Slate: the Simple, Customizable, Minimalistic Entertainment Center.




Introduction: Slate: the Simple, Customizable, Minimalistic Entertainment Center.

It starts out easy enough: A boy, building furniture with his dad. Well, we wanted to build furniture, but all they did was build one horrendously overbuilt rolling cabinet.

Ten years later, facing a disgusting, messy living room, an angry cat, and a guttural, manly need to create: he decided to do it again.

I wanted something simple, something minimalistic. After studying years and years of good design by buying everything Apple ever, and recently wasting untold hours on Pinterest, I had decided on three simple rules for making the best entertainment center ever:

1. It must be basic. Beauty is in simplicity, not complexity. Minimalism is key.
2. It must be timeless. Build it once, and only once.
3. It should be customizable. Make sure it can accommodate anything you need it to do.

The third one is debatable, but ideal. All those considered, I wanted a very simple, very small, very… easy entertainment center; because the focus isn't on the entertainment center, but the entertainment it's providing, right?

Apparently not. I pitched this to my roommate - it is his TV, and his systems, and his… apartment, so his input is vital. He declined it all.

He wanted something big, loud, and gaudy. To be fair, he himself is big, loud, and gaudy, so it's only right - I suppose. But this presented a problem: How do you make something big, loud and gaudy while also making it basic, timeless, and customizable?

And also, I ran into another very practical problem: we recently bought an Xbox Kinect in preparation of Mass Effect 3. However, since I'm human, and well, caucasian, I also have an odd curiosity about dancing.  I downloaded the Dance Central 2 demo and since them have probably wasted about 72ish hours days playing DC 1&2. It's wonderful. It's like a whole new world for me. I can dance whenever I want to, I can leave my friends behind and just dance. I can dance. I can dance!

… except I have no room. Where the Kinect sits now literally leaves me a four inch sweet spot for dancing. "Born this Way," and "Toxic" force me to move out of it, and so the sensor thinks I fail, and so I get mad about being beaten by two Madonna Protogaes.  If I can't take on her lackeys, how am I supposed to beat the queen? This must be rectified. I will not let Lady Gaga beat me.

So I need to move the Kinect back, plus make a basic, timeless, customizable, big, loud, and gaudy entertainment center. All while picking up carpentry for the first time since '02. In an apartment, and not ticking off my neighbors.

Lets roll.

The design is basic enough: It's essentially a picnic table top, turned on it's side. The shelving goes in the larger gaps, and has stops and removable dowels to hold it in place. There are cable hooks in the back, and I love it much more than that 1970 microwave cart.

2 2" x 4"  32 inches
2 2" x 4" 18 inches
2 2"x 4" 6 inches (All this can be cut from a 2" x 4" x 10') - $4

5 2" x 6" 5 feet (2 2" x 6" x 10' plus a lumber guy who has lucky scrap) - $10 plus 10 minutes of wasting time.

3 1" x 10" 2 feet (can be Cut from 1 1" x 10" x 6')

8 1" x 1" x 16" (can be cut from 4 1" x 1" x 3'
10 1" x 1" x 1" cubes.
Tape Measure/ Ruler
22 #12 3" screws
8 #8 1 3/4" screws
Power Saw - I used a handheld Jigsaw but it was, in retrospect, DEFINITELY the wrong tool for the job. If you have a table saw, that'd be optimal.
Handheld saw - for detail and cleaning up rough edges.
Drill w/ 1/2" bit
1/2" dowel - 2+ feet
Sandpaper - lots of sandpaper
8 hooks that best fit your wiring needs - I threw the packaging away before I got the size off of it this, but this is a very subjective thing anyway. General rule: use the size larger than the one you think will work for your wiring needs.

All said and done, this cost me about $68 and four hours. I personally can't beat that for an entertainment center.

Step 1: First Things First

To begin, mark each of the 2x6's on one of their wide faces - whichever face you want to be against the wall, preferably. These markings will be for 20 of the #12 3" screws that will hold the planks onto the 2x4 supports. Begin by marking them one foot from each lengthwise edge. Draw a line that spans the width of the board, and then mark 1 3/8" (Approx. a quarter of the board's true width) from each width-wise (Is that a word?) edge.

Step 2: Next Things Next

Once you have all the 2x6's marked, move onto the 2x4x's. THESE NEED TO BE MARKED VERY PRECISELY, since these spaces are the key to the shelving.You need just over an inch (1 1/16", or even 1 1/32") between each board. If you begin marking at the very bottom of the board, you need to mark at:

5 7/16"  (This is for board one, because generally 2x6's are 5 7/16" wide. Measure each one to be sure, but this is a pretty safe bet.)

6 1/2". (This measurement is for the 'gap.' Measure the thickness of your shelving units to see if you need to tighten or widen these gaps.)

11 15/16"


18 7/16"

19 1/2"

24 15/16"


31 7/16"

Now, when you've done that to both of them, CLEARLY MARK THE GAPS!!! This will save a lot of headache. Then, from the edge of every gap, measure inward 1 3/8."

