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Mid-Century Modern Entertainment Unit

Follow along as I show you how I built my mid-century modern inspired entertainment unit out of solid maple and walnut.

I know, its been a while since my last post. I promise though, I’ve been hard at work on new content. Sometimes it takes me a little longer than I like to finish these larger projects. Enough excuses though, lets get to what you came here for, some good old fashioned building!

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As always, I’ll start with the finished product! Here it is setup in my living room with my TV and all of my home entertainment stuff loaded onto it. Looks like I’m missing a couple of things, right? More on that later.

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I’ve been wanting to build an entertainment unit/TV stand for a while now. After months of crawling Pinterest and looking for inspiration I finally settled on this design. The horizontal shelves are made of solid walnut (my poor wallet) while the vertical “legs” are made of solid maple.

Weight wasn’t really a concern when I was picking my materials, but after lifting this a few times maybe it should have been! It’s got to weigh close to 80 lbs and that’s before I added electronics to it!

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After my last project got so much flak for exposed fasteners I’m expecting it again here. I like the look though, so tough tits internet critics 🙂

TV Stand Sketch Up

Normally I design my projects on the back of napkins with chicken scratch writing. This time however I decided to learn how to use Sketchup and actually 3D modeled my design before building it.

Modeling before hand was great, it really allowed me to experiment with a lot of different looks and styles before I decided on one that I liked. It also helped me more accurately gauge how much lumber I needed to buy (not that this was a hard one to figure out).

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Here’s where it all started. I got the 8/4 Walnut and 4/4 maple from a local mill. Each piece of walnut must have weighed close to 40lbs before I milled it all down. All told it cost me ~$290 CAD and I already had a lot of the materials in the shop.

Here’s the breakdown:
Walnut – $200
Maple – $90
Fasteners – FREE (for me) – $10 (retail)
Plywood – FREE (for me) – $150 (this is the retail cost of a full sheet, I only used a small piece though)
Varnish – FREE (for me) – $20 (retail)

This was far from my cheapest project, but to buy something of similar quality in a store probably would’ve cost me many multiples of $290. So in someways I got a real bargain haha. Come to think of it, I don’t even know where I could find something comparable. All of the retailers near me are only selling particle board based furniture.

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Step 1. Plane that walnut. The planer removes a thin layer of material from the surface of the wood, removing high spots and leaving you with a nice smooth finish. Which is important because the walnut I bought was quite rough and uneven.

I got lucky here, my planer is only 13″ wide and one of my pieces of walnut was 12 1/2″ wide. Talk about pushing it to the limit.

Oh, I also planed the maple too, but I thought 2 pictures would be a bit redundant, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

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After planing the wood down, I ran it through the table saw to remove it’s rough sides and make sure all my lumber was the same width.

Because I buy semi-rough lumber it isn’t all the same width. The difference between my two pieces of walnut was about 3/4″. Meaning I had to remove 3/4″ from the wider of the two pieces.

In the end I cut the walnut down to 11 1/2″ wide and the maple to 3 1/2″.

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Again, because it’s semi-rough lumber, all of my pieces were different lengths and the ends are a little bit uneven. Mitre saw to to the rescue! I squared up the ends and cut my walnut to 72″ long.

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It’d be remiss of me not to use my mitre saw for a couple of mitred cuts as well. This is how I achieved the angles in my u-shaped legs.

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Here’s a rough lay-out of the legs. The longer pieces are 24″ long, and the shorter pieces are 11 1/2″ wide, not coincidentally the same width as the walnut.

Also you can see what the newly finished walnut looks like 🙂

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Because I wanted the legs to sit flush inside of the TV stand I had to make some cutouts in my walnut slabs. 12″ in from the ends of the walnut I traced the outline of my maple legs.

I probably could’ve done this easier by just using a square and measuring, but I’ve never been one to make things easy for myself.

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I’m not one of these fancy carpenters that does everything with super sharp hand tools. I used a normal off the shelf jig saw with a blade that was probably a bit too dull.

