We frequently get requests for wood displays, but many of our customers don’t understand what material choices are available under the “wood” category. In today’s post, we’ll focus on 3 of the most popular wood materials we use in making POP displays in our millwork shop. There are many different species of wood, many types of wood composite materials and wood derivative materials, and lots of grades, stains and finishes. We are going to keep things simple by focusing on 3 basic types of wood materials: MDF, bamboo, and solid wood.
MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. It is an engineered wood composite material that is made by combining wood fibers with wax and a resin binder and compressing them at high temperature and high pressure to form panels. It is generally denser and heavier than plywood and also denser and stronger than particle board. MDF is often purchased with a melamine or laminate finish, and because of its relative affordability, it is commonly used to make POP displays. Below are 3 examples of MDF floor POP displays that we made in our shop.
The first example is one we made for Klymit, a company that offers a cool line of sleeping pads, sleeping bags, pillows, and accessories. The display incorporated shelves and also a hanging bar for hanging long products like sleeping bags and sleeping pads. You can see that this display is relatively graphic- intensive, and one of the nice features of MDF (in this case with a white melamine finish) is the it has a very smooth surface which makes it easier to lay down vinyl graphics. From a manufacturing standpoint, MDF is a relatively versatile material since it can be cut on a CNC machine (which is known as “panel processing”) then edge banded to create a finished shelf or panel.
Our next MDF example is a 2-sided, 10-cubbie, spinning T-shirt display we made for Kerusso, a Christian clothing company. We wanted to share this display to illustrate the broad range of color choices that are available with MDF. In this case we used a hot pink laminate and finished it with contrasting black edge banding. We laid down vinyl graphics on both sides of the header and added clear acrylic sleeves for slide-in paper graphics so customers know what’s on the t-shirts. We’ll also use this example to point out two things to consider with MDF. First, if you are looking for a hot pink laminate, an exotic melamine, or a less common color, you should plan on a little longer lead time since these types of finishes are generally not well stocked and are often custom made (Note: That may also mean that minimum quantities could be higher). Second, while MDF is strong, it is not as strong as plywood so you need to make sure it is packed well so when our friends at UPS and FEDEX drop kick it, it will show up in one piece.
Our last MDF example is a 1-sided pillow display we made for Fabritech. We used black MDF with black edge banding to make the base, back panel, 3 slanted shelves, and top bin. As you saw with our earlier examples, we used digitally printed vinyl graphics which we applied directly to the shelf fronts and top bin sides. We added a PVC header sign to help promote the Fabritech brand. We’ll use this example to make a final point about MDF which is that it is an excellent material for making knock-down displays. The display shown below features knock-down construction and ships in a relatively flat box. We typically use cam locks or mini-fixes so assembly is quick and easy.
Let’s move on to bamboo, which is our next material under the category of wood displays. What we like about bamboo is that is super eco-friendly, strong, and visually appealing. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth and can grow up to 48” in a single day so it is a highly renewable resource. Compare that growth rate to a typical hardwood which takes 30-50 years to grow to maturity. It is also incredibly strong. Bamboo has higher tensile strength than many types of steel, higher compressive strength than many mixtures of concrete, and higher strength-to-weight ratio than graphite. We did not believe this so we made a bamboo table and tested the strength ourselves. It passed our test.
From a manufacturability standpoint, bamboo is an awesome material. It can be milled, cut, sanded, drilled, glued, stained and finished just like any hardwood. We typically use 3-ply bamboo which has interesting edges and therefore does not need to be edge banded. The example below is a Yoga mat display we made for Jade Yoga. We used carbonized bamboo with a clear coat finish. We wanted to share this example to show that it can be laser engraved for a natural look, and it can also be easily screen printed.
Our next example is a simple 2-tiered lip balm tray we made out of carbonized bamboo. It is designed to hold lip balm tubes and boxed product. We cut these units on our CNC machine and then sanded, glued, and clear coated the units to make a nice, natural display tray. The picture below also provides a good view of the interesting edges.
Our last bamboo example is design to show that bamboo plywood can be used as main or accent panels and shelving in many types of displays. The picture below shows how we use it with our stock SFL-HRACK. The rich carbonized bamboo really pops against the contrasting white metal frame.
Our final material category that we’ll cover today for wood displays is solid wood. Most people are familiar with solid wood so we won’t spend much time talking about the features and benefits of it. Solid wood is strong, durable, and can accommodate a wide range of stains and finishes. Unlike MDF or plywood, it does not need to be edge banded to produce a finished look. There are many different species of solid wood, including lots of choices among softwoods like pine and hardwoods like mahogany. The display shown below is a 5-shelf floor display we made for InSPAration from solid pine. It is milled, cut, sanded and finished with a clear coat.
The next two examples are coffee kiosks we made using stained red oak. It includes both plywood and solid wood trim. We incorporated a solid surface counter top which is highly durable and great for coffee spills. These two units are similar to furniture and basic cabinetry so we’ll spare you the detail.
Our final example is a simple 3-shelf floor display for Marrone Bio that we made using solid pine strapping and pine plywood. We painted it black so we could have used MDF, but since we used solid wood we did not have to edge band it. We added vinyl shelf graphics and PVC side and header signs. Like a lot of the other examples, this display knocks down and is easy to assemble.
Wood displays might be a great option for your next POP display project. Knowing what materials to use and when to use them can help to ensure that you meet your economic and merchandising objectives.