Differentiating between Manufactured Boards and Solid wood
In this post, we will be lifting logs on the fundamental make-up of the wonderful boards and materials we use in our custom creations.
[read time: 4min 50sec]
While we have yet to speak to someone who does not know what Melamine and MDF are; the more we interact with our audiences, the more we find value in differentiating between materials to your benefit. While we’re at it though, does anyone know what MDF stands for (without hauling out trusty Google, of course)?
We’ll leave you to your deductions then.
We’ve had many questions and discussions come our way on this topic. And when it comes to creating a custom creation, there would be many ways to de-bark a tree. However, we need to also bear in mind the obvious and not-so-obvious limitations of the materials we put our hands to. If we approach a project with all the care and knowledge we can commit ourselves to, the final project will likely synchronize with what is already in our heads. This will leave us feeling satisfied and fulfilled.
- Manufactured Boards
- Particle Board
- How Solid wood is compared to the aforementioned boards (this point will be woven throughout the article).
- Some questions we have had thrown our way
- Some questions we have had thrown our way
The majority of the wood-lovers out there opt for solid wood. How do we know this? We have done the polls and we have spoken to you. (And if you are a “you” we have not yet spoken to, we would be delighted to hear your preference on the matter too).
However, sourcing quality solid wood is increasingly difficult and likewise, heavier on the pocket.
a bit of both worlds
Manufactured boards, simply put, are an accumulation of little bits of wood dust glued together and heat pressed to form strips. These strips are all glued together in varying directions to create a decent thickness and corresponding strength.
Continuing in this vein of positivity, manufactured boards are seen to trump solid woods in that they are cheaper, more widely available, and easily accessible in large sheets. Likewise, they are more stable since shrinkage and expansion are the same in all directions parallel to the surface. This is not so with solid wood. Remember our drying, checking, and splitting chat we had around the campfire regarding buying wood of good quality?
It wouldn’t be a fair assessment without the flip side of the coin – some of the setbacks of manufactured boards. When it comes to application, these boards do not behave in the same way as what solid would does. You cannot do all of the same joineries that we see being effective methods for solid woods. If you’re looking for beautiful joinery effects and strength, you will likely need to adhere to a solid wood selection to achieve the results you want. And naturally, this leaves us with a balancing act and decisions to make for each project.
Right, let us jump in!
We’ll save you the trouble of re-reading things you don’t need to. The manufactured boards listed here, are all generally created in a very similar manner.
Wood dust/shavings/chips/veneers + glue/resin/additives + heavy pressing = a nice big finished board for our project purposes.
Here are a few listed below:
One of the types of manufactured boards that you will find in South Africa is plywood. In a similar fashion to the aforementioned explanation, this is created by peeling thin layers from the core of a log and creating a veneer that is added to a manufactured board. Therefore, you will be able to find plywood with a solid wood name as the prefix to the board. For example, you can get Pine Plywood or Birch Plywood that can be tinkered with to create some interesting modular furniture designs.
Particle Boards are made from wood particles and are often referred to as chipboard. These boards can be bought as is, with no finish, OR various melamine veneers are added to them to create a more pleasing aesthetic. These are a 3-layer profile that produces a lightweight product.
This option is affordable, sturdy and a lot of people enjoy the variety of wood grain-looking veneers (melamine) that can be added to spruce up your space.
Particle Board is a more affordable option, but it is not as dense or as sturdy as MDF and should be called “hydrophobic” because it doesn’t mingle well with water. [However, we all know that this is not the definition of “hydrophobic”. Quite the opposite actually!] In conclusion, keep your particle boards away from water and most outdoor uses.
General uses are simple carcass projects or basic construction; sometimes furniture – such as in upholstery (please take note of the sometimes).
If you haven’t cheated yet and conspired with Google for answers, then you’ll know that this is an acronym for Medium Density Fibreboard. MDF is made from wood fibres, giving it a wider range of applications and versatility. This board is stronger and heavier than particle board. It is also used for furniture and construction purposes, while being able to be exposed to some moisture. With that being said, MDF is not a viable option for outdoor ventures and projects.
At its core, melamine in and of itself is not wood or anything resembling it. It is rather, a type of thermosetting plastic that is applied to a manufactured board to strengthen them further. Melamine projects are commonly found in kitchens and bathroom furniture. As mentioned before, the melamine veneer can take on a wood grain appearance, making it a favourable option for various looks. Melamine can be applied to Chipboard or MDF.
Can you stain/change melamine boards?
When we speak of melamine boards, we are speaking of a plastic veneer coating that has already been applied to MDF (usually), and thus cannot really be altered to achieve a new look. If you had to purchase MDF when it does not have a melamine veneer, it has a smooth even surface that receives lacquering quite well.
Can you paint or lacquer chipboard?
While chipboard is a simple and inexpensive board, it is possible to paint or lacquer them. But it is imperative to bear in mind that it may not offer you a smooth finish and the paint may not adhere as well as you would hope.
When it comes to using solid wood in our designs and DIY projects, we do tend to have a bit more leeway here. You can paint or stain solid wood and add lacquer finishes to achieve the results you would like.
What is an E1 certification and should I care?
Well, obviously many things are relative to the individual. Nevertheless, if you care about your health (and especially if you work with wood yourself), you should care.
An E1 certification simply means that the manufactured board supplier has met the standards for the number of free chemicals that a wood-based panel can emit. Cast your mind to a few paragraphs back and you’ll remember a little formula we mentioned of how the particle and fibre boards are made – there are resin and additives in the mix! One of these being Formaldehyde, which is a very toxic poison that can cause irritations and unpleasant experiences.