Build Your Own Entertainment Center for Maximum Customizability | 2012-05-09
For a long time my 32" flatscreen sat upon an old dresser which barely had enough room for my components (Xbox 360, PS2, Wii, etc.). My computer, to which my TV connected via HDMI, sat on a folding TV Tray Table positioned next to the dresser. This setup lasted for years because I could never find an adequate entertainment center in stores. Retail entertainment centers were either too small, had too few compartments, or were way out of my price range. That's when I decided I needed to build my own.
There's no point in building your own furniture unless you customize it precisely to your needs. Here are the requirements I had:
- Deep enough to contain a standard size PC
- Shelves should be at least DVD case height
- Enough room for all components
- Sturdy construction
- Easily accessible backside for routing wires.
Click for larger image
I am not a master carpenter, so I came up with a plan to have my local hardware store do some of the work. At Lowes, you can get one cut for free when you purchase a board. Therefore I decided that this entertainment center would be two feet deep (satisfying the PC depth requirement). With a depth of two feet, I could buy 4'x8' sheets of 3/4" plywood (~$25 ea.) and have them cut into 2'x8' strips before even leaving the store. I have access to a circular saw at home so I can cut the lengths I need.
***Note: Always measure the room to be sure a piece of furniture will fit. I keep a tape measure in my desk and one in my car for all my projects. This entertainment center is 2' deep, which is much deeper than most furniture pieces. It fits, but it's closer to the door than I anticipated.***
I spent a solid hour in the hardware store deciding what to do about shelf hangers. I wanted to be able to remove the shelves, so initially I planned on using L-Brackets. These turned out to be very expensive. I decided that it would be cheaper and stronger to make rails out of some cheap wood.
Painting and Cutting
With my plans set and my materials gathered, I was nearly ready to begin construction. When I got home, I first painted each piece of wood on all sides. I would need to touch up parts later, but painting before is much more efficient than trying to get into little corners later.
I cut all the pieces to length: 4 pieces 30" long for the vertical supports, 6 pieces 31" long for shelves, and 12 rails 2' long to support the shelves.
You can see my old setup in the background
After all the preparation, putting the entertainment center together was no more difficult than an IKEA furniture set. I screwed the vertical pieces from the top and bottom, attached the rails at appropriate levels, and inserted the shelves. Done! Except.. something's missing..
Updated plans with feet (click for larger)
I forgot to include feet in my plans. The unit looked silly without them, so I found a scrap 2"x4" in the shed and cut it into 8 x 5" pieces (two for every vertical piece) and painted them black. I screwed these in downward through the bottom board.
Screw holes are visible, but it's not a big deal
Room for Improvement
- This was not a professional carpentry project. Instead of biscuit joints which would have made invisible seams, I used only screws*** and wood. These are visible on top. Originally I planned to fill in the screw spots with wood putty, but now that seems tedious. This doesn't bother me that much, since I don't use the top surface for anything other than holding my tv, but eventually I plan to attach another top board made of nice wood (and painted with less sticky paint) which I will screw in from the bottom, eliminating the visible screw problem.
- The paint I used was typical flat black latex paint (probably designed for walls). Whenever I pick up something from the surface, like my xbox controller, it seems like it was stuck to it. The paint never leaves any residue on my stuff, but next time I will be looking for specifically furniture paint.
- I made this on a budget, so I left out the back. I enjoy the openness for running wires, but seeing the wires hanging in the back unnerves me, so I will be adding a back to it as soon as financially possible. My current plan is to leave an inch open at the bottom of each shelf, and to run a wire organization system on the back board.
- Occasionally I ran into problems based on my selection of wood. Try to find very straight boards at the hardware store. This will ensure that everything fits together nicely.
***I find that drywall screws are pretty much good for everything, but you can use whatever makes you comfortable.***
This was my first start-to-finish carpentry project using (mostly) new materials. It's true that I could have purchased something that might look better from a store, but this entertainment center was designed especially for my needs. If you want something similar, I highly recommend designing your own furniture. There's nothing quite like making something and getting exactly what you want.