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Furniture Plans: Custom Entertainment Center for Flat Screen TV



Introduction

In March of 2011, we began our first large woodworking adventure. We decided to dump our gigantic eye-sore tube TV for a new LED LCD flatscreen TV. This large purchase introduced some problems, for example, how could we afford spending more money on an entertainment center. Our family room has large vaulted ceilings and a big blank wall. I just did not like how the puny TV stands look on our gigantic wall. And with three crazy kids, I wanted the TV out of harms way.  My husband mentioned that he could build me an entertainment center. So we went and looked at entertainment centers I was interested in and they were $2,500 or more. Yeah right!  So we made up our minds. We were going to build our own entertainment center for a fraction of the cost. I looked up entertainment centers online and took bits and pieces of each one. I knew I wanted the TV higher up than most entertainment centers to keep those tiny little hands from reaching my expensive TV. I also wanted the satellite receivers and DVD player out of reach and up on the top center piece. We looked up the exact dimensions for our TV and based our opening size on the TV size. We left about 3" of gap on all sides. The best part of the whole project was adding up the receipts at the end of the project and seeing how much we saved. In total we spent $546. Not bad considering the $2,500+ price tag on similar entertainment centers!


Looking back, I can’t believe we actually built this with the tools we had at the time. Since then, we have inherited a lot of high quality tools from TJ’s mom, but we definitely took the hard route. We actually only had a cheap circular saw, table saw (borrowed from my mom), and miter saw. We borrowed the nail compressor and nail guns from a neighbor, a broken jig saw from a neighbor and a router from a co-worker.

We posted our project on ana-white's brag website and were shocked at the positive response. Many people requested the plans, but we didn't have any plans. We just had a hand drawn piece of paper with notes and dimensions. This inspired us to start a website and post some of our projects with plans so others could enjoy these projects too and hopefully prevent some of our "lessons learned."  Below are some of the other entertainment centers that have been built, based off of our entertainment center.  They are beautiful!




Estimated Cost: $550-$800*

*Depends on the grade of wood you buy. #2 and better whitewood (AKA pine) is cheapest, then select pine, then poplar. (I would recommend select pine or poplar for the face frame pieces and maybe the drawer and door fronts—these are highly visible and take a little bit of abuse.) Ours cost $545, but I have updated the prices and they have gone up by about 10%.


Dimensions:

The overall size of the project is 94 1/2" wide by 83 5/8" tall.












Tools
  • Table saw
  • Miter saw
  • Jig saw
  • Orbital sander
  • Pneumatic nail guns
  • Air compressor
  • Circular saw
  • Drill with bits
  • Kreg Jig * 
*Recommended, but you could join the face frame through other methods (in our case, we didn’t have a Kreg Jig at the time, so we just nailed the face frame directly to the box…looking back we would’ve done this differently).


Lumber and Materials
Cut List


Click the link here to view and download the Excel file.










Instructions:

Step 1:  Assemble the bookcase frames.

Below are the pictures and the dimensions for the bookcase. We actually used the 1x12 pine for the sides, but looking back, I would recommend using the plywood because it is much straighter and stronger than the pine. For this plan and materials list, I have assumed plywood for the bookcase sides. The costs are about equal, so you can use whatever wood you want. Best part about the pine—no need to rip it on the table saw because it is already 11 ¼” wide.



Side Bookcase Dimensions


Bookcase Front Dimensions

For the shelf pieces, we used 1x12 pine cut at 18 inches long. We cut the beadboard back from a 4' by 8' sheet of beadboard at 19 1/2 inches wide by 70 3/4 inches tall but didn't install it at the time because we wanted to paint it before it was assembled. This allowed us to get in the nooks and crannies and saved us some major headache.

Bookcase Back Beadboard

At the time, I screwed the bottom piece in from the side, but now that I have a Kreg Jig, I would screw pocket holes in from the bottom (outside of view). I also used 2” screws for the top piece and screwed it straight down. You could also cut the top piece at 18 inches and use a Kreg Jig or finish nails to secure it in place. It doesn't really matter since the top edges are covered by the crown molding.

I would also recommend fixing the shelves with 2” or 2 ½” 16 gauge finish nails. Unless you want the shelves to be movable, then you can use the shelf hole guide from Kreg Jig. I drew a guide line at the bottom of each shelf with a building square or speed square to make sure I was installing the shelves completely level (perpendicular to the sides). I also put a cleat piece on the top and bottom to strengthen the whole assembly.



Step 2:  Build the face frames for the bookcases.

This can be done before or after step 3. At the time I didn't have a Kreg Jig system to join the face frame pieces together. A little bit later we built an entertainment center for our neighbor and used the Kreg Jig to join the face frame together and it worked out much better. We simply measured the length of the box and cut the stiles and rails to the dimensions required. We used the finish nail gun to nail them into the case pieces. As you can see from the drawing, I kept about an 1/8” to a ¼” overlap about the horizontal shelf.

