Simple finish to put on MDF speaker enclosures?

This old topic is closed. If you want to reopen this topic, contact a moderator using the "Report Post" button.
It took me nearly three months to build the cabinet for AUDAX home theater center channel speaker. Time for DIYing is very hard to come by, and because of my *very* limited woodworking tools and skills, I made lots of mistakes and made whole lot of purchases which I didn't need. :(

Now the construction is finished, but I need to dress the cabinet. I know that there's veneer, stain and finish option, but for someone like me with virtually no woodworking skill this might mean another $200 for materials and etc.

I know that some speaker manufacturers use a sheet of glossy paper (or vinyl or some thin plastic film looking thingee) which has woodgrain-looking pattern and nice semi-gloss finish. I even heard someone saying that such paper comes with adhesive backing so you can basically "slap'em" on the box.

If anyone here have used it, could you please tell me how it went? Also the company and product name of such sheet (and where you bought it) and if there's anything I should watch out for while doing the job?

Any help appreciated..

A simple finish for MDF enclosures is paint.
Two layers of primer and two layers of basecoat
give very nice results, pick any color from the
diy store.

Apply the paint with a smooth foam roller, these
are cheap and you can keep them overnight in a
plastic bag so that it won't dry out and it saves
the trouble of cleaning them.
Generally the stuff you're looking forward is tough to come by in a heavier form. There is always contact paper available from Home Depot or a lot of other places, but I know from experience that it doesnt hold up well. Home depot may have sheets of thin laminate for sale for about 20 dollars. Check in the cabinets section. You may find something that suits your needs. If not, you can always call a local cabinet maker and see if they can either provide you with the laminate you're looking for, or in some cases, they will vacuum laminate it for you for much lower than $200 if its a small job and they are nice enough.

Laminates and heavier materials are generally more forgiving to work with. With veneer, once you put a corner down, the most you might be able to do is twist it a bit, but its difficult because its so thin. It also requires the most surface preparation. If you would like to do veneer however, the home depot sells iron on venner that works pretty well, and costs approx $60 a sheet, which should be enough to do a center chan with. If not, give your local cabinet maker a call and see what you can work out. May save you some time and money in the long run.

Agree on paint

I agree with gfx, for you, paint is probably the best/easiest option. With limited wood working skills, and I am assuming VERY limited tools, I would try to stay away from any of the laminate type stuff. You'll quickly discover that cutting a straight line is a lot harder than it looks, lining everything up takes a lot of work, and getting all of the measurements exact isn't easy either. Paint, on the other hand, is much more forgiving. If you mess up, just add one or more additional coats to hide it. I'd recommend going with a nice high-gloss enamel paint, doing a light sanding with either a high grit sand paper or some Very fine steel wool or scotch brite pad between coats of paint. You'll be amazed how smooth and glossy the finish will come out! If you can, spraying it instead of brushing or rolling it will also help you achieve the glass smooth finish as well. Good luck and let us know if you have more questions!
Sticker type laminate

Thanks everyone.

Last night I went to the local hardwarehouse store and found a roll of thin film (45cm wide x 15meters long) which has maple-looking pattern and adhesive backing. The surface has some texture - it's not a smooth surface.

I cleaned up my speaker cabinet and applied the film. It was really easy to put on. I decided to cover each side at a time. I cut the film with about 10mm margin on all 4 sides. Film was thin (<1mm) so I just used Xacto knife to trim - So easy to trim! The whole process took me little more than an hour!! Trimming out the baffle (lots of circular holes) were easy too. Then I placed few drops of thin superglue on all sharp corners of the box to secure the film. I reckon for the first try, things went well and it looks pretty good. Until you actually touch it, it's difficult to tell whether it's a plastic film or wood veneer. Even the overlaps (where two sheets of film meets side-by-side on a same surface) looks neat. You have to actually touch the surface to find the seam.

I think the most critical thing for this method is sanding of the bare cabinet. I used an orbital sander and mercilessly sanded down all six surfaces... eventually I ended up rounding edges (unevenly) too much. This poses great difficulty for such thin film laminate because the film wouldn't stick well along the edges.

Well. I don't know how long this film would stay on the cabinet but it looks pretty secure for now. I am pretty happy with the result.

Nice job. I've never seen anything with a textured finish like that before. I'll have to look for some.

You're right, applying anything besides paint to MDF requires a lot of work. Especially where the seams meet, and where you place filler inside of screw holes and such. A mistake a lot of people make is putting big gobs of filler on, and then oversanding. This really isnt necessary. You should put just a little bit over to allow for some shrinkage, and this saves a lot of sanding time and extra hassle.

Anyways, congratulations on finishing the project. We hope to see you doing some more projects in the future!

This old topic is closed. If you want to reopen this topic, contact a moderator using the "Report Post" button.