Built-in entertainment center / fireplace / faux stone wall build thread
I started already, but I can reconstruct the first steps pretty well. I'll do my best. Here goes...

So I have this space in the basement. Well, let me start by saying that I won't stage pictures of my shop or the area at all, and hopefully make some of you feel better about the conditions in which you work. My shop can't stay clean for more than 15 minutes, and neither can my house. My daughters have seen to that. In any case, here it is, along with the 48" entertainment center that I built for the equipment about ten years ago.

I want something bigger and better there. I'm limited only really by the access panel (the outdoor faucet is on the other side, and the panel is there after I had to fix everything the builder screwed up). Centering the unit and butting it up against the wall will let me have about 80" of width. That lets me get a 75" TV on there with a little room to spare. That's also helpful because I would like to do a "fireplace" down here, and by that I mean an electric fireplace in the cabinet. The basement, like many, does get cold, and it would be nice to not only have the ambience of a fireplace (even an electric one) but also the heat. I settled on this one:


Behind the existing entertainment center I have one outlet and a low-voltage panel with two coax and four ethernet. Based on my past experience with an electric fireplace, I've decided to run another circuit back there just for the fireplace. You can't, for example, expect to run a vacuum and the fireplace at the same time without tripping a regular 15A breaker. Fortunately, behind that near corner (where the portrait of my dear departed rabbit is) is unfinished space, so I won't have a lot of drywall cutting and patching to do.

I came up with this design. It's pretty straightforward. As you can see, pretty much any surface in my house is subject to crayons, markers, or anything else my kids can get their hands on.

The 4 1/8" dimension was chosen to house this speaker:


...while also allowing about 5" on each side for things like remotes, an IR repeater (more on that later), the Playstation controller when charging, and random things my kids put in there. I fully expect it to be used for Play-Doh, markers without caps, legless Barbies, and other sorts of things like that. 

I tried to maximize the depth since the original unit being replaced was limited to the Onkyo A/V receiver that's in there - all others were too deep. I don't have any need to replace this one, but were I to do so I could have considerably more flexibility.

Now, with the center channel and fireplace occupying the middle two compartments of the unit (indeed, being built specifically for them), the A/V equipment has to go on the sides. This means that to use them I either need an A/V repeater with regular doors, keep the door(s) open, or use glass doors. Two of these options at the very least mean the equipment will be generating lots of heat and have nowhere to go with it. I opted for an IR repeater and a heat exhaust solution. They are here:


The AC Infinity unit looks very well made and has a beautiful finish on it. I chose that primarily because its dimensions matched well and the ability to only turn on when needed (when the sensor reaches a certain temperature) is very useful. The repeater, on the other hand, is definitely Chinesium, and I knew that going in. I have no idea how well it will or won't work. If it doesn't, I can certainly spend more money and get a better unit. The repeater receiver, which is quite small, will sit next to the center channel in the top middle compartment.

I should note that I use my computer in an enclosed cabinet, and when playing games or mining some useless cryptocurrency a lot of heat is generated. It gets warm but it appears to draw enough airflow from the gaps around the door, so I don't think I will need much more than what I have. I'll be using Blum hinges, which also offer a bit more offset from the face frame (and thus allow more airflow). Also, what's not reflected on the design is that there will be grommets on the sides of the unit (bottom/back corner) to allow the speaker wire, subwoofer cable, split HDMI, and whatever else to exit. This should also allow for more airflow from the outside in.

Now that it's designed, we can start building.
  Re: Built-in entertainment center / fireplace / faux stone wall build thread by FS7 (I started already, b...)
I will be using sapele, because it's readily available, very pretty to my eyes, I have a lot of it, I like it, and various other reasons I'm sure made sense at one point. While not the boards I've used to this point, here are a few I've quickly planed and will probably be using for raised panels, door rails and stiles, and so on.

For reasons unknown, the first thing I finished was the top. Since I already did it, I can't do a build along, but there isn't really much to say about a panel with routed edges and some holes cut in it. Here it is:

For those wondering, the vertical images will display properly sized if you open them in a new tab. The edge profile, which you can't really see, is just a standard ogee and fillet profile. As I'll probably use this same profile on the door edges and the base molding, it should work here. I finished it with three coats of Watco natural danish oil, after which I scrubbed with mineral oil and a green Scotch-Brite pad and then sanded with a 500 grit Abralon pad (used for resurfacing bowling balls) along with some more mineral oil. This evens out the sheen (sapele can be inconsistent in absorption) and produces a very soft finish. The relative lack of durability is fine since it won't see much more than dust. For why this is ultimately wrong, see above about how I have children.

