Cheap Test Materials (not MDF)

I have a lot fo 1/4" MDF and hardboard that I usually use for all my test cuts, prototypes, etc. However it all just beats the mills to death and the dust is really horrible stuff.

Does anybody have suggestions for an alternative, inexpensive test material? Maybe an EPS foam sheet? Maybe construction lumber (2x4-12)?

The foam PVC lumber is quite affordable and cuts cleanly and quickly:

The dust is quite staticy/clingy, but no nasty fumes w/ proper feeds and speeds (I use the C3D defaults from the official chart) — I’m pretty sensitive to it, and get a headache from hand-sawing more than one or two pieces. Best to use good dust collection, and if possible an air exchanger.

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You using any special endmills to cut it? I’ve never looked for it in more than trim-sized boards at the home centers (1x4ish) - can it be found in sheets and I’ve just been missing out?

I mostly do small-scale stuff (the widest I’ve bought is 7.25" wide) — it’s available in 12" wide:

as well as 48" side:

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My Home Depot has it in 4x8 sheets.But Will is not kidding when he says it is messy. I made my waste board out of it. When I skilled my wasteboard I had sticky white flakes everywhere. It took forever to get it cleaned up.

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I use PVC pipe in a lot of speaker projects, routing a roundover on those… oh the chips… everywhere…forever…
Thanks for the good suggestion though! I’ll take a look at some of this next weekend for sure.

FWIW, I’ve learned if I reduce rpms to 12k or so when test cutting parts in mdf I get chips, mostly, very little dust. I cut without a dust boot on tests so I can see what’s going on.


I like to use plywood underlayment, both for test and some finished projects. I usually use it for waste board, as well, It cuts great with a laser cutter, too, when I need square inside cuts. The 5 mm thickness is great for metric projects. It is about 1/4the cost of 1/4th inch baltic birch.

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