Make a TV Cabinet Fit Its Electronics




About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

This is the only TV cabinet my wife could find to match the other furniture in our living room. She wants all of the electronics components behind the doors on the front, but the DISH receiver is too wide for the shelves inside. This Instructable will show how I moved the center divider to one side and changed the sizes of the shelves.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools

This photo further illustrates the problem. The shelves are a bit less than 16 inches in width. The DVD player in this photo is almost 17 inches in width.

  • 3/4 inch oak veneer plywood 2 feet x 4 feet
  • solid oak sliced thin for a finished edge treatment
  • yellow wood glue
  • drywall screws
  • stain and varnish
  • masking tape
  • old newspaper
  • Phillips screwdrivers
  • a block of wood for hammering on finished surfaces
  • hammer
  • chisel
  • table saw
  • electric drill
  • 7 1/4 inch circular saw
  • straightedge
  • "C" clamps
  • squares
  • lead pencil
  • tape measure
  • masking tape
  • hole saw
  • hot glue gun
  • router and veneer trim bit
  • workmate
  • belt sander
  • sandpaper

Step 2: Remove Hindrances

I began by laying the cabinet on its back. I wanted to open the two doors completely, but the pulls on the DVD storage drawers would press against the glass in the doors and could break it. Remove the drawer pulls and set them aside.

Step 3: Remove the Shelving Hardware

The shelving support hardware has a post 5mm in diameter, which is just a few thousandths of an inch larger than 3/16 of an inch. These have a couple of ridges, which make them difficult to remove. I had to run a screwdriver shank through the screw hole and pull with both hands. I needed more shelving hardware, so I bought more conventional 5mm hardware.

Step 4: Remove Screws Securing the Center Divider

The photo shows a view inside the cabinet looking at the underside of the cabinet top. The center divider is attached to a cleat by three short drywall screws. I removed them, but left the cleat in place.

Step 5: More Screws to Remove

The photo shows the bottom of the cabinet under the center divider. There are three drywall screws that go through the bottom and up into the center divider. They are also short. 

Step 6: Knock Center Divider Loose

I removed the left side magnetic door catch and its mounting block. A chisel knocked the block loose. See the green arrow. Compare to the right side magnetic catch mount. Hold a wooden block against the finished surface on the side where the wooden cleat is located. The divider is glued to the top of the cabinet, so I had to strike the block fairly hard to break it loose. 

I discovered later that there are two 5/16 inch dowels that keep the bottom of the divider in place. It is also glued. When it did not respond to my hammer blows, I decided to tip the upper end of the divider to the left to break it loose. 

Step 7: Repair Any Damage

The center divider is MDF (medium density fiberboard) covered in oak veneer. It fit quite tightly and cracks appeared in the top end when I forced it to the left. I worked glue into the cracks and clamped them to repair the MDF as much as possible. This is a blemish, but the cabinet is rustic and has a number of blemishes, so this is not a big problem. Plus, we hope to keep the doors on the front of the cabinet closed as much as possible. I did use my circular saw and a straightedge clamped to the divider to trim less than 1/16 inch from both ends. Not only did that make for a better fit later, but it also cleaned up the old glue and fragments of MDF for better mating of surfaces. (The two dowels in the bottom of the divider were not glued and pulled out fairly easily before I trimmed with my circular saw.)

Step 8: Mark the New Position of the Center Divider

I decided the optimum amount to move the divider to one side is 1 1/16 inch. I used a square and a pencil to mark the new location for the center divider.

Step 9: Add a 1 1/16 Spacer

I ripped some 3/4 inch pine to 1 1/16 inch and cut it to length. Here you see it clamped and glued to the original cleat that had supported the center divider. I also drilled and added drywall screws 1 1/2 inch long from the left (through the spacer and into the cleat) to hold it securely.

Step 10: Drill New Dowel Holes

I very carefully measured 1 1/16 inch laterally from the centers of the old dowel holes and drilled new holes for the dowels. Dry fitting the center divider gives a clue to any adjustments that might need to be made so the dowels slide into their holes.

Step 11: Check for Proper Positioning

In this photo the bottom of the divider is anchored in the new dowel holes. The top of the divider is pushed firmly against the cleat and spacer. The square indicates everything is close enough to be good.

Step 12: Edge Treatment

We recently moved and my radial arm saw is still not assembled and ready to use, but an improvised bench saw based on a wood lathe is ready to use. I decided to cut thin strips from solid oak and use them to make a finished edge on the new veneer plywood shelves I am making, as well as to cover a damaged area on the cabinet's bottom interior. 

To set my saw's fence, I used my framing square as a shim between my sawblade and the fence I am using. A couple of pieces of scrap from the thin strips I cut can be seen in the photo.

The bench saw attachment for my lathe can be seen in detail here. It was nostalgic in a good way to do real work with this tool again. I was very careful and did it very safely.

Step 13: Glue Down a Strip of Oak to Cover the Damage

The first strip I cut included a finished face that matches the wood in the cabinet quite well, so I utilized it. The surface below the strip was quite rough because bits of MDF and veneer tore away when I removed the divider. I decided to use hot glue to fill in the gaps and to attach the oak strip without needing to clamp it in place.

I used a holesaw to make an extra set of holes in the back for routing cables and for allowing heat to escape. 

Step 14: A Little Problem

The orange arrows point to two retainers for the glass and fabric cover. The new position for the center divider means these bump into the divider and need to be moved to the positions shown by the green arrows.

