How to Build an Entertainment Center

Nothing makes a home cozier than furniture that's stood the test of time. This entertainment center mimics a timeworn piece by incorporating mix-and-match pieces of salvaged wood.

This homemade TV stand combines the sturdiness of new furniture with the distressed beauty of a decades-old farmhouse find. To get the look, we created a basic birch plywood box, then fronted it with facing from salvaged planks and doors made from a patchwork of old pallets and discarded porch flooring.

To keep things simple, we devised dimensions that allowed the top, bottom, sides, divider, and shelves to be cut from one 4×8-foot piece of 3⁄4-inch-thick birch plywood, and the back from a less expensive 1⁄4-inch piece.

Safety Warning: When working with salvaged wood, watch for left-behind nails and screws. Accidentally cutting into the old metal could lead to an injury or damaged saw blade. 

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What You Need

  • Circular saw or table saw
  • 4×8-foot sheet of 3/4-inch birch plywood
  • Tape measure
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • Kreg Jig K4 Master System
  • Drill/driver 
  • Wood glue 
  • 1-inch coarse-thread pocket screws
  • 4×4-foot sheet of 1/4-inch plywood
  • Square
  • 1-inch finish nails 
  • Hammer 
  • 1 1⁄2-inch spade bit or hole saw 
  • 14 linear feet of 3/4×1-inch reclaimed wood 
  • 5 linear feet of 3/4×3/4-inch reclaimed wood 
  • Nail set
  • 5 linear feet of 3/4×2-inch reclaimed wood 
  • 3 linear feet of 3/4×3-inch reclaimed wood 
  • Water-base clear polyurethane
  • At least 2 1⁄2 square feet in scrap pieces of 3/4-inch reclaimed wood in assorted sizes for doors (optional) 
  • Four hinges (optional) 
  • Two magnet catches (optional) 
  • Two knobs (optional) 

Before You Begin: Understand the Layout

Before you begin, examine the entertainment center's layout to get a feel for how each piece fits together. If you're a visual person, consider bookmarking this page or printing a copy of this guide and keeping it near your workstation for reference. 

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Step 1: Cut Plywood

Use a circular saw (or a table saw) to cut the 3/4-inch birch plywood into eight sections: two 45x17-inch pieces that will form the top and bottom (A); three 24x17- inch pieces that will form the sides (B) and the divider (C); two 14x17-inch pieces for the right-side shelves (D); and one 29x14- inch piece for the left shelf (E). Lightly sand all edges. 

Step 2: Drill Pocket Holes

Use the Kreg Jig and a drill/driver to bore three evenly spaced pocket holes along the short ends of the sides and divider. (Use the drill bit that came with the jig, and follow the jig's instructions on how to use it.) These holes will allow you to attach the sides and the divider to the top and bottom of your cabinet. Likewise, drill three evenly spaced pocket holes along the short sides of the shelves. 

Step 3: Secure Sides

Apply wood glue to one end of one of the sides. Hold it so that it butts against the underside of the top. Make sure the edges are flush, then drive 1-inch coarse-thread Kreg pocket screws through the pocket holes and into the top. Repeat for the other side. 

Step 4: Attach Bottom

To attach the bottom, flip the cabinet assembly upside down and apply glue to the ends of the sides. Set the bottom on top of the sides, check that everything is flush, then drive pocket screws through the pocket holes in the sides and into the bottom. Use a damp towel to wipe away excess glue. 

Step 5: Add Center Divider

To add the center divider, flip the assembly right side up. Measure 29 inches from the left inside of the cabinet shell and mark that point on both the top and bottom. Apply glue to both ends of the divider, position it flush right of the marks you just made, and fasten it in place with 1-inch pocket screws. Use a damp towel to wipe away excess glue. 

Step 6: Cut and Attach Back

Cut the 45×26-inch back (F) from 1/4-inch plywood and sand all edges. Lay the cabinet assembly on its front, use a square to check that the assembly is true, and attach the back to the cabinet assembly using 1-inch finishing nails placed every 8–10 inches. 