These will meet up with the holes you marked in the 2x6's. See how that works out so nicely?

Finally, flip the boards on their fat sides to mark the spots for the wire hooks. I did these at 7 inches, 14 inches, 20 inches and 29 inches. These don't have to be super precise, but you do need to know 2 things:

1. Know your cables. Thickness, approximate length, flexibility, number, etc.
2. Know where your other screws are going into the 2x4's. Don't let their paths intersect.

Step 3:

If you have excess left on your 2x4's , shave it off with your saw. If you'd like. I'm not telling you what to do or anything.
Double check your marks, and drill them holes. Keep them level, you want this to be pretty.

Step 4:

Literally. Screw the #12's into the 2x6's and the 2x4's to bond them. Take the time to line all the holes up appropriately, and the boards with all their marks. If you need help with this, you may need to employ the use of clamps to hold things in place while you screw everything in. Remember also to have your hook sides facing inward - it may help if you screw the hooks in first.

At the end, you should have something like this:

Step 5:

To make sure this simple thing that'll hold all of your precious electronics stays upright, you'll probably need a stand. It is a simple design, but there are some complicated cuts therein. First, we mark our boards.

Take the 2  2x4x18" s and a protractor. Lie them on their thin edge and measure 2 1/2" down from the 'top.' Then, below that mark, measure another 1 1/2" and mark. These are the starting points for your cuts.

Turn the boards 45 (make sure you really turn one board 135 degrees, so the stand is symmetrical) using those marks as axis (Axises? Axii?) and mark the boards in a straight line for the cuts.

These will be your mounting notches. Again, make sure those marks are parallel on the each board, but when the boards are next to each other, the sets of marks are perpendicular.

Flip the boards on their fat sides again, but make sure those marks you just made are facing you. Measure 2 1/2" into the width of the boards, and mark a long line. This will be your 'stop' line.

Finally, with the 2x4x18's on their thin side, measure a 45 degree angle on the short-side corner opposite the marks you made for your notch. The resulting line should be one that runs perfectly perpendicular to your notch lines.

Now on the 2x4x6's, mark the boards on their thin side at 2" and 3 1/2." Then, flip it on the fat side and mark a stop line again on 2 1/2."

That was a lot of lines and marking. I'm sorry. Now we play with power tools again, I promise.

Step 6:

If your power saw has a level system, set it to (guess) 45 degrees. Lie the lumber on the fat side, and cut into the 2x4x18" mounting notches, stopping at the aptly named 'stop' line.

Then, slice those corners that you marked off.

Return your saw to the 90 degree position, and cut the mounting notches out of the 2x4x6's.

Once everything's sawed, bust out your drill. Get the fat bit out.

Step 7:

With the fat bit (1/2" bit), drill between to cuts you just made in the 2x4x6's, but make sure the hole doesn't extend beyond that stop line. Drill all the way through. Take no prisoners.

Once that's done, take your hack saw and saw outward, to the cuts. This will clean out the middle and make a nice notch.

Angle your drill and drill through between the cuts int the 2x4x18's in the same way, making sure to remain between the cuts. Once through, use the hack saw to hollow it out again.

Now, with all boards having their narrow side facing up, match the flat corner of the 2x4x18" to the flat side of the 2x4x6." It doesn't matter if you have match it to the two inch side of the 2x42x6 or the 2 1/2" side, just make sure they're the same and all notches are facing 'up.'

Measure an inch inward from both narrow sides, and measure 3/4 inch deep, and drill into those marks with a drill bit that matches the #12 screws on both the flattened corner of the 2x4x18 and the 2x4x6.  The hole should go all the way through the 2x4x18, and deep into the 2x4x6.

Match the holes, make sure all notches are facing skyward, and bond them with a #12 screw. Viola, you've made a stand.

Step 8:

The shelves in this are actually really easy. First, take the 1" x 1" x 16" shafts and mark them 3" and 4" from one end. This is where you're going to place your cubes.

Glue the cubes into the spot you just marked for them, matching them tightly, then clamp. After they're done, drill into the middle of the cubes through to the 1" x 1" x 16" shaft below, but don't go all the way through. Then screw them together with the #8 screws. These are your stops.

Step 9:

Once those are in place, measure 1 7/8" from the rear of the cube, and mark the shaft. Measure 1/4" behind that mark, and mark as close to the middle of the shaft as possible.

The 1 7/8 line is your stop line - the hole you're about the drill shouldn't cross that line. The mark behind is your target mark.

Using the 1/2" drill bit, drill into the shaft. Since you're drilling from the 'bottom' of the shelf, this hole can be a little unlevel as long as your drilling away from you. If you drill straight down it'll work, but if you angle the drill away from your person, you might find the final shelf has a more snug fit.

Step 10:

Mark off the 1/2" dowel in increments of 2 1/2". Cut the dowel into those chunks - the hand saw would probably be best for this.

