Part IV: Types of Engineered Wood

What matters more may perhaps be what is in the “inside” than what is on the “outside”, kinda like that old cliche about books - something like don’t judge something, by something? ;)

Below is a good simple table comparing the different types of engineered wood commonly used as a substrate in building non-solid wood furniture. (Source)






Plywood is made of thin sheets of wood veneer that are laminated in alternating directions.

Medium density fiberboard (MDF) is made of very fine wood fibers that are glued and compressed under great pressure .

Particleboard is a combination of wood chips, shavings, fibers, and adhesives.


High strength. Plywood is good at providing rigidity for structures.

MDF is not as hard as plywood and can be damaged easily when roughly handled.

Low Strength. Particleboard cannot support heavy loads.

Shape Deformity

Cross graining of plywood improves dimensional stability by reducing expansion and shrinkage.

As the moisture content of MDF changes, it is subject to dimensional changes.

Expands too much due to moisture.

Screw/Nails Holding Capacity

Nails and screws will hold strongly because of its stronger cross-grain pattern.

Because it consists of such fine particles, MDF doesn't hold screws very well, and stripping of screw holes may occur in the long run.

The softer and more brittle composition of particle boards, may not hold up well against nails and screws, and could fall apart.

It is important to note that there are also sub-types within each of these. Like for MDF, there are several types of MDF (some types are more moisture-resistant than others), the same way there are several types of Plywood.

These are not the only solid-wood-substitute materials to build furniture out there. As technology in material science advances, there would be more that would be discovered for future furniture and product designers to work and play with. We’re personally excited to see it, hopefully, we can live that long.

We hope this 4-part guide helps.

Our mantra here is “be good”, “be nice”, and as the mom of a Miss World put it - “you can never go wrong with kindness”. With that, “I, thank you.” :-p

Previous:  Part III: What are Veneers & Laminates ?


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The History of HPL

What is HPL - 1?

What is HPL - 2?

HPL and Guitars


Plywood vs MDF vs ParticleBoard - 1

Plywood vs MDF vs ParticleBoard - 2

Plywood vs MDF vs ParticleBoard vs OSB - 1

Plywood vs MDF vs ParticleBoard vs OSB - 2

Veneer, Laminate, SolidWood

Real Wood, Laminate, Veneer

Veneer, Laminate, Solid Wood

MDF vs Solid Wood

Solid Wood, Plywood, Blockboard, MDF, HDF, ParticleBoard


Mid-Century Design Movement

HPL in Modern Furniture

Mid-Century Designers

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