|Project by tallinstaller||posted 09-11-2011 05:37 AM||1902 views||2 times favorited||4 comments|
In the Spring and Summer of 2011 I built a concept piece out of (almost) all flooring material. The piece is a tower to house all my a/v equipment. Requirements were that the piece be made primarily of left over oak flooring, It must be wide and deep enough for my Pioneer Elite receiver with room for connections in the back, it must be tall enough for all my equipment including the sub, it must have adequate ventilation and sound must pass though the bottom half for the sub and light must pass through the top half for ir signals. Oh, and it had to be visually appealing. The design phase was done entirely in SketchUp and the build was done in my garage shop with a table saw, miter saw, drill press, router and table, a set of chisels and a backsaw. It was a long four months worth of nights and evenings but the hardest and most time-consuming part was probably deciding on a finish. The piece is finally done and I wired all my a/v equipment up and finally have my home theater back.
Well, I suppose this all started after I had a new oak floor put in my living room. When they were done laying the floor and were leaving for the day they started hauling all the left over flooring and cut offs out to their truck and I asked what they were going to do with it. They said the cut offs were trash and the good stuff would go back to the contractor. I pointed out the total square footage I had paid for and asked if that’s how much they had brought and they said it was. I said, “Ok good. That means it’s mine, right? Put it in my garage.” They said ok and did. Right then I started thinking about what to build with it. It’s all 2 ¼ inch wide and various lengths with a groove on one edge and a tongue on the other. Most of it has some bow or twist, which is not a big deal in flooring because it’s all forced into shape when it’s pounded and nailed in place on the sub floor. In furniture building however… well, you know. At this point I had just had the floor laid and it would still be 10 days before the floor would be done and we could move back in the room. When the floor was done and we were waiting for the poly to fully cure before putting furniture on it my wife decided that the brick fireplace and hearth and high mantle had to go so we could hang the TV there. We started working and pulled out all the brick and laid marble tile in its place and put the TV above it. Now my entertainment center that I built when we bought this house was useless and all my a/v equipment had no place to reside. Right then I knew what to do with that leftover flooring. I would build a tower to house all my equipment.
After deciding to build an equipment tower from oak flooring I went into design mode. I measured all my equipment and set interior dimensions from which I figured up exterior size. Now, all my material was 2 ¼ wide and had a ¼ inch deep groove in one side so once I trimmed off that groove I would be stuck with 2 inch wide, ¾ inch thick boards to build everything from. I drew the whole thing up in SketchUp and started figuring out how to build it. I’ve had great luck with splined miters in plywood and figured my eight longest, straightest boards would become my posts and be put together with long grain splined miters to make the equivalent of 2×2 posts. I had never done any real joinery (I’ve always used screws, nails and butt joints) and wanted to do mortise and tenons on this piece. It was going to be frame and panel construction and I wanted to make the rails wider than the stiles so I needed to glue up some four inch wide stock. I made my first mistake here. I had already cut the mortises in the posts with my plunge router and an edge guide and had already cut to length and milled the rough tenons on the rails before gluing them together. Which means that when I glued them up they had to be lined up perfectly. It actually turned out ok and I got them glued and cleaned up and fit the tenons to the mortises. I had used my miter gauge and a dado stack to rough out the tenons and I decided that it would be easier to round over the tenons than to square the mortises so I used a backsaw, chisels and sandpaper to fit each one to it’s mortise. I used the existing grooves on the rails.
At this point it was time to glue the long vertical planks together to form the aforementioned posts. I used 1/8-inch hardboard in a single kerf width groove cut at 45 degrees to the mitered inside edge of the post halves. This was a fun experience and one that shows just how nice it is to work with flat, square, straight stock. I was not. I had to use every featherboard I had to push the stock up to the fence and down to the table so that the miters would be milled right and when I clamped everything up it would force it all together and make them straight. I did this by setting my saw at 45 and making a new zero clearance insert at 45. I set all my featherboards and ran each piece through to form the miter and then lowered the blade and moved the fence and ran them through again with the top edge of the miter against the fence to form the groove for the spline. I used 1/8-inch hardboard for the splines and glued them up by putting them all together dry and then placing them all together to form a tall box. I used a ratcheting band clamp in the middle and every other clamp I had to push all the warped boards together. I then loosened enough clamps to pull out one pair at a time and applied glue, fitted them back together and put them back in the clamps. I spent a lot of time getting the miters lined up just right, applying clamps just so, and then left the whole thing over night. The next day I removed all the clamps, cleaned up the glue-lines and rounded them over just a bit with sandpaper. At this point I dry assembled the frames and did a TON of sanding to make everything flush.
