MDF vs Particle Board


MDF and particle board are often used when building cabinets and furniture. Today we are going to compare MDF vs particle board so that you will know when to use each to get the best finished product.

Both are composite wood products which makes them less expensive than solid wood. Because they are manufactured products you can also expect them to be more uniform in appearance. Composite woods also don’t shrink or warp like solid wood does either.

Some common drawbacks with composite wood products are weight, stiffness, they don’t hold screws as well as solid wood and they are not very good when exposed to moisture.

What is MDF?

MDFMDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. It is an engineered composite made up of wood fibers and glue that is then heated to create a tight bonded board. It is usually composed of fibers from both softwood and hardwood. MDF is a very dense product so it tends to be very heavy and very strong.

Due to its composition, it does not have a visible grain like wood normally does. It also will not show any rings or knots on the surface. Because it is a composite board it can’t be stained and it must be protected from moisture. You will typically need to use a veneer sealant to protect MDF from water.

With a smooth surface and the lack of splinters, it is a very easy to paint product. It may also be finished with veneers or laminates to make it look more expensive or fancy.

While it is usually easy to cut, it also tends to dull blades quickly due to the density of the board.

MDF is usually inexpensive, especially when compared to a true wood product of the same size.

What is Particle Board?

Particle BoardParticle board is an engineered product made by combining wood chips, sawdust and resin together in a heated mixture. It can be made water resistant, fireproof and insect proof by adding chemicals during the manufacturing process.

The resin, wood chips, sawdust and any additional chemicals are mixed together into a liquid, then poured into a sheet. The sheet is compressed multiple times to create a very tight bond and to insure that the weight of the product is evenly distributed.

One of the most popular types of particle board is OSB – oriented strand board. It is made with a manufacturing process that layers strands of wood in specific orientations for strength. This product is typically used by home builders for floor and wall bases.

Particle board is usually a lower cost product. It is typically a light weight, but lower strength product and will easily get discolored if exposed yo moisture.

MDF vs Particle Board Comparison

Because of the manufacturing processes involved, MDF tends to be a very dense board with no voids. Particle board, on the other hand, tends to have voids in the product which can be seen by looking at the end of the board. These voids can easily absorb moisture which will cause the particle board to swell and lose its shape.

Compositionfine wood fibers that are glued and compressed with great pressureWood chips, wood shavings, sawdust, fibers, adhesives and chemicals
Strengthstronger, denser productweaker product with some voids in the board
WeightVery heavy due to product densityLightweight
Moisture IssuesCan lose shape and get discoloredWarps and expands easily if wet
Screw IssuesBetter than ParticleboardVery weak
FinishEasily painted, no stainpaint will warp product
CostMore ExpensiveLess Expensive


Products made with MDF tend to have a higher perceived value due to the finished look of the products, superior quality and the strength of the product. That is why it is commonly used in furniture making, cabinetry and shelving. It’s density makes it a heavy product though so it may not be the best choice for cabinets that will be hung high on a wall.

Particle board is a lower cost product that is an excellent choice for flooring and wall bases or for products that don’t require fancy finishes. It is also commonly used for less expensive furniture and cabinets.

Best Woodworking Books

The Why and How of Woodworking

What are the best woodworking books? Well, it depends on your skill level as well as what your goals are. The books that will help someone that is just getting started will not be of much use to an advanced craftsman. You may also be looking for information on tool selection or workshop layout instead of a book on how to create basic joints or the best ways to stain a particular type of wood.

Woodworking has too many topics to cover in one book so we thought we should start with the basics in this article and we will cover more advanced topics in another article.

With those thoughts in mind, we have compiled a list of some of the best books for beginning woodworkers as well as some of the best reference books to help you learn various techniques.

So, with all of that said, let’s get on to our choices for beginners first and then we’ll list our recommendations for reference books.

Best Woodworking Books for Beginners

The beginning woodworker needs to understand the basics – safety, wood selection, tool selection, shop layout, basic cutting techniques, sanding techniques, staining and painting techniques, etc. While it may seem overwhelming at first, these books can help you build a solid foundation that you can then expand on as you get more experience.


WOODWORKING BASICS – MASTERING THE ESSENTIALS OF CRAFTSMANSHIPThis book, by Peter Korn, covers the fundamentals of woodworking. Peter lists out some of the basic woodworking skills that a beginner should learn. He also covers three basic projects – making a straight and square board, a small bench and a cabinet. While some may find these projects to be too simple I think they are just right for the true novice woodworker.

You will learn the basics of woodworking and, if you build the projects, have something useful to show for your efforts. Building something of value while learning is an excellent motivational tool for most people so that is a bonus.

There are spots in the book where more advanced terms and techniques are mentioned that will be beyond what a beginner will understand. The author could have provided a little more context or reference points so the beginners wouldn’t feel lost in these areas.

Overall, the author does an excellent job of showing how to use hand tools in place of power tools as you build your projects. So for those that prefer hand tools over power tools, this will be a solid choice to get you started.

The Why and How of Woodworking

The Why and How of WoodworkingThe Why and How of Woodworking: A Simple Approach to Making Meaningful Work by Michael Pekovich is an excellent choice for novice woodworkers.

