Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Lets take a look at particleboard. Most lumberyards and home centers carry at least two kinds: Floor Underlayment and Industrial.

Floor underlayment, as its name implies, is used under carpeting or tile. It consists of a single layer of coarse wood particles that are coated with glue and pressed into sheets.

But the large size of the particles creates a rough texture on the surface. So this type of particleboard doesn't sand or machine well. Nevertheless, it's inexpensive. And it's heavy (a full sheet weights 94 pounds). Because of this, I occasionally use it in projects like a tool stand to help dampen vibration.

If you're building a cabinet or piece of furniture, you'll get better results using an industrial grade of particleboard. It has a core layer of coarse wood particles that's reinforced by two outer layers of finer particles. The high density of fine particles in the outside layers increases the overall strength of the particleboard. And it creates a smooth, uniform surface that's ideal for applying wood veneer or plastic laminate.

While you can apply these materials yourself, many home centers offer particleboard with a number of different surface treatments already applied. For example, it's available with both melamine (a thin layer of plastic on each side) and wood veneer.

Besides a smooth surface, particleboard is also very stable -- there's almost no movement with changes in humidity.

Regardless of the product or the grade, it's best to use a carbide-tipped saw blade or router bit when working with particleboard. Because of its high glue content, even a good quality steel blade or bit will dull quickly.

Another thing to consider when working with particleboard is how to join the pieces together. To maintain its strength, avoid using joints that require cutting into the outside layers of the particleboard.

For example, a butt joint held together with biscuits produces a strong joint. Or simply glue and screw two pieces together. I've found that a screw with a straight shank and deep threads (like a drywall screw) isn't as likely to pull out as a standard wood screw.

TIP: To improve screw-holding strength even more, use a longer screw instead of one with a larger diameter.

Go to Tip #18
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