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Solid wood vs MDF

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13 replies to this topic

#1 of 14 OFFLINE   Danny Levenson

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Posted August 04 2004 - 12:01 AM

I'm planning to make some small bookshelf type speakers -- either MBOW1 or GR AV-1. They will probably be used primarily for music. Is there any reason why I shouldn't build the cabinets out of solid wood (probably cherry) rather than MDF with some sort of veneer or sprayed finish? I have some extra cherry boards, and if there aren't any reasons not to, I may use some of it to build these speakers.

#2 of 14 OFFLINE   Kyle Richardson

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Posted August 04 2004 - 01:23 AM

Solid wood isnt used because it's density is not uniform and for the fact that it can even have leaks if the boards have knots. It will also expand and contract depending on the humidity where a plywood or MDF will stay more consistent. Its best to use MDF then veneer over the top with the finish of your choice.
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#3 of 14 OFFLINE   Darren_T


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Posted August 04 2004 - 01:48 AM

Yeah, what Kyle said. You can build the baffle of solid wood if you laminate it to a MDF sub-baffle. I've done this several times but wouldn't recommend it to a novice woodworker (not sure of your experience level). The expansion and contraction rates of different species of wood vary.

#4 of 14 OFFLINE   Chris Tsutsui

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Posted August 04 2004 - 07:40 AM

MDF expands and contracts too.

I wouldn't use a solid wood with knots in it.. I'd buy a good grain that's consistent. Maybe the density of the wood might be the only thing to affect the sound.

It would be time consuming to glue up the sheets for a solid wood speaker, and then sealing (Both) the inside and outside of the speaker. I think it would still work fine if you have the experience. Just plane the pieces and glue it up like you are assembling a solid wood door.

What's nice about a solid wood speaker is you never have to worry about burning through the veneer when sanding. You also can sand it down and apply a new finish if you wanted. Plus the speaker will be exotic, the veneer won't peel, and you can round the edges with a router... hehe

There are reasons why I want to see a pure solid wood speaker: Posted Image

I don't care for veneer wraps.

I like rounded edges.. but when it's solid wood edges on laminated MDF, the solid wood doesn't always match the laminated wood.

Prelaminated MDF hard edges are hard to make perfect unless you have a CNC.

Anyways, I've never attempted a solid speaker FYI.. just been plywoods and MDF. hehe Good luck if you do try it though!

#5 of 14 OFFLINE   Darren_T


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Posted August 04 2004 - 09:26 AM

Very little in comparison to hardwood Posted Image

I've built many speakers with solid baffles, it gets you 85% of the way to looking like a solid wood enclosure without the drawbacks of using solid wood for the enclosure. You get rounded baffle edges and rounded vertical edges in the back. Looks quite nice. In the image below I didn't attempt to match the veneer to the baffle grain as the customer didn't want to have to spend the money on figured walnut veneer on top of a figured solid wood baffle. I like the look though.

Posted Image

#6 of 14 OFFLINE   Hank Frankenberg

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Posted August 04 2004 - 09:46 AM

Solid wood will move (check, crack, split) over time, just like it does in old solid-wood furniture. Solid wood resonates more than MDF. Solid wood costs LOTS more than MDF. Darren's work is beautiful, but if you want to save money, make your cabs from MDF, then you can, if you want, round over the front (and rear) vertical edges and wrap your veneer around the edges. It will look great.

#7 of 14 OFFLINE   Jeff B.

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Posted August 04 2004 - 01:16 PM

This really bums me out to hear that solid wood isn't a good idea. My uncle and his brothers have their own business doing very high end custom work in homes using exotic wood. They had already agreed to donate me some since they have tons of it. They had stuff like African Blackwood, Macassar Ebony ? and tons of other stuff I had never heard of. I always thought that a lot of the high end speakers used wood besides mdf.

#8 of 14 OFFLINE   Danny Levenson

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Posted August 05 2004 - 12:41 AM

Thanks for the responses. I was just wondering about using solid wood because I have more than enough cherry boards laying around that I could use. I guess I'll save the cherry for something else in the future. I really don't care much for the look of most veneers, so maybe I'll figure out a nice spray finish. Since these are going to be small bookshelf speakers, I don't really care if they "blend" in rather than attract attention.

#9 of 14 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

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Posted August 05 2004 - 01:42 AM

Oh, man! Ebony speakers would be nice... it's nice and dense, too. Leo

#10 of 14 OFFLINE   Chris Keen

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Posted August 05 2004 - 03:07 AM

Hey Jeff, What sort of tools would you have access to? If they have really good tools, you can still probably take great advantage of those exotic hardwoods. If they have a nice bandsaw with some good resawing capability, I would slice myself some 1/8" to 3/16" veneers from those hardwoods to veneer to your MDF enclosures. It would be nice to have a drum sander / belt sander to run the veneers through even them out. Of course if they have a REALLY nice bandsaw with carbide resawing blade (probably 18" or larger machine), then it can often leave you with a finished cut that won't require much more than hand sanding or the use of a hand held random orbital sander. Don't give up hope. If you've got some great wood to work with (and it sounds like it), and some good machines, you can still have great success!
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#11 of 14 OFFLINE   Jonathan T

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Posted August 05 2004 - 06:48 AM

But Adire recomends baltic burch for their HE series of speakers. Does this wood have some special properties?
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#12 of 14 OFFLINE   Allen Ross

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Posted August 05 2004 - 07:41 AM

BB is lighter then MDF and i believe has better acoustic properties (for full range) then MDF, but at more the 2X the cost you will be just as good with MDF
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#13 of 14 OFFLINE   Ronnie Ferrell

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Posted August 05 2004 - 08:22 AM

You might already know this but if not, the Baltic Birch they are talking about is void free 13-ply not a single ply of wood. The 13 ply makes it very ridged. Ronnie
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#14 of 14 OFFLINE   Jeff B.

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Posted August 05 2004 - 01:44 PM

Well I'm not sure exactly what tools my uncles have, but I'm willing to guess they pretty much have everything I would need. One of them just built their own house, needless to say the wood work was absolutely stunning throughout the entire house.

I REALLY wish I had more time before I have to go to school... less then 2 weeks. At this point I just want to hear my sub before I go off to school 800 miles away.

I really like your idea about the veneer Chris. I'm thinking maybe I can just make the enclosure now out of mdf, so I can enjoy some deep bass for a little bit before leaving. Then when I come back from vacation I can finish it with the veneer work and make it nice and pretty. Posted Image

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