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I bought a 12mm sheet of melamine-faced MDF to use as a (black) whiteboard (chalk pens, works nicely) and some aluminum angle to use as edging (hoping to attach it to the sides and the front).

I was planning to screw the aluminum into the sides of the MDF but I have read some horror stories about splitting MDF that way.

I was wondering if anyone could advise how I might approach screwing it together safely, or else suggest any better ideas?

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    Drill pilot holes in the MDF and use the proper screws. – FreeMan Nov 3 '20 at 11:23
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    Have you considered using glue? Construction adhesive perhaps... – TylerH Nov 3 '20 at 14:52
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    @TylerH Certainly open to that idea, thanks - maybe it would work better to glue to the melamine facing? – Dan Parsonson Nov 3 '20 at 17:07
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Drilling holes should help keep the MDF from splitting, take care to keep the holes as far from edges as you can and as straight as possible. Use short screws unless the aluminum edge will need to support the weight of your board (i.e. hanging on the wall by the top frame).

If you don't want visible screw heads you can alternatively use a strong adhesive such as epoxy.

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  • Even with pilot holes, drilling into MDF edge-wise will likely split the layers. And if OP uses Phillips-head screws, the ensuing mess from camming out will be ugly, too. – TylerH Nov 3 '20 at 14:53
  • Where I come from, @TylerH, MDF doesn't come with "layers". That would be plywood, and you're correct, edge screwing plywood isn't the best option, but it's certainly workable. Also, I don't disagree with you about caming out on Phillips head screws (much prefer Torx, myself), but it's not guaranteed - bajillions of Phillips head screws have been installed without damaging the head, it just takes care. – FreeMan Nov 3 '20 at 16:41
  • OP could also have an aluminum trim along the face edge of the MDF that could bear screws. In either edge-screw or face-screw, the screws need to be as short and as far from the edge as possible. Ideally, I'd rather use adhesive and aluminum U-channel framing the MDF, and would mount so the bottom edge supports the weight, but OP may not have these options so I'm giving general advice, starting with screws since OP mentioned screws. – Fredric Shope Nov 3 '20 at 16:53
  • @FreeMan That's more a 'tomato tomahto' thing; using the word layers may be misleading, image-wise. I mean the compacted material will split apart, somewhat like the layers of plywood would. – TylerH Nov 3 '20 at 16:55
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    A "U" channel of aluminum would protect and stiffen the face while (if the channel were deep enough) help support the MDF to prevent it from blowing out. Also, the melamine facing will help prevent that, as well. Drilling a pilot hole and not using too fat a screw will also help. It may not be the ideal solution, but for a whiteboard (nothing structural or even a simple shelf), it should be fine, even if there's a bit of expansion due to the screw. – FreeMan Nov 3 '20 at 17:00

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