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post #1 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 03:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Finishing MDF Advice

Hey guys I posted this in my build thread but didn’t get any hits. Figured I would try one more time here. By Friday I hope to have the 1099 and 1299s assembly completed. The center and the baffle of the 1299s I will be painting while the rest of the 1299s will be wood veneer. All of my build thus far have all by plywood so finishing was always very easy. This is my first all MDF build.

I’ve done some reading on how to pain MDF but Looking through several of the build threads and I’ve seen some of you get amazing results. I’m curious what method you used to ensure a smooth painted surface. I know I can dilute duratex and spray it but the finish I am looking for is that of like rythmik subwoofers. No texture but strong enough that it won’t immediately scratch.

Does anyone have any advice on primer type, paint type. How to seal the MDF etc that they wouldn’t mind sharing? I’m sure this has been asked a ton on here as I have found various methods of different complexity but not ones that showcase the results of the method or if the MDF found its way to show again later. I am just trying to ensure I have done my research before I ruin all the hard work that has got me this far.

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post #2 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 04:52 AM
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I went with a matte finish and after reading different threads i ended up applying 50/50 or maybe more like 60/40 wood glue and water on the all seams to prevent the mdf from soaking up paint post finish. Then applied 2 layers sealing primer before 2 layers of paint. Light sanding between each step ofcourse.

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post #3 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 05:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by felix94 View Post
I went with a matte finish and after reading different threads i ended up applying 50/50 or maybe more like 60/40 wood glue and water on the all seams to prevent the mdf from soaking up paint post finish. Then applied 2 layers sealing primer before 2 layers of paint. Light sanding between each step ofcourse.


I think I’m looking for something similar. Do you have any pictures of the finished result? After applying the wood glue were you able to sand it easily or did it gum up the paper quickly?

I keep seeing mixed statements on the sealing primer. Some say get kilz primer some say sanding primer then others say stay away from sanding and go with the automotive filler primer in the aerosol can. Not sure the advantages to each method confusing for sure

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post #4 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 05:12 AM
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Yes, the build is in my signature. After the glue had dried i had no trouble sanding it.
I am not sure what the equivalent primer of the one i used would be in your country.

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post #5 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 05:46 AM
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I always have just primed the edges and then sanded them before I paint and they come out super smooth.

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post #6 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 05:51 AM
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I've had good results filling seams with wood filler, sanding, then sealing with two coats of rattle can spray shellac (sanding after each with 150-200 grit), followed by two coats of rattle can spray bed liner.

The beauty is that the shellac dries in minutes, seals well, and sands smooth. No waiting. Zinsser Bullseye Clear Shellac

The spray bed liner gives a matte finish, light texture, and is tough. You can recoat after ~2 minutes. Keep the coats light to avoid runs. Rustoleum Truck Bed Coating Spray

Bonus... Super easy. No messing around, no mixing, no equipment. I'm surprised more people don't do this.
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post #7 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 05:58 AM
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I used the 50/50 glue/water on all the MDF edges. If you don't seal the edges with something, they will soak up the primer, expand, and make the mating edge visible. After that, I was happy with the aerosol auto filling primer. I did a couple of coats with that. Beyond that, lot of sanding. Sand those mating areas (where an MDF edge meets an MDF flat surface). It may look smooth but run your finger across the edge. If you feel anything, you'll see a line after it's painted.
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post #8 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 06:11 AM - Thread Starter
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I think I am going to go with the 50/50 then auto filling primer then paint.

Is there any downside to just coating the entire box with the glue water mixture? Basically just seal up the entire thing then sand it smooth. Prime and paint?

For the paint any suggestions on a good brand of durable paint? Do you guys cover the pain with any poly or something to help protect the paint?

As you can tell finishing is not my strong suit. Building was easy but finishing is new for sure

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post #9 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 06:39 AM
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There's really no secret or trick to finishing MDF. Actually, MDF is designed to be painted and can easily produce a glass like finish. All you really need to do is allow any end grain to completely soak up whatever primer you plan on using. Anything that is easily sandable will do the job. Water/glue mix, roll on primers, rattlecan primers even polyurethane will do the job. The final sanding is the most important part of the process to get best results. Stepping your way up to 400 grit sandpaper is enough to get a glass like finish. I'm doing a granite paint job on a set of bookshelf LaScala clones right now. I can post some pics to show you what results are possible with minimal work. I also have several threads with some step by step instructions and pics that might be helpful.
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post #10 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 06:53 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tarponater View Post
There's really no secret or trick to finishing MDF. Actually, MDF is designed to be painted and can easily produce a glass like finish. All you really need to do is allow any end grain to completely soak up whatever primer you plan on using. Anything that is easily sandable will do the job. Water/glue mix, roll on primers, rattlecan primers even polyurethane will do the job. The final sanding is the most important part of the process to get best results. Stepping your way up to 400 grit sandpaper is enough to get a glass like finish. I'm doing a granite paint job on a set of bookshelf LaScala clones right now. I can post some pics to show you what results are possible with minimal work. I also have several threads with some step by step instructions and pics that might be helpful.