He publishes pictures of his work on Instagram to show off his skills…the same skills that he aims to teach you in this book.

Michael starts with the basics – choosing the wood that you will work with, cutting accurately, building items that are made to last, preparing and finishing the surface so that the final product grabs the viewers attention,

He includes sections on designing and building cabinets, chests, tables and many other projects. His goal is to teach you to create projects that provide value and enhance lives.

Mike provides the reader with woodworking history lessons as well as sage advice from a master craftsman. He shares his knowledge in a friendly, conversational manner that makes the reader feel like they are hanging out with an old friend but learning at a high level at the same time. That itself is truly an art form!

This is one of the best books that we have found for beginning woodworkers to start with. You will feel the authors passion for woodworking and teaching on every page. The page layout and the quality of the images make learning woodworking feel incredibly easy.


Woodworking: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Skills, Techniques, and Projects

Woodworking: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Skills, Techniques, and ProjectsThis book, by Tom Carpenter, is another excellent choice for beginners. It includes over 1,200 photos and illustrations and 41 complete plans for projects that you can build while you learn.

Tom even includes shopping lists for the projects so that you know exactly what you will need to build each of them and not waste time running back to the store for missing pieces. He includes over 300 pages of step by step project instructions so that even the most inexperienced person can successfully build these projects.

The author covers the basics of woodworking and then helps you learn by building a wide array of projects that will expand your skill and comfort level when working with wood. From kids toys to high end furniture, you will find just about anything you can think of in the project section of this book.

Some of the projects do require the use of higher end tools that a beginner will probably not have but you can still build the other projects and come back to those as you acquire more tools.

This is another good choice for beginners to learn from. Great coverage of the basics and the how to’s, along with a wide selection of projects that create useful items, makes for an enjoyable learning experience.

Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop

Good Clean Fun Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman WoodshopThe author of this book, Nick Offerman, is a man of many talents. He is a woodworker, comedian, actor, writer and he co-hosts Making It on NBC. I don’t know how he manages to do so much but he does an excellent job at each of these tasks.

In this book, Nick combines his love of woodworking with his comedic skills to provide the reader with a humorous learning experience. From basic to advanced, he provides great detail, humor and high quality images so that the reader can easily grasp the concepts being taught.

From shop tips and tricks to technical guides on creating detailed pieces of art, Nick shares all.

Each project is taught with easy to follow instructions and detailed images so nothing is left to the imagination.

Some of the projects are more advanced but even the beginner will find more than enough projects to hold their interest and expand their skill level.

Best Woodworking Reference Books

Once you understand the basics, growing your knowledge base of working with wood is actually pretty easy. Sure there are a lot of different types of joints or adhesives that you can choose from but once you have the basics covered these decisions can be made quickly and easily.

Choosing any of the following books will expand your knowledge base and help you to understand how to proceed with your projects to get them done with the best end results.

Understanding Wood Finishing

Understanding Wood FinishingThis book, by Bob Flexner, will get you up to date on the latest materials and techniques for finishing your projects. Bob covers everything from spray guns to French polishing and includes over 300 color photos to help you decide how to finish your product and why you should use that particular finish.

Bob provides excellent info and photos detailing how to properly prepare your wood surface, filling the pores and finishing many different types of wood. He even covers wood care, repair and finish removal so that you will always know how to proceed confidently.

The wide range of finishing tools covered include hand made as well as store bought and power tools like spray guns. You will always know which tool to choose to get the job done right the first time, every time.

Also included are over 40 reference tables and troubleshooting guides to help insure that your finish looks right and lasts a long time on every project. These easy to read reference charts can help you troubleshoot a wide range of issues with finishing problems.

With more than 18 years of experience in writing and teaching finishing techniques, Bob is recognized as an industry leading expert in the field of wood finishing.

The Complete Manual of Woodworking

The Complete Manual of WoodworkingThis book, by Albert Jackson and David Day, was written to cover every aspect of woodworking from the beginner to the most advanced craftsman. It includes over 1,800 drawings, diagrams and photos to enhance your learning experience.

The authors cover your selection of hardwoods and softwoods, which hand tools you should use and how to use them as well as providing detailed information on just about every woodworking technique there is – jointing, bonding, fastening, laminating and a whole lot more.

This book is an all time classic for the woodworking hobbyist. It covers so many aspects of the hobby that more modern books do not touch on.

While this is a general woodworking book, the in depth coverage of so may parts of the hobby will help you gain a greater understanding of woodworking as a whole. You will have a better understanding of what type of wood you should use for any project, how to select the best wood while at the lumber yard or big box store, how to accurately measure and cut the wood, the best techniques for joining the pieces together, etc. so that your projects all come out the best that they can be.


Well, there you have it. A nice selection of books for the beginning woodworker to learn the basics and some excellent reference books to help you learn the basic to advanced techniques that you will use as you progress to more intricate woodworking projects.

Most woodworkers, be they hobbyists or advanced craftsman, have a large library of books at their disposal. All of the books on out list will provide hours of great reading time, spark creative project ideas or help solve a particularly troubling issue for the readers.

We hope that you have enjoyed this list and if you would like to suggest other books please feel free to contact us here.