I just got some medium-density fiberboard (MDF) from my local home center. It seems coarser than I’m used to and shreds when I cut or rout it. What gives?

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Both of these MDF sheets were chamfered with the same router and bit. The low-cost sheet at top yielded visibly coarser cuts with shredded edges.

Q:

I just got some medium-density fiberboard (MDF) from my local home center. It seems coarser than I'm used to and shreds when I cut or rout it. I thought all MDF was the same. What gives?
—Angela Kent, Delaware, Ohio

A:

Just like plywood, MDF comes in a variety of grades and compositions, Angela. Most MDF consists of refined Southern yellow-pine wood fibers mixed with resin. MDF made from wood fibers that have been refined to a consistent, small size gives you smooth, shred-free cuts and crisp profiles.

Unfortunately, some retailers get their low-cost sheet goods from overseas manufacturers that may not adhere to high quality standards. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.

Ask your local lumberyard or hardwood dealer for its MDF source. Most likely it is one of the many North American MDF manufacturers that have retained high quality control.