Remember what I said about not making things easy on myself?

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Ok so my jig saw method didn’t give PERFECT results, I don’t see how anyone could’ve seen that coming! I had to clean things up a bit with a chisel and some sand paper afterwards 🙂

This was actually a pretty time consuming process. Seems easy when it’s just two photos in a gallery, but I spent hours making sure these cutouts were as clean and tight as possible.

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After I finished all of my cutouts it was time to do some test fits. A little persuasion from a rubber mallet and the maple slotted nicely into the walnut. Success!

I really was bored of chiseling at this point so I was thrilled it all fit together.

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To secure the maple to the walnut I pre-drilled some holes in the front of the maple and then used big black lag screws to fasten it in place.

You know, the same big black lag screws I’m sure a vocal minority will be very upset about. Ya I’m calling you out wood working snobs! 😉

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It was at about this point when I realized just how heavy this thing was going to be. I had to flip it over a couple of times and immediately felt bad about my upper body strength. Oh well, no need to go to the gym if you just make super heavy furniture all day long.

Almost done, only a couple more steps!

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Because the bottom of the legs will never be seen it was the perfect place to hide some screws! Not sure why I thought it was important to hide these screws considering I didn’t hide any others. Best not to probe too deep into my decision making process, lest I accidentally do some honest self reflection…

I screwed into the end grain of the maple, which isn’t the best, but then again it’s not exactly a high stress joint either. Just to be safe I used 3 screws per leg and pre-drill every hole.

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As you saw in my finished shots the middle section of the TV stand has a solid back. A solid back that allows me to hide a lot of wires and ugliness. I had this veneer ply left over from a job I did for a client so I put it to use.

Using my track saw I cut a piece that was 10 1/2″ by 42 1/2″.

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Next I used my router to rabbet out a channel in the back of the TV stand. The rabbet was 1/2″ wide and 3/4″ deep (same as the thickness of the plywood I had just cut). In order to avoid burning out the motor in my router I had to do this step in multiple passes, taking out approximately 1/4″ of material with each pass.

This allowed the plywood to sit flat in the back of the TV stand, but I wasn’t quite ready to install it yet.

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No, before I installed the plywood I’d have to take a second and use the carpenters version of spell check. Wood filler.

Time to fix all of my mistakes. Like I said I spent a lot of time making sure everything was as close to perfect as possible, but let’s be honest, nothing is ever perfect. That’s where wood filler comes in. This walnut wood filler is a pretty good match for the walnut I was working with.

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I squeezed the wood filler onto a small putty knife and pressed it into all the small gaps and cracks I could find. The deeper down into the small cracks you can push the wood filler the better, so I hope you haven’t been skipping wrist day at the gym.

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Once the wood filler had dried I used a random orbital sander with some 80 grit sand paper to sand off any excess.

I also took the as an opportunity to give the whole TV stand a good sand with some 180 grit sand paper. This final sand left all of the wood feeling smooth and ready for some varnish.

Not pictured here is me frantically vacuuming the TV stand and my entire work area after sanding to prevent any dust from ruining my varnish application.

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Once all of the dust was removed I used a water based satin floor varnish by Saman to coat my TV stand. I chose that particular varnish for a few reasons.

1) It’s tough. It’s a floor varnish, so it’s meant to take a beating.
2) It’s really easy to work with. After 2 coats of this stuff you’d be hard pressed to find any brush marks or imperfections.
3) I already had it left over from another job. Can’t beat free!

I started by cutting in all my corners with a paint brush. You know, the places you can’t reach with a roller.

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Then after I had cut everything in with the brush I rolled the remainder with a mini low nap roller. I tried to work as fast as possible here. Because it’s water based it dries quick, and if you try and roll over something that’s half dry you’ll muck it all up.

If you see an imperfection or a spot you missed just wait and you can pick it up in the next coat.

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Here’s what it looked like after the first coat. Just to be safe I did 2 more coats, sanding lightly with 180 grit sand paper in between each coat.

