Flat Screen Media Centre


Flat Screen Media Centre:
Anthony Bailey makes a sleek media centre.

Anthony Bailey makes a sleek media centre

This media unit is designed to be a height that makes a flat-screen TV comfortable to watch when mounted
on the wall above. There is also plenty of drawer space for DVDs and so on. If you have extra equipment, it can sit under the screen with speakers to either side. This piece is light in appearance so it won’t overpower its surroundings.

Materials and tools
• Board and half of ash-veneered 18mm MDF
• Solid ash for lippings and legs
• Ash-veneered 6mm MDF
• Veneer edging tape
• Medium and fine abrasives
• Clear aerosol lacquer
• 3 x pairs easy drawer runners 350mm long
• Long drawer handles
• 6mm straight cutter
• Rebate cutter
Cutting list
• Solid ash lipping – 19 x 19mm sufficient for front and ends of carcass top
• Solid ash legs – 575 x 45 x 45mm x 4
18mm veneered MDF:
• Top – 1610 x 480mm x 1
• Base – 1516 x 393mm x 1
• Ends – 350 x 200mm x 2
• Dividers – 385 x 180mm x 3
6mm veneered MDF:
• Back panel – Approx. 1534 x 198mm (divided into 3)
Drawer boxes
18mm veneered MDF:
• Front and back – Approx. 453 x 150mm x 6
• Sides – 375 x 150mm x 6
6mm veneered MDF:
• Drawer bottom – Approx. 448 x 349mm x 6

1. Make a cutting list based on the drawings and cut out all the carcass parts. Set the blade so it doesn’t protrude far through the veneered board as it will reduce breakout of the veneer surface and cut slightly oversize

2. Use a large router and straight cutter to trim all edges neatly. Check for square before making each cut

3. Apply solid lippings to the edges of the unit top. They should be the same thickness as the veneered boards or a fraction thicker, certainly not less

4. Narrow pieces such as the ends of the unit are better cut on a table saw if you have access to one

5. Begin marking out the positions of all components on the underside of the top. This in effect becomes a ‘rod’ or template that tells you exactly where everything will go

6. The large bottom panel needs to have markings on it taken directly from the top so there is no chance of measuring errors

7. The top overhangs all round so the back panel groove being machined here is set some distance in from the back edge

8. A groove is needed at each end, ready to take the end panels

9. The bottom panels require rebate rather than a groove. To achieve the correct rebate width you may need to do a bearing swap, as I did here

10. Machining the bottom panel rebate. Rebating can produce uncollected dust, so wear a mask

11. The construction relies on loose tongues that are glued into slots in the carcass parts. The slots are just over 6.4mm wide, so a 6mm ply tongue with glue is sufficient to fill the gap. Take care when cutting these on the table saw; use a sub bed to close the gap around the blade so these narrow components don’t get trapped beside the blade

12. Slotting the ends of boards is a bit of a problem, which is overcome by making up a simple 90° L-jig

13. Clamp a board in the vice alongside the L-jig and check it is flush from end to end with the top of the jig. It goes without saying that the edges need to be flat and square so all meeting faces do so properly.  It can help to align the workpiece to the L-jig by clamping both together before inserting in the vice, then removing the clamps if they foul the router fence

14. Now fit the fence to the router and centre it on the board edge and proceed to slot it. To avoid the router wandering off course it should normally be pulled towards the operator; if you push, it invariably moves outwards away from the jig

15. The outer ends of the unit need slots, as seen here, because the bottom panel will fit against them again using loose tongues

16. The legs need to be planed square and also need tongue slots; this is easy if you have two fences to prevent the router from wandering

17. The finished legs are ‘handed’; that is, two go at the left-hand end of an end panel and two to the right. The legs should have been marked up before machining so you don’t get a mix up, as this can happen easily

18. Gluing up an end as a sub assembly. It is only possible to assemble this unit by doing the ends first and leaving them to dry

