Introduction: Industrial Metal AV Tower (no Welding Required!)

In this instructable I will show you how to create an AV tower (i.e. a piece of furniture to hold home theater components) out of industrial metal products like sheet metal, steel tubing, and gable louvers.

This AV tower was created for a private movie screening room at the California Institute of Technology. It is designed around the principle that the furniture for the screening room should be relatively tamper-proof, sturdy, and really cool looking.

I hope you enjoy this instructable, and better yet, I hope you are inspired to make even more awesome metal creations. I'd like to note that before building this I had absolutely zero metal-working experience, so you don't need a lot of skill--just determination. If you have worked with basic power tools and you have a metal supply shop near by, you'll be good to go.

Also, note that if you know how to weld, welding is preferable to the corner braces I used; but this obviously requires skills that not everyone has.

Thanks for reading this instructable! If you enjoy reading about this tower as much as I enjoyed making it, please rate this instructable 5 :)

Step 1: What You'll Need

Here is an exhaustive list of the things you'll need for this project.

Saw for cutting steel (I used a miter saw with a metal cutting blade)
Jigsaw for creating the steel panels (optional)
Hand Riveter (optional, can use screws, but rivets look cool)


1/2" to 1" steel tubing (I used 3/4"). You'll need 4 5' lengths and 8 2' lengths
1/2" steel angle (basically just an L-shaped right angle. You'll need 2 2ft lengths for each shelf. (I had 4 shelves, so 8 lengths of 2ft)
4ft. x 1" piano hinge
Cost: $95

16ga galvanized sheet metal. You'll need 1 2ft by 2ft sheet, one 4ft by 2ft sheet, 2 1ft by 2ft sheets, and a 2.5ft by 2ft sheet cut into smaller pieces depending on how many shelves you want and their relative heights.
Cost: $70

36 1"x1/2" corner braces (20 for the structure, 4 for each shelf)
8 "Heavy Duty" 2" corner braces
(pics below of both)
Cost: $30

4 2ft by 2ft gable louvers
1 2.5ft by 2ft gable louver
(pic below)
Cost: $170 (note: This includes $55 of shipping. If you can get it locally, you may be able to save a lot)

4 Custom pieces of glass ~2ftx1.75ft (I based the dimensions on these after I had built everything else to get the closest fit possible. I would recommend this)
Cost: $150... again, includes $80 of shipping. Try to get this locally.

A bunch of Screws, washers and Rivets (I used #8 1/2 and 3/4 inch screws with 1/8" rivets)
At least two or three metal cutting blades
Extra drill bits
Foam Tape (for cushioning the glass shelves and metal door), so get about 20-25ft
Cost: ~$40

Lock and Hasp (Optional)
Cost: ~$15

Total Cost: ~$600, although you may be able to do it considerably cheaper depending on resources and time.

Step 2: Part 1: the Frame

First, cut the pieces of tubing to size. I used a miter saw with a metal cutting blade.
The first step in the drawing shows the cut pieces in their correct positions. The red dots show where the right angle brackets need to go.
Next, assemble the pieces of tubing using metal screws, washers and right angle brackets; Drill, attach, screw.
Note that the 2ft tubes are attached BETWEEN the 5ft tubes; this is so the gable louvers fit.

I assembled one 2ft by 5ft rectangle, then the other, and connected the two. The order is not really important.

The second step in the drawing shows a close up of a right angle, along with a picture of one of the brackets in place.

When you've done these two things, you've built the frame! woo! Don't worry about it being stiff or particularly perpendicular at the angles right now, the corner brackets and shelving later will shore things up.

Step 3: Part 2: Leveling the Tower

Now would be a good time to level the tower. Using a level, get the tower as straight as possible by moving around the frame. Install the eight "heavy-duty" corner braces on each corner, but don't tighten them all the way. Now push the tower around until you get it nice and level and square and tighten the corner braces as needed.

Step 4: Part 3: Gable Louvers and Kickstops

Now we put in the gable louvers and the kick stops.

