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Painting MDF Cabinet Faces with Epoxy

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  • Painting MDF Cabinet Faces with Epoxy

    I have some MDF drawer faces routed for my latest Euro kitchen cabinet project and now I need some paint recommendations. These drawers store canned goods, so I need a tough durable finish. The paint samples of Rustoleum 2 part epoxy garage floor finish that were on display at the Borg were kind of what I was looking for, except my wife wasn't real keen on gray or tan (even with speckled color flakes). My test is like Melamine, the surface has to be able to
    stand up to a scratch attack with car key. The RustOleum laughed at my car key but a nearby oil based sample was demolished.

    I sent out emails to a number of major paint companies. Responses against using a one or two part epoxy on MDF included:

    -we can't recommend our epoxy product on wood because have have only tested it on concrete or metal;
    -it might dissolve the MDF
    -if you use it on MDF we'll send the paint police after you
    -if you use it on MDF a cold fusion reaction may occur that would take out the city block.
    ...ok so I am kidding a bit about the last two. I did get some positive responses. One from RustOleum for their 5300 industrial epoxy product and another one from Bejamin Moore for their waterbased M43 two part with M09 primer. I am running some tests of some Diamond Vogel 2 part and another on some one part Behr garage floor.

    Anybody know how the Pro's do it? I took a look at my existing Euro doors that are being replaced and there seems to be a mix of technologies. One of the doors had a Melamine backing and some coating on the front. On some doors, you can see where the finish (paint? with brushmarks) is wearing off in areas of high use around the knobs. I have two teenage boys so household surfaces generally wear at a rate of 10x a DINK household. Yet other doors had a durable hard thick plastic coating that looked like new. Finish quality also varied where in some cases, the manufacture hadn't heard about the invention of sand paper. I also discovered a set of coating cracks on another door (the boys probably running some unsupervised impact experiments).

    I am thinking Oil base and Latex won't cut it because they are too soft...? They won't crack, but they will be easy to ding. What about water based Acrylics? or a Saturn body panel? I am also going to ping my model airplane buddies for finishing suggestions.

    There have been some good threads on BT3 about using glue and spackle for fillers on the routed surfaces. Some other people have used RustOleum One Touch spray cans and have gotten a good finish. If anybody has some secret sauce, I am open for suggestions.


  • #2
    If I were you I would use Glidden Exterior Paint. It works really well. I used it for my shop cabinets. If you're really concern about the wear, you can apply some poly to it. But the Glidden (an I am sure other brands) have paints design for furniture, shutters, etc.


    • #3

      The folks at the local Sherwin-Williams tell me that lacquer is the way to go. But you need HVLP gear, a good respirator and a lot of hose (apparently you need to isolate your motor and all from where you are spraying). SW's product is called CAB-Acrylic, I think. Goes on real smooth, dries fast and is tough.

      Since I don't have an HVLP setup, I used their Pro-Classic line. It is latex based but dries like an oil. The finish was really nice. I haven't given it the key test so I can't speak to its toughness.

      Good Luck



      • #4

        I can speak from personal experience that the Varathane Colours in Plastic (Melamine) product is quite good for projects that will see significant wear and tear. It probably isn't as durable as an epoxy, and likely there are other products out there that are better, but it will be simpler to use. Prime everything first using a good quality exterior/interior oil (alkyd) based primer (Zinsser is good, lots of others will be fine too) Then apply several coats of the paint, waiting the proper amount of time between each coat. I usually do one coat a day on paint jobs, and lightly sand between each coat just to ensure good adhesion between coats.

        On painted cabinets and furniture, applying 3-5 coats of paint will build up a significant film that should be highly resistant to marking, and provide some wiggle room if you ever need to buff out a small scratch in the paint. Applying a clear coat over top for extra protection won't make any difference in durability.

        \"excuse my spelling, we do things differently in Canada eh!\"


        • #5
          go you a real car body shop, tell them what you are trying to do, I remember this fellow I was working on a trolley restore with here in Charlotte, he wips out this smallish can of paint, and opened the top, it had a smell that would make an elephant high, but it was gloss red, and dried hard as a rock in about 15 minutes, he said it was an automotive finish. Check with a store that sells BASF paints

          Dan in Charlotte, NC
          It's Like I've always said, it's amazing what an agnostic can't do if he dosent know whether he believes in anything or not

          Monty Python's Flying Circus

          Dan in Harrisburg, NC


          • #6
            Hey everybody,

            Thanks for the good recommendations.

            I added the SW ProClassic to my paint sample collection last night and will be adding more. So keep the recommendations coming.

            I've been trying to go beyond all the marketing hype and get educated on paint chemistry (the curse of being and engineer at heart). Apparently water based acrylic epoxies are considered a half breed paint that might provide a marginally better surface over a 100% acrylic (latex) resin, but are primarily used where chemical resistance is important. A two part full solvent epoxy would probably give me the hardest most durable surface, but I am second guessing if that would be worth the effort. After all, if my wife or kids accidently hit the drawer face with a chain saw, I can just make a new drawer face; That's what this BT3 stuff is all about..right? I have high hopes for the 100% acrylics and will check out the Melamine....and if you haven't guessed, I still don't know what I am talking about.



