Traditional American Entertainment Center

Of course, "traditional American" and "entertainment center" seem an awkward succession of phrases, since entertainment centers haven't been around for long enough to include really traditional versions of them.  Still, the phrase is less cumbersome than saying what is actually meant: "entertainment center built in traditional, early 20th-century American style".
