Introduction: Two-Cube Credenza

Picture of Two-Cube Credenza

A credenza is a piece of side furniture that can be used as storage cabinets, a side table, a dresser, or any multitude of other things. In the days of giant hi-fi/record systems, they were often built into a long, low piece of furniture with wood facing.

This credenza was made as a dresser; the size of the cubes would make it a great record-storage space, and the turntable could go right on top. The double cube came from (now defunct) Hechinger's hardware store in the early-mid eighties. It is made from cheap particle board, with a masonite back, all held together with glue and nails. Over the years, the cubes have been painted many times. Witha little spackle and some fresh paint, they looked fresh and clean and ready for re-use. I haven't included instructions to make your own cubes; that seemed largely self-explanatory. Make yours from 3/4" plywood or MDF, and use screws instead of nails for strength. The back could be 1/4" material. I also think this design could work quite well with milk crates or metal cubes -- use machine screws or small bolts to attach some crates to one another to make a larger unit.

The legs are small trusses made from threaded rods and scrap wood, braced with guy wires. They are cheap, light, removable, and add a sweet modern look. From standing height, the cubes appear to float as the legs disappear underneath.

This project didn't cost me anything because I had all the scraps lying around. If one were to make both cubes and legs from scratch, it would probably run about $30. It only takes a an hour or two to make, not counting time for paint to dry.

Step 1: Cubist

Picture of Cubist

The cubes in this project were already made, so this step is slightly hypothetical.

Use scrap, plywood, MDF, particle board, or similar to build two 18" cubes that share a common back and sides. Alternately, buy them from an unfinished furniture store, hardware store, yard sales, or Craigslist. Or, use scavenged milk crates or metal bins -- bolt them together so they form a rigid, coherent unit.

To paint, fill in any dings, dents, or fastener holes with spackle or wood fill. Sand lightly with 100-grit paper. Paint with spray or brush-on enamel. It is important to use an oil-based enamel as opposed to latex or other paints because an enamel will resist scratching and marring much better.

I found that a sponge-pad type edging tool for doing baseboards and other trim around the house worked better than a brush for painting the tight corners of the cubes. The interior corners will be the most challenging to get good coverage without drips or runs; have a rag or foam brush handy to feather out any accidents.

Step 2: Trusses

Picture of Trusses

The legs for this piece are two tiny trusses made from threaded rod and signpost lumber. The wood is about 3/4" square, and the threaded rods are 3/16" in diameter. Thin threaded rod like that is cheap, and the wood can be almost any scrap. Depending on how high you want the top surface to be, the legs should be 4-8 inches high. With four diagonals to a leg, you shouldn't need any more than four feet of rod.

Start by cutting four pieces of wood to 14" or so. You want the length of the trusses to be a couple inches shy of the depth of the cubes, so adjust that measurement accordingly. Using a wall or control joint in the concrete as a zero line, lay out your pieces so that they are exactly parallel, have their ends aligned, and are six inches apart.

Measure one inch in from each end of the top piece of wood and make a small mark. Find the center of the top piece. Measure half an inch off that center to each side. These four marks are where the rods will intersect the top half of the truss. Divide the bottom piece into three equal lengths, making two hash marks. Measure a half inch to either side of those two centerlines and make marks.

There should now be four hash marks on each piece of wood. Lay your threaded rod on top of the wood, aligned with your marks, to get a rough length for the pieces of rod. Make a mark on the rod. Cut eight pieces to that dimension.

Lay out the pieces of rod again, on all the marks, to get the angle for pieces of rod. Trace the rods to get the rough angles. Using a drill bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the rods, drill four angled holes through the depth of the wood on each piece.

To expedite the long, tedious task of screwing the rods in, chuck up the threaded rod in your drill, and just power them forward. Put all four rods in one side, screwing them a good bit past their ends. Then add the second piece. It won't work if you try to put on both pieces of wood simultaneously.

I then polyurethaned and waxed the wood. Finish as you like.

Step 3: Tension!

Picture of Tension!

Attach the trusses to the bottom of the cubes with a couple of screws. Make sure it is a good, rigid connection with minimal wobble. I centered each leg on the openings of the cubes; put them where you like, but no closer to the center than I have them for stability's sake.

At the very exact geometric center of the bottom of the cubes (where two corner-to-corner diagonals intersect), drive a screw with a washer partway in. An eye screw would also work.

Do the same on either end of the cubes, about an inch in from the side and centered front-to-back. Drill a small hole through each end of the bottom of each truss.

Loop some wire through those holes and up to the screws, so that each truss has four wire loops attached to it, making a double diamond when viewed from directly above. Twist the wire back on itself to secure. The wire here is copper; steel tie wire for rebar would work well, but you could also use aluminum, steel cable, or strong string.

Insert a little dowel or nail or whatever into one of the loops and twist it like a tourniquet. Set a square against the truss and the bottom of the cubes to make sure you're keeping the legs nice and orthogonal. Do one loop on one side and then the loop directly opposing tit to keep the tension on the trusses even. The wire should be tight enough to twang when you are finished, but not so tight it pulls everything out of square. When everything is taut, drive the three screws in altogether.

This wire works very well because when twisted under tremendous tension, it stays that way without unwinding. Using any type of cable or string will require you to secure the loops somehow to keep them from unwinding. the best way is to use a small finish nail or similar as your twisting tool; leave it wrapped up in the string when you have achieved the proper tension, then turn it parallel to the string and tie the two together.

Flip it over. While looking very delicate, the legs are actually very strong . I can stand on this piece without it wracking side-to-side hardly at all.

Fill it with your stuff and enjoy!

Comments

dbourdeau (author)2011-03-13

So, I took a stab at building this from scratch and am very happy with the results. I spent $50 on the MDF, screws, glue and tension rod. I ended up building making the support system out of MDF because I COULD NOT figure out how the author actually got the tension rods to work correctly. I tried twice and mine looked terrible, ending up completely out of shape and different heights... I think I must have a lack of ability when it comes to metal.

I made a three cube version with custom enclosures for my turntable amp and tuner, using the left and right cubes to hold my records. Thanks for the inspiration Wholman! I am looking to build your cantilever cardboard chair in the next couple of months... got to source the cardboard first.

shooby (author)2011-02-04

A really attractive piece and support system. My one suggestion/question is that structurally it seems that anchoring the tension cable to the shelving unit between the legs is unnecessary. Why not just have straight tensions components between the "feet", and anchor the tension cables at the ends as exists in this design?

I can appreciate the symmetry of the design now, however my suggestion would further minimize the amount of structural stuff going on, adding to the minimalist look of the piece.

Also, it'd be neat if the tension cables anchored to pieces of wood similar to those used for the steel rods. Not necessarily the same shape, but same material. This might make for a more consistent structural system.

Great job overall, I'll consider building this using tension cables in one vertically oriented central plane.

McGrep (author)2010-03-04

Excellent work, looks professional! The thin components underneath provide an intriguing sight. Definitely a work of art.

porcupinemamma (author)2009-08-12

Beautiful to look at. A piece of art!

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Bio: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.
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