Bookcase Face Frame, Front

Bookcase Face Frame, Back (With Pocket Holes)


The top face frame piece is arched to give a little visual appeal. We actually had to borrow a broken jig saw from one of our neighbors. The shoe of the saw was not locked, so I had to hold the saw as perpendicular as possible when I made the cuts here. Needless to say, I had to do a lot of sanding to get it to look right.  Look here for a tip about cutting curves.

We talked about adding can down lights at the top cubby to add that wow factor, but decided it would be a lot of work to wire it and the cubby is fairly small and the light would cast a shadow on any larger decoration we placed in that cubby. However, a.mcdaniel on Ana White’s website did this very effectively and it looks great!

Step 3: Build the bottom center and the top center piece.

These pieces are deeper than the 11 ¼” deep bookcases. We used birch veneer plywood to get the 18” depth for the frame and interior pieces. The width of the center pieces were designed to fit our 47” flatscreen TV. We also give a little bit of wiggle room in case we wanted a 52” flatscreen TV or possibly a 55” flatscreen TV. We checked the dimensions of the TV (with the stand) online and built it so it would have about 3” of extra space on the sides and top. We have since bought a wall mount for our TV and are grateful we have a few inches on each side to maneuver the TV in and out. If you have a different size TV, the width of the plans can be modified to create a custom “built-in” look. I love how the proportions of the entertainment center match our TV. It looks like the entertainment center was built to fit our TV (which it was!).

Center Pieces Side Dimensions
We designed the bottom to have four square drawers and two cabinet doors. Kristen really liked the look of square drawers, so we adjusted the doors to create a square drawer. And an unintended serendipity is that our drawers fit DVD cases perfectly!


Center Bottom
After the frame was built and the interior partition pieces were installed, I cut the beadboard with a circular saw (since the edges don’t have to be perfectly straight or smooth) and set it aside for the painting.
Center Bottom Beadboard

Center Top Beadboard

The center top piece was built to fit our satellite, DVD player, media player, gaming console, etc. On all the entertainment centers we looked at, we noticed the equipment was located on the bottom piece. This is great for adults, but our young kids are constantly playing with anything in reach. We decided to locate the equipment up higher to keep those fingers off of the equipment. The downside is that the cords have to run longer to plug into the wall or TV. The height of our equipment shelf is pretty tight, so I would recommend making adjustments based on your equipment. The upper three cubbies were built to hold decorations and family pictures. Kristen also liked the square proportional look up there.

Center Top



Step 4: Build the face frames for the bookcases and the center top and bottom pieces.

At the time I didn’t have a Kreg Jig system to join the face frame pieces together. A little bit later we built an entertainment center for our neighbor and used the Kreg Jig to join the face frame together and it worked out much better. We simply measured the length of the box and cut the stiles and rails to the dimensions required. We used the finish nail gun to nail them into the pieces plywood box.



Bottom Center Face Frame, Front
Bottom Center Face Frame, Back (With Pocket Holes)
The face frame on the bottom is all standard 1x2 pine. We used the cheaper pine, but if you want face frames that are harder, knot-free and straighter, I would recommend the select pine (about double the cost, but it is a better product). At the top, we used 1x2 pine for the vertical stiles and the center rail, but I ripped the bottom rail to about 5/8” to create a 1/8” lip, but allow access and visual access to the equipment above. (Don’t you have it when you are trying the change the channel and your remote has to be pointed directly at the satellite.) The top face frame at the cubbies is arched to match the bookcases.

Top Center Face Frame, Front

Top Center Face Frame, Back (With Pocket Holes)

Step 5: Paint the boxes and beadboard.

At this point, it is a good idea to paint the cases and beadboard back. I put on the face frames before I painted the boxes, but looking back it may be easier to paint them separate and then assemble the face frames and back. We used a coat of oil based primer tinted as dark as possible and then two coats of high quality oil based paint. Beware, the paint fumes were pretty back and it was much more difficult to clean up. But the oil based paint left a great finish and it seemed to cover the wood very good.



Prime Coat
I didn't paint the areas where there are drawers because they are not visible.

Final Coat

Step 6: Nail on the face frames and backing

I used a 16 gauge finish nail gun to attach the face frame to the box. For the beadboard back, I used a pneumatic stapler. You could also use a liquid nail type adhesive to glue the backing on, but it would still need a few nails to hold it in place while it dries.

It is a good idea to make sure the boxes are square when you nail on the face frames and backing. You can check this by measuring diagonally from corner to corner or placing the pieces on a perfectly level surface and checking the plumb and level with a level. The face frame and beadboard backing will create the lateral strength for the furniture and can be adjusted at this point with a little pressure during the assembly.

Step 7: Assemble the pieces.

