I’ve been living with a Walmart ‘special’ Entertainment center. It’s made out of aluminum, plastic and pressed fiber board. It doesn’t fit the spot it’s supposed to be in and it doesn’t look good. I decided it was time to build one from scratch using reasonable decent wood. (some may argue with my choices!). I had also purchased a Kreg K4MS Jig Master System several
months years ago and wanted to use it.
If you’re not familiar with the Kreg jig and are new to building furniture, like me, you should certainly check it out. It let’s you drill pockets in side connecting pieces of lumber which accept Kreg screws of certain lengths to hold everything together. If you drill enough Kreg holes and have enough connecting points you don’t even need to use wood glue! This is certainly a lot easier than using a biscuit cutter, gluing and biscuit joining all of your pieces!
I went to Lowe’s up in Catskill, NY. I shopped originally for oak, red oak or something along those lines which I knew would stain good, but the prices were pretty high. As I wandered down the aisles I eventually found a composite board which consists of pieces of pine which have been glued together end to end and side to side. It was quite a bit cheaper than oak or similar, but it was also marked as ‘stain grade’. For a furniture newbie like me this set off a bunch of positive signals.
I had an idea in my mind for the construction of this entertainment center, so I bought 7 of the 36″ x 16″ x 3/4″ composite boards and I also bought a 6′ piece of 1″ x 2″ Aspen and a 1″ x 1/2″x 6′ piece of ‘stain ready’ pine molding. In the photo below you can see my materials (minus the stain ready pine molding).
The big boards are the composite ‘stain ready’ pine and the small 1×2 piece is the Aspen board which I planned on using for the ‘kick plate’. It’s basically a decorative piece at the front that fills in the gap between the lower shelf and the ground and keeps crap from getting up under the entertainment center.
I wanted the unit to be about 30″ high, and 36 inches wide. I left one board for the top of the unit at 36″ and cut the two side pieces at 30″ – 3/4″ (the top piece is 3/4″ thick) for a total of 29 1/4″ in length. For the shelves which would sit inside of the two uprights (left and right side panels) I needed to subtract the thickness of the uprights which was, in total, 1.5″ (3/4″ = .75 ” .75″ * 2(sides) = 1.5″). In summary the shelves for the DIY entertainment center were 36″ – 1.5″ so 34.5″. These shelves would now fit in between the left and right uprights. Also, I cut a piece of the Aspen kickplate to 34.5″ as well, again the distance between the left and right uprights.
Once I had all the pieces made I started to drill them in the Kreg jig. I set the Kreg’s drill bit for 3/4″ thick material and drilled 3 holes in the left and right side plate to attach the top of the entertainment center, and then on each shelf I drilled 3 holes on each side which would attach to the left and right uprights.
Again the Kreg jig made this ridiculously easy. You just need to make sure which sides and ends you are drilling, the jig makes the rest of the work a piece of cake!
With the holes drilled I used a Kreg Right Angle Clamp that has a peg on one end and a swiveling plate on the other. This allows you to put one end of the clamp in the hole you drilled with the Kreg jig and the other end of the clamp against the supporting wood. I should have shot more photos of this part but the build went so quick I didn’t get them.
Once the entertainment center was ready for assembly I had to decide on a stain. I ended up going with an ebony color since most of the furniture in my house is black (it’s my favorite non-color and contrasts well). I stained the composite wood panels and the ‘stain ready’ pine molding with the black, two times. I did the shelves indoors and the left and right upright + top outdoors. I was surprised at how quickly the parts I did outside dried and gelled, it was about 88 degrees outside and greatly accelerated the drying cycle. It took a lot more time to wipe the stain and gelled residue off of the surface. The parts I did indoors (about 78 degrees) turned out alright with the recommended 15 minute stain time. I did all parts in two coats of stain. This takes a while as you have to allow the original stain to dry. If you’re doing stain outside in hot temps, go for the lower end of the recommend set time on the stain can!
I wanted to ‘finish’ all of the parts with the water based finish I had selected (it will vary depending on your stain) but that meant many many coats and sanding in between for parts that would rarely be seen. To speed things up I used a paint on finish for the top and sides of the stand, and then I used a ‘wipe on’ finish for the shelves themselves. It’s basically a wipe on lacquer that cures clear and shiny, but you can wipe it on with a cheesecloth and it’s overall easier than a brush on finish, but not as thick or protective.
Here’s a photo of the entertainment center during construction. The Kreg screws slide in through the Kreg holes and then you can use a power drill to seat them as long as you use the slow speed setting on your drill. The bond is incredible strong, though this composite wood itself was not. I think I stripped one or two screws during the assembly, but with 40 screws or so in the overall construction it wasn’t a big deal.
Since the parts were pre-stained and pre-finished by me before assembly I couldn’t really use wood glue. I decided to pre-finish the parts because I wouldn’t be able to get in there with a paint brush and sand paper once they were all assembled. With the Kreg screws and such everything was really rigid and sturdy anyways so I’m not too worried about the structural strength.
The picture below shows the unit as I’m continuing to apply the finish. On top of the stain I used a water based lacquer and let it dry. This left many spikes and spines on the surface which come from the wood raising and such so I sanded it down with a yellow 3M foam sanding block I bought at Lowe’s in the stain and finish section. I then applied another coat, let it dry and then sanded it again for the final coat on the left, right and top sides of the entertainment center. I did one more sanding and finish to the top of the entertainment center to add a bit of extra gloss look to it. It’s the part people see most so I wanted it to look the best.
The black ‘kick plate’ has already been installed at this point. I painted it flat black with Krylon or something along those lines. I wanted it to be there, but be basically invisible. With the flat black coating it pretty much disappears. It’s quite visible in the photo, but with my dimly lit living room you don’t even see it! It was attached with 4 coarse 1.5″ Kreg screws. 1 Left, 1 Right, and 2 up into the lower shelf.
The next photograph shows the Kreg jig built entertainment center almost complete, it’s in the process of getting it’s last few remaining coats of lacquer / varnish. I put on an extra thick coat for the last layer and let it cure overnight. Before the final coat I tacked in the pine molding around the top, this is a really cheap and really big improvement on the look of your entertainment center. I knew it would be and that’s why I bought the piece of molding. Simple trim, huge change in appearance! I used some black ring shanked nails just because I figured they would not show up. They don’t, unless you use a flash! You can use normal counter sunk finish nails as well.
With everything dry and polished with a buffing cloth my roomate and I installed the entertainment center. It looks pretty okay, but it looks AWESOME compared to that cheap piece of garbage from Walmart that wouldn’t sit straight and was too big for the particular area. Here are a couple of photos of the finished project and below them, a wrap up of the project.
The photos light up a lot of the features of this piece of furniture due to the camera flash. The piece looks excellent in the lighting in this room and it fits so well right under the 47″ TV and against the air chase for the furnace. The old piece of furniture is sitting the dining room ‘renamed the ‘project room’ waiting to be repurposed for and endtable for the couch or something else.
I highly recommend the Kreg jig, it does make assembly super easy and with minimal thinking. They have a well designed system to help you out with making your own furniture and it IS very strong as well, without wood glue. Using wood glue on a Kreg assembled piece of furniture would make it almost indestructible.
This is my first piece of furniture, so there are some imperfections and places I can improve on but hey you have to start somewhere. Imperfections adds some character over pre-fab furniture anyways. This is another feather in my cap of always wanting to try and do new things, and I hope that I’ll have many more successful furniture builds with the Kreg jig. In the future I think I’m just going to bite the bullet and buy oak or red oak to build my furniture though!