Once the frame was done I stated building the panels. This was a fairly straightforward process. I used the tongue and groove nature of the flooring material to fit the slats together and cut some strips to fit in the final groove on the back slats and the grooves on the stiles. I cut them all to length using a crosscut sled and stop block on my tablesaw and formed the tongues on the ends with my miter gauge. I then ran a 1/8th inch 45 degree bevel on all outside edges of each slat and gave them each a sanding with an ROS starting at 100 and ending at 180 then a hand sanding with the grain at 180. I then took this sanding regiment to the rails and stiles. Finally I was ready for glue-up. But wait! I haven’t decided on a finish yet!
Picking a finish was, and always is, the hardest part for me. When I first conceptualized this piece it was to be stained the same DARK brown as my new floor. I was also planning to scrape the cabinet the same way the floor was done. When I started building that was the plan but before long I had dropped the idea of the scraping and soon after decided that I didn’t want it to blend right into the floor. I wanted it to stand out! I have become enamored of Gustav Stickley’s furniture and his finishes for oak in particular. The process of ammonia fuming was not something I was interested in. I understand that fuming leaves a lot of different colors on the different boards and I wanted it to be more uniform than that. Plus it sounds like a pain. I read that they now used a dye and a glaze to achieve that “Stickley Look” and started exploring this area. I’d never used dyes so I searched it at The Wood Whisperer and found Marc’s video, You and Dye. In that video he had a picture of the end table he had done at the William Ng School. The formula was General Finishes Dye stains, orange and medium brown at a 7 to 4 ratio. I fell in love with the color and went to my local Rockler and picked some up. I knew it would be different on red oak than whatever wood Marc used so I made sample boards and ended up liking a 7 to 3 ratio better. 7 to 4 was a little too red for my taste. I then noticed that, unlike stain, which darkens the pores significantly, the dye did not. Conversely, it left white capsules down in the grain. I didn’t like that one bit. I thought back to the Stickley finish and the glaze. I got some SealCoat shellac and sealed in the dye then went on a search for a stain to glaze with. My biggest concern was that the color was already perfect and I just wanted to darken the pores. I ended up using General Finishes Candlelight Gel Stain. I used a rag to rub it in real good and then a clean rag to wipe it back off. It was 105 degrees in TX the day I did this and the glaze dried too quickly so I ended up going back over it with mineral spirits to take it off the surface and leave it just down in the grain. After glazing I built up four or five coats of SealCoat. I had planned to rub it out and wax it but my wife got a look at the high gloss sheen and said, “It’s perfect! Don’t touch it!” Well, I know who my client base is so that was that. No rub out. No wax. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After deciding on a finishing schedule I dyed the slats for the sides and the inside edges of the frame members. I glued up the sides and then glued them to the front and back rails with ¼ inch oak plywood for the back panels. I then glued and brad nailed some pine blocks in for the bottom shelf (3/4 inch oak ply) to sit on. I put in the shelf flush with the front bottom rails and glued and nailed it in place. I gave everything a final sanding to 180 and dyed everything remaining.
The top of the piece was built the same as the sides but I had run out of flooring so I ended up using some red oak I had laying around for the frame of the top. The slats are flooring. The door is of the flooring planks and was built the same way the sides were but without the grooves for the panels. Instead, I routed a ¼ inch by ¼ inch rabbet on the insides of the door, stretched grill cloth across the openings and used a pin nailer (bought just for the occasion) to attach ¼ inch sticks in the rabbits to hold it in place. The grill cloth is black and, if all the equipment is off, you can’t see though it but sound and IR from the remote pass unfettered. This also means that the whole front is almost open-air so no further ventilation is needed. I eased all the edges of the door with a chamfer bit in my router and used a sharp chisel to get in the corners. The shelves are ¾ inch ply with thick solid edge banding edge glued to the front. I used a jigsaw to cut out the back of the shelves to run wires up. I used a hole saw to cut a hole for wires to run into the back. The door is a full overlay with European hinges (I would do a flush door if I could go back). The top is attached with small blocks glued and screwed to the top corners of the cabinet. Screws are then run up into the top to hold it on. The back blocks are made with a groove for the screws to slide in to allow for movement. Before putting on the door or top and before putting the cloth in the door I glazed the whole thing and wiped it back off. I applied several coats (two quarts worth) of SealCoat to everything and put on the door and the top.
Now to enjoy the fruits of my labor! I dug my speakers, sub, receiver, amps and wires out of my closet where they had been neglected for five months and spent three hours hooking everything up. I have big sound again! Yay! Next? My mother-in-law wants one. I think I’ve talked her into doing walnut with maple panels. Last week I picked up a jointer and a planer so this time I get to work with straight, flat, square stock. And during the last few months I’ve also added a small bandsaw to my growing tool list so I’ll be incorporating some fair curves to the bottom. All in all, it was a fun project to build and I learned a lot. It held a lot of firsts for me, such as: frame and panel construction, dye, glaze, shellac, mortise and tenons, edge gluing to make a wider board and solid wood edge banding. At this point in my woodworking, a major factor when considering what to build next is, “What will I get to do that I’ve never done before?” I am looking forward to my next project and will be incorporating curves and moulding into this current design.