A year after purchasing a small stereo system for my living room, it was time to give it more permanent home than being perched on the cardboard box in which it had arrived.
With fond memories of my parent's radiogram (console in US English) I decided to integrate the stereo into a small side table.
The intention was to put the stereo at a convenient height for use, save me from having to dust it, and support a small lamp for those hard days lying on the sofa reading.
Step 1: Basic Carcass Pieces
The carcass of the table was made from a piece of ply 15" (40cm) by 4 feet (120cm). This was cut from a full sheet which had already furnished a bedside table.
The speakers were to be mounted on their sides, facing out from the two ends of the table. Measuring the height of the speakers gave the internal height needed. A strip that wide was cut from one side of the ply, leaving enough to handle the length of the speakers.
The large piece was cut in half to form two pieces two feet long (60cm) for the top and bottom.
The thin strip was cut to give two uprights and a cross piece for the back. There was some scrap left over which was saved.
The last photograph shows the pieces laid out to check the fit.
Step 2: Cable Routing
To get power and signal to the stereo, and to route the speaker cables through the uprights, we need to put holes in the components we've just made.
The speaker cables were unterminated and the wires went easily through a drilled 3/8" (10mm) hole.
The power and antennae going to the stereo needed a bigger gap, so the drill was used to make pilot holes and then a jigsaw cut out the larger gap needed.
Step 3: Carcass Assembly
The last chance to give an easy sanding to the pieces was taken, and then they were assembled.
The internal frame was made first, with clearance holes in the back being drilled and then pilot holes into the end of the uprights. The carcass is 5 1/2" (140mm) high, so a couple of 1 1/2" (40mm) countersunk woodscrews were used on each of the joints. The joint was glued, with no need for clamping as the screws held it all pretty tightly.
Once the glue had cured, the uprights and back were offered to the base and that was similarly fixed. Since the piece is 10" (25cm) front-to-back three screws were used for the uprights. About half a dozen were used for the back edge.
Fixing the top was done last, and some care was used to alight the screws the same distance from front and back edges. Using a strip of masking tape stuck to a set square was an excellent way to transfer the distances, as shown in the last photograph above.
Since these screws were going to be concealed, the pilot and clearance holes were drilled with a counterboring bit to leave the screw heads a short distance below the surface of the piece.
Step 4: Concealing Screwheads
The piece chosen for the top of the table was the one which had the best surface.
A piece of scrap timber was clamped into the drill press and a plug cutter bit was used to make enough wooden plugs to fill all the screw holes. A couple of spares were also cut.
Prize the plugs out and fit them into the holes over the screwheads with a drop of wood-glue. Make sure to leave the plugs proud of the surface.
Once the glue has cured, use a sharp chisel to take the plugs down to the level of the surface and then sand everything ready for finishing.
Step 5: Making Legs to Correct Length
The legs were made from two layers of 2"x1" (20x40mm), one going the full height of the top and one stopping at the bottom shelf.
A jig was made to cut four legs the same length for the longer piece.
To cut each shorter piece, the carcass was fitted into the jig to give the precise length required for each shorter inner leg. Make sure to mark each piece with the corresponding corner.
Once the pieces are cut, layer them up, glue, clamp and leave to cure.
Step 6: Leg Taper 1:- Making Jig
The last time I made tapered legs, I used a handsaw, which took forever.
Aligning a circular saw for a shallow angled cut like this would be challenging, so I made a straight-edge guide. There are a few instructables on making these, this guide is a good one.
Take a piece of scrap sheet (I used thin chipboard) and fix a straight piece of timber (ideally a factory-cut edge from a piece of sheet material) along it, slightly further from the edge than the offset of your circular saw.
This was screwed in place using countersunk screws driven well below the sheet surface. The side with the screw heads will be pressed against the workpiece, so you want to ensure that there is nothing protruding which could damage the surface.
Once the straightedge has been fixed, clamp the guide to a bench (hanging over the edge!) and run the circular saw along the straightedge. This will cut a thin piece of sheet material off, leaving a gap between the straightedge and the edge of the sheet which is exactly one saw-offset wide.
Step 7: Leg Taper 2:- Marking and First Cut
The four legs will each taper in different planes.
