Friday, September 19, 2014

Trick For Spray Painting MDF


Have you ever spray painted MDF? It sucks, right? MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. For those curious minds, there is a Low Density Fiberboard (A.K.A. particle board), and a High Density Fiberboard (A.K.A. Hardboard).


 I don't use MDF often and the few times I have, I used a roller or brush to paint it. When I went to spray paint the letters on my Backpack and Homework Organizer, The letters were cheap ones I found at Wal-Mart for $1 a piece. I realized spraying MDF is nothing like wood. The porous nature of MDF soaks up a good deal of the paint, wasting product and leaving a blotchy finish. It is especially bad with gloss or metallic finishes. So what are you to do? Sometimes a project just NEEDS spray paint!

After about 3 wasted coats of paint on my letters, I tried something new and it worked great! I decided to try it again on a test board so I could show you what a difference it makes. 


I figured, I would account for the worst-case scenario. I grabbed a can of super cheap, glossy red spray paint (also $1 at Wally World).



I tapped off half of the board, and gave it a couple heavy coats of paint.



Even with multiple coats, and my best wax-on-wax-off technique, this is what I ended up with. A blotchy mess.



Here comes the secret ingredient: Shellac. This stuff is amazing. I've talked about shellac's amazing tannin blocking ability in this post. I figured, its good at blocking things from coming up, it would probably prevent stuff from soaking in too.

I tapped off the crappy, blotchy side of my test board and sprayed one, heavy coat of *shellac on the bare MDF.



Once dry, I lightly sanded the board, wiped it clean and added two coats of the glossy, cheap paint. You can see the difference the shellac made.



Looking closely, the difference is dramatic. The paint is actually red, not a faded, pinkish color, and the sheen is even and glossy. If I wanted a mirror like finish, I could sand the paint with high grit sand paper and finish it with a high gloss lacquer.



While we're talking about *shellac, I HAVE to share what I learned about this stuff. Have you ever Googled "shellac"? Umm, do you know where is comes from? According to Wikipedia:

"Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes, which are dissolved in ethanol to make liquid shellac."

Female insect secretions people. I researched some more and it's true! Better yet, the same stuff that was used to coat wood paneling in the 60's and was pressed into records before vinyl, is currently used to coat food. You know that glossy coat on chocolate covered raisins or store-bought apples? Yep, female insect secretions. 


Let's be honest, I'm not about to stop eating shiny food, but it is interesting to know where is comes from. Buy yourself a can of shellac. Its awesome stuff for a DIYer too. 




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27 comments:

  1. I also think shellac is a great product. I did know where it came from, it seems a bit strange but it isn't a chemical, it's natural and not harmful to the environment.

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  2. Great tip! I've never used Shellac before but will pick some up the next time I'm at Home Depot. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Very fun info Elisha, cracking up a little, but cool to know. Female insect secretions?! I love this tip, pinned!

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  4. Perfect timing for this tip - I'm finishing up a kitchen remodel, and want to add 'feet' to my kitchen island using mdf - I did a couple of practice pieces, and the paint did not look good on them ... I'll be using shellac on the real ones.

    Patty

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  5. Very nice Blog. It was great to read it

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  6. Elisha, I tried this on an MDF letter and it is AWESOME! Thank you!!!!
    ~ Christina

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  7. I've already painted a cabinet made out of MDF. Do you think this process will still improve the look it i did it over what has already been painted?

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  8. I love Shellac ! ( but I did not know it came in spray form ) ????? Thanks, I WILL find some, lol

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  9. So you just added clear lacquer.......nothing new it's what every painted gloss surface should have, from cars to furniture. It doesn't matter about the brand, just a generic clear lacquer will do the same job and will be cheaper!

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    1. Actually, the shellac is applied as a base coat, before the paint, not after. It seals the porosity of the MDF and allows the paint to coat the surface evenly. I agree, its always a good idea to seal any painted surface with a clear top coat.

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  10. Very nice Blog. Do you think this process will still improve the look it i did it over what has already been painted?

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    1. Thank you! Probably. I would give the surface a light sanding before, then follow up with shellac and paint.

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  11. Hi,

    Wouldn't using a primer first work on MDF?

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  12. WOW thanks for the info! :0)

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  13. very nice, i think you're an engineer or an architect :)

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  14. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm doing some research on painting. I have an old coffee table and I want to paint it.

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  15. Small tip but very smart..thank you

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  16. Thank you so much for posting this, using MDF board on project for the first time and spray painting did not go well.. was very frustrated. So thankful to run across this information. I see Shellac in my future, as in today.

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  17. I've never used Shellac but i think it is a great product. I love this tip!

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  18. Thanks for this tricks. I'm doing some research on painting. I have an old coffee table and I want to paint it. Now I know how to do that.

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  19. Thanks for this tricks. That sprayer looks soooooo easy!! I wouldn’t mind trying one, but I am knee-deep in other projects for now

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  20. This is a great spray painting tips. Thank for share

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  21. Oh you made things look so easy - I wish I'll have the same results as you did! Great tips and I've taken a few notes to try in the future.

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  22. Thanks! I needed this :) I have a few pieces of packing material that I'm making signs with they are mdf.

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  23. Really nice thanks for sharing with us Elisha!

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