If you like making wood art and other engineered wood products with a scroll saw, you might wonder if making something with MDF will work.
It’s no wonder “cutting MDF with a scroll saw” has become an exciting topic online!
So, can you cut MDF with a scroll saw? Yes, you can cut and make all kinds of shapes with high-grade MDF as long as you work with the ideal thickness of between ¼” and ¾”. However, you’ll need tough and sharp blades since the glue and resin in the MDF will make them blunt quickly.
This short answer is not always enough information, though. In this article, you will learn what you should expect when using MDF with a scroll saw and other relevant details.
How to Cut MDF with a Scroll Saw
Cutting MDF with a scroll saw to achieve the desired pattern is quite the same as doing it with other types of wood.
However, it’s more comfortable to do if you have the right blades because of the material’s grain consistency.
Here’s how to cut a shape from MDF using a scroll saw:
- Trace the pattern on the MDF (You can also attach the paper to the MDF).
- Use your scroll saw to cut the edges of your pattern or word.
- Drill holes that help you track the pattern or word on the interior.
- Sand the rough edges, and your shape is ready.
As you can see, the cutting process is the same as other woods. You can even see an example in this scroll saw MDF cutting video.
Related Article: Can You Cut Metal With A Scroll Saw? It is possible to create an entire project made of metal!
Things to Note When Cutting MDF with a Scroll Saw
While some people dismiss the scroll saw for cutting MDF because of false reasons, there are a few valid reasons that cutting MDF with a scroll saw is more difficult.
MDF isn’t your typical wood. It contains toxic components like formaldehyde that you can inhale if you are not careful.
The worst part is that the dust created while cutting the MDF is so fine, it can easily be inhaled.
For this reason, it is recommended that you wear reliable woodworking safety goggles and a dust mask.
Also, don’t forget to vacuum your workstation frequently because, even though the dust has settled, it can still cause a breathing hazard – especially when stirred up into the air again.
Thickness and Scroll Saw Blades
Since MDF dulls steel blades, its best to use carbide-tipped blades and work with stronger scroll saws at a size of 16” or more.
Also, it is most practical to work with an MDF thickness of up to ¾.”
Types of Patterns
The types of patterns you want to make, whether decorative or functional, should also be considered.
MDF swells when subjected to water for quite some time, so making an outdoor sign wouldn’t make sense.
For example, you may wonder if making puzzle pieces with MDF using a scroll saw is suggested. While it sounds interesting, the swelling factor dismisses it as impractical.
Imagine a puzzle not fitting simply because another piece swelled when a toddler submerged it in water.
So, considering the type of project is important before starting to cut into your MDF.
You can, however, make things like indoor signs with a scroll saw cut MDF without worrying.
Contrary to what many people think, you can cut MDF with a scroll saw and paint it without destroying your pattern.
The trick is to paint it correctly. You should learn the proper way of painting MDF before making your desired shape.
It paints very easily because of its smooth texture.
The steps for painting MDF are:
Place drop cloths to protect your work area from paint and put on your protective eyewear and dust mask.
Seal the edges of the MDF with a drywall compound.
Once the edges are dry, sand them smooth with 220-grit sandpaper.
If there are any scratches or bumps on the surface, use drywall compound and 220-grit sandpaper to fill and/or sand them smooth.
Wipe the MDF with a tack cloth to remove fine dust and debris.
Use a solvent-based primer to prime the MDF. Do not use a water-based primer.
Once the MDF is primed, you can use any paint you’d like to paint it, even water-based paint.
After the first layer of paint dries, inspect the project to see if it needs a second coat.
When the paint is fully dried, apply the sealant you prefer to your project in order to preserve the paint.
You can see that the painting process is a bit tedious since you have to prepare the piece beforehand.
Some artists are willing to do the job while others find it time-consuming, especially for massive projects.
If you want to make a large number of scroll saw creations using MDF, it’s better to do ones that don’t require painting or ones that don’t have detailed nooks and crannies.
You can see a wood enthusiast make a mermaid out of MDF with a scroll saw here:
**Want to learn how to cut smaller pieces using a scroll saw? Check out our detailed guide here!**
How to Select the Best Material for Your Scroll Saw Art
No matter how incredible your project idea is, the type of wood you choose to create will either help you produce something great or result in you throwing your idea in the trash.
If you are interested in MDF scroll sawing, it’s a great idea to check out other wood options you might be missing out on, as well.
What Makes a Particular Wood Material Great for Scroll Sawing?
The best material for your scroll saw project will depend on the type of scroll saw you have.
Sometimes your desire to upgrade to more versatile creations will call for a better scroll saw.
There’s one thing you should keep in mind, though: The thinner the material, the less you can control it.
Similarly, the harder the material, the more the vibration and resistance will be caused.
Therefore, depending on the intricacy of your pattern details, you should choose a material whose resistance will allow for successful cutting.
Hard or Softwood
Just like thin and thick wood, softwood offers little resistance when scroll sawing while hardwoods make it challenging to cut fast.
This also means that softwoods won’t trace patterns well, but hardwood will.
If you are a beginner, it’s easier to experiment with softwoods to master the art of accuracy.
Some projects will chip and break since the wood is soft, but that challenges you to do better.
In addition, the losses cost less due to the affordability of softwood.
When choosing between hard and softwood, check out your design. Is it extremely detailed?
If it is, going slow with hardwood provides you a better chance of getting it right.
The most common engineered wood scroll saw creations come from MDF and plywood.
Although few people use MDF, plywood scroll saw creations are prevalent around the globe.
If you desire smoother cuts, MDF can be easier to work with. It’s regular, soft grain structure offers little resistance compared to plywood.
However, MDF absorbs water quicker than plywood, so it isn’t viable for outdoor designs.
Plywood is really strong and authentic-looking because of its grain structure.
Also, it holds screws tightly due to the varied grain structures and makes the perfect fit for door signs and other patterns that use screws.
MDF and plywood are both generally easy to work with. You can choose between them according to cost or your health preferences.
Polywood lumber has been one of the most exciting developments in technology.
Now, you can make a scroll saw art that looks like wood but can weather the harsh conditions in the outdoors.
Polywood products are waterproof, highly durable, and easily cleaned. Even better, they are more eco-friendly than real wood since they are processed from recycled plastics.
If that’s not enough to impress you, this material can also be recycled to make more lumber once the previous look becomes undesirable.
Just like hardwood, Polywood is robust and exhibits high resistance.
Therefore, it can produce incredibly detailed scroll saw art in an inexpensive way.
Cutting MDF with a scroll saw is a simple task that produces aesthetically appealing patterns without lots of costs.
However, if the project needs to be painted, you may not be willing to invest the time it takes to properly paint MDF.
Additionally, the various products needed to paint the MDF can be costly.