Tips for MDF Subwoofer Box Building

Written by teresa rodriguez
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Tips for MDF Subwoofer Box Building
MDF makes heavy, acoustically dense boxes for loudspeakers. (golden speakers image by Nicemonkey from

MDF is medium density fiberboard, a preferred box-making material among do-it-yourself speaker builders. MDF is not particleboard. MDF is compressed wood pulp, so it is denser and heavier than actual wood, making it a desirable material for building a subwoofer box. MDF is a manufactured hardboard, so it has no surface grain. MDF also has a completely uniform surface, and that characteristic is one of its most valuable for subwoofer box building.

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Working With MDF

Because MDF has no grain, it can be cut, drilled, machined and filed without scarring the surface. Because it's a pressurised and assembled product infused with glue, MDF releases urea formaldehyde when it is sanded or cut. Urea formaldehyde can irritate eyes and lungs, so proper ventilation is essential. Wear a mask and goggles whenever you work with MDF.

Butt the Edges

Edge-to-edge butt joints work well for subwoofer construction. Other types of joints, from dovetails to rebates, can also be used, but the combination of wood glue and screws is excellent for the easier butt joints.

Use Quality Wood Glue

MDF can be treated like any hardwood, and professional grade PVA glue is ideal. Consider the building of an MDF subwoofer box like a fine-quality furniture cabinet, and you'll get the airtight quality necessary for a well-performing speaker.

Drill Pilot Holes

The pulp-pressed nature of MDF means it doesn't hold screws as tightly as plywood or other natural wood does. The solution is to drill pilot holes before you drive the screws into the joints. Make the pilot holes between 85 per cent and 90 per cent of the screws' diameter and as deep as the screws are long. Non-tapered sheet metal screws and wood screws work best.

Use T-nuts

Use threaded T-nuts that clamp into the MDF surface to ensure a tight bond when you attach the loudspeaker/driver, internal amplifier or terminal cup with machine screws.

Finish With Veneer

Applied carefully with generous amounts of glue, wood veneers can produce a very professional looking cabinet finish. MDF can also be painted, but doesn't take well to oil and lacquer because of its grain-less composite surface appearance.

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