Sauder Entertainment Modifications 2006/09/17

I remember the good ol' days when my father would come home with a new television, plug it in, and we'd watch it.

Click to zoom in

These are a lot more expensive than building a credenza would have been, but it's guaranteed to match the shelves, and solves my component heat and non-AV-storage problems, and it should be easy to wire up components.
I considered something like this Sauder Entertainment Armoire, with doors that could close around the components. I have a Harmony remote with a radio link to IR emitters so closed doors would still work. But with the heat generated I'd keep the doors open all the time. At parties, people tend to want to hear music and I'd keep the doors open for that too. So, doors open with me, and doors open with company, who needs doors? Not me anyway.
Here are the boxes
Sauder Home Theater 102775 (2775)
two Middle Atlantic ASR-30

And here's where they go

I've scribed a line where the two inner vertical supports need to be cut off.

Drill some holes for the cable runs in the right hand vertical side.
Low voltage through the upper oblong, and power through the lower hole which is 16" down.

This is about where it'll end up. I drilled a hole through the back piece too.

It was delivered with a little damage, but that spot goes to the back corner.

Cut through the middle supports with a straight edge as a saw guide.

Something I didn't know, the depth of the blade turns out to be the same thickness as my square.

Here it is assembled according to the Sauder instructions, except these two pieces can't stand up since there's practically nothing holding up the upper shelf area.

So I cut three 3/4" plywood pieces. The shelf is 18" deep, which makes it larger than the Sauder cabinet by about 1.5". 18" is the depth of the middle atlantic racks.

I put a piece up on the wall to attach the angle brackets and black velvet to. When the Middle Atlantic racks are pulled out, the angle brackets will keep the unit from falling over. Sort of like this, except with me under it crying for help.

The backs are screwed on with #8 2" particle board screws. No glue. All holes predrilled and countersunk

Here it is upright. It's out about 5" from the wall. I figure with my receiver being 17" deep, that should give 4.5" for cables back there.
Several of my components, particularly the Motorola DCT6412 DVR cable box and the receiver, run quite hot. With all the open space in the front, and the 5" 'chimney' out the back, they should cool nicely.
The plan is to
a) put 8" angle bracket from the sides of the Sauder to the wall plywood, and
b) hang black velvet back there from the plywood.

Each of the Middle Atlantic racks is rated for something like 150 pounds. That's 300 pounds total.
The Sauder shelf is rated at 30 pounds. But there's two of them, so that's 60 pounds.
Each Sauder shelf is put in place with four expansion plugs, which I figure is why it's rated at only 30 pounds.
The new 18" plywood shelf is sitting on top of the two middle supports, which go all the way to the floor. I figure that's strong.
It's also sitting on top of the rear plywood that I added, which also goes all the way to the floor. I figure that's strong
But that leaves the front, which is strong in the center, but weak at the sides
So I added a pair of 2x4's under the Sauder shelf inside the cabinets. These are screwed and glued back and top.


I cut a bunch of 1/4" strips. Two are 1" tall, the others are 3/4" tall. These are to widen the Middle Atlantic racks from 17.5" to 18", so that it will fit the Toshiba HD-AX1 HD-DVD player.

Then they had to be painted black. The first coat was with CIL's 2339 Primer For Deep Colors 100% Latex acrylique Interior/Exterior. The second coat was with Painter's Touch Gloss Black N1979. The Black didn't want to stick to the Primer -- which surprised me quite a bit. But the third coat of Black went on very well and gave me an exceptionally good and black finish.

So I put the newly painted black 3/4" plywood shelf in place.

And lag bolt it, through the sauder shelf, and into those 2x4's I added. And 2" particle board screws into the sauder middle supports and the rear 3/4" plywood support. The lag bolts were the longest ones I could find that had thread all the way to the nut. I put more near the rear of the shelf than the front on purpose, because when the middle atlantic is pulled out, I didn't want the shelf to tear off. Then I sat in the open space. I weigh 200 pounds and it didn't even creak.

I bolted the front of the upper shelves together.

I attached the 8" square brackets near the top to the wall plywood, adjusting the unit for level as I did so. Not only do these gurantee level, but when the middle atlantic shelves are pulled out, these should keep the unit from colapsing onto me.

Time to place the middle atlantic shelves. The one on the right will be wider than the one on the left due to the extra bits, so it's a little further to the left. I pre-drilled the holes according to the paper templates.

The little castors are put in.

What do you know, it works.

The middle atlantic side supports are too tall, so I cut them off. The one in the middle is before I cut it. There are four of these, the other is on the table. They're not symetrical, so I made sure to cut the same side in pairs. I knew this would send a shower of sparks, so I did this outside to minimize the risk of fire.

