4. Table bases and tops in MDF

A. Classical style bases

The large centre pedestal bases and individual legs for classical style tables were traditionally machined from single pieces of air dried wood, mahogany or oak for instance. More recently, copies of these pedestals and legs have been machined from blanks manufactured by laminating several 50 to 75 mm thick pieces of kiln dried wood to the required thickness. As an alternative, blocks can be manufactured from several layers of MDF adhesive bonded together. The high stability of MDF and its good machining characteristics ensure a good appearance and freedom from the distortion associated with large section solid wood components.

As an example of a typical construction, ten 500 x 250 mm pieces of 25 mm thickness MDF were laminated using urea formaldehyde (UF) adhesive to form a block of cross section 250mm x 250mm.

The block was then turned in a copying lathe fitted with tungsten carbide tipped cutters. After the final touches of hand carving and sanding, the resulting column was stained a dark mahogany colour and then finished with clear lacquer.

The recent availability of MDF in thicknesses up to 60mm obviates the need for laminating thinner pieces.

B. Classical table tops

The tops for classical style tables were originally manufactured from edge jointed solid wood pieces surfaced with high quality veneers often with contrasting inlay, crossbanding and other veneer marquetry features.

MDF can be used as a direct replacement for the solid wood core eliminating problems of core showthrough and possible distortion in the varying ambient conditions of modern buildings with the added advantage of a substantial cost saving. The exposed edges of the tops can be moulded with a profile to complement the base moulding, stained and then finished with clear lacquer to match the base.

MDF can also be used for the underframe supporting the top. Circular rims can easily be manufactured by laminating strips of thin MDF, typically 2 to 3 mm thickness, in a circular mould following the procedure used for making laminated wood veneer rims. A decorative wood veneer matching the top veneer would be bonded to the outside of the rim as part of the lamination process.

C. Contemporary tables

The availability of MDF in large sheets can be used to good advantage when cutting flat pack underframes for modern design tables. Using a CNC router, panel edges can easily be shaped and moulded to create special geometrical effects.

A feature of the table illustrated is the economical use of raw material achieved by cutting the top and leg sections from a single 1000 x 1000 mm sheet of MDF. The table can be finished with stain and clear lacquer to enhance the natural texture of the MDF surface or painted using a plain colour or special effect lacquer.

D. Tables for contract applications

Wood veneered MDF panels with direct moulded edges are often used for the tops of dressing tables and desks in hotel bedrooms.

The ability to cut circular and eliptical panels from MDF without the need for difficult wood lipping operations makes MDF a good choice for table tops for use in bars, hotels and restaurants. Some companies also cut the lyre end support panels for these tables from MDF.