Thanks for the information I realize I’m way overthinking it but he way I see it is the more I ask up front the less chance of having to sand it off and start over bc I am not happy with it lol.

I would love to see some of the pictures of what’s possible. I have zero imagination when it comes to the finishing of these speakers. I planned to just get some pine veneer and use steel wool and vinegar to match the tv console I built. I figured the black face would be the best contrast to that color.

Here is the console for reference. I’m open to all suggestions and help for sure lol

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post #11 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 08:08 AM
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These are all MDF with the exception of the smaller wood grain cabinet with the glossy painted top in the driveway. That is plywood with an MDF top. All other wood finishes are veneer over MDF and Minwax polyurethane. The satin blacks are rattle can lacquer. I believe there's build threads for all of these. I'v considered doing a cabinet similar to yours. I like that style.
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post #12 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 08:34 AM
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I'd go with the Zinsser, keep it simple. Grab a cheap brush because the Zinsser sealer will ruin what ever it touches, then sand down to smooth and paint. I've done the wood glue and water before, its not as simple as the seal coat.


This is a case of keeping it simple. I've learned in the past that its hard to anticipate your outcome, especially when you have little to no experience with what it is you are doing. If you keep it simple and don't over analyze you'll be more happy in the long run.
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post #13 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 09:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Finishing MDF Advice

@tarponater yeah I really like the cabinet. I installed usb fans to auto power on and move air when certain components are turned on. Works great. It’s designed to rest the 1099 perfectly in the center. Also don’t mind the small Polk bookshelves they are holding my off until I finish the build since I’ve already sold my RF7iiis.

The designs looks outstanding by the way I hope mine come out half as well as those. That’s the beauty of DIY though try something you haven’t before and learn from it.
I think I will take @Trimlock advice and go with the sealer as I like the sealer and primer in one idea.


Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Interior/Exterior Multi-Purpose Water-Based Wall and Ceiling Primer (Actual Net Contents: 32-fl oz) https://www.lowes.com/pd/Zinsser-Bul...-fl-oz/3610418


Is this the product you are referring to? Is it easy to sand etc to make it smooth and perfect?

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post #14 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 10:28 AM
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Yup, that looks good! Like Tarp said, pay attention to MDF end grain.




MDF is essentially layered paper, the top and bottom are resistant to absorbing moisture but the ends are not. If I were you, I'd start by slathering some on the end grain first, let that dry, then put an even layer of sealer over the entire thing. In my experience, you shouldn't hit any major roadblocks.
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post #15 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 11:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimlock View Post
Yup, that looks good! Like Tarp said, pay attention to MDF end grain.




MDF is essentially layered paper, the top and bottom are resistant to absorbing moisture but the ends are not. If I were you, I'd start by slathering some on the end grain first, let that dry, then put an even layer of sealer over the entire thing. In my experience, you shouldn't hit any major roadblocks.


I think I’ve got it worked out! Between you guys help and piecing together several forum post I came up with the following plan.

1) Use dap drydex spackle to help smooth the transitions. Sand and repeat until smooth.

2) Prime using Zinsser BIN primer (I was told this is much better than the 123 for this application) sand between coats and wipe using a tack cloth. 2 total costs to seal.

3) spray 2+ coats of rustoleum filler and sandable primer. Sand between coats until buttery smooth.

4) roll on flat black paint using a foam cabinet roller for smooth finish.

Only a couple questions. What grits should I use to sand?

Anyone have a suggestion on paint type. Latex acrylic enamel etc?

How’s all this sound so far?

