Introduction: Updated Entertainment Center for Flat Screen TV

The challenge:

I had an entertainment center bought new in 2004. I liked the style, but it would not accommodate a television larger than 35 inches wide. This did not work in the new world of large flat panel TVs. In 2008, I decided to get a larger TV screen but wanted to put it in or on a nice cabinet that matched my existing furniture. I had two pieces of birch/maple furniture in the living area made by Italian furniture maker Alf, their Olga design and wanted to continue to use them.

I learned that the Olga line had been discontinued and that they had never made any pieces similar to what I was looking for.

I considered cutting down the 73” high entertainment center and putting the new 55” TV on top, but I didn’t want to lose the storage and display area.

Then, my daughter called and told me she had seen an identical entertainment center in a consignment center. I thought perhaps I could modify another cabinet and keep my existing one. I checked it out. It was in great condition. I made a deal and brought it home.

The plan:
When I brought the second cabinet home, I put it in my living room but did not assemble it. One evening, I sat back with an adult beverage and tried to envision the best way to cut the new cabinet down to a height good for a 55” TV. I decided that the cabinet should be about 31” high. Since the existing cabinet is very nicely finished with high gloss lacquer finish, I did not want to refinish any of the parts for fear that it would not match. So, I would try to use only existing parts and make cuts that did not disturb existing finish.

I decided to do the following:

  1. Use the existing top and bottom platforms as is.
  2. Move the side shelving cabinets to either side of the new cabinet.
  3. Cut off the top edge and bottom edge of the two doors to keep the design centered on the door.
  4. Cut the center cabinet (box) down to the desired height; preserve the two drawers; reuse the shelf that guides the doors as the new top for the cut-down center cabinet. The adjustable shelf will not be reused.

Description of Alf Olga Entertainment Center

  • The EC was composed of the following components:
  • Top platform (crown top) Bottom platform (baseboard)
  • Pair of side shelving cabinets (lateral units)
  • Center cabinet with 2 drawers and 1 adjustable shelf.
  • Pair of curved (convex face) sliding front doors The center cabinet of the EC is made from particleboard with veneer skin.

The top and bottom platforms are attached to the center cabinet with dowels (not glued) and wood screws. The two side shelving cabinets were attached to the center cabinet with machine screws and tubular nuts. The doors are made of curved plywood with faces that are convex. Rollers on the doors ride on tracks on the bottom platform and are guided by a spring-loaded pin that rides in a groove in the bottom of a permanently mounted shelf in the center cabinet. This shelf is doweled, glued, and screwed to the sides and back of the center cabinet.

Tools required:

  • Table saw with shar (preferably carbide) blade.
  • Sandpaper, abot 150 grit
  • Sanding block
  • Hand drill and bits
  • Tape measure
  • screwdriver
  • dowel pins (optional)
  • 2 ½” forstner bit
  • pliers

Materials required:

  • One Alf Olga Entertainment center
  • #8 x 1 ½ SS flat head wood screws
  • #8 flush washers
  • butcher paper
  • masking tape

Time required:

  • Analyzing/planning/measuring 2 hrs
  • Modifying center cabinet 1 ½ hrs
  • Modifying doors 1 hr
  • Reassembly 1 ½ hrs

Step 1: Modify Center Cabinet

Remove the 2 drawers and adjustable shelf. Put them aside,

Step 2: Cut Off the Top 42 Inches of the Center Cabinet (box).

This was actually the only difficult part. The 42 inches being cut off is over half of the original height. The sides, top, back, and bottom of the center cabinet are glued, doweled, and stapled together. It’s necessary to remove the top section without disturbing or damaging the remainder of the center cabinet. I figured there were two reasonable approaches:

a. Cut off the top portion (sides, top and back) IN ONE PIECE on the table saw.

b. Cut off most of the top with a circular saw or jig saw to remove most of the top and then finish it off on the table saw.

c. Since I was not sure how this was going to turn out and wanted to save every possible piece for possible reuse, I opted for the first approach.

Step 3: Protect With Masking Tape and Butcher Paper

Since the center cabinet will be cut off on a table saw, the sides need to be covered with butcher paper and masking tape to prevent scratching. Masking tape should go at least 1 inch on each side of where the cut will be made and on both sides of the area being cut

Step 4: Cut

Cut off the top of the center cabinet using the bottom edge as a guide against the rip fence. The material is brittle and will break and chip easily. Use a sharp plywood blade or one with carbide teeth. Use proper safety goggles. Since the cabinet is bulky, a large piece to cut on a table saw, and heavy, get someone to help you. Parts must be kept aligned as each panel is cut to prevent breaking as well as to prevent pinching the blade. Cut one side. Turn the saw off. Roll it onto its back. Cut the back. Turn the saw off. At this point, the cabinet is very susceptible to breaking the remaining side, so be VERY CAFEFULLY. Roll cabinet onto the remaining side. Move both the bottom part and top part together. Cut the remaining side. Put the bottom half aside for now.

