Assembling the Case
The case of this entertainment center is fabricated from oak plywood. Plywood is much better for the case than glued-up panels of solid oak for several reasons. First, plywood panels need only to be cut to size. It isn’t necessary to glue up narrower boards and then surface them before sizing them. Second, plywood is dimensionally stable. It doesn’t shrink across the grain, which eliminates the need for frame-and-panel construction. Plywood is also much less expensive than enough solid wood to create the top and end panels. And finally, plywood is much lighter, and speaking from the point of view of someone who carried one end of this cabinet into my son’s second floor apartment, a heavier cabinet would not have been wise.
The plinth deck is a sheet of paint-grade plywood which is rabbeted on its front bottom edge so it could be screwed to the oak cleat on the front’s bottom rail. I then screwed the bottom to the plinth with 1-5⁄8″ drywall screws, giving me a solid base for the rest of the construction.
Next I removed the screws attaching the front’s top rail to the tapering outside stile and cut that rail off on the outside of the stiles, planing the end grain flush with their outside edges.
The end panels are made from oak veneered plywood, but to economize on the oak plywood, I created the interior walls from two pieces of plywood (the front and rear dividers). The front section was oak plywood, but the back section was paint grade ply. The end panels and the front dividers require careful preparation: 1/4″ x 1/4″ dadoes need to be milled onto these surfaces to accept the ends of the short oak shelves that will be housed there. The dadoes on the end panel must be long enough (15″) to allow the shelves to be slid in from the back of the cabinet prior to the installation of the rear dividers. The front edge of these dadoes are blocked by the cabinet front.
After I finished those dadoes, I plowed the slots for the game case shelves. It was now time to install the two end panels. To stabilize them until the top had been installed, I first temporarily placed corner brackets into position, screwing these brackets to the base of the cabinets and the inside face of the end panels. I typically use these brackets to ensure that case pieces remain square while the glue is drying, but I’ve found them useful in many other assembly contexts as well.
I screwed the bottom of each end panel to the plinth, and at the same time I applied glue to the forward edge of the end panels and clamped them to the front until the glue had cured. Following that, I installed cleats on the top inside face of each end panel. These cleats are the primary means of attaching the top. From oak plywood I cut out the top and secured it to the cleats, then I removed the corner brackets.
Once the top was attached, I put the cabinet face down and installed cleats on the top and the plinth deck to which I would screw the front and rear dividers. First I had to notch the front dividers to accommodate the top rail. Then I secured the front divider to the cleats with glue and screws. Now is the time that you need to put the solid oak shelves into the 1/4″ x 1/4″ dadoes that you cut earlier.
As I was preparing to mount the small shelves that would contain the game boxes, I realized that a narrow band of the paint-grade plywood I used for the bottom of the cabinet would be visible below the bottom shelf, so I removed the top veneer layer of the paint-grade plywood from that visible section and replaced it with a strip of oak veneer. Sometimes late “discoveries” like this happen even to very experienced woodworkers.
After that repair, I glued the shelves into their grooves, fitting each with a few strokes of a block plane. As I did so, I glued the shelf stops on each shelf with a quick rub joint. Four additional cleats hold the two large shelves — mount them as shown in the drawings. Then attach the shelves to the cleats … I made mine from oak plywood with a solid oak facing on the front edge.
The back is left open in order to facilitate the cooling of the electronics being housed in the cabinet. I also attached a six-outlet strip with built-in circuit breaker to the inside rear of each end panel.
The edges of the top remained uncovered plywood, so I glued and clamped the top’s edge banding into place and planed it flush to the top. To wrap up the cabinet section I applied the bottom end trim, securing it with glue and screws driven through the end panel. Then I mounted the rear trim to the back of the cabinet. It sticks up beyond the plane of the top by 7/8″ — to keep things from falling off the back of the top. It has 3/8″ deep x 1″ wide rabbets on each end, see the Drawings for details. I made this piece a bit overlong for a reason that will soon become evident. The final parts to make and install are the rear tapered stiles. They mirror the tapered front stiles but have a 3/8″ deep notch formed on one face. This notch matches the rabbets on the rear trim. Glue and clamp the rear stiles in place. The back trim will extend past the stiles at the lap joint … trim it flush to the stile.