Question for the Pro woodworkers here

I’m designing a wall unit for my family room. This is my first “built-in” woodworking home project. I’m relatively unfamiliar with a lot of the woodworking terms. I’m planning to use 3/4" paint-grade plywood for the bulk of the project. I know wood can be found in nominal size, but can paint-grade plywood be found in actual size (i.e., true 3/4" thick, or very close to)?


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I don’t know where you are located, in my area one outlet lists 3/4" sanded plywood as .703 thick. Probably best to check the outlets in your area.

It’s not common to find plywood that is actually 3/4 in. thick. When I design built-ins like you show, I plan from the center out and make sure there’s a little space so the stiles on the end face frames can be scribed to the walls. The walls are never square or straight anyway.

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Most plywood today is undersized, and is not consistent from one maker to another. However, I have on occasion found true 3/4". Go to your supplier(s) and measure a sheet to see.

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I feel my design is a little more validated now! Here is a shot from the backside:


That looks pretty decent.

Give some though to how you would attach the upper sections to the lower ones and how you’ll get them into place. It’s good that you’ve left some space at the top and the top rail of the face frame and molding will hide the gaps.

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Thanks. And as long as I got you on the phone, should I be using nails+glue or wood screws+glue to assemble this thing? What’s the standard nowadays? Thanks-

It depends on what you are attaching to what. I would tend to use screws where things might need to come apart. Since you are painting this thing, you can use brad nails or small finishing nails with glue to attach face frames to the cases.

It’s a lovely design - but can you mount the TV on the rear wall (this gets rid of the stand and cables for a cleaner look - you can put a false back on that section of the cabinet’s rear wal; this would also better-support the long shelf above).
Can you get the AV equipment inside the unit? (if you need infra-red remote then many bits of AV equipment can have a IR extender). Just allow some ventilation somewhere at the back of the cabinet.

You appear to be building it in sections. It seems like you could make it fully modular without too much extra effort or material.


This crucial aspect is overlooked by many amateur builders. Electronic equipment puts out a lot of heat and must have good ventilation or it is at risk of failure. Many professional home theater designers mandate quiet fans to remove heat.


I had considered wall mount, but I decided the TV will be placed on a slide-out platform, for easy access to all the highly inconvenient input/USB/Coax/Audio locations on the TV.

The shelf above the TV currently has twin rails to add strength to the span, I think it should be fine (pending final results!).

True, and plenty of home builders have cranked up the system for their first movie when , half way through (after the popcorn aroma has subsided) there’s a sniff, sniff What’s that burning/melting smell??

It’s the paint & glue, still curing from the project, releasing lovely fumes into the room.

Don’t rule out a flat wall mount! When last I looked at them about 2 years ago, they ALL made it easy to simply lift the TV off the mount (for access to all the ports). And flat screen TVs get lighter all the time.

The only problem I’ve had with my flat wall mounts is that they ALSO come with a screw to secure the TV against being shaken off the mount - and that screw can be hard to access! It’s needed in Earthquake country (where I live), but can likely be left uninstalled if you aren’t in Earthquake country.

Another option is the tilt/turn mount. Most can be arranged so the TV is still flat against the wall - just out a bit farther than a pure flat mount. Advantage is that the TV can be TURNED significantly gaining access to all the ports - without having to disconnect anything or remove any hard to reach screws.

Turn tilt is great allows access and to work on the cabling without taking it down and the additional cost is minimal.

These are the mounts I’ve used for 6 or 7 years.
They are relatively inexpensive and sturdy.
Cheetah TV mount
Apparently “Cheetah” has changed its name, but these are the same mounts.

I use very similar - works nicely. very ‘heavy duty’ yet easy to manoeuvre.

For the actual construction I would recommend pocket screws for the box assemblies and the face frame assemblies. Then glue and clamps or glue and finish nails to attach the face frames to the boxes. Pocket screws are an excellent replacement to more elaborate joinery as it often goes through the end grain into the long grain.

I has not considered pocket screws, mostly because of all the drilling involved, but perhaps I’ll take a closer look at that option

What would you guys say about the face frame material? Would you use the same 3/4" plywood, or solid wood here? I’ve heard that solid wood is better here, because the ply layers might show through the paint on the frame part edges. What do the pros use here?

Thanks again-

I would not use plywood for the face frames. Yellow poplar would be good since you’ll be painting it. You can get long, clear straight-grain stock and unlike pine or fir, the early and late wood are very similar so it’s easy to make it smooth and flat.

Definitely solid wood, radiata pine or even poplar would be a good choice for painting.