Painting MDF for Entertainment Centers

Advice for a cabinetmaker on applying solid pigmented coatings to MDF. March 12, 2015

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
We're getting ready to start offering painted MDF for entertainment centers and possibly some closet applications in the customers’ choice of paint. Can someone give me some advice about buying spray equipment? We will be using our shop compressor. I assume we'll have to put a regulator on the air line? I've heard the best tip will be a 311 for latex but I'm not sure. Any help for this newbie would be appreciated. We've dealt with melamine for the last 20 years.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor H:
I'd move to a tinted pre-cat lacquer or CV. Latex will take a very long time to cure to the point you can transport or install it without damage (bad) or sticking together (worse). I use an air assisted airless for spraying. I know lots of people that use a standard airless as well.

From contributor L:
Latex would be a major mistake! If you don't have a code booth to spray in check out some of the offerings from M. L. Campbell, Gemeni, etc. in waterbornes. Use the recommended spray equipment by the coatings supplier. Cheap guns don't work well and waste a lot of finish. Go with air assisted or HVLP. The coating supplier can provide recommended tip sizes, mil thickness, etc. - not your local paint store!

From the original questioner:
I heard ML Campbell would be a good bet. I understand about the latex. Hopefully they can tell me what kind of spray equipment I need.

From Contributor B:
I have painted many MDF entertainment centers and other cabinets. Most were with Valspar Lacquer. Use poplar or maple for face frames as the MDF is too soft. For the cut or machined edges it may take a couple coats of primer. Prime, sand, prime, sand and repeat until absolutely smooth as the top coat of lacquer will not smooth things out. Also, if you have any moldings or other joints were a seam is visible, try filling them with painter caulk or wood filler. I have also used Bondo. I spray most of my white lacquer with a Craftsman air compressor and a cheap Ingersol HVLP gun.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the help. We'll be doing our first job in the next month or so.