Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and oriented strand board (OSB) are two versatile forms of engineered wood that woodworkers use extensively. They are durable and easy to paint. But cutting these materials can be tricky. The question often arises is whether you can cut them with a jigsaw.
Can you cut MDF or OSB with a jigsaw? You may ask. Yes, you can cut these versatile types of wood with a jigsaw. With MDF being so soft and OSB being so prone to chipping, you need to consider factors like the type of blade, teeth per inch (TPI), blade speed, and so on.
Cutting MDF and OSB: Background
The jigsaw is a handy power tool that every woodworking shop should own. However, you need to have a certain knack for using a jigsaw efficiently. To use a jigsaw properly, you have to consider certain things. If you keep those factors in mind, you can use this power tool accurately.
MDF is a common choice for use in DIY construction. In some ways, MDF even shows superior properties to plywood and other types of wood. For cutting MDF, you can use most tools that we use to cut regular wood. We use cutting tools like circular saws, power saws, table saws, drills, hand saws, and jigsaws to cut MDF.
You can use all these cutting tools to cut MDF provided you take adequate precautions. A major issue that you may face cutting MDF is the chips that tend to occur at the edge of the cut. This occurs with blades that are intended for ripping rather than cutting. It can happen with larger teeth with less number of teeth.
Whichever blade you use to cut MDF, the important factor is the number of teeth. If you use a blade with more teeth per inch (higher TPI) you will get a smoother cut, but your blade will move slower.
OSB is a popular alternative to plywood. We use it for multiple applications like roofing and construction projects. OSB consists of boards composed of wood chips compressed together. Although OSB looks and feels different from plywood, the technique for cutting it is similar to that of plywood.
Difference Between MDF and OSB
There is a tendency to consider MDF and OSB in the same category. Although they share similar applications, they are two entirely different materials. Here are is how they differ:
MDF is both more versatile and more affordable than plywood and many other types of engineered wood. Sometimes, MDF offers better quality than other materials. It is one of the easiest types of wood to work with.
The advantage of MDF over natural wood is that it doesn’t show knots, warping, or wood grain so you get a smoother cut. The result is no splinters, tearout, or burns. Although it isn’t the strongest material around, you can use it for light woodworking projects.
OSB is another form of engineered wood panels. It consists of wood strands bonded together with adhesive and heat-cured. It displays properties similar to plywood and even some features more superior to plywood in terms of distortion, warping, and resisting deflection.
The manufacturing process of OSB is very efficient in that it uses the whole tree. The knots and deformed wood all go into the making of the final product. We can use thin tree trunks like those of poplar or aspen.
How to Cut MDF or OSB with a Jigsaw
If you want to cut MDF or OSB with a jigsaw, you can get the best results by using blades of 15 TPI to 20 TPI. It is the best way of preventing tearout, especially if the MDF is veneered.
Since most veneered MDF has veneer on both sides, you don’t need to worry about which side to cut it on. However, if MDF has veneer on one side, then you would have to ensure that the veneer faces upward when you cut it. And, the slower you cut the finer cut you will get. Here are some simple steps to follow:
Use a Fine Blade
The finer the blade the better cut you will get. A fine blade has small teeth which take more time to remove material. It prevents tearout. If your blade is coarser, it “rips” at the material resulting in a rougher finish. Try using blades with 15 TPI or 20 TPI for best results.
A common feature of most jigsaw blades is that they cut on the upwards stroke. But with MDF or OSB, you stand a chance of tearout and chipping occurring if the blade cuts upwards. You can get jigsaw blades that cut on the down stroke. Chipping, if any, will occur below your MDF or OSB board.
Zero Oscillating Setting
Most jigsaws have a dial that enables you to adjust the reach of the blade. The dial has numbers and the higher the number, the longer the blade will move. Select zero oscillating setting, or at least the least setting on your jigsaw.
The Advantage of a New Blade
This one’s a no-brainer. A new broom sweeps clean, and a new blade cuts clean! Your old blade may still do the job, but you won’t get the satisfaction that a new blade gives. So, especially when you start a new project, start with a new jigsaw blade.
Use Masking Tape
MDF is somewhat delicate when it comes to cutting it so, especially on the surface. So, when you cut it, it is worthwhile to add a bit of additional protection. A great idea is to add masking tape over the surface where you are going to cut it. You will see that your cut is neater. You can remove the masking tape on completing the job.
Mark Your Cutting Line
Scoring the surface of the MDF or OSB along the line you want to cut will facilitate a smoother cut. The chips if any tend to fold inwards into the groove you make on the surface. You can score the surface with a sharp utility knife or a scriber.
Never force your jigsaw when cutting MDF or OSB. Forcing the blade forward will make it bend and cut at an angle. Your blade might also wander away from the line of cutting and give you an inaccurate cut. It could even result in your blade breaking. Add gentle pressure pushing the jigsaw blade to move it forward.
Use Good Quality MDF (or OSB)
You always get the best from good quality material. Buy good quality MDF or OSB and you will find it easier to cut with a jigsaw or any other type of saw blade. Good quality MDF or OSB is denser because the fibers are compressed tighter with a high quantity of adhesive. It results in the best finish when you cut it and you will also find that such material takes nails and screws much better.
You can cut MDF and OSB easily using a jigsaw. The key to processing it correctly is to minimize chips and tearout. After reading the tips that we have provided you here, you will find cutting these materials a breeze.
Try using MDF or OSB in your next woodworking project. By following the procedure outlined here, you can get perfect cuts for a neatly executed project.