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post #16 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 11:38 AM
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I'll pretty much second what everyone has said. Glue/water mix helps, easy to sand. Main thing is just focus on that end grain, the flat surface won't absorb a whole lot like the ends. A good fill primer in a can will do just fine and sanding to at least 220-400 before paint depending on what product and how smooth you want it to be. I'm sure there are good aresol can products that will get the look you are going for. If you had a decent HVLP spray gun and 10+ gallon compressor, that spray grade duratex does lay down pretty darn smooth and is very durable. I think you've said you've seen my videos on building mine, but you can see there is just a slight orange peel texture to the finish when you spray. It's not a rough texture, very smooth actually, but it's just not glass flat/smooth like if you were to use automotive paints in a spray gun. If you are looking to get into a decent gun, the starter kits from devilbiss are good products. Regardless of what you decide to do, do a few practice pieces before you do the speakers. You'll want to work out your technique on something other than those lol.

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4) roll on flat black paint using a foam cabinet roller for smooth finish.

How’s all this sound so far?
Again, I don't know what your goals are for "smooth", but anything sprayed will give a smoother finish than anything rolled. Just a heads up Again, I'd do a test panel to make sure you are getting the desired results before going at it on the enclosures

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post #18 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 11:41 AM
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#3 may be overkill but then again, overkill is over rated


I'm using Latex right now, learning a lot about this paint. Low VOC and forgiving. Just find something with a color you like.


when sanding I wouldn't go lower than 120 or higher than 220. If you are going to put on another layer immediately then I'd just stick with 220 between coats.
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Again, I don't know what your goals are for "smooth", but anything sprayed will give a smoother finish than anything rolled. Just a heads up Again, I'd do a test panel to make sure you are getting the desired results before going at it on the enclosures


Good advice for sure. I thought about buying a HVLP gun but $200 just to paint these cabs and the let it sit is a bit more than I’m willing to stomach. I do have a Wagner flexio gun I could use for the final finish for sure but I’ve only used that for exterior not sure how the finishing gun works. Might try a test piece and see if that will do well enough for the cabs. Here is an example of what I am going for. Similar look except I’m going to veneer all the way to the edge and not round over the front due to adding a grill later. The center channel since hidden inside my console will be all paint no veneer. Basically when I say smooth I want as little peel effect as possible maybe even less than the picture below if possible.


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post #20 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 11:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimlock View Post
#3 may be overkill but then again, overkill is over rated


I'm using Latex right now, learning a lot about this paint. Low VOC and forgiving. Just find something with a color you like.


when sanding I wouldn't go lower than 120 or higher than 220. If you are going to put on another layer immediately then I'd just stick with 220 between coats.


Haha yeah I figured someone would say it’s not needed but I am in no huge rush so the way I see it is the more time I spend ensuring no grain the happier I will be with the final result. In theory at least haha.

I believe I have several sheets of 220 I’ll pick up a sanding block and hopefully should be good to go.


Really love all the advice from everyone. Certainly making me feel much more confident that’s for sure!
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post #21 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 12:29 PM
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The desired finish and paint type will determine the final sanding grit. Always step up in small increments. 100-220-300-400-600-800-etc. If you are going with DuraTex textured type finishes, 220 is fine. 220-300 is fine for anything you plan to roll on. If you are looking for smooth finishes, either matte or gloss you really should finish with at least 400. The most durable finish you'll find in a rattle can is lacquer or polyurethane. They also tend to produce the best finish. Do not attempt to spray either of those on cold or humid days, they will blush. Black lacquer rattle can paint is readily available. If you cant find that, Minwax sells their fast drying polyurethane in rattle can and that produces a very good finish. It can be sprayed directly over flat black, wet on wet. Meaning once the black paint has dried to the touch, the poly can be sprayed on with no sanding. But do not wait more than an hour or so.

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I thought the finish on my Volt 10’s turned out pretty good. I just used two layers of primer with a 3/8” nap roller and flat black latex paint mixed up at Lowe’s. I hand rubbed and brushed a few coats of satin poly for protection and a slight sheen.

I’ll second that using latex paint is very forgiving and has the potential to leave a very smooth finish on MDF. Outside of Duratex on the 21” sub, latex is the only type of paint I’ve used on all my previous cabs, but it does scratch rather easily without a sealer.

Don’t over think it. Prime, sand, paint, and enjoy those bad boys!

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The desired finish and paint type will determine the final sanding grit. Always step up in small increments. 100-220-300-400-600-800-etc. If you are going with DuraTex textured type finishes, 220 is fine. 220-300 is fine for anything you plan to roll on. If you are looking for smooth finishes, either matte or gloss you really should finish with at least 400. The most durable finish you'll find in a rattle can is lacquer or polyurethane. They also tend to produce the best finish. Do not attempt to spray either of those on cold or humid days, they will blush. Black lacquer rattle can paint is readily available. If you cant find that, Minwax sells their fast drying polyurethane in rattle can and that produces a very good finish. It can be sprayed directly over flat black, wet on wet. Meaning once the black paint has dried to the touch, the poly can be sprayed on with no sanding. But do not wait more than an hour or so.