A big advantage to this entertainment center is the ability to break down into four different pieces to get it to fit in your house and the ability to move it. After the pieces are all built, we found a flat level spot on the ground to assemble them as a dry-fit before we moved it in the house. We lined up the backs of the bookcases with the center bottom piece and then clamped them together while we make minor adjustments. After it was lined up, I drilled in some pilot holes with a countersink drill bit from the center bottom piece to the side bookcases. Since the center piece has drawers in these areas, the screws are concealed from view. I put about four 1 ¼” screws into each bookcase.

Screws from the Bottom Center to the Bookcases

The next step was pretty hard to do with just me and my wife, so I built a stand at 33 inches with 2x4s to hold the center top piece in pace while I screwed it together. I also predrilled pilot holes at the top of the bookcases so they would be ready for quick screwing. We both grabbed an end and hoisted the center top piece into place and up on top of the temporary stand. I grabbed some clamps and clamped it together and made some minor adjustments until it was ready to screw in. Then I moved the stand to the other side and made sure everything lined up and then screwed three or four 1 ¼” screws in.

Screws from the Bookcases to the Center Top

Step 8: Cut the crown and baseboard.

After the pieces were assembled, I measured and cut the crown and baseboard. The crown is fairly simple because it butts into the top center piece from the bookcases and it goes around the top center piece. The baseboards were a little more tricky because they span three pieces at the bottom. There will be a little bit of a gap from the bookcases to the center bottom piece because it has to be able to be unassembled and reassembled, but it can be done pretty tight. I decided to paint these before I nailed them on and then touch them up after, but it is up to you.

Step 9: Build the drawers.

Building the drawers took a little bit of educating myself. I measured the drawers in my kitchen and looked at how they were attached and what sizes were available as far as drawer slides. I determined the drawers were about 1 inch shorter in width than the face frame opening. They were also about 1 3/16 inches shorter. The drawer slides were available in 14, 16, 18, 20 and 22 inches. I chose the 16 inches for our drawers.





As you can see from the picture below, I installed the slides at the bottom end of the face frame and made sure it was flush with the front. I added a few filler pieces in the back to fill in the gap between the slides and the vertical wood pieces. I attached the slide pieces to the bottom of the drawer and made sure they fit. After the drawers were all in, I cut the drawer fronts and doors.

Drawer Slides

Step 10: Cut the doors and drawer fronts.

The measurements for the doors were based on an overlap of about 3/8 inch at each edge. We also bought the hinges so I could mount the hinges to the box and hold up the doors to make sure they lined up perfectly. The size of the doors may vary slightly depending on the layout of the hinges, so make sure you purchase your hinges before you cut the doors.

Bookcase Bottom Doors

I used dimensional pine for all the doors and drawer fronts except the center doors. These were too big for the 1x12 (the largest piece available at Home Depot), so I bought the expensive glued together pieces. Looking back at this, I may have gone with some more expensive select pine or poplar wood and glued them together to get the width because the wood I used has some knots and bows in it. I am still thinking about replacing some of those doors.

Center Bottom Drawer Fronts and Doors
After I cut all the doors and drawer fronts, I actually borrowed a router from a friend at work. He was nice enough to lend me some router bits as well. We wanted the profile edging to match our existing cabinets, so we used a roundover bit (either a ¼” or 3/8”). The bit was raised enough to give it the round and then edge profile.

I lined everything up and attached the doors to the hinges first. After that, I was able to hold the drawer fronts in place and nail them from the front.

Step 11: Touch up.

After everything assembled in place in our garage, we went back over it with paint to touch everything up.

Step 12: Final assembly and decorations.

We disassembled it all and carried the pieces into the family room one by one. We then assembled it in the final resting location with the same steps mentioned in number 7. Luckily, Mother's Day was a few weeks away and it was the perfect excuse to buy the decorations.

Note: We did not put the beadboard in the back behind the TV because we felt it would be too much black. We left it open for cords and so it would open it up a little. We did put a cool cord hider (this one) back behind it so the cords aren't very noticeable. We also later added a TV mount (this one, for such a great price!). Overall, we love the entertainment center and everyone who sees it still cannot believe we built it... and sometimes, neither can we!


9 comments :

  1. Beautiful! So nice of you to share this.

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  2. Wow! Wow! Wow! You have some serious talent!!!!

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  3. I love it. Hope I can convince my husband that we need this...

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  4. HI, I was curious what the 1x16 is used for, I am not seeing anthing that would need that wood. thanks,

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    1. We used it for the front center doors and drawer fronts.

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  5. What is the size of the TV opening?

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    1. The opening is 54 inches wide by 33 inches tall

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  6. wow... love love love this. It says $500-$800 can you make it for $400?

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    1. We built it for around $600, but I'm sure you could build it cheaper if you can find good deals on the material. Take a look at the lumber and material cost sheet and see if you can find any alternative materials that can fulfill the same function.

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