In this photo you can also see that I have cut the original shelves to fit the narrower left half of the cabinet. Where there was one shelf there now are two.

Step 15: A New Position for the Left Magnetic Door Catch

The location of the magnetic catch on each door is not critical, only that the plate aligns with the magnet. I did need to install the wood block again that is part of the support for the magnet assembly. I decided I needed only two screws to hold the magnet assembly, even though there were originally four.

Step 16: Edge Treatment on the New Shelves

In step 12 I described making thin strips of oak for the edge treatment on the plywood. Here you can see how I glued the strips to the front edge of the new plywood shelves with a yellow or white wood glue. I used strips of masking tape to hold the glued strips in place. Then I put down newspaper and placed the glued end down over carpet to provide an even pressure on the strips. The shelf pieces stood vertically while the glue dried so their own weight would assist in clamping during the time the glue dried.

A veneer trim bit in a router will make the edge treatment strip flush with the shelf surface so that only a little sanding is needed to give the shelf a nice finished look.

Step 17: Stain, Varnish, and Install

I used some golden oak stain to match the new shelves to the rest of the cabinet. Here you see all of the electronics components in place. If heat builds up too much inside the cabinet, I will cut some circular holes in the shelves to facilitate the movement of air from below upward and out the holes in the back of the cabinet. Time will tell.

Step 18: The Final Product

My wife has a good eye for decorating. She was very disappointed after the DISH installer left us with a piece of electronics too wide to fit the only cabinet she could find. But, now her TV cabinet again has the uncluttered look she wanted to achieve.

We did a little experiment and found the signal from our remotes passes through both the glass and the fabric in the doors. We can use our equipment with the cabinet doors closed.

Your TV cabinet may be much be much different from ours, but the inner construction may very similar and that means you could modify a cabinet that does not quite fit your electronics, too. The only remaining problem: we can receive 120 channels, but often there still is nothing we want to watch.

Ghost images on the glass are reflections from the rest of the room.

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    28 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great Instructable! Very thorough and you end up with something that seems like it came off the showroom floor.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great solution to a common problem. Furniture not keeping pace with technology. I'll bet there are plenty of people out there who discarded their old cabinets designed for CRT TVs when they purchased huge flat screens. Nice work.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I got a flat screen and did not want to throw out the pretty cabinet my old console was in. I gutted it and put storage for all my dvd's and dvd player and power strip inside. I put the new TV on top, I also needed a sturdy base for the TV. I did not make an instructable sad to say.

    Phil Bcaarntedd

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. We had a CRT TV until very recently. We moved to a new house and got a TV made for digital signals. The cabinet we used might accomodate a small flat screen set, but it would have been impossible to modify that cabinet. This cabinet was much easier because the TV rests on top of the cabinet, not within the cabinet. I simply wanted to present an option some may not have considered. Thank you for looking.


    7 years ago on Step 12

    This "bench saw improvised from a lathe" is really interesting. Please post an instructable for making one!

    1 reply
    Phil Bbluecor

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I already did, and you can click on the orange letters in the sentence above that mentions it. You will immediately be taken to that Instructable. But, I have to warn you. I made the first version of that lathe/saw back in the late 1960s and have used it intermittently since without even a scratch, but a number of people were after my skin for presenting a horribly dangerous machine. Most of these are people who have never published an Instructable of their own, but are keenly aware of what is wrong with those published by other people.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I did something similar a few years ago. From experience: If any of your AV components put out a lot of heat (notably your receiver, power amp, or supplemental surround sound amplifier), you should plan for & add good airflow throughout the cabinet interior, and at least one quiet fan.

    4 replies
    Phil BBearDown

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for the comment. The DISH receiver is the most likely source of heat. We have no special sound system components. Thank you for the suggestion about the fan. I plan to monitor conditions as we make use of the TV and the components in the cabinet. (We are out of town for a few weeks.)

    I expect a number of people have done something like this. I am also surprised how often a number of readers are completely surprised by something that should have seemed so simple everyone would think of it. You never know who will find benefit in something.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Overkill for an Arduino, when all you need is a simple thermally controlled fan.

    Or something similar. Just stick the sensor to the top of the cabinet, and then the fan at the back of the unit near the top blowing out. Pull the heat out the back, and cold air will suck in from the sides. If you want to get fancy...

    (and yes, I realize that this is Instructables and that we like to make things here--but if you are making things that cost more than something that is already made... Might want to re-think the idea of making something.)

    Phil BSpokehedz

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I think about commercially available cable modems and wireless routers. Those I have seen all use a passive convection cooling by which vent holes at the bottom allow cool air to enter, pick up heat, rise, and exit at vent holes in the top. I did mention I will think seriously about some carefully placed holes in the shelves that allow air to enter through the holes in the back and pass upward through the compartments and out the upper holes in the back. Experience tells me things exhibit quirky behavior when they are too warm, so that should be a good warning.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice insturctable for repurposing. I see loads of old entertainment centers in the thrift store and many are beautiful pieces of furniture. It is a shame they are not being repurposed and selling so cheap. Peace

    Phil Brimar2000

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    My wife uses television the way other people use music in the background. I call it video wallpaper. She would get rid of me before she would get rid of her television running in the background while she works. ;-) Thank you, Osvaldo.

    rimar2000Phil B

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You and me are twins, Phil. My wife is equal in that, her excuse is that DirecTV shows the number of an incoming telephone call. Then, all the day the TV is on, with or without audio.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done! I am afraid that it would be a much harder job with a cabinet I had built.