One of the two middle atlantic racks was missing four screws.

Nevertheless I assembled without those four screws. Not putting anything into the rack on the right which is missing four screws.


The cables on the right were rubbing on the shelf as I moved the rack in and out, so I added a 7" bolt near the back right to keep them out of the way.

Moved a few more components in

the empty wall.

Proposed locations of small speakers. I'm not sure what to do about the left first reflection off the speaker to the rack.

I brought the speakers from the basement upstairs, and found that speach intelegibility went up, and I'm finally hearing low frequency effects (which I never heard in the basement -- I kept feeling the subwoofers with my hands to ensure they were working/vibrating.) And the floor vibrates nicely too.

Here's a new plan. Use the old speakers, on a little stage. The second UPS has arrived (white, bottom of right rack)

Same but with the subwoofers together, and showing a possible layout of the center speaker above the plasma television.

Not enough room to turn the left speaker sideways and get the rack open, so the speaker will have to be taken down off the stage to get at the rack.

Moved the shelving units back against the rack.

Started painting the 3/4" 4x8 sheet.

Now two coats of black paint later

Screwed these 2x4's with diagonal tops to the wall to act as temporary holders for the 4x8 sheet. They're perfectly level with each other at the top. The tops are cut/wedged towards the wall.

Here's the sheet just sitting on the wood supports, prior to measurement for the switch cut out

Here the sheet is back in the garage for the switch cut out.

Now it's screwed to the wall with 2.5" #12 screws. The blue is plumb bob chalk lines at the studs. The panel is 1/2" from the right wall edge, for the future drywall there. Which is also where the wall switch will go. I wanted the wood to be away from the switch a bit, since it will be hidden it doesn't matter. This sheet does a variety of things. Firstly, it keeps the bottom of the Sanus plasma mount from crushing the drywall when the 150 pound plasma is pulled out the full distance of the arm. Secondly it spreads the load from two studs across all the studs. Thirdly it provides an attachment point for the false wall vertical studs.

Here I'm holding up the black fidelio velvet against the black 4x8 sheet (top), and the black plastic drop cloth (bottom - under the green painters tape)

The temporary 2x4 supports have been removed, and the screws are about to be painted over. Really I only needed to do about 6 in the middle since the rest will be hidden.

Here's what it looks like from where I sit. The speakers seem to blend in with the black (not that you'll see the 4x8 when I'm done), and the black wall looks not too bad. I spent a while looking for four 15' 14 guage extension cords, and never found them. Ended up with two 15' 14 guage surge supressor bars which should do fine. One each from each UPS. One will be used for the Plasma and some christmas lights, the other for the two subwoofers.

This is the planned layout.

I considered this alternative, but when I had the television over here before I had visibility/reflection problems from the windows in the kitchen. Acoustically it would probably be better though. I've streched the couch to simulate having the foot wrests up. Another problem with this is I loose my bookcases.

The idea is to put up a painted black 4x8 sheet of 3/4" plywood (green), and then 2x6 framing (screwed to plywood when available), with a 14" deep shelf for the center speaker slightly angled down (center speaker is 15.7") covered in black velvet with holes in the back for two steel 'hooks' on the back of the speaker, with a stage on the bottom. The hole for the plasma is 1cm larger than the plasma all around, and the 2x6's behind that have black velvet on them. The faces of the 2x6's have black velvet on them.

And then to build 11/13 black velvet covered frames, velcro-ed in place.

Here's a test layout of the stage. I have the wrong 2x8/2x6 underneith. The top is two layers of 1/2" oak vineered plywood. The front is a 1x3 of oak.


The next test layout of the stage, this time with the correct 2x10/2x8 underneith. See how the top back right the 2x8 goes all the way to the wall, past the end of the plywood and past the rack.

Some lumber I bought for the project. Mostly 2x8's and 2x10's, although there's some oak 1x3's, as well as the 18"x8'x1/2" oak veneered grade A plywood (not MDF). It's the first time I've brought home 12' 2x10's.

I can even cut a 12' long board without trouble.

Assorted parts. I had to take back the PolyCrylic because that won't work with Minwax Red Mahogony (says so on the can in the directions). I did some web surfing, and of the Home Depot products, Verathane Diamond Polyurethane is supposed to be the clearest. That little red sanding block above the sanding paper is made of rubber and has six little nails to hold the sandpaper in place -- fantastic product.

I 220 grit hand sanded the wood. I vacummed the top to get the dust off, and then used the mineral spirits and the tac cloth to remove any more dust. Then after about half an hour I used the Minwax Pre-Stain Conditioner with a painter's cloth and let that sit for a while. Then came my first coats of the Minwax Red Mahogany stain using a stain applicator pad.