            • #7
              Maybe what I need is some carbonite (Star Wars) or Duranium (Star Trek).

              It is probably going to take a while for the ProClassic and the other paint samples to cure, so I am going to hold off on painting. Right now they are failing the finger nail scratch test, so there is no way they will pass the car key test.

              Ryan, who do you have as the maker of Varathane Colours in Plastic? I am coming up with Flecto which apparently was bought out by Rustoleum and is now Varathane Diamond Polyurethane Interior Water Based. Is this the same stuff? some potter/clay links recommend baking this stuff at 250 degrees F. for 5 minutes.

              I still need to check out BASF for elephant fumes, CAB-Acrylic, and give G. Lucas a call to see if carbonite is available in semi-gloss white.



              • #8
                why not just get some corian, the color that you want, and route it to make it look like cabinets?

                It's Like I've always said, it's amazing what an agnostic can't do if he dosent know whether he believes in anything or not

                Monty Python's Flying Circus

                Dan in Harrisburg, NC


                • #9
                  Hi Nick,

                  The Colors in Plastic product is nowhere to be found on their website, which is odd. The local HD has lots on its shelves but I wonder if that product is going away, or just an oversight while doing up the site. The Melamine (CIP) is an alkyd based product.

                  In looking at the Flecto site though, looks like a bunch of products there that might fit the bill for you.

                  \"excuse my spelling, we do things differently in Canada eh!\"


                  • #10

                    Have you continued these experiments?



                    • #11
                      (Warning: Long Post)

                      It is going to take a while to give the paints a fair chance of curing. Here's what I have so far.

                      Diamond Vogel two part epoxy garage floor paint is by far the front runner. The guy at the paint store was kind enough to mix up a a couple of teaspoons fulls and apply it on one of my MDF test boards. He used the fast cure second part, but for some reason, it never really set up, possibly because of the ride home in the cold. After about two weeks I split the sample in half with a bandsaw and placed one piece in the oven over night at low temp. My wife didn't see the "In Use" sign and accidentally turned the oven on to do some baking at 350F. It came out still soft but after a couple of days hardened to the point where you cannot scratch it in any way with your finger nail. Very similar to the Rust-oleum two part garage floor sample on display at the Borg. The phillips screw driver and hammer punch test left a clean imprint with no cracking. I expected it to shatter. Scratching it with the sharp point of a wood screw leaves about the same indent as when scratching a piece of 3/4" Melamine from the Borg. Wer'e looking for a semi gloss but I'd have to place this paint glossy side of semi gloss. The surface is very smooth. Jury is out.

                      Rust-oleum Appliance Epoxy Ultra Hard Enamel spray can with Painter's Touch Sandable Primer comes in at second. I can just barely leave an imprint when scratching it with a finger nail. This sample is still pretty fresh and may harden more as it cures. The surface finish has a very slight amount of crinkle texture which I actually like. The only problem is it is a gloss. I am going to experiment and see if I can find a semigloss clear coat for it. Any recommendations? Phillips punch test no fracturing. Almost as hard as Melamine.

                      Behr one part epoxy acrylic garage floor and concrete comes in a close third. This paint is a semigloss, almost a satin. The finger nail scratch test wasn't able to penetrate the surface, but it left a glossy streak. Phillips punch test no fracturing. Almost as hard as Melamine. Advantage to this paint is it is water based clean up. Starts to turn yellow at 350F.

                      ---------------The Cut Line ----------------------

                      Sherwin Williams ProClassic is a high quality 100% Acrylic (Latex). It divits and scratches easily with a finger nail. Oven curing hasn't really helped.

                      Rust-oleum Painters Touch. Divits and scratches easily with a finger nail.

                      Flecto Varathane Diamond Crystal Clear Waterborne Wood finish was recommended by the guy at the Borg as being the hardest clear top coat they had; harder than PolyAcrylic products. He recommended it on top of Painter's touch or other paints. It easily scrapes off of painter's touch. Need to run more samples. Jury is out.

                      Rust-oleum Plastic Primer over Melamine. Seems to adhear well. Seems to be a good base for Painter's touch although the final surface with the Painter's touch still scratched with a finger nail. Appliance Epoxy over Plastic Primer was not happy. Appliance
                      Epoxy didn't seem to harden and can be scrapped off with little effort.

                      Summary: Looks like the Epoxy based paints are winning. I do not look forward to applying a two part (possibly get a gel coat cup sprayer to simplify the cleanup). I am going to try the Benjamin Moore M43 two part epoxy (just procrastinating hoping one of these others would come thru). I am also going run a new set of samples without primers to take them out of the equation. The matrix of possible combinations of primers and top coats just gets too hairy.

                      ...and I'll just give them more time to cure.