Author Topic: First project... AV cabinet  (Read 3111 times)

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Offline cparson

  • Posts: 26
First project... AV cabinet
« on: September 30, 2007, 07:26 PM »
Here's my first solo project... an AV cabinet that replaces a combination of a too-shallow and too-short $14 target bookshelf and a cardboard box (to make up for the lack of height).  Most importantly, the power cables needed to be hidden, as we have a new cat that has decided that tangled messes of wires are great toys.

The body is BC plywood, with poplar for the face frame and the frame of the lower door.  The rear wire channel is 1/4" MDF.  Joinery is mostly unglued pocket holes.  The only exception is the lower door, which used dowels and glue.

Finishing was a coat of shellac, then coats of semi-gloss latex paint until the can ran out.  I got 2-3 coats on all the visible surfaces. 

What I learned:
1.  You can't really tell from the pictures, but the plywood did *not* finish well.  The poplar I used for the face frame looked good after a single coat of paint.  The plywood only looks semi-okay after three.  There's little doubt in my mind that the extra cost for some good hardwood ply (or at least AC) will be more than worth it in time saved finishing.  I went cheap because it was my first project and didn't want to waste good wood, but it was too frustrating to work with.  Better stuff from now on.

2.  I still need to work on both the precision and accuracy of my cuts.  They weren't square enough (there are quite a few tiny gaps - although they're only noticeable up close), and there was about 1/4" variance in the shelf widths.  I was able to mostly fix that, but this evening I invested in one of those flat tape measures, and I'll be picking up either a starrett or one of those '1281' squares this week.

3.  The pocket holes seem to be holding just fine, but I'd definitely be more comfortable if they were glued up as well.  Next time I'll glue up all the joints.

Favorite use of festool - Definitely a tie between:
1.  Cutting some very thin strips of poplar to use as edge banding using the TS55+MFT
2.  Using the C12 with the angle chuck + standard chuck to drill the hinge holes for the lower door after realizing there wasn't enough space to get the entire drill in.  (Originally I was going to have the hinges on the side, but decided at the very end that since the door was so wide, i'd rather have the hinges along the bottom.  It works great this way, I'm glad the C12 let me do it!)

I didn't think to take pictures during construction, but it's not like I did anything special.  Here's the finished project.  Once the exhaust fans come in, I'll be adding them to the enclosed bottom section, and the section with the game systems.  Until then,  I have a little desk fan for venting the systems, and have the external power supply on the lower shelf.

BIG thanks to everyone on this forum for all the helpful advice! 
« Last Edit: November 05, 2007, 09:28 AM by cparson »

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Offline Mike Chrest

  • Posts: 386
  • N.W. New York State
Re: First project... AV cabinet
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2007, 08:54 PM »
Looks pretty good for a first project. Your right about the BC plywood. You end up spending more time and effort making some materials look good than you save in purchase price. I have had good luck with the poplar plywood from Home Despot. Takes paint well and it's quite a bit cheaper than birch ply.


Offline cparson

  • Posts: 26
Re: First project... AV cabinet
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2007, 09:24 AM »
Thanks Mike,  I'll definitely use that poplar ply on my next project! 

The cabinet is certainly first-project quality, but even though it didn't finish well, I'm very happy with it...  I know it's nothing pretty (especially compared to the amazing pieces everyone else is putting together!) but as far as functionality goes, it's a vast improvement. I should have taken a before picture!  Although that second picture gives an idea, since all those wires used to be just hanging down in a giant mess.

It's such a great feeling to be able to make something exactly the way you want it.

Maybe after another 40 projects or so, I'll be able to make something that looks decent too :)
« Last Edit: October 01, 2007, 09:29 AM by cparson »

Offline Dave Rudy

  • Posts: 771
  • Coloroda Front Range, in the lee of Pikes Peak
Re: First project... AV cabinet
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2007, 10:18 AM »

Don't apologize too much.  Looks great for a first project.  You have identified the two bugaboo issues -- right stock and square cuts.

Another inexpensive choice if you dont mind working with it is mdf.  It machines beautifully (including routed edges, etc) and looks good when painted.  Otherwise, even moving to "shop" grade or birch ply at big box would probably make the cabinet look better at a modest price increase.

Keep it up and you'll be surprised how fast you progress!


Offline Dave Ronyak

  • Posts: 2234
  • Flyin' from NE Ohio
Re: First project... AV cabinet
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2007, 02:45 PM »
Looks pretty good for a first project. Your right about the BC plywood. You end up spending more time and effort making some materials look good than you save in purchase price. I have had good luck with the poplar plywood from Home Despot. Takes paint well and it's quite a bit cheaper than birch ply.


CP, your project looks great, especially for it being your first effort.  I normally choose 1/4 pegboard for the backs of cabinets that need ventilation, e.g. to cool electronic equipment.


I have been using HD poplar and (allegedly) birch plywood for my shop cabinets in 3/4" and 1/2" thicknesses.  One problem with 3/4" material (sold as being birch) are some voids in its inner layers, but at its price ~$30 per 4' X 8' sheet I can deal with it.  A second problem is that some of this HD material is prone to locally delaminate at fresh cut edges, usually near those voids.  This may be due to reduced clamp force pressure during manutacture at those locations.  A third problem is that some of the sheets are not balanced as to tension of the layers.  A sheet that is flat when purchased may yield strips that are bowed.  I cut one of the 3/4" I purchased into strips ~3" wide to make French cleats for the walls of my shop.  Some of those strips are essentially flat, others are considerable bowed.  Cutting a 45 degree bevel on a bowed strip is a nuisance at best, and a potential danger at worst.  I switched to my table saw to bevel the last of the bowed strips since I could force it into position as it passed through the saw, and I couldn't think of a good way to hold it in place under a Festool Guide Rail to make a bevel cut along one long edge..  Moral of this long story is to cut the bevel on the strip before you cut the strip off the wider sheet with your Festool TS 55 or larger saw.  Poplar takes paint (and stains) well.  Despite the problems listed above, I will buy this material again since its price is about 1/2 that of other sources.  But I wouldn't choose it for any fine furniture project or any shop project where strength and stability were critical.

Dave R.
Friends, family and Festools make for a good retirement.  PCs...I'm not so sure.