Converting a wardrobe into a TV cabinet

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Blog entry by Garth Kay-Hards posted 08-01-2016 06:20 AM 999 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

We came to Australia to live with my son and family 5 years ago and needed to downsize into the space we have. What do you do with a 1930’s Art Deco oak (some solid and some veneered) wardrobe that can’t fit in anywhere? It’s standing on the veranda, in the way and the weather is going to destroy it. It has sentimental value to my wife and she asked me,”Can’t we do something with this cupboard instead of selling it or giving it away?” I said, “Well we need a TV cabinet. How about we turn it into a TV cabinet?” So the project began.

I unscrewed and undid all the panels of the cabinet and the handles and hinges. I used a scraper to remove all the vanished surfaces. I discovered that there were only top good solid oak panels, a solid oak base and the rest of the cupboard was veneered.

I measured up all the useful panels and then designed a SketchUp model of the final cabinet. I wanted the top of the TV cabinet and the sides to use the real oak panels so the length of the TV cabinet could not be longer than the longest solid oak panel. From there the sides (height) could use the 2 halves of the next best oak panel. For all the other TV panels I would have to use the veneers and edge everything with oak strips.
Biscuits were used to join all the panels with standard wood glue.

The base from the cupboard I narrowed and lowered.

I decided to fit casters under the skirt of the base and adjusted them to protrude about 5mm so that they would be invisible but allow for the TV cabinet to be rolled around easily.

Using the cut-offs from the solid oak panels I made 5mm strips to cover all the exposed edges of the veneer panels.

The top panel of the TV cabinet I routed for effect. Notice that there are still markings and blemishes on the old panels that we decided to keep as it would give the new TV cabinet character. I only filled al the holes in with wood filler.

To cover the exposed veneer edge of the base panel I chose to try and replicate the routed top panel edge. For this I didn’t have an oak off-cut that was long enough and wide enough so I resorted to getting some Tasmanian Oak. We’ll why not, as we were now in Australia. The cabinet could take on some local flavouring. Be aware that Tasmanian Oak (Tassie Oak or Victorian Ash as it’s also named) is not oak but a variety of eucalyptus that when cut resembles oak. What a cheat hey? All you puritans out there – close your eyes.

Here’s a view of the base with all the castors fitted.

I made the drawers out of MDF and used long drawer runners.

I scratched my head over the doors for a long time. I really wanted to put lead light glass panels into frames. I ended up battling to get lead light panels and finalised using loose fitting solid wood panels (just in case I manage to get lead light panels at a later date). These doors are again made of Tasmanian oak as, by now there were only bad scraps of the original panels left. The colouring wasn’t quite like the aged original oak so I’ve had to gently add oak stain till it matched fairly well. To do this I decanted a tablespoon of oak spirit stain into a container and added methylated spirits. I tested the colour on some scrap adding either stain or meths until I was happy. Then I applied my mix with a cloth pad to the Tasmanian oak. A double application in some areas was needed to get the colour right.

I was able to use the old brass hinges for these doors and I bought some solid brass antique
colour handles to fit. These were pretty expensive – around AU$70. But I think they finish the cabinet off nicely.
The drawers have some of the veneered panels on the front and I finished the exposed edges again with some 5mm oak off-cuts.

The final cabinet has a MDF backing and it’s all coated in clear polyurethane.

We’re all happy with the final product. It’s not all beautifully jointed, but it’s functional and it will carry the memories of it coming through the family.

-- GarthKH

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