I think I’ve decided to spray the final top coats using the flexio spray gun. Hopefully that will work well. Assuming I am using that gun what would be the best paint I should go with. I do plan to poly over it when complete.


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post #24 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sekosche View Post
I thought the finish on my Volt 10’s turned out pretty good. I just used two layers of primer with a 3/8” nap roller and flat black latex paint mixed up at Lowe’s. I hand rubbed and brushed a few coats of satin poly for protection and a slight sheen.

I’ll second that using latex paint is very forgiving and has the potential to leave a very smooth finish on MDF. Outside of Duratex on the 21” sub, latex is the only type of paint I’ve used on all my previous cabs, but it does scratch rather easily without a sealer.

Don’t over think it. Prime, sand, paint, and enjoy those bad boys!



Those look great! That’s the finish I am going for! You did that with a roller? If so that’s awesome and will save me a lot of pain learning to use a gun properly lol


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post #25 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 01:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sekosche View Post
I thought the finish on my Volt 10’s turned out pretty good. I just used two layers of primer with a 3/8” nap roller and flat black latex paint mixed up at Lowe’s. I hand rubbed and brushed a few coats of satin poly for protection and a slight sheen.

I’ll second that using latex paint is very forgiving and has the potential to leave a very smooth finish on MDF. Outside of Duratex on the 21” sub, latex is the only type of paint I’ve used on all my previous cabs, but it does scratch rather easily without a sealer.

Don’t over think it. Prime, sand, paint, and enjoy those bad boys!

Using a flat black for the color coat under poly is a pretty good idea. Flat latex is very similar to primer, in that it dries ultra fast and is lightly sandable. I know a painting contractor that uses all the leftover exterior flat paint as primer for other jobs. That system is also easy since no spraying equipment is needed. A simple foam or microfiber roller will give a smooth enough base to allow the poly lay down. Another good thing about poly is that it's designed to brush, wipe or roll on and levels out very good.

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post #26 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Using a flat black for the color coat under poly is a pretty good idea. Flat latex is very similar to primer, in that it dries ultra fast and is lightly sandable. I know a painting contractor that uses all the leftover exterior flat paint as primer for other jobs. That system is also easy since no spraying equipment is needed. A simple foam or microfiber roller will give a smooth enough base to allow the poly lay down. Another good thing about poly is that it's designed to brush, wipe or roll on and levels out very good.


Thanks for the confidence booster. Looking forward to finishing off the build tomorrow and start painting on Saturday or Sunday!


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post #27 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 05:51 PM
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I've had good results filling seams with wood filler, sanding, then sealing with two coats of rattle can spray shellac (sanding after each with 150-200 grit), followed by two coats of rattle can spray bed liner.

The beauty is that the shellac dries in minutes, seals well, and sands smooth. No waiting. Zinsser Bullseye Clear Shellac

The spray bed liner gives a matte finish, light texture, and is tough. You can recoat after ~2 minutes. Keep the coats light to avoid runs. Rustoleum Truck Bed Coating Spray

Bonus... Super easy. No messing around, no mixing, no equipment. I'm surprised more people don't do this.

Love this idea, exactly what I'm considering for the Devastator build.


Question though: why use the shellac instead of a primer?

(and sorry if I'm hijacking the thread)
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post #28 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 06:01 PM
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Love this idea, exactly what I'm considering for the Devastator build.


Question though: why use the shellac instead of a primer?

(and sorry if I'm hijacking the thread)
Six of one, half dozen of the other. They all work. Shellac is just quick and easy. It's a beautiful finish on hardwood, all by itself. It is also a universal binder. A coat of shellac is a suitable sealer and base for pretty much any finish.
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post #29 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary Mertz View Post
Love this idea, exactly what I'm considering for the Devastator build.


Question though: why use the shellac instead of a primer?

(and sorry if I'm hijacking the thread)

Six of one, half dozen of the other. They all work. Shellac is just quick and easy. It's a beautiful finish on hardwood, all by itself. It is also a universal binder. A coat of shellac is a suitable sealer and base for pretty much any finish.
Agreed on all of this. For MDF I usually use zinser bin shellac. Roll it on or brush it on. Dries quick and sands easy. It sticks to most everything and most everything sticks to it.
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post #30 of 31 Old 02-20-2020, 07:14 PM
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Excellent, makes sense. Thank you, gentlemen.
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