19. Clamp the ends together carefully, making sure the legs are not twisted from side to side as this will prevent the carcass from going together correctly

20. Sand all internal surfaces before assembly. This is good practice as it is difficult to do this properly
after assembly

21. Use a bevel cutter to add a small bevel detail on both the top and bottom edges. A tiny bevel looks right on oak rather than a roundover; however, it isn’t needed at the top of the legs where they meet the carcass

22. Before final assembly, slot in the ends of the bottom panel. This is the same as for the intermediate panels except I found myself higher off the ground using a pair of steps

Working tip
There are ‘Working At Height’ regulations governing trade use of steps and ladders which don’t apply to home users, but nevertheless we should all take care working off the ground. Steps and ladders should not only be strong enough but shouldn’t wobble; if they do there may be some defect and for the cost it is better to replace them. The type with an extended platform to rest against or hold paint tins is safer to use especially if you are routing above bench height.

23. The leg ends need to be bevelled so they move smoothly on flooring if shifted around. Note how the tough oak end grain has caused burning; a second lighter pass will remove this cleanly

24. Detail of the meeting slots in the carcass ends. The carcass end is loose tongued to the leg and the lower slot will take the bottom panel while the leg slot will accept the carcass back panel

25. This is not a time to be interrupted unless someone offers to help hold the unit together while you assemble it. Do a dry run first though and check squareness – better to discover any laying out and machining faults before everything is covered in runny glue!

26. Push the loose tongues into the glue so they sit properly in the grooves. The loose tongues need to be a good fit rather than relying on the glue to fill any gaps. The tongue width should be a millimetre or two less than the two combined slot depths or the joints will not close

27. Plenty of clamps are needed to pull the whole unit together. It must be checked carefully for squareness everywhere. Note how short clamps have been put together on top to extend them effectively

28. The MDF back panel is inserted in sections using a small piece to protect them while tapping them into place. This operation is quite critical because the sectioned back panels will hold the carcass square

29. The back panel is glued and pinned in place with the joins coinciding with the drawer dividers. Be careful where the back panel joints occur, so that any fixings go into the rear of the divider, or they may show sticking out inside. It can help to aim the pins or pin gun at a slight angle to avoid the problem

30. The edges of the dividers and the bottom panel now have a solid lipping several millimetres thick glued onto them

31. You need to work out the drawer dimensions accurately. Measure each space they fit into, as there will be slight differences. Using easy runners, allow 12.5mm per side gap. The drawer needs to stop short of the carcass back and you need a gap above so each drawer can be hooked into its runners. The drawer box front and back will fit inside the sides of the drawer and a 6mm panel is grooved into the drawer bottom

32. Make the grooves in the sides to take the front and back components. Keep the board pressed against the fence all through the cut so the groove doesn’t deviate and weaken the resultant joints

33. The drawer bottom grooves are made in the same way. The drawer front and back have tongues cut with a rebate cutter so they can fit into the sides

34. Iron-on edging is used to finish the top edges; the excess will be trimmed off. Some stockists will sell you edging tape by the metre; it is not so cheap per metre but will cost less overall as you do not need lots of it

35. Use a sharp chisel to take away the overhanging veneer. The edges will need a light sanding. You can buy special edging tape trimmers but a sharp broad chisel running flat against the board side in order to get a neat finish works. However, respect the grain of the veneer or it may tear out

36. The easy runners in position and the drawer front with handle fitted. The separate front may need some adjustment to get the fit correct with just a 2mm gap all round. It is screwed to the drawer box from the inside

Working tip
Modern ‘easy-on’ drawer runners are not difficult to fit. However, make sure you have got the drawer width right or they may not fit along the sides. They fit just inside the carcass nearly resting on the base. The screws to fix them are not long but the heads need to be small enough so they don’t interfere with the sliding action.  The other half of the drawer components screw in from underneath the drawer box. Once installed the drawer box then hooks into the receiving part of the runners in the carcass. For that reason the drawer box needs clearance above it inside the carcass. 


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