Build a Flat Screen Cabinet with Wood Jigs
By Michael Morris
Photography by Daniel Morris
Off-the-shelf woodworking jigs help build this flat-screen TV cabinet.
Flat-screen televisions are a great improvement over tube-type TVs. Today’s plasma and LCD flat-screens are lightweight—most under 50 lbs.—and just a few inches in thickness (newer models are only an inch or so thick), which makes them perfect for mounting on a wall.
One problem with a wall-hung setup is that, when the TV is off, the screen presents a large, blank, blacked-out image. The solution is to hide the set inside an attractive, wall-mounted wood cabinet more appropriate to home décor.
To simplify the construction of this cabinet, I relied on four inexpensive, easy-to-use jigs from the General Tools & Instruments “E-Z Pro” line. I used a dovetail jig to create a sturdy, wall-mountable framework; a mortise & tenon jig to make the recessed-panel doors; a doweling jig for attaching internal components including a shelf, drawer dividers, and reinforcing stretchers; and a pocket-hole jig to make quick work of drawers for remote control devices, instruction booklets, DVDs and other items.
In planning the cutting and construction sequence, I recommend that you first cut and assemble the outer frame before making final cuts to the internal components. This is because the half-blind dovetail joints used to connect these parts may require slight fitting adjustments, which could affect the other components’ lengths. To be safe, cut and fit your dovetails before measuring the exact lengths of the shelf and the upper and lower stretchers. Also, if you are not familiar with any of the woodworking jigs mentioned above, be sure to make test cuts in scrap wood before attempting final cuts in costly materials.
This cabinet is sized for a 32-in. flat-screen set. Television measurements are based on diagonal screen size, so the actual outer measurements of this set are 31-in. wide, 21-in. high, and 4.25-in. deep. I added roughly two inches of clearance on all sides of the set within the cabinet dimensions, plus height for the drawers and shelf, resulting in an exterior cabinet size of 36-in. wide by 31-in. high. The 5.5-in. width of the (nominal)
1×6 maple boards used here, along with full-overlay doors, provided just enough cabinet depth for a flat-screen set with a hanger mount.
Quick and ‘E-Z’ Dovetails
General’s “Dovetailer” E-Z Pro Jig is a compact, all-in-one unit that guides your electric router to cut both pins and tails at the same time in the same setup. The kit comes with everything you need, including a 1/2-in. carbide dovetail bit with preassembled guide bushings to make full or half-blind dovetail joints. You can also use this jig to make other size and shape dovetails, or square-cut box joints, if you supply your own bits.
The cabinet frame is a simple open-faced box. After cutting the top, bottom, and side pieces to finished length, mark the board faces and intersecting corners to identify how they will be arranged in final assembly. This is important to ensure that the dovetail joints match up accurately after they are cut.
Begin the half-blind dovetail joint sequence by cutting the TAILS—the dovetail “fingers”—at each end of the top and bottom frame pieces. It’s easier to set the jig and cut all the tails at one time before you readjust the jig guide to cut the dovetail PINS—the mating slots—and it will result in more accurately aligned joints.
The Dovetailer is simple to set up. First, align the jig’s built-in gauge to the appropriate depth indicated on its scale; if you use the 1/2-in. dovetail bit supplied with the kit, as we did, set the gauge to the 1/2 mark. Chuck the bit into your router and—with the router turned off—place the router baseplate atop the jig, then adjust the bit depth so that it barely touches the gauge. Don’t worry that the bit will impact the plastic gauge during operation—when the router is positioned for cutting, only the guide bushing, not the spinning bit, contacts the gauge.
With the jig and router ready to go, make a center mark near one end of the inside face on the first board. I find it easier to clamp the board vertically against a workbench when cutting the tails, which positions the jig atop the board end and allows you and the router to work comfortably atop the jig.
Place the jig on the board end so that the legend CUT TAILS THIS SIDE is facing you on the flat horizontal surface, and align your center mark on one of the jig’s central dividers. The outside or finish surface of the board should be facing away from you. It’s not necessary to measure or position the board precisely in the jig—alignment of the tails and pins is done when the pins are cut in the next steps.