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Thread: Best finish to protect MDF from water (sharpening station)

  1. #1

    Best finish to protect MDF from water (sharpening station)

    My sharpening station has a simple MDF top. What's the best finish to apply to it in order to protect it from the slurry mess of the water stones?

    I know I will have to replace the top eventually, but I am looking for something that will slow down the inevitable.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    My first choice would be a piece of high pressure laminate (Formica). Second would be an epoxy, and third would be polyurathane.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Northern Michigan
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    My first choice would be epoxy, I use West system.

    I routinely make patterns out of MDF, made five last week, and I hard surface them with epoxy. Its actually quite amazing how tough MDF is when treated. I hate the stuff but it does have its uses.

    In my opinion Formica would be too slippery for a sharpening station, a piece of rubber roofing would be a better choice I believe.

  4. #4
    the surface of the MDF is where the products strengths are and it can withstand just about anything you can do to it. however its the edges of the MDF that are the weak point. poor screw holding power, poor finishing and gluing surface due to the edges tremendous wicking properties and it will suck off any amount of glue, finish or water that comes in contact with it. sealing the edges with lots of epoxy, poly, conversion varnish, or shellac should be the first step in preserving your work top before addressing the surface. the second step would be to replace the top entirely with something water resistant. however, short of that i would laminate the top with a piece of Hardie Board from the big box store. the material is intended to serve as a backerboard for tile in continuously wet areas like showers so it upholds well when exposed to water and as an added bonus it will absorb most of the water splashed on the surface during use. the slightly rough surface texture of the sheet will act like grip tape on whatever you place on top.
    S.M.Titmas.

    "...I had field experience, a vocabulary and a criminal mind, I was a danger to myself and others."

    -Anthony Bourdain

  5. #5
    Funny you should mention this. I just did this with a guitar mold that needs to be water proof (sides are usually a bit damp when they go in). I couldn't believe how much marine varnish the edges soaked up. I just couldn't put enough on!

    I think next time I will try to seal with Shellac first, and then hit it with varnish. I'm also thinking of maybe just going the epoxy or polyurethane route.

    MDF is just miserable to work with from beginning to end, but it's nice when it's all done.

  6. #6
    Thanks for all the replies! I think I will start by protecting the edges and then I will work on the surface.

  7. #7
    If it were me, I'd protect it with a removable top of 1/4" hardboard that overhangs the edges of the top by 1/2 - 1".

    That metal slurry will make a mess of any top eventually.

    I've been using 1/4" hardboard under my worksharp (which is dry - and STILL creates a mess) and under my lapping plate.

    Very happy.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    East Brunswick, NJ
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    1,471
    My sharpening station is made out of glued up and milled down 2x material (probably Douglas fir), and I used some Waterlox as a finish. The table looks ugly because of waterstone/grinding dust spillage, but the table itself is holding up.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Northern Michigan
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    3,071
    Quote Originally Posted by sean m. titmas View Post
    the surface of the MDF is where the products strengths are and it can withstand just about anything you can do to it. however its the edges of the MDF that are the weak point. poor screw holding power, poor finishing and gluing surface due to the edges tremendous wicking properties and it will suck off any amount of glue, finish or water that comes in contact with it. sealing the edges with lots of epoxy, poly, conversion varnish, or shellac should be the first step in preserving your work top before addressing the surface. the second step would be to replace the top entirely with something water resistant. however, short of that i would laminate the top with a piece of Hardie Board from the big box store. the material is intended to serve as a backerboard for tile in continuously wet areas like showers so it upholds well when exposed to water and as an added bonus it will absorb most of the water splashed on the surface during use. the slightly rough surface texture of the sheet will act like grip tape on whatever you place on top.
    You are correct on the edges. Do the West System first. One coat and it will not suck paint any more. I have signs out there made out of MDF that were treated this way and they are still fine and in fact still holding paint after close to twenty years.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    International Falls, MN
    Posts
    158
    With Shawn on this - when the hardboard gets nasty pop it off and replace. Carpet tape will hold it in place.

    Formica cheap and an option too I guess but like the pop off HB more.

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