Here it is after applying the third coat of stain (eight hours between coats, no sanding between coats), and 24 hours after that it's still a bit to damp to apply polyurethane. The humidity in my basement is 33% according to the two digital humidistats, and the air-to-air-exchanger (inside air to outside air), and furnace fan, and a room fan are all running.

Here it is after applying the third coat of Varathane Diamond Polyurethane (six hours between coats, sanding between coats with 600 grit sandpaper), and 24 hours after that it's still a bit to damp to apply polyurethane. The humidity in my basement is 33% according to the two digital humidistats, and the air-to-air-exchanger (inside air to outside air).

Cut out the roofing felt paper. Two sheets 18" x 8'

Here's the proper sized wood, about to be screwed into the floor, using the screws to level it, with the roofing felt paper to the left.

Roofing felt placed on top

Here they're screwed into the floor, and leveled. So that's 2x10/2x8, roofing felt, and the 1/2" oak vineer plywood.

Drilled diagonal screw holes with jig, and fastened the side rails on. Note at this point the side rails are 1/2" taller than the bare plywood.

First hole drilled. I'm kneeling on the overlapping 1/2" sheets on the left, to push the side rail down to the correct final height. The screws will hold it in place.

This is how far the screws come out in the hole

The side rails are done. Lots of diagonal screw holes.

The next layer of roofing felt.

And then the stained/polyurethained top piece.

Screwed up the first 2x8 to the wall. Teh cutouts are for the cables. Top cutout for low voltage signal, and lower cutout for 120V power.

You probably can't see it, but the right of the rack now has an additional piece screwed onto the side that's the same colour. The chalk lines on the black plywood are where the 2x8's go, and the center lines for the plasma and mount.

Here's the view from the front, with the speakers in their final positions.

Hypothetical with Sanus mount in place. I may have made this a bit big, and of course the plan is to buy the black mount (not the silver one shown).

Hypothetical with Plasma in place.

A better view of the right hand side of the rack with the new piece of vertical trim there. Now I can put the 2x8 in place against that.

The current temporary television placement. It was getting heavy moving the speakers back and forth out of the way. This should make it easier -- it's on wheels. The wood around the stage is for bumpers - in case I drive something into it.

The old Entertainment Unit, ready to go to Karen. A little dusty eh.

Gluing together the upper speaker shelf. 50.75" by 18" using two sheets of 3/4" MDF oak veneer.

Vertical 2x8's up. The left 2x8 split at almost every screw. I pre-drilled the rest of them, and that solved the problem. Middle two are painted black where the Plasma will go. Note the arm access cutouts on the left hand piece, and the holes cut out of the 2x8's for the various cables, including the three 24 guage 15' heavy video cables at mid plasma height (DVI-to-DVI for cable, DVI-to-HDMI for the oppo, HDMI-to-HDMI for toshiba hd-dvd).

Electrical powerbars go to UPSes in the bottom of the rack. A lot of that cable to the left of the speaker is temporary for the old television.


Subwoofers in place. New RG6 speaker wire cut for subwoofers to correct length. Obviously the center speaker won't be staying there.
I played HD-DVD We Were Soldiers (from 2:11:45 through 2:13:50 hours:minutes:seconds) with an army choir singing (almost gregorian chant), and it wasn't as good as I remembered with this.

I'd had the speakers like this once before with the entertainment unit there, and the sound was great, so I tried it again. This was noticibly better, but not as stellar as I'd remembered it.

So I moved them out a bit (better imaging, closer to the optimal 30 degrees), but that was worse sounding.

So I put them back where I'd been planing on putting them for months up on the stage, and stuck up a few panels of rigid rockwool 2" thick, 8" out from the wall. My goodness; heaven.
I tried setting the fronts to LARGE in the Toshiba HD-XA1 HD-DVD player, but I elected to keep them as SMALL with an 80hz crossover bass management. When doing an AVIA 200hz to 20hz frequency sweep through the front left speaker, I can hear the subwoofer engage (bass management) around 105hz.

Since they sounded better with the speakers out (with no rockwool), I tried this with the left and right back out on the floor, and obviously two more panels of rockwool. My ceiling is 8' tall, and the stage is 3" high, and the rockwool is 4' -- so I couldn't stack them floor to ceiling since there wasn't room, so I made this 'star' configuration. Anyway, sound result: Not as good.

So I went back to this. I wish you were here. I can't express how fantastic this sounds. My heart went pitter patter, and I started to cry, the sound was so moving. It's really lovely.

