the reasons, they got into the proofgrade business. The MDF manufacturers are making a product intended to be cut with a mechanical tool (saw blade or drill bit) so any safety considerations are for large particles. What is consistent to a saw blade is not necessarily consistent to a laser. Even if you find a manufacturer that is safe, there is no guarantee the next batch won’t use an equivalent, but not identical formulation.

I just got a batch of random 1/8" hardboard, to the tune of 300 3’x4’ sheets. Cut it all down for the laser and have been through at least 20 sheets of it for the laser with no difference visible and using the same settings. pretty much all the MDF you buy will be fine. Just don’t buy HDF by accident

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Awesome! Thank you! what’s the worst that can happen if I get a “bad batch”?

I read that as “hardwood” and was like “WHAT? WHERE? HOW MUCH?”

I may have a hardwood problem. The first step is admitting it.


if there is a bad batch you might just have some parts where the laser doesn’t quite make it through. Similar to when you hit a knot in plywood. Luckily MDF is cheap as dirt so you can just re-run that sheet. But MDF is so mass produced that the chances of hitting that are unlikely at best.

Thanks boss! Hey what type of making do you use? Regular natural colored paper masking tape? Or blue painters paper tape?

I bought a roll of 12" medium tack laser masking. No link because im in canada but a quick google should find it for you in the states. Way easier than using tape.

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A good start.

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I have used the MDF from WoodItIs and have not had a problem. I mask with green painters tape, the guy at the store said it was less tacky then the blue tape. Also WoodItIs will also sell baltic birch plywood. I have used that as well. I also mask it.

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