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Recently, some good friends of mine moved into a new home. They went from a TINY apartment, to a nice sized house and  had a lot more space to  utilize. They had been looking for a media cabinet to set under their wall mounted TV, and they asked me if I’d be interested in building them one. Of course, I jumped at the chance, and I’m SO glad that I did. This is one of my favorite things that I’ve ever designed/built.

The only other pieces were six small pieces of other plywood for the front and backs of the drawers. I would have preferred to use the oak plywood, but it wasn’t worth buying a whole other sheet at $45 a piece (geez!!).

Here’s what you’ll need:

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The Design

My friends had sent me a few pictures, so my final design was a combination of them. It also took into consideration trying to hide joints, being strong enough to hold a TV if they ever decided to set it on top, and some other things.

The crazy colors correspond to different types of wood, described in the plans.

The crazy colors correspond to different types of wood, described in the plans.


Building the box

I tried my best, in the plans, to simplify dimensions and have everything be a full or half inch width. This wasn’t intentional at first, but just a little tweaking and it worked out. Just follow the plans to cut the plywood into pieces, ensuring that you cut in the right directions, so you can fit all of the pieces into a single sheet of (overly expensive) plywood.


Corner clamps make building a box by your self much, much easier (and more square.)

Using some corner clamps, I glued the panels together and then went back and countersunk two screws into each edge. BE SURE TO PRE-DRILL, otherwise you’ll split your plywood at these edges.  These screws eventually are hidden by the legs.

I considered just shooting brads instead of using screws, but my brad nailer has a bad habit of not shooting straight. As you can see below..   ouch.

Please be careful when using tools. I made a stupid mistake and ended up with a nail sticking out of my finger (and IN about 1/4″).  Lucky for me, it wasn’t bad and healed up quickly, but it was still a big, dumb thing to do.

So, when placing the uprights, and the interior shelves, I found that it worked great to use the pieces that I’d already cut as guides. For example, I used a shelf panel as a spacer to attach each upright. This was really helpful because I knew they were being placed squarely, and at the perfect place.

Use the pieces that you've cut as placement guides.

Use the pieces that you’ve cut as placement guides.

I attached each piece with glue, then reinforced with 18 gauge brads. Take your time when placing these. You want everything straight, square and you want the brads to go where you want them, rather than blow through the side of your cabinet. This can happen pretty easily since you’re shooting into a 1/2″ piece of wood. I clamped on a straight edge to make sure that I was shooting them in the right place. Even with the straight edge, you have to be aware of the angle that you’re holding the nail gun in relation to the surface.

Take your time, shoot straight.

Take your time, shoot straight.

The Veneer

Adding a veneer to the front face of your shelves isn’t necessary, but I happened to have some leftover from another project, so I decided to give it a shot, and I’m VERY glad that I did. It looks SO much better, and wasn’t really very much work. The veneer is a very thin 3/4″ strip of wood, in a roll, with an adhesive back. You lay it out over the area that you want to cover (it’s curled up, so use painters tape to hold it in place) then using an iron, move over it, allowing the heat to get the adhesive to do it’s job and bind the veneer to the face of the plywood.

When placing it, be sure to leave some overlap on both sides of the plywood, which you’ll trim off with a knife or router, after it’s adhered. Where you have to join two pieces of veneer, just make a straight cut with a blade, and line up the new piece with the cut.

Adding veneer to your plywood makes it look like solid red oak...  which makes it look even more awesome.

Adding veneer to your plywood makes it look like solid red oak… which makes it look even more awesome.

The Top

I’ve got a LOT of pallet wood. So much so, that my neighbors probably think I run a shipping company out of my house. The upside is that I have lots of wood to sift through to find really nice pieces. For the top of this cabinet, I wanted really attractive pieces that worked together, but that didn’t need much work. I wanted them to retain as much of their worn charm as possible. So, after much searching, I found five boards that worked perfectly.  All of that to say, if you use pallets, expect that a LOT of the wood won’t be suitable for nicer projects. But if you keep your eyes open, you’ll run across some great stuff.

After trimming them to length, and placing them to figuring out the best stacking order, best sides to use, etc. I was ready to sand them down (I wanted them smooth, but not too smooth) and attach them. I figured out where each board would lie, then transferred the position to the understand of the top plywood panel. From here, I was able to pre-drill and countersink some screws, up into the bottom of the pallet boards. I started with the front board, getting it’s position just right and spread lots of glue under it. I then clamped it in place, and drove the screws up into it from inside the cabinet. I used a screw in the center and on each end of each board.

I was a little worried about how strong the top surface would be, in case someone tried to pick the cabinet up by the pallet pieces, and I’m VERY pleased with how sturdy it is. The pallet boards are WAY more attached than I expected them to be.

Spend the time, to find the right boards, and get their placement just right.

Spend the time, to find the right boards, and get their placement just right.

