How Long can I go - MDF Shelves

22 Nov 2005
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United Kingdom
Hi there,

I need to make some shelves to put in our alcoves - one of which is just under 2m long. I am planning to build a pine baton frame and box this in using MDF.

Firstly, does this sound ok or a complete disaster waiting to happen? Secondly, will the shelves be adequately supported with batons either end and at the back? Lastly, I plan to run an MDF strip along the front edge to hide the framework, should this go over or in the shelf sandwich - ie: should the shelves sit on this strip or should the strip go over the top and bottom pieces of the shelf? I am just worried about the edges wearing as these will be book/CD shelves in constant use.

Many thanks, I hope that makes sense?!?!?
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MDF is very bendy stuff; sitting a shelf of any length on battens is inviting it to start sagging. The sagulator calculator is useful for calculating what you need.

As you seem to be be prepared to have a fairly thick front edge, it sounds as if you would do better to build your shelves as torsion boxes (that is, with top and bottom skins and timber battens between). The front edge can be lipped in hardwood to withstand wear.
Excellent - torsion boxes is what I was trying to explain.....I think! i want to try and make these look as floating as possible so no brackets showing. I will use a hardwood for the front lip.

Thanks again.
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There is a very good guide to building torsion boxes in: Ken Horner, More Woodworkers' Essential Facts, Formulas and Short Cuts (Cambium Press 2006).

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