Should I shellac or clear coat my MDF wood

by Darrel
(Salt Lake City, UT, USA)


I want to use the MDF that I have for some work table projects (eg. a router table, etc). Before doing so I have questions.

Should I just leave the MDF as is or would a finish be recommended.

I don't particularly want to paint the MDF, but I do pencil reference marks on my working tables from time to time.

I'm thinking that clear coating the MDF would work fine but I'm not sure as to what type of finish to use.

Would shellac be an adequate finish for a work bench (or table etc.) or should I choose a different kind of finish?

Last but not least, a contractor friend of mine uses 1/2" MDF for drawer sides. Should he finish the MDF to contain any fumes the wood may be giving off?

Hi Darrel,

You might want to apply a water-based clear coat (a satin finish is my preference) for the best results. Such coatings are very durable and once cured should work well for your projects.

As far as your friends drawer sides go I would either coat them with a paint (low or no VOC type) or use the same kind of clear-coat mentioned above.

With that said, many finish carpenters have used MDF for years while not applying a coating without ill effects.

Problems can arise though when one doesn't know how a product is manufactured. So in saying that I would coat raw MDF when possible.


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