It isn’t surprising to see wood stacked up in Jeff Rogers’ shop. Slabs of maple and oak, pine and cedar, exotic species like ipe and reclaimed wood from 19th century mills – they all sit in neat piles, waiting to be cut, moulded and shaped into baseboards, flooring, window casings, or anything else Jeff’s meticulous customers demand.
What is surprising is seeing a stack of medium density fibreboard.
“It has its place,” laughs Jeff, the owner of LaserTrim, a custom moulding shop located between Bracebridge and Gravenhurst.
A self-professed ‘wood guy,’ Jeff has built a career out of shaping wood into custom mouldings, trim and flooring. He uses carefully-sourced wood and finely-honed machines to shape and trim the wood into just about any pattern or configuration a builder or home-owner desires. His materials are installed by some of the region’s top craftsmen, as well as by well-informed doit-yourselfers.
In the wood world, medium density fibreboard – or MDF – is regarded as a bit of an embarrassing cousin. It’s cheap and durable, and holds crisp lines when it’s shaped, but it’s made from sawdust and glue, weighs a ton, and generally isn’t much fun to work with. Even those crisp lines are disparaged by some woodworkers, because MDF lacks any kind of grain or character.
So what is it doing in Jeff’s shop?
“Any material has its uses, even MDF,” Jeff says.
“If you’re going to dress your walls or ceiling with tongue-and-groove, and you’re going to stain it, you want to use real wood. But if you’re going to paint it, then you can do the job a whole lot cheaper if you use MDF.”
Quality where it counts
No matter how big the budget, savings are always welcome. And saving money on material that will be painted leaves more money to use on other details – be it a finer grade of wood on the floor, or a custom carved, hand-built door.
Regardless of the material, having it custom-shaped gives access to an enormous range of patterns and designs – far more than any big box store supplies.
All materials have their limitations, of course, and MDF is certainly no exception. “If it gets wet, it swells up like a balloon,” Jeff says. “And anyone with chemical sensitivity wants to stay away from the glues and preservatives. I don’t have a speck of it in my own house, but then it wasn’t really an option when I built. Besides, who am I to tell someone else they can’t use it?”
“It’s all about recognizing that you have choices. Get informed, learn what’s out there, and choose what works best for you. You don’t have to stick with the limited options that the building supply store has.” –DS