Step 5: Disassemble Top Portion

Carefully disassemble the top portion to preserve and not damage the top panel and shelf with door guide. Use a hammer and block of wood to carefully hit the side panels and back to get the glue and staples to release.

Put aside the top panel for possible use later.

Clean up edges of the shelf with the door guides using a file, sand paper, and pliers or other tool to remove staples.

Step 6: Complete Lower Cabinet for Reuse As New Center Cabinet

Gently remove tape/paper being careful not to cause wood edges to tear or splinter. Gently sand edges of cut trying not to affect the face any more than necessary.

Install the shelf with door guide as the new top of the re-sized center cabinet. Attach using four #8 by 1 ½” stainless flat head wood screws and flush finish washers to match other hardware.

Re-sized center cabinet is now complete other than dowel holes for locating top platform. This will be addressed later during assembly.

Step 7: Disassemble Doors

Remove bottom rollers, spring-loaded guide pins, center trim, and door stops from the doors with screwdriver.

Step 8: Protect Doors

Protect the face of the doors from scratches with masking tape and butcher paper. Masking tape should go at least 1 inch on each side of where cut will be made and on both sides of the area being cut. This minimizes chipping at edge.

Step 9: Cut Doors

Cut off approximately 21 inches from the top edge and bottom edge of the two doors. Crosscut using a table saw with the top/bottom edge against the rip fence. Since the doors are curved, they must be cut with the convex outer face down. The door surfaces are brittle and will chip easily. Use a sharp plywood blade or one with carbide teeth. Use proper safety goggles.

Step 10: Finish Door Edges

Gently remove tape/paper being careful not to cause edges to tear or splinter. Sand new top/bottom edges trying not to affect the face any more than required.

Step 11: Attach Door Rollers

Drill new holes/recesses on bottom edge of door for mounting the rollers. Use 2 1/2“ forstner bit. Copy location from bottom that was cut off.

Attach bottom rollers.

Step 12: Assemble Center Cabinet to Bottom Platform

Lay center cabinet on its back. Insert dowels in the four 3/8” holes on the bottom of the center cabinet. Place bottom platform on the bottom of center cabinet using dowels for alignment. Carefully tip the whole assembly up so center cabinet remains properly aligned on bottom platform. Secure center cabinet to bottom platform with four #8 wood screws provided.

Step 13: Make Top Dowel Holes and Mount Top Platform

Make new holes in top of center cabinet for aligning top platform. These align with existing dowels and holes on the bottom of top platform. This can be done using either of two different methods. I used the latter because I think it is more accurate and makes it easier to get dowels in the exact location necessary to align with top platform.

Method 1: Use the original top panel (from the top cut off section of the center cabinet) as a template to locate new holes. Drill the existing 3/8” dowel holes in template all the way through being careful to keep drill perfectly straight. Use drill press if possible. Center the template on top of new top panel and drill slightly to mark location of holes on new top panel. Remove template.

Method 2: Place dowel centers (pins) in the dowel holes in the top platform. Gently locate and align the top platform on top of center cabinet to mark the dowel locations in the new top panel.

Drill four new 3/8” dowel holes ½” deep in top of center cabinet. Insert dowels.

Place top platform on top of center cabinet. Secure with #10 wood screws provided.

Step 14: Reinstall Drawers

Step 15: Install Doors

Place doors on track on bottom platform. Align rollers so doors move easily. Locate and attach spring-loaded pins so they ride in the groove of the new top of the center cabinet.

Step 16: Result

Nice cabinet for 55” TV with space under for electronic components and media.

Saved existing entertainment center/cabinet for displays and storage.

New cabinet matches other two Olga cabinets.

Able to use tall narrow side cabinets to house speakers and display.

Step 17: Post Script

In 2013 I moved to another house and needed a buffet for the dining room, which is at one end of the living room. I wanted it to match my other blonde furniture. I was conflicted between using my modified cabinet for the TV or as a buffet in the living room.

To the rescue: Google.

I did a Google search and found an expired listing for another identical cabinet. I was still able to send them an email. It had not been sold. We made a deal and drove 270 miles round trip to pick it up.

I have now modified it to be a buffet. Height is 38 inches rather than the TV cabinet’s 31 inch height. I also cut the new side cabinets in half and use them on the sides of both the TV cabinet and buffet. I use the original side cabinets on each side a new 60 inch TV in the family room. It all matches and looks great!