This scene from the Fifth Element is pretty good too.
And yes, the television screen is flush with the right speaker.


Started cutting the center speaker shelf. I made a little jig out of a 2x4 to help me slice a hair off the sides. The shelf now fits between the 2x8's

Cut one edge at 10 degrees, to match the 10 degree shelf bracket. The shelf is now 17" front to back.
Sorry about the spots all over the picture -- the air was full of sawdust and the flash reflected badly.

Then came the chimney notch at the back of the speaker. This is a two inch notch. My first pass with the circular saw was down an eigth of an inch to act as a free hand guide as to where to put the blade through for the second pass through cut. This is because the straight edge guide is only 1/4" tall, and without the guide slit I couldn't drop the saw freehand down straight to the right spot..

Final cuts were with a hand saw.

And a bit of paint. This is the bottom surface, which may be visible over the top of the plasma.
As always, the actual woodwork took very little time. The carrying the saw and everything upstairs to the garage, putting it all away, and cleanup, took hours.


A few days back I drew this out.

And designed this shelf bracket. David of Canadian Bron, a local steel shop, is fabricating it for me. They said that 3/16" steel was plenty strong enough, and that I wouldn't need the triangular gusset either. I'm keping the gusset, but I took his advice on the steel thickness.
I'd originally planned on cutting a lintel (3" angle iron) with a rented 14" metal chop saw, but elected to do it this way instead.

Here's what they made for two hundred Canadian dollars (before taxes). Thumbs up. Just what I wanted (right length, correct angle, good and strong). I showed them the drawings on Thursday, and on Friday they gave me a quote, and on Wednesday I picked them up.

Thought I'd test them on the shelf. The 10 degree cut of the back of the shelf matches the 10 degree angle of the bracket.

Here they are again. (not shown) I painted them with Tremclad Flat Black paint. Smells terrible. Paints a soft coat of paint on the metal.

I was curious to see how much weight the velcro could take. Here's a picture of the industrial strength velcro. The box says the glue sets up to maximum strength after 24 hours. The 2x4 board leaning at the right of the velcro box is 23 inches long, and has the hook part of the velcro stuck to it, and a 2" screw part way screwed into the opposite side.

I've attached the fabric part of the velcro to the 2x8, stuck that 2x4 board from the prior picture to it with the screw sticking out (it is not screwed in), and then hung three 25 pound weights (that's 75 pounds) on a chain from the screw. It didn't even creak. I left it there for 24 hours, and it didn't fall down. I left it there while I continued to build below, figuring that the drilling and bolting and screwing and hitting 2x8's into place with a sledge hammer simulated subwoofer vibrations. My conclusion: this stuff should hold up the fabric panels.

I clamped the first bracket in place, verified it was the right height (enough room for the plasma), drilled the holes and put in the bolts.

A few minutes later the second one was in place. Level with the first. Note the back plate of each is screwed to the 4x8 sheet with two 1" #8 screws. Pretty solid.

Put the shelf up to see if it would fit. It's screwed in place using the four holes in the bottom of each shelf bracket using 1.5" screws.

Here's the view from the seat. Looks like the angle is right.

Here's the view from the inside. You can see the 2" 'chimney' notch (the 45 degree angle) in the back of the shelf, and the little bit that had to be removed from the side of the shelves where the bracket is.

Here's the view from the side.

I added four angle brackets to strengthen it a bit more.

And then the test. That's me sitting on the shelf, my feet way up in the air, looking down at the floor. I moved the little cabinet there as something to step up on. The shelf didn't bend or creak -- plenty strong enough. I'm sitting in the middle (a point load), the speaker will be spread out over most of the shelf.

Two noggins (horizontal cross braces) and the bottom of the tv area 2x8's are installed. They've all got screws through the sides, and into the 4x8 giving even more strength. I had to beat the little noggens into place with a convenient sledge hammer, and the velcro holding up the 75 pound weights didn't fall.

I made a cutout in the shape of the shelf and bracket sides for cutting the velvet -- but it didn't work very well. After cutting when I tried it on the shelf it just didn't look right.

I used double face carpet tape to hold the velvet down. I considered using 3M 77 super glue, but decided I wanted something that would allow me to replace the velvet -- yet sticky enough that it wouldn't slip. I placed a bigger sheet of velvet over this, and then cut it to fit in place.

I got the Black Fidelio Velvet from ByMichelle.
Here it is with the velvet on. It's tucked under the edges about half an inch. The corners are glued.

These little corner brackets will drop into the 'chimney' part of the shelf, to keep the speaker from sliding down the 10 degree incline onto the floor.