In any case, here are close-ups of the exhaust fan and the "fancy" grommets:

For the externally visible grommets, I opted for these 2" "red bronze" or "copper" grommets available on Amazon. I think it goes well enough with the sapele tone.
  Re: Built-in entertainment center / fireplace / faux stone wall build thread by FS7 (I started already, b...)
Now I start on the inside...the "guts." As mentioned, we not only need airflow, we also need room to run wires. I opted for mahogany plywood for the inside, partly because I had some 2x4 sheets, but mostly because the inside of the center channel speaker compartment is technically visible from the outside. Mahogany is a very good match for sapele as well, and it's way more readily available than sapele plywood. I will use stained sande plywood for the back and bottom because neither of those will be visible unless the doors are opened. It also takes stain pretty well and is readily available at Home Depot. In any case, here's the face frame with the internal dividers attached and center channel compartment built:

You can see that there are two grommet holes in the center channel compartment because I don't know which side I want to put the A/V equipment on and I also don't know when I decide that it will be permanent. There are also two holes on the top and bottom of each internal divider, with both serving the dual purpose of airflow and wire runs. For these grommets (which will go in after finishing) I will be using plain old black plastic.

The center channel compartment is secured with pocket screws to the face frame on the underside of the shelf (in the "fireplace" area) and regular countersunk screws on the insides of the cabinet. Countersinking eliminates any potential interference with shelving. Also, the internal dividers are glued to the face frame at the top portion only (I did not use pocket holes as they would be visible) and attached using pocket screws in the hidden fireplace area. Gluing a joint like this to me is one of the most important applications of parallel clamps as they apply equal pressure and tend to bow and twist (like regular pipe and bar clamps) a LOT less. Here's a side view of the center channel compartment:

I use a small piece of blue painter's tape to mark the "top" of each divider as a reference when setting up the shelf pin drilling jig. It's probably not really necessary, but it certainly could be depending on how preoccupied I am.

That's all I have for now. Next up will probably be the side panels, which are almost certainly going to be 3" rail and stile construction with raised panels. To avoid gluing up a relatively large center panel, I am still considering doing a center stile and two narrower panels. It's a bit more work, but no grain matching concerns.
  Re: Built-in entertainment center / fireplace / faux stone wall build thread by FS7 (I started already, b...)
That is going to be really nice, and I applaud your resistance to "staging" anything for this post!
I started with absolutely nothing. Now, thanks to years of hard work, careful planning, and perseverance, I find I still have most of it left.
  Re: Built-in entertainment center / fireplace / faux stone wall build thread by FS7 (I started already, b...)
I don't really do the whole SketchUp thing. Despite being in the IT field forever and having grown up with computers (starting with a TI-99 at the age of three) and using various graphics programs over the years, including 3D modelers, I never took to SketchUp. Also, going back to all of my schooling, I have been chastised my entire life for doing far too much work in my head. This means I am generally likely to consider and reconsider things in the middle of a design. One of the things I really, really, really don't like to do is waste wood. I do make a lot of cutting boards, and since I started turning the shorter scrap has a place too. But even so I try to minimize waste.

The side panels need to be 20 3/8". Technically, about 7/8" less, since I will glue them to the ends of the face frame for a somewhat continuous joint. This way the effective stile width looking at it from the sides is uniform front and back. But normally I just rip that small strip off and use it for cutting boards. I have a 13" planer, so if I were to do a 13" panel I would have 7 3/8" remaining. Add 3/4" for the depth of the grooves in the cabinet members, and then subtract 1/4" for space ball compression. That means I've got 7 7/8", which is remarkably close to 4" wide members. As it will be built in and butted up against the existing 3 1/4" baseboard molding, I chose 4" for the pedestal/base height since that would let me rout an edge and still have a flat mating surface for the existing baseboard molding. If that's 4", it would probably look good to have the side panel members be 4" also. Conveniently, I have more than a few 11" boards, which will let me get the necessary 4" and 6.5" pieces out of it for the cabinet members and the panel. I will have probably no waste after jointing and squaring, though maybe I'll get some super narrow strips I can use for cutting boards (because that's where all the scrap goes).

The other consideration is that I have grommets to put somewhere on the stile to get wires in and out. With 2" grommets - and considering you've got 1/2" plywood recessed into the back and the panel into the front - 3" cabinet members would be pretty tight if it would even work at all. I'd like to center the grommet in the bottom back corner, and I think 4" will comfortably avoid hitting any other wood while also looking proportional.

So the next step is going to be turning those 11" wide boards into the necessary 4" stock for the rails and stiles and 6.5" stock for the panels. While the glue is drying I can work on routing the cabinet members. I can also work on hunting down the plywood template that I use for removing the bulk of the raised panel material on the table saw, as either my oldest daughter put it somewhere or my neighbor mistakenly grabbed it as firewood.
  Re: Built-in entertainment center / fireplace / faux stone wall build thread by FS7 (I started already, b...)
Someone pass the.popcorn, I'm getting settled in.  Big Grin
So far, so good.
By the way, my wife is the one who runs off with my templates. I'd find them as shelves in the chicken coop.or barn.
Mine now say, shop use on them in bold marker...  Big Grin
Jim in Okie
You can tell a lot about the character of a man -
By the way he treats those who can do nothing for him.
  Re: Built-in entertainment center / fireplace / faux stone wall build thread by FS7 (I started already, b...)
OK, back at it. I don't have any incredibly high-end equipment and my wife and daughters can't exactly help me very well, so ripping the long boards into two narrower long boards wasn't the easiest. Plain old sawhorses with a random section of conduit set on top work very well as a support/glide system, so I ripped those two boards from an earlier picture into what will be the 6.5" panel halves and 4" rail/stile stock. There's some left over for the doors too.

