The Home Office Build – Printer Cabinet

In my current home office setup, my printer sits on an Ikea Expedit 2×2 (or Kallax, I don’t remember which one it is) piece of furniture behind and to the right of me. It sits under a window, and over an air vent. There are four drawers – two of them hold printer supplies, two hold various cords and cables, and the two bottom sections hold junk.

(BTW, the top left set of drawers aren’t discolored, it’s that Ikea sold two different finishes on white, and I guessed wrong for the door and the top right drawers).

It is adequate. I mean, the printer never fell off, so I guess you would consider it a success. Furniture that doesn’t fall apart is good furniture, right? What it lacked was any sort of style or depth. It also lacked great storage for what I really needed it for – video game systems.

I got into system collecting last year, and quickly acquired most of what I wanted from the 1980s and 1990s. What the consoles didn’t come with though was a space to keep them. For months they sat at the end of my desk, piled on top of each other. For the sanity of my marriage this had to change. Thankfully, early on in the printer cabinet design I started thinking it would be a good spot for them.

This first project in the series took quite a long time to bring from concept to fruition. The main reason for this was because what I did here would influence the rest of the components in this series. I had to nail a design that would translate to the rest of the pieces, would serve my needs, and I had the capability to pull off. The basic build is a bookcase with doors and some adjustability in shelf location, so using it for different purposes down the road is no big deal. I just had to figure out how I was going to build it with the supplies I purchased.

What I bought (on sale) was common #2 8/4 walnut. This had a lot of knots I had to deal with, and an inability to resaw completely for full use. I designed the rails and stiles all the way around to use 1″ thick boards, to complement the 3/4″ walnut veneer ply I knew I could source. 1/2″ plywood as far as I could tell wasn’t readily available for me. I ended up sticking with this plan for thicker wood, even though it meant wasting more wood. I’ll have to find 5/4 or 10/4 for the future.

This 8/4 walnut was jointed, planed, resawn, and drum sanded to get to 1″ thickness for both the side panels, and the doors that came much later. These were also cut to 2″ width and various lengths. To make the grooves to accept the panels, I used the router table and a regular straight bit. One day I’ll pick up a couple of spiral bits, but the straight bits worked out okay. The one issue I ran into was not realizing the fact I was doing a climb cut on my second pass, and one board shot out of my hands and messed up one end a bit. I figured that out for subsequent visits on this technique. The plywood panels were also done at the router table, making a rabbet with a larger straight bit. I also added a decorative curved profile to the bottom rails.

The most difficult decision came to the panels themselves. I designed everything to have a middle stile, but unfortunately I was not going to have enough material to complete the project. I also was concerned about wood movement of the middle stile. With the way I had designed it, the inner panels would be completely flush. I felt I would have also had to add an expansion gap that would ruin the look on the inside. So I didn’t. I made the panels fake, with the middle stile being applied directly on top of the bigger plywood panel. I felt this would be the best compromise, and allow the middle stile to move slightly as it was not glued to each edge. This allowed me to use some of the waste material generated by resawing the 8/4 boards to 1″ thick as well.

The completed panels were all assembled using traditional methods, tongue and groove and mortise and tenon. The top and bottom rails had tenons made again at the router table, using my new Rockler sled. These tenons were then notched to fit into the stopped groove on the stiles. The ends of which were squared with the hollow chisel mortiser, something I haven’t used in years. Great application for this, even though they needed some additional fine tuning. The initial panels were glued with Titebond III and clamped. The faux third stiles were added after the assemblies were dry.

With the two side panels complete it was time to make this thing three dimensional.  First up was making the curved rail to match the sides, which was done at the bandsaw and cleaned up with sandpaper. This was connected to the bottom panel (shelf) with domino tenons. Then that assembly was connected to the back panel, again with domino tenons. Then it was time to carefully put mortises in the side assemblies for both panels. The back panel was lined up with the back of the side assembly, so that was easy. The bottom panel had to be lined up in the field of the side assembly towards the bottom, which necessitated a guide rail to reference off of. Thankfully I am becoming more skilled with the Domino and all of this went down smoothly.

Two additional shelves were made with more of the 3/4″ walnut veneer ply, capped at the front with some scrap walnut. Since these shelves aren’t going to hold a lot, I didn’t make the edging too thick. Perhaps later if these shelves need to hold books I will revisit that. Everything got two coats of Arm-R-Seal semi gloss and it came inside to be used with a temporary top of plywood.

