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Designing and Building an Entertainment Centre: The Start

Well I am having another go at building an entertainment centre. The first one ended up as an end table with coopered legs! Basically what we want is a low surface on which to place a TV, and in which the audio equipment can be housed

Lynndy and I wanted something simple, something with an old world feel but also a modern, clean-lined look. A light bulb went on and I decided that a couple of military or campaign chests would do the job. Think dark wood and brass handles and edging.

Military furniture were pieces of furniture designed for military use and made to dismantle for moving around when travelling. Most of the pieces I have seen were Mahogany.

It fascinates me that officers of Olde would go to war, or campaign, along with all the luxuries of home! Beds, desks, wardrobes, drinks cabinets … they certainly did not have to suffer the hardships of the soldiers in the trenches.

A writing desk

Another travelling desk ..

The designs are clever .. efficient. Simple boxes are not always what they appear to be …

Pieces could be stacked and used as a single piece of furniture, or used as separates ..

The two pieces below spoke to me, and said “use us … use us …”

I came up with something similar. With a modern touch. The two carcases and drawer fronts will be Jarrah. The handles and corners will be traditional brass pieces. They will be placed alongside one another to create one long, low structure. The two cabinets will rest on an European Oak base (to contrast with the dark Jarrah).

For the metric challenged, this is a touch over 24” high and a touch under 72” long.

Preparation of the panels began in late January – that’s now 5 months back. All this is recycled Jarrah, some of it old roofing from a renovation a few years ago, and some beams I found at the salvage yard.

It is hard stuff, and this part was prepared on power equipment: jointer, thicknesser and tablesaw. Once this was over, all subsequent work – the joinery - has been done by hand.

Why has it taken 5 long months to get this far? Well I must admit to getting sidetracked a few times. My day job has been very full, and often I just have lacked the energy to concentrate on a long project. So I’d get a short fix with something …

such as building a Moxon vise. Actually this was really helpful. It is a superb tool and one that made this build easier since my workbench is small …

The vise made it so much easier to mark out long panels …

There were several other interruptions, such as building shooting boards for and presenting at the Perth LN Hand Tool Event, building a jointer plane (here and here), then running tests for chisel blades (here and here). Oh Gawd, there were tool reviews as well! Here and here. And I am meant to be an expert in helping kids not get sidetracked!

For a while the carcases just looked like this …

The blade tests helped me get back into the build. Here I finished off the dovetails …

And then … this past weekend I decided to put the carcases together. This is a dry fit ..

More dovetails... Can you make out the centre section where the dovetails look like butterflies?

The fit so far is good. All pretty tight. I can knock the dovetails out, and they go back together comfortably. This is important as I need to fit everything together to ensure that I am marking accurately for the internal dividers.

How would you go about these measurements? Mark everything at the start and then just cut the joints, trusting it will fit at the end? Or work section-by-section. This is not an efficient method, but at least I am not left with the fear that I will later discover I screwed up early on.

Below: all the stopped dados are made with a knife, saw and router plane …

And the parts come together tight and square. I am pleased – and always a little amazed – when this occurs. Now I'm beginning to work up a head of steam to see it through to the end!

This is still just a dry fit …

Now to take it apart again and measure for and mark off the drawer dividers and shelves.

Below is a picture of the European Oak that is jointed and ready for the base …

And here are the boards for the dust panels and dividers for the drawers. There are a LOT of mortice-and-tenon joints ahead of me!

Until next time …

Regards from Perth


June 2011