Step 7: Attach Right Shelves

To attach the two shelves to the right-hand opening of the cabinet, measure 75/8 inches up from the inside face of the bottom, and make marks at that point on the center divider and the cabinet side. Apply glue to the ends of the first shelf, position it at those marks with the pocket holes facing down, and drive 1-inch pocket screws through the holes and into the divider and right side of the cabinet. (An easy way to ensure that the shelves are level is to cut two spacers to 75/8 inches and use those to temporarily hold the shelf.) Attach the second shelf in the same fashion, positioning it 75/8 inches above the top of the first shelf. 

Step 8: Attach Left Shelf

Attach the left shelf in the same manner as you did for the right-side ones. Position the shelf so that it's flush with the back of the cabinet box and its bottom face is 117/8 inches up from the inside face of the cabinet box bottom. Check that it's level before you drive the pocket screws. 

Step 9: Drill Holes in Back

Drill two 11⁄2-inch-diameter holes through the back of the right-hand opening of the cabinet to allow for power cords and other cables. Position the holes so that they are 3 inches above and centered with the shelves, then lightly sand the edges of the holes. 

Step 10: Cut Facing

Cut cabinet facing from 3/4×1- inch salvaged wood: two at 45 inches long to serve as top and bottom cabinet facing (G) and three at 23 1/8 inches long to face the sides and divider (H). Cut shelf facing from 3/4×3/4-inch salvaged wood: two at 12 inches for right-side shelves (J) and one that is 29 inches long for left-side shelf facing (K). If necessary, use a table saw to rip wider boards. 

Step 11: Attach Facing

Use glue and 1-inch finish nails positioned about every 8 inches to attach the facing to the cabinet. (Drill pilot holes first, as salvaged wood can easily split.) Attach the top and bottom facing strips first, making sure they are flush with the cabinet's outside edges. Attach the side facings and the divider facing next, followed by the shelf facings. Use a hammer and nail set to drive the nail heads slightly below the wood's surface. 

Editor's Tip: Due to variations in salvaged wood, it may be necessary to slightly trim the facing strips to get an exact fit.

Step 12: Build the Base

To build the cabinet base, cut two 27-inch base supports from the 3/4×2- inch wood (L), and two 16-inch base sides from 3/4×3-inch reclaimed wood (M). Drill two pocket holes in the ends of the base supports and three along one of the long edges of the base supports. Likewise, drill two pocket holes along one of the long edges of the base sides. 

Step 13: Attach the Base

To attach the base, first flip the cabinet upside down. Use glue and pocket screws to attach one of the base supports to the cabinet bottom so that the support is 1 inch from the cabinet's back and 8 inches from each side. Use glue and screws to then attach the base sides to the cabinet bottom and to the base support. Fasten the second base support in place parallel with the first. 

Step 14: Sand and Seal

Lightly sand the cabinet with 150-grit sandpaper and seal it with a water-base clear polyurethane of your choice. 

How to Construct the Doors

Turn a collection of perfectly imperfect wood into unique cabinet doors. Search for reclaimed wood at architectural salvage shops and flea markets, or ask friends and neighbors remodeling their homes. Choose pieces that aren't bowed and, if needed, rip the boards to the same thickness. After completing the cabinet box, measure the opening for the doors, subtracting 1⁄4 inch all around to allow room for opening and closing, and lay out a patchwork design of cut wood to it. Place the planks facedown on a flat surface, glue them together, and clamp them until dry. For added support, use glue and wood screws to attach wood strips across the back, covering any joints of short lengths. Add magnet-catch hardware to the top of the doors and where they meet the cabinet to keep the doors from swinging wildly. Drill holes for knobs, placing them below the top wood support. (If you drill through it, you'll need longer screws than the ones included.) 

Stock hinges are bulky, but specialty flush-mount options are pricey. Insetting basic hinges will reduce the amount of hinge that is exposed and lessen the gap between the cabinet and door. With a chisel, notch out an area and attach one side of the hinge to the cabinet base. Measure where the other will go on the door. Notch out the area and attach the hinge in the void. 

Pocket-hole or pocket-screw joinery sounds intimidating, but it's actually fairly straightforward using a Kreg Jig. The process involves drilling a hole at an angle into one piece of wood, then joining it to a second piece with a screw. 

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