The top was made with the last piece of walnut I had left, and as such was a bit thinner than I had planned. After jointing, planing, resawing, and sanding the height came out to be just under 7/8″. I was aiming for 1″, so I’m glad I didn’t have to go all the way down to 3/4″. Again I used domino tenons to align and connect. I did have a large crack toward the end of the boards I used for the back and front, so I bought a inlay kit from Rockler and I learned how to inlay bowties to keep the crack from spreading. When the panel was done, I put a nice big bevel on three sides, which I got some inspiration from Harvey Ellis here. This will be a feature of all the projects in this series. Again, two coats of Arm-R-Seal were applied. I also learned how to fill knots on this project using two part epoxy. The design on the top even got me a follow on Instagram from a well-know celebrity. Head over to see who if you are curious.

There was a bit of a misadventure attaching the top to the cabinet with figure-eight washers, and I think I’ll have to go back eventually and use table clips. But, it does work (I can’t move it by the top). The cabinet could have been stopped here for now, but I often stop working on things when I’m 90% done so I pushed on.

Here’s where the second part of my design dilemma came in, and it is because I wanted to have a leaded glass insert. The only problem here was that I have zero experience or skill doing this. So I translated my potential design to a piece of plywood where I hoped to recreate the look. Unfortunately my plan didn’t work out, but I did find an alternate.

The doors were made in exactly the same manner as the side panels, with the exception of adding a third rail. Then I completely removed the inside rabbet in the upper section to be able to after-fact insert this plywood panel that serves as the glass substitute. I took the design from a Frank Lloyd Wright leaded glass panel, and created the same pattern on the plywood using pencil. I then went along these pencil lines with a 1/8″ router bit mounted in the table. The Incra fence system came in very handy here, allowing me to really dial in where the bit was cutting. I used stop blocks attached to the fence, and I can say I only had one incident there.

I had the foresight to make this panel four times, instead of two. This gave me some leeway in case I messed something up, and naturally that did occur. The idea was to inlay some dyed black veneer into the grooves I made to emulate the leaded glass. It was difficult to get the veneer to cut well, and even more difficult to get it in the grooves. I had to use CA glue to get the veneer pieces to stay, and attempting to sand it off took a lot of veneer with it. I certainly wasn’t going to succeed with this method, but thankfully I did like the look of just the cuts in the panel itself. So that became the final product. These were installed in the door, and secured with pivot pins like are used in framing. The backs of the doors look a bit off with this panel being wider than the one below it, but too late at this point.

Cup hinges were installed, and a 7° bevel on the mating edges to allow for full closure. I did my very best to prepare for installing the hinges to the cabinet, but I mixed up my spacers (one was 2″, the other 2.125″) and there was too much gap at the top. Thankfully, this happened to be the exact width I needed to clear my N64 controller cable, so I consider that a happy accident. I added period correct pulls from Rockler, drilled a few cable holes in the back panel, and that’s the project done. A component switch allows me to choose my system of choice for a retro gaming session.

For anyone wondering, these are the consoles:

  • Nintendo 64, NES, Nintendo Gamecube, Sony Playstation
  • Sega Genesis Model 2 with Sega CD Model 2 and 32x add-ons, Sega Genesis Model 1 (hot spot)
  • Super NES, Super Famicom (Japanese SNES), Nintendo AV Famicom (Japanese NES with composite output), and Nintendo Famicom with Disk System

I have a few wireless controllers for these, which I prefer over corded, but sometimes the cord is required. I really like 8bitdo’s 2.4g wireless controllers, which you can see a couple on the middle shelf. I also have a bluetooth version that I use for emulation elsewhere. The Gamecube uses Nintendo’s own Wavebird wireless controller, which is excellent. The 8bitdo controllers can be swapped between the US and Japanese counterparts, or the two Genesis units when needed. The hot spot I refer to is the fact I can swap out a different system in this spot if needed, and plug into the front of the component switch. I have a Saturn and a Dreamcast that aren’t represented here, and I know at some point I will want to do some gaming on them.

This was a fun project that stretched my skills decently. In particular, both inlay portions. The two part epoxy went better than I could have imagined, but I do need to get better at taping. I learned some things going forward, and if I never get a chance to address my small mistakes on this project that would be fine. That’s a momentous step for me, delivering a project that is good enough to be permanent.

Next up in this series should be the computer desk, but we’ll see.


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