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So I got a little sleepy after finishing the varnishing process and decided I’d finish up at home. I packed up a few tools, took everything home and got started the next morning. I piloted out some holes in the back of the plywood and screwed it to the main TV stand.

Now it’s time to setup my TV and all of the accessories!

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So here’s the real reason I wanted that piece of plywood on the back of the TV stand. It gave me somewhere to mount all of the unsightly crap I don’t like looking at.

I mounted my PS4, a power bar (with USB charging ports built into it), Nvidia Shield and all of their cables back there. It took a lot of cable ties and double sided tape but I got it done.

Both the Nvidia Shield and the PS4 seem function just fine without any line of sight to their respective controllers.

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Finally I added a YEELIGHT RGB Led strip to the back of my TV. This LED strip is fully compatible with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and IFTTT, which means it should fit right into my smart home ecosystem.

The LED strip acts as a bias light, helping to increase the perceived contrast of my TV screen and adding ambient light to my living room. I’ll set it up to come on whenever I turn on the TV.

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Here’s what my home theater setup looked like before I started this process. Yikes! what a mess. Far too busy for my taste.

I think I’m going to have to build a new bookcase to create a home for all of those displaced textbooks 🙁 Sorry textbooks.

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Much cleaner looking now!

If anything it’s a bit too small for that space, but I’m moving in a couple of months so I wanted to make something that would work in almost any space.

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The Saman floor varnish really accentuates the natural grain of the wood in certain lights. I love it.

Also position the Google Home Mini close to the TV so that it never misses my commands for turning on the TV and light.

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As you can see the bottom shelf is almost entirely devoted to my video game stuff. I’m working on a practical way to rear mount the Nintendo Switch cradle.

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I used a contrasting white-ish wood filler on the few knots and cracks in the walnut. It’s a very close match to the maple and blends nicely with the rest of the stand.

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The end grain had a few small crack in it too that I also filled with the white filler.

Shout out to all the Nintendo Switch Users reading this! On my last project I had my Nintendo Switch in one of the pictures and surprising number of Switch users shouted it out. Only fair that I repay the favor!

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In the end I got some really flush joints. I’m really happy with just how smooth and clean it all turned out.

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Here’s my little assistant Bing, wondering why her human has been taking photos of the same thing for the last 30 minutes.

I’m sure she’s also wonder how long until I leave the room so she can start knocking stuff off of the TV stand.

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Thanks for checking out my build and congrats on making it this far! That’s it!

Enjoy my girlfriends mini Jeff Koons sculpture on your way out!

As always leave any question or comments you may have below! Always love feedback.

  1. The entertainment center looks great. Thanks for the insight.

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith March 22, 2018 at 8:12 am

      No problem, my pleasure Jake! Thanks for checking out my build.

      Reply

  2. […] you’ve seen my recent Entertainment Unit build guide.  One of my key objectives in that build was to create a fully functional […]

    Reply

  3. joyce kozachenko April 10, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    you made it look simple you lost me on the legs then I seen the back ,I don’t have the tools for that. I love it.

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith April 10, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks Joyce, I tried to keep it as simple as possible, but I know not everyone has these tools available to them. Hopefully you still enjoyed seeing how it was done 🙂

      Reply

  4. wow.. you need to become a writer.Well spoken with a natural easy flow that carries the reader to very end. If you can make some boards and sandpaper interesting to me you must be talented… I wasnt even looking for a project read. I was looking for solution to my fathers GPS problem and somehow found this. Barb in MO

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith April 11, 2018 at 7:14 am

      Wow thank you Barb, that’s very nice of you to say. I do hope you find a solution to your dad’s GPS problem, but I’m glad you stumbled across my page!

      Reply

  5. I love what you did here. Clean and fairly simple. What you did on the back was genius! So stealing this idea!

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith April 12, 2018 at 7:41 am

      Thanks! I have a separate blog post where I go into more detail about organizing the back side you might find helpful 🙂

      Feel free to shoot me any questions you have along the way if you do end up doing it yourself!

      Reply

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