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Building a Home Theater

9 June 2015


Building a Home Theater 1


“One Fine Day”


Building a Home Theater 2I’ve been a very infrequent contributor to this blog site this year, but it’s because life has intervened, or more specifically, a long list of projects, starting with an outrageously complex home theater. It’s the kind of project that seemed like a wonderful idea at the time, but the actual work itself has been overwhelming at times. Even so, it really is reaching the final stages, and Saturday I was able to reach the summit of pretty much the last mountain I have to ascend in this project. The finished project will occupy one half of a 17’x25’ family room, wrapping around an end wall and half of the two adjacent walls. When finished, it will be a built-in project like a kitchen. What will look like six separate pieces is actually composed of fifteen different component parts. There are five doors and twenty-nine drawers, which is considerably more drawers than I will use in our kitchen yet to be! Yesterday I was finally able to test-fit the last piece of the puzzle, the TV surround for a 65” rear-projection TV.


It’s a component that has given me many sleepless moments in the run-up to finally setting to work with my table saw and other tools. The biggest problem with that TV surround is the sheer size of it. It is eighty inches high, seventy-seven inches wide, and thirty-three inches deep. Putting it together with biscuits (a type of wood spline) and yellow wood glue would have been fairly straightforward, but I never would have been able to get it into the house. The only alternative I could see was to use threaded inserts, a type of knock-down fastener used for assembling furniture that can then be disassembled and reassembled pretty much at will. The problem with threaded inserts, though, is that they are essentially dead right or dead wrong, so installing them on such large components was a challenge all its own. In the end I installed a total of Building a Home Theater 3forty-eight threaded inserts. I’ve included some pictures of that installation. Those little metal sleeves are inserted into drilled holes, which makes a much stronger connection than one would have with wood screws. The latter work just fine if one screws together a project and has done with it, but putting screws in and out of wood will quickly weaken the connection, hence the threaded inserts.


Yesterday I finished out on the back and was finally able to assemble the finished project. It is so big that I decided to make the two assembly tables it sits on, as I didn’t think I would be able to handle it otherwise. In the end, I totally lucked out because our gardener/handyman/hell of a good friend came by to service our lawn. Fortunately, it was his last stop, and Carlos was willing to stay a bit longer while I assembled it. I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle the weight when it came time to tip it upright, so I wanted him as a backstop, so to speak. Well, as it turned out, the finished project was too heavy for me, but with Carlos, getting it upright was no problem at all.


It was that kind of day, one of those days that just almost never fits together so nicely. While I was working on the last bit for the back I was listening to my classical music station, and they played Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, my absolute favorite, along with a number of other excellent choices. Then just as crunch time neared, Carlos came along.


Building a Home Theater 4I posed in front of the assembled project, but I do have to point out that there is still much to be done. All of the white plywood will be painted flat matte black, and the mahogany will receive a hand-rubbed oil finish. There will be molding around the big lower opening to make it look almost like a picture frame around the TV. Most of those fasteners will not be seen, and they will not be the gaudy zinc you see here; these are a temporary choice because they’re more durable for the up-and-down that will be this unit’s lot for a while. I’m a bit dubious of that picture of me, but the surround’s in pieces again, and this is all I have to show the size of it. I’m not sure if I look like the cat who swallowed the canary or the monster who devoured Cleveland!


Christine took that picture, and after Carlos left and I’d disassembled the TV surround, she had a perfect idea for ending the day: pizza and beer! There’s a family-owned restaurant not far from here where we often go, and last night was definitely the time for it. When we got there, we were hoping for our favorite booth, and damned if we didn’t get it! It’s been a long time getting to this point, but it was nice to sit there and have a beer and celebrate a wonderful moment in our lives. The home theater is still unfinished, but all of the hard stuff is now behind me, which would have made that Saturday wonderful, but the way every single bit of it came together the way it did really did make for one fine day.



    4 Responses to “Building a Home Theater”

  1. Joe Dusel  Says:

    Nice job Joe! Can’t wait to see the finished project. I am also a big fan of ready-to-assemble cabinets and furniture, but doing RTA stuff the easy way requires some big expensive CNC equipment. My small shop approach to RTA cabinets is to use Confirmat screws. They are essentially a metal dowel.

  2. Tina Gleisner  Says:

    Amazing story & congratulations on clearing all the hurdles, except for final installation … but you’re on the downhill slope now.

    I get the threaded inserts when you want to assembled, and reassemble as we’ve moved our Techline furniture from San Jose, to NH and then to AZ … but if you’ve custom built this for a specific place, will it look right anywhere else?

  3. Joe Freenor  Says:

    Tina, I doubt it would look right if we moved it elsewhere, but it doesn’t matter. It’s to be a built-in installation. We mean to live here until we die. The next owners of this house will inherit this project and may keep it or not, just as they would with a remodeled kitchen.

  4. James Dibben  Says:

    I built an entertainment center about 10 years ago. It was 6 feet wide and 6 feet tall and 2 feet deep. It was so heavy! I wish I had either made it in the knock-down style or at least 3 pieces that could be screwed together or something. I used oak with MDF core. We left it at the last house when we moved out. Nobody wanted to move it!

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