New Media Center!

By Jeff | Jun. 10, 2014

When we bought our first media center, we were focused on finding something that fit in the corner. It looked great, hid the mess of wires connecting our home theater equipment, and was out of the way. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually take any pictures of it when it was nice and neat. This is the first picture we have and you can already begin to see the problem.

We began acquiring more home theater equipment until the small media center was overflowing with wires, hardware, and all kinds of random things.

Overflowing Media Center

I mean, really overflowing.

Overflowing Media Center

And so we began the search for a new media center. We gave up on the corner shaped one and decided for a regular rectangle. This would allow us to have a larger piece of furniture that would also double as an end table for our loveseat. Unfortunately, we kept running into a problem. Very few of them could accommodate our high-end AV Receiver measuring over 16.5″ in depth and 17″ in width. I found this very strange since these were pieces of furniture aimed at holding theater equipment. Of course I decided to build one instead, which gave us the benefit of not only a custom solution to fit everything (and more) but would also match our table exactly since we could use the same stain.

With any big building project like this, I start by making some simple sketches and taking measurements, and then build something using Google Sketchup. I still haven’t found a really great way of rendering things, but here’s what I came up with.

Media Center Rendering

Now it was time to get the materials. We had decided to use an oak hardwood plywood from Northville Lumber since it was far superior in quality to either Home Depot or Lowe’s. We used a free online cutlist generator to lay out the cuts for 2 x 4 pieces of wood since we would need to fit them in our car. Don’t forget that if you’re cutting the plywood to transport that half of the pieces will be a blade-width shorter than the rest.

Cabinet Plans

I took all the pieces down to TechShop and proceeded to use their fantastic SawStop table saw to cut all the pieces needed. A few pieces needed to be cut down a bit using the panel saw and a few pieces would be finished on our miter saw at home. We then began assembly at home.

Starting with the base, we used some super handy “L” blocks to ensure everything was square and glued everything together and used pocket screws using our new pocket hole jig. Note that because we were using 1/2″ material, you need to be very careful when putting in the screws and ensure they are aimed towards the inside of the material. Try it out with some scrap wood so you can get the hang of it.

Cabinet Base

Then we glued the sides and the base. Nova enjoyed helping whenever she could.

Cabinet Base

We used a 2×4 cut down to stabilize the cabinet as shown below.


Meanwhile, we used our new shelf pin jig to drill shelf pin holes into our sides. This made it really easy to add the shelves. Just make sure that you align the jig the correct way for each side and remember you must offset the holes if you put them on both sides. Otherwise, your holes will go all the way through your material.

Once we had those parts together, we started installing the vertical columns separating the three sections. We used the shelves as spacers so we didn’t need to measure. These we screwed in.

Media Center Progress

Now it was time for the top. This was glued on and we thought about putting extra braces, but decided they weren’t needed. Since we didn’t have any large clamps at the time, I used our exercise bike to hold everything down.

Bike as a Clamp

This was where things started going wrong. We weren’t able to find the proper european hinges we wanted that would allow the doors to be inset and couldn’t find others that didn’t require a 1/2″ lip to screw on to. So we took some old 1/2″ thick solid wood and made a quick adjustments to the plan.

Door Adjustments

Then we stained everything. Most of it went great, but the doors must have had something on them because they became very splotchy. Since I had just purchased a new table saw, I decided to try making some new doors out of 1/4″ plywood and some 3″ oak. I thought they turned out pretty well for my first attempt.

Clamped Door

Attaching the doors was a little difficult. We definitely recommend finding someone to help and to pre-drill your holes on the cabinet first to minimize cracking in the wood. Eventually we got everything all together and adjustments were easy with the European hinges that allow 3-way adjustments to make sure you get a perfect fit.

Cabinet Door

All that was left was connecting everything! It fit together perfectly and we’ve got some room for growth! The media center is a little bit farther away from the wall due to the cables and surge protectors, so we might put something there to fix that, but otherwise we love how it turned out!

New Media Center

New Media Center