After that, I started to cut the wider stock together (leaving just a shade extra - the boards were nine feet long, and this means that I could get all of the panel stock I needed from a single board if I measured carefully). Just a bit of math, cutting them together on the miter saw, and then to the jointer.

As an example of "life happens," it turns out that I was getting a little bit more snipe than expected and the cuts weren't as good as I would have liked. I went through my jointer technique growing pains years ago, and while I'm still not the best I am much better than I was. Turns out the outfeed table needed a bit of adjusting, which I did prior to jointing the rail and stile stock. In any case, once the panel stock was jointed, it was time to glue them up.

I got good uniform squeeze out and great mating surfaces, and despite all four halves being from the same contiguous board I did OK in terms of grain and tone matching. The glue line will still be visible and detectable, I think, but it will also blend pretty well to the untrained eye. In any case, with the glue drying I can go back to jointing the rail and stile stock. After a bit of adjustment these boards came out much better with a lot less effort. That doesn't matter much since they aren't mating to anything, but it's still nice to have the jointed tuned up.

Woodworking is not my only hobby, and sometimes I get sidetracked doing other things. This week it was brewing beer (five gallons of an Irish-style red ale)...

...bottling two different one-gallon batches (Double IPA, which I don't like, and brown ale, which I do)...

...and a very quick project to turn a box from Booker's Bourbon into a lamp for the next project (the bar). It's a prototype, more or less, but it did work pretty well. The box is free (with the purchase of $90 bourbon), while the bulbs, sockets, and inline dimmer are only a few bucks (maybe $15 total). Using incandescent bulbs (these are 15W bulbs, intended for salt lamps and similar things), a fair amount of heat is generated. I am going to look into LED bulbs, though the dimmability and general color tone are not going to be the same. That's not a huge issue. In any case, they do look nice, and the only thing missing is some sort of concealment for the wires on the back.

But back to the entertainment center. I've got the rail and stile stock cut (four stiles, and two pieces which will be two rails each). Squared and ready to go, along with the panels (which have been planed and trimmed on one edge).

The router bits I use are Freud. I don't like to plane wood down for the sake of meeting some arbitrary thickness limitation, so I wanted rail and stile bits that could handle thicker stock. I started with cheap Chinesium bits, and surprise, they didn't work very well. They weren't "matched" by any stretch of the imagination, and what's worse they didn't seem to allow for any adjustment to fix that. So I decided I would try the "buy once, cry once" route and bought this Freud set:


It's been worth every penny. Sharp, minimal tearout, everything you want in a router bit. They are, as you might expect, perfectly matched. All of that is good. They even look good in the table.

Once I do the profile cuts, I can cut down the rail stock to the appropriate dimensions and do the cope cut. They are all ready to go.

It's probably not clear here, but as mentioned I do not like to waste wood so I was planning on maximizing the size of my cutoffs so I can glue them up and turn them or something. But one of the stock pieces needed to be run through twice, and my pressure was not identical (it never is) so one end of the cut was slightly larger. Clean, but larger. In any case, having an extra 8 inches or so to play with if I use that piece for rail stock, I can sacrifice the thin section. Once I pick the pieces, I cut all four of them at the same time, clamp, and flip to ensure the dimensions are as close as possible to exact.

I always say that a miter saw is not a precision tool (because it's not), but that doesn't mean you can't do your best to get a precision cut. In any case, the stock is all cut and coped.

One thing that might make things easier that I do is to use one of the excess coped ends as sacrificial setup to ensure the cope cut matches as well as possible. I always expect some sanding, but if you have stock of identical thickness it is not that hard to take what is otherwise a scrap piece, line up the cut, make a test cut, test fit, and if it doesn't fit to your liking just chop off 3/8" and try again. One of the other things I wanted to point out is that if you're doing rail and stile construction for structural panels (like these) you don't need to be super precise with the cope cuts. It's easy to trim profile cuts to final length. With cope cuts, it is harder, and if the edges will be exposed (like with doors) be aware that any protrusion of the bit's bearing from the fence will cause slight chamfer in and out of the cut. This means you will have visible gaps on the mating surfaces. This is fine here because all of these joints will be hidden, but will be more important on the doors. In any case, I can test fit the frames and measure for the final size of the panels. I think I might have to trim a tiny amount off the panels.

No, by the way, I never did find my raised panel setup block, so I will have to make another.

More to come hopefully later this week.
  Re: Built-in entertainment center / fireplace / faux stone wall build thread by FS7 (I started already, b...)
The entertainment center is progressing nicely!
A wise man once said, "All woodworkers make mistakes. A good woodworker can hide them."

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