Offer up each numbered leg to the correct point on the carcass and use a pencil to mark the angle of cut. Shade in the area of the scrap triangle just to make it obvious which bit is getting cut off and which side of the line will be on the finished piece.
Once the legs are all marked, set up the jig made in the previous step. This takes a bit of fiddling as the leg which is the workpiece needs to be supported by the bench, while the piece which will be offcut needs to be hanging over the edge so that the circular saw can complete its cut. You could make this slightly easier by setting the cut depth so that the blade does not complete the cut and then finish the thin strip by handsaw.
Ensure that the workpiece is securely held by your clamps and also that the jig is aligned so that the line marked will be cut, leaving the workpiece correctly dimensioned.
Step 8: Leg Taper 3:- Second Cut and Tidy
The second taper cut has to go through the leg at 90 degrees from the first. To make the clamp has contact with the workpiece, the wedge which was cut off in the previous step has to be temporarily re-attached. Since the key thing is to restore the original thickness of the piece, the wedge is attached a couple of inches higher up than it was removed. Please see the second photograph above for the details.
The wedge is held on to the workpiece with a wrap-around of duct tape.
The gap between the end of the wedge and the first duct tape bandage is important. If the tape overwraps where the saw-blade starts its cut into the workpiece, then the blade will chew through the whole surface of the bandage, rather than just a strip at the top and bottom. This will mean that you need to clean a whole bunch of sticky gunk out of every single tooth on your saw blade. (Voice of experience there...)
Once the second angle cut is made remove the remnants of duct tape, plane all four sides of the tapering leg and then sand down to a fairly fine grit.
Step 9: Attaching Legs
From the outside of the leg mark the position of the edge of the top and bottom shelf.
Drill a pilot hole for the screw, and then mount each leg, using a touch of wood glue at the contact. There is no need to clamp as the screws will provide holding pressure while the glue cures.
I was going to use exposed brass screws with cup washers to make a feature of the fittings. To avoid getting varnish on these, I put temporary screws in to hold the piece and clamp the joint, with the intention of replacing them with nice brass ones after staining.
Step 10: Finishing and Installing
Following the instructions on the tin, apply a few coats of stain and varnish.
Sanding down with a reasonably fine grit between coats gives a smoother finish. I applied four coats in total, sanding down after the first and second.
Once the varnish has dried, replace the countersunk screws on the legs with nice brass ones fitted with cup washers, thread all the wires through the various holes and fit the speakers.
Lastly a small cup-hook was driven into the underside of the bottom shelf and the cables were all drawn together and led behind one of the legs. This little step made a big difference to how good the finished piece looked. For even better concealment, the wires could be taped to the back of the leg where they would be effectively invisible.
Step 11: Mistakes and Changes to Plan
I had originally planned to cover the sides with acoustically transparent cloth held in place on a wire frame.
A paper template was made, and as can be seen in the second photograph, it fitted nicely. That was placed a piece of scrap ply and screws were driven in at the relevant points to make a form for twisting #8 wire. The end result was functional, but trying to get the sides straight enough that they didn't look out of place next to the flat top of the table proved impossible. Which is a shame, as the jointing mechanism which I came up with (marginally oversized aluminium tube held in place with heat-shrink tubing) worked really well. It turned out that there wasn't really a need as there was nothing visible on the ends except the speaker grilles and the front needs access to change CDs anyway (old school!).
Cutting the second taper on each leg proved difficult until the scrap wedge was re-attached with tape. The key note here is to make sure that the duct tape is far enough along the gap that the circular saw will not make its entry into the workpiece through the face which is covered in tape. The thickness of the kerf and the shallow angle of the cut means that if that is the case, then an awful lot of tape gets converted into sticky fluff which requires the saw to be pretty well stripped down to remove.
The cheap timber used for the legs came with barcode labels stuck to it. I used some intelligence so that these were on the section cut off and discarded in tapering the legs, but I missed a couple, so had to remove them after finishing the legs. It would have been more sensible to remove all the labels at the beginning.
The tapered legs look really good and I'm very pleased with them, but making them would have been a lot easier with a good table saw.
The final oops from this project was using sub-grade ply. There were a few edge and surface defects which required some juggling of pieces to conceal from casual view. But it was cheap.