Tue. May 21st, 2024

After scouring the internet for a few weeks, I decided that nothing online met my criteria for our basement family room media cabinet. I wanted white oak to match the other wood in the room, I wanted it to be the right length (around 72″) to work with the size of the TV, and I wanted it to be wall hung and modern looking. I even looked into doing a custom cabinet, but was quickly motivated to figure out if I could do it myself – and for less $$$$.

I had found a few designs online that I liked and used those as a starting point for my design.

Once I had my design nailed down, I calculated how much material I would need: 2 4×8 sheets of white oak veneered plywood and a roll of white oak edge banding.

In one weekend, I managed (with help of course) to cut each piece of base cabinet. Cutting straight, square and accurately was no easy feat. We measured multiple times, used every square we had, and carefully worked our way through the plywood. Even with all the tools and guides we had, our pieces were still a tiny bit off. But hopefully close enough to work. The hardest part was the mitered corners and continuing the wood grain from the top piece to the side piece to have a waterfall effect.

Once the top and bottom pieces were cut, we then carefully measured where the dado router bit would go for the vertical pieces of the cabinet (the ones that separate the unit into different compartments). We held the top and bottom pieces together and routered through both pieces. It was very important to make sure our guide was as straight as possible because any deviation from that line would result in an exaggerated error when the boards were flipped in place.

With all the pieces cut, we dry fit the cabinet together to see if everything fit together.

Once we had the frame done, it was time to do the finicky bits. I had to first cut holes in the back piece where the plug and wires are in the wall. I also cut grommets in each vertical cabinet section piece to allow wires to go from the centre cabinet to the outer ones.

Next I predrilled the pocket holes into the back of the back piece using the Kreg pocket hole jig. I carefully marked where I wanted the screws to go, lined up the jig, made sure the stopper was on the drill bit (so I didn’t drill too far) and drilled each hole.

Before I could put the body of the cabinet together, I varathaned all of the interior sides of the unit, including the vertical separator pieces.

I let the pieces cure for a day and then put the cabinet together. First I placed the vertical separator pieces into the grooves in the bottom of the cabinet using wood glue and then put the top on. Using clamps and some sheer luck, I put the sides on (also with wood glue) and held them in place with the clamps.

Before the wood glue could dry, I kept checking to make sure the unit was square and made adjustments accordingly. It wasn’t perfectly square, but it was really close and not noticeable. Once I was satisfied that it was as square and in place as it could be, I screwed in the back through the pre-drilled pocket holes.

I then left the whole unit to completely dry.

Next I added the top part of the French cleat to the back of the unit. I made the French cleat by cutting a 45 degree cut down the middle of a strip of wood. The bottom of the cleat gets attached to the wall, and the top part sits on the bottom cleat with the 45 degree angles connecting.

I made sure to use the right length screws and carefully attached it to the back. I also drilled a hole with a fostner bit so the screws would sit flush with the wood when screwed in.

The two end cabinet sections will have shelves in them, so I used the Kreg shelf hole jig to drill my shelf holes. The jig was really easy to use. I used a small box of screws so place the jig in vertical centre of the cabinet and used the jig guide to position the holes in the right place.

Next, I had to fix the small gaps at the mitered corners and apply the veneer edge banding to the front. Fixing the corners wasn’t easy. I used wood glue to fill the hole and sanded the top piece so the dust of the wood covered the glue. I’m not sure I would use this method last time, as the glue left a bit of discolouration in the wood that I wasn’t pleased with. I’m hoping it won’t be as noticeable once it’s varathaned and hung on the wall.

Applying the edge banding was relatively easy. Banding is always wider than the edge (7/8″ edging for 3/4″ plywood, for example), so I lined up one side and cut the other side using a new knife blade once the glue was dry. I then sanded it down and made sure to remove any glue residue (just with my finger nail). I also carefully cut the corners so the cabinet corners looked like a perfect 45 degree cut.

With the edge banding in place, I was ready to varathane the outside of the cabinet. I sanded to 220 grit, varathaned the first coat, and then completed two subsequent coats with 320 grit sanding in between coats. By the time the final coat was applied, the top of the cabinet was nice and smooth.

Once the media unit was fully dry, I installed the bottom cleat on the wall, carefully measuring the height so the final unit would sit exactly where I wanted it to below the TV.

We then carefully placed the unit in front of the wall and pulled all the cables through the hole in the back. We then lifted the cabinet onto the cleat until it perfectly aligned with its other half of the cleat.

With the unit done, my next step was to make the doors and shelves for the cabinet. Because I cared most about the wood gain of the doors, I cut those from the remaining wood first so I could have the grain continue across all doors. I then cut 2 shelf pieces (the centre section would have a rack installed for all of our media stuff, so we don’t need a shelf there). After all the pieces were cut and the edges were veneered, I varathaned each side with 3 coats, sanding in between coats to make sure I had a nice, smooth finish.

Next I used the Kreg door hinge jig to drill the holes in the media cabinet and doors for the hinges. The jig was really easy to use and I followed the hinge directions for how far back to set the hinge.

I bought two kinds of hinges – the two end doors were inset hinges because they sat within the frame around it, and the middle door was an overlay hinge because the vertical separator piece in the cabinet sat behind the installed door.

Installing the hinge piece in the cabinet was harder, mostly because the installation dimensions were wrong for one of the hinges, so I had to move the overlay hinge and now have 4 small holes in the cabinet. Luckily the error was inside the cabinet and not on the door piece.

Once I had all of the hinge pieces in place, I put the doors on the cabinet. Unfortunately my doors were a bit off so I had to recut them slightly and re-veneer the edges. I also installed the shelves in each edge section of the cabinet.

The final step was to install our electronic devices in the cabinet. Alex had a whole setup with a server rack that I don’t fully understand. All I know is that all of the wires previously on the wall got nicely tucked into the cabinet.

I also installed push latches so the doors would open easily.

I’m pretty happy with the final look – and not too shabby for my first official cabinet!

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