Test your shelf by putting the dowel chunks into the holes you just bored in the shelving sticks. If their snug, place them in the slate surface and lock them in! If not, sand the dowel down and open the hole up by gently moving the 1/2" bit around in the hole.

Step 11:

That's really the key here: Any shelving can be made with the stops in front and the locks in back. I've already done one basic, classic shelf, and am designing a DVD cabinet-style shelf to be mounted on it as well. With the stop/lock system, great things can be achieved!

Step 12:

Drop the slate into the stands on their corresponding sides. Next, lock the shelves in and load 'er up, CAREFULLY! Depending on the final load, you may need to place a shim between the slate and the mount.


Step 13:

Now, I think this will do us well for the future. If I could do it again, though, I might change some things. Thankfully, you folks can do it again! Congrats on not being me!

Wait, that didn't- I meant- Nevermind. Try this if you… um, try this.

-Hammer and Nails. They're not as accurate as the drill, but they'll get the job done if you've got a steady hand. Biggest reason I didn't use them is because I wanted hose gaps to be pretty precise, but their precision isn't as important as the stop/lock precision. You still want them to be decently tight, and I think that's easier with a drill, but if you've got awesome hammering skills you may want to try it.

-1" x 8" s. This is lightweight for an entertainment center, but it could be lighter. I think 1" would be strong enough, especially if the overhang wasn't much, but… it's worth testing, especially if you're building this in a nomadic style. I would like the extra width of the 8" to hide stuff behind the boards; I don't think my comcast cable box is much worth displaying.

-Triangle legs on the stand/ bolting it into the wall. I'm sure enough that this won't fall to me, but some people have expressed concerns. Wah. I know my electronics, and they're not that heavy. If you want to make your the stronger or you have especially beefy equipment, try a taller leg or bolting it into the wall.

-Decorative shims. (Ed note: I actually did this after I typed this up, and it looks pretty great!) The design leaves a decent number of gaps to see wires - but I want them closed, so I'm thinking about closing them with 1" x 1" x 3' decorative shims cut from scrap 1" x 8" I have.

-ALL KINDS OF SHELVES!!! Shelfimania! I'm currently designing a DVD/ Game cabinet to hang on this thing, and maybe a controller rack! The possibilities are endless! Try your hand at it all!
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    5 Discussions


    6 years ago

    Nice simple design, I think I may build something similar. Good job!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is a VERY good design, so good I intend to steal it. However, you do have room for improvement in the implementation.

    You said that the structure is basically a picnic table turned sideways which is elegant but you forgot that now the most of the force vectors are at 90 degrees to the picnic table and you didn't adjust accordingly.

    (1) The 2x6 crosspieces are overkill. Unless done for aesthetics, they won't add much to the structure. They are used in picnic tables to provide a wide flat strong surface but now you are using them edge on so everything below an inch or so is a structural waste. 

    You won't be hanging anything heavy enough to come close to stressing the beams and they add a lot of unnecessary weight. I think 3/4 inch (750 mil) birch plywood would work just as well with a stiffener strip on the backside. It would also look better.

    (2) The weak point in the design is the #12 screws used to secure the 2x6's to the 2x4. While such screws would work great foe holding down a picnic table top, they are to small to safely support a vertical/shearing weight. All the weight of the structure is now concentrated on a very small area of bottom of the screw so the screws will gradually cut into the wood and loosen. Retightening them in the same hole will just aggregate the problem. They may also simple shear off is suddenly stressed. 

    Technically speaking, screws are not intended to be used to resist a shearing force because they are to hard and brittle. Instead, nails are the preferred solution because nails are relative soft and will gently bend instead of breaking. 

    However, nobody uses nails much anymore because they aren't convenient or take easily apart. In this case I recommend you use 1/4 inch (6.35 mil) x 3 inch (76.2 mil) lag screws (or larger).

    Even better, use hardwood dowels. Screw everything together like you have it now but then remove the top screw at every join and drill out a hole to take a 3/4 dowel. Drive the dowel in snuggly and know the vertical shearing force is spread out over the bottom surface area of the dowel instead of being concentrated on the screw. The remaining screw keeps the boards clamped together in the horizontal plane. 

    3) I might have missed it but it looks like you have no racking support. Racking is the left or rich motion of a square frame that pivots on the corners turning a rectangle into a trapezoid. This will stress your joints and eventually cause them to snap or rotate and collapse. 

    You need a cross piece running from the back top to the back bottom of the vertical 2x4s to prevent them moving left or right. You could also use a sheet of hardboard across the entire back (as commonly seen in bookcases.)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    That's a nice looking design.

    I'm not 100% sure I could duplicate that following your instructions though. Maybe add a few more photos from different angles so you can see how everything fits together.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the design props!

    I did have a hard time taking photos of this, as I had no camera man and only a puny phone cam on my thunderbolt. I wish I had taken more photos, but I got wrapped up in the building it and often forgot. I do plan on taking detailed retrospect pics of the stop/lock system and the stand after the furniture challenge is completely done on the off chance people like this, but until then I can't edit it.

    Are there other areas that you think need more detailed pics?