The Back

Luan makes a simple, lightweight back. It’s also easy to drill through for running cables.

Adding the back was as simple as cutting a piece of luan to fit and brad nailing it in place. Be sure to follow my advice for shooting nails above.

The Legs

Here again, the selection of straight, solid pallet wood is key. I had been gathering pieces that were straight enough to use as legs, and they all ended up being solid red oak just like the top! I’d designed the slant in the leg based off of one of the clients reference pictures, but I made sure to use a width that would allow me to get two leg pieces out of one board. This was helpful because each leg is made of two pieces. Also, I picked an angle that would allow me to cut each board ONE TIME, and end up with two identical pieces, or, one complete leg.

Using an angled sled, these were surprisingly easy.

Using this old angle cutting jig that I picked up from Harbor Freight years ago, I was able to run the boards through the table saw and get the angle I needed very very easily. In fact, I was a little underwhelmed with how little work they were. I mean, they ended up looking cool, but they were almost too easy?! Anyway…

With the legs sanded down, I laid them in place and marked a line on the veneer. Then I went back with a blade and removed the veneer almost up to that mark. I wanted the leg to sit flush on the cabinet, but also wanted to hide the edge of the veneer, so I left about 1/8″ of veneer for the leg to overlap.

I lightly glued the backside of the legs, then clamped the two pieces on, and together. I used quite a few brads to attach them. The holes left by the brads just add to the worn nature of the pallet legs.

You can never have, or use, too many clamps.

You can never have, or use, too many clamps.

The Drawers

This was something almost entirely new to me. I’d made some simple drawers for our built ins, but these were were using rabbets. You could use butt joints, or any other type just as easily. I made the drawers to fit inside the cabinet, then faced them with more (specially selected) pallet wood. I laid the cabinet on it’s back and set the pallet boards on the drawer openings, to play with different heights and spacing options.
I don’t have a dado blade, so I measured out the rabbets (which just need to be the same size as the piece of wood that is going to fit there, so 1/2″) and did multiple passes on my table saw. Then I used a chisel to knock out the rest of the wood and smooth it down.

Yes, rabbEt is the correct spelling.

Yes, rabbEt is the correct spelling.

Once all of the pieces were cut and rabbeted, I made sure to get them all facing the correct direction. Then I ran them all over the table saw to cut a slot in each of them, to accept the bottom luan panel.  Next, I glued up the rabbets, slid in the bottom panel and clamped it all up.

Once I was sure that my clamps were holding things squarely (CORNER CLAMPS!!!!) I used brads to lock it all together while the glued dried.

Getting everything to fit and stay in place takes patience... and clamps. Lots of clamps.

Getting everything to fit and stay in place takes patience… and clamps. Lots of clamps.

When mounting the drawers slides, make sure to get them level. It’s kind of tough to draw lines, drill holes, screw things in, etc INSIDE the cabinet, so be sure to double check your work before drilling, and take your time. I had to make several small adjustments to get my rails to sit correctly.

Take your time, draw lines, pre-drill.

Take your time, draw lines, pre-drill.

When adding the drawer fronts, make sure to select pallet pieces that fit nicely together. I laid the cabinet, with the drawers in place, on it’s back. After lining up the fronts and evening out the gaps, I put down a good amount of glue, under each piece.. making sure to not move any other pieces out of place in the process. After they were glued down, I set a brick on each one to press it down and hold it for the glue to dry. After the glue was solid enough, I countersunk six screws from the inside of each drawers, which reinforced the drawer fronts connection to the drawer box.

Bricks are a great thing to have around the shop, to weight things down when gluing.

Bricks are a great thing to have around the shop, to weight things down when gluing.

Stain & Hardware

At this point, the construction was complete, and I was really happy with the way the wood looked. I went back and forth about staining it or just putting a clear coat on it. Ultimately, I’m really glad that I stained it. It turned out great and looks fantastic. I used a Polyshades Mission Oak, and while I honestly hate the process of staining, I was really, really happy with the result.

Before you stain, be sure to remove the drawer slides (or just wait to put them on until after you stain, I suppose.) It might be a better idea to wait until after stain, since I did have some trouble getting one of them back in correctly. It never rolled as smoothly after being put back in.

Once the stain was dried, I added some drawer pulls that I found at Target of all places. Placing these is a little tough, given that the pallet wood isn’t perfectly squared off, and the surface may or may not be perfectly flat.  Just take your time and measure twice (or three times).

I found these drawer pulls at Target but the options are endless.

I found these drawer pulls at Target but the options are endless.


finalReese It wasn’t a quick project, but it was well worth it, and my friends were really happy with it, which made me really happy with it as well. Here it is all finished up and delivered!I hope you find this helpful and would love to see a photo if you build one for yourself!Here’s a set of FREE PLANS to download so you can build your own.