First, strip the chickenwire-like screening from behind the louvers. You can leave it if you want, but I felt that removing a) made wiring easier, b) made it look better and c) detracted from the possibility of this think being a giant faraday cage for any wireless signals.

Then, attach the first gable louver (2.5 x 2ft) to the lower front of the frame, INSIDE OUT (see 1st picture). Screw it into the steel tubing every few inches on both sides. Now, install the four other louvers two to a side, starting from the top of the tower. I overlapped the louvers where they connected, this is a purely aesthetic choice.

Tip: Drill the the holes in the louvers first, then align the louvers on the frame and mark through the holes with a sharpie. When you drill through the frame you'll probably kick it out of alignment, so this at least ensures your holes go in the right place (meaning your louvers will hold the frame in the right way).

Finally, install the kickstops. Just screw the bottom of the kickstop so it sits flush with the ground, and then rivet the sides of the kickstop into the bottom of the gable louver (you'll have a bit of overlap)

Finally, realign the frame again. This gets the tower ready for the next step.

These two pictures show the AV tower a little further in completion than is appropriate, but I unfortunately don't have pictures of the intermediary steps. These pictures are great examples of the work to be done, though.

Step 5: Part 4: the Shelves

Now, attach the shelves.

Each shelf is just two 2ft 1/4 inch steel angles bolted to the sides of the frame using the same right angle brackets used for the frame (see picture 1).

The angles should face inward., the glass will sit on them like this |_-----------------_|.

Place foam tape over the angle where the glass will contact the angle.

The second picture shows this step in progress.

Step 6: Part 5: the Top

Installing the top is easy. Just place the top on top of the tops of the gable louvers (that's a lot of top!) and rivet them in place. Additionally, use four of those corner braces to secure the top to the frame; this stiffens the frame and also lets the weight of things placed on the top rest partially on the frame.

Step 7: Part 6: the Back Door

The next step is to add the back door. This may not be necessary for you--it was for us because we wanted to prevent people from messing with the wires in the back. I took a 4ft by 2ft piece of sheet metal and a long hinge and attached the door to one side of the frame using rivets. I used a standard lock from Home Depot along with the hasp (what the lock locks onto) that came with it to secure the door. I also added some foam tape on the inside of the door to prevent rattling.

Note the kickstop at the back. This is not necessary, I just put it there because I had extra sheet metal.

Step 8: Part 7: Glass Shelves and Faceplates.

At this point, the tower is almost completed. The first picture is a picture of where it should be at this point. I measured the tower for the glass shelves and the faceplates, and then ordered the glass. Then, I set the glass inside of the unit... easiest step ever!

The faceplates I had cut to the sizes I needed. Note that the sizes of the faceplates are dependent on your shelf height, which should be dependent on what equipment you're placing in the cabinet. After the faceplate is cut to the right size for your shelf height, use a jigsaw/bandsaw/scroll saw to cut out the appropriate shape for your devices.

You may not want faceplates. We had them to keep people from touching buttons they shouldn't. I think when done well they also increase the overall coolness factor of the tower.

Step 9: Sweet, You're Done!

"I am AV Tower; gaze upon the glory of my metal might, and despair!"
--What the AV Tower would say if it could talk

Now that you've built your own AV Tower, you should feel a deserved sense of accomplishment. Crack open a cold one and relax. Let the ice-cold bottle comfort your horribly cut up hands (oh, wait, you were smart enough to wear gloves when you handled sheet metal? I sure wasn't...)

I had a ton of fun building this monstrosity, and I can't wait to make something like it again.

Thanks for reading!


P.S., if you're curious... the screening room has a 1080p projector system on a 120" screen, 7.1 surround sound with amazing speakers from axiom audio, a fully configured HTPC, a PS3 for bluray playback, an amazingly talented receiver, and a Logitech Harmony One remote. The projector is now ceiling mounted; it only sat on top of the tower for testing purposes.