I propped the center speaker on top of two other speakers so I could get under it to lift it onto the shelf. I've attached it's wire already. I decided to leave enough wire that I could easily put the speaker in place with the wire already attached.

And here's the speaker up on its shelf.

I've got it pushed to the left so that the tweater is closer to the middle of the screen.

The edge of the speaker face lines up with the edge of the shelf.

I put the speakers in place, and put fabric velcro on the rest of the 2x8's.


I cut seven 10' long 1x3's with a 45 degree bevel down one edge. You can see the bevel if you look at the piece over the saw blade. These are for the velcro frames. They are pine. I looked at MDF, but it didn't seem strong enough. These didn't bend much when I leaned on them in the store, so I bought these. They also had some oak 1x3's but they were more than twice the price.

Here's 4" by 4.5"x14" of rockwool I'm about to stuff into the corner.

And here's the rockwool (Roxul RHF-80) in the corner.

I began cutting my first frame. 8"x17". From the one of the pine 1x3s I beveled earlier.

Cut the slots for the joining biscuits. The little black dot is the center mark for the biscuit jointer.

Here's the frame before gluing, with the biscuits in place.

Here's the frame just after it's been glued.


Frame with velvet on it - front.

Frame with velvet and velcro (plastic hooks) on it - back.

Here's where it goes. Without the rockwool there, this sounds awful.

Here's with it in place. Velcro holds really well.

I cut the rockwool and put it in place. There's a piece to go at the right of the center speaker, and probably some more behind where the placma goes, but that's for later. The rockwool is 4" deep, with a 4" air gap behind it. It's flush with the front. This sounds pretty good. Imaging is pretty good too. I played the Pod Race from Star Wars I The Phantom Menace, and the Chapter 11 from Mission to Mars where the guys voice pans around the room. Pretty good imaging. It would be better if the front-left and front-right speakers were further apart. And I have some thinking to do about the rear surrounds. The big gap over the center speaker is so that I'd have enough room to easily remove the center speaker when I had to.

Here's the next frame with black velvet put together and up.

Discovered the left front speaker was reflecting off the kitchen sink wall, hurting imaging. So I put my 12" absorber there and that took care of it..

This is the top right panel, after attaching the fabric. Note the little cut out of the wood on the bottom left of the photo (the dimple in the black) -- this is for the shelf bracket that's holding up the speaker. The two strips of velcro are just sitting there ready to be applied.

Here it is after the velcro is stapled on. The wonderful glue on the velcro does not stick at all to the velvet.

And here it is on the wall. I'm thinking about having the digital clock on the front of the shelf next to the speaker.

BTW, three things struck me the other day:


I made two more frames. Here they are without fabric.

And here they are with velvet.

The Sanus VMDD26b mount arrived today from Canadian Sound.

Vertical positioning is critical. I discovered that it extends a 1/4 inch higher out the top than the bottom, so the bracket will have to be mounted 1/4 inch lower than vertical center. Horizontal center is easy -- just put it in the middle. But the plasma has to fit under the shelf vertically.

Some parts that came with it

Some more parts that came with it

I decided that the lag bolts they provided assumed there was a single layer of 1/2" drywall between the mount and the 2x4 studs. I've got an extra layer of 3/4" plywood over my drywall. So I bought four longer lag bolts (silver) to use instead of the ones that were supplied (blackish).

Here it is with the first lag bolt in place. I cut the 2x4's on the bottom to the right height so that it was level, and the final arm would be centered vertically.

I figure that the 3/4" plywood is very strong, so if there's any problem with the lag bolts, I put in 10 more one inch screws.

Here it is with all four lag bolts, and the ten one inch screws installed.

The height from the bottom of the shelf to the top of the stand is 3" 5/8".

The height from the top of the shelf to the bottom of the stand is 3" 5/8". Bingo.

Here it is with some more of the Sanus hardware, and one more fabric panel across the bottom. I also drilled two more 2 1/4" inch holes into the lower 2x8 above the subwoofers. The holes allow the clock cord to go through, and heat from the subwoofers to go up. Then I painted the holes black, and a few of the screws and the heavy shelf bracket bolts black.

I taped the vacume cleaner to the back of my table saw -- poor man's shop vac.

Here's three more black panels up (bottom center, and the outside of the vertical speakers). One more to go -- behind the clock. The picture was taken with a flash, otherwise you couldn't see the speaker drivers, nor the green wall behind the subwoofer.


I removed the top center black panel, to add another absorber to the right of the center speaker.

The last fabric panel is up to the right of the center speaker, behind the clock.

And a view of the whole wall from behind the couch. The three wires on the carpet are there to support the old television. They'll be gone soon.

Well it's not a show off DVD, but it's seasonal.