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This set of cabinets let me use lots of tools and get a sound system I always wanted!
Click image to enlarge

Living Room Cabinets

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz (5-29-01)

   Our living room has a fireplace on the end wall that for some reason is 3-inches off-center to the right. Stock cabinets are not likely to work well, but several new tool acquisitions helped produce a pair of cabinets that fit properly and perform duties as prescribed by my wife, plus one of my own requirements.

   We had a pair of old stereo speaker cabinets sitting around and each time I saw them, the thought of a pair of shelve units in the living room with those speakers built into the top secretly floated through my often unoccupied mind. My reasoning was that along with providing needed shelf and storage space for the wife, I get to play with my new tools and wind up with a sound system more appropriate (say loud) for shoot-em-up, blow-em-up movies and 38 Special-type concerts that simply must be played loud to achieve realism. If the house isn't shaking when John Force makes a pass in his nitro-fuel funny car, it's just TV folks. I knew I could do better.

   I started with a pile of used 2X4s and began cutting and planing them to size. I also bought a few 2X6's for the upper framework of the base cabinets. I somehow hit on the idea of making a framework from the 2x4s & 2X6's, then routing a rabbit in all the appropriate edges in which to inset a decent grade of plywood to create the exposed sides and tops. The sides facing walls would remain simple frames, but I wanted them sufficiently sturdy to accept the weight of the upper shelf unit, books, a TV and whatever electronic equipment I could sneak in the house.

   The right-hand cabinet required some additional on-the-fly engineering. To accommodate a decent sized TV and the shelf unit, I needed to extend it forward as much as possible. The logical configuration was to connect the front of the fireplace with the closest edge of the patio doors.

Adding a videotape drawer to the angled front face took some inspiration, but turned out nice.
Click image to enlarge

That meant the front of the cabinet would have to incorporate a rather severe angle. Essentially, I laid out the bottom framing pieces on the floor, then cut and laid the front piece across the sides and marked the angle and cut lines. I also used that as a pattern for the top frame. Not exactly scientific, but neither am I. The important thing is this over-simplified process worked great and the cabinet fits the available space closely.

   I also wanted a drawer for videotapes, but did not want to infringe on the open storage space of the cabinet any more than necessary. I also did not realize I wanted the video tape drawer until I was well into construction. My cool angled front cabinet face was giving me fits until I thought of building a three level shelf, mounted on heavy-duty drawer slides that pulled out parallel to the wall. This idea was so goofy, it just might work.

   The biggest trick was getting my panel door attached and aligned correctly to the angled front of the drawer. I did this much the same as figuring out the front cabinet angle. I built the drawer sufficiently long so that I could close it fully, mark the cut lines, saw it off at the marked angle, then glue and screw the face panel to it. Again, a round-about way of doing things that turned out looking like someone actually thought this out.

The drawers feature half-blind dovetails all the way around. The doors were made using rail & style router cutters and a flat plywood panel.
Click image to enlarge

   The shelf units that reside atop the base cabinets are fairly standard in construction. The shelves are set into the sides with ¼-inch-deep dados (made with my new 3 ½-horsepower router and clamp-on guide), then glued and screwed and the countersinks filled with plugs cut from scrap from this project.

   The speaker enclosures were built the same way except that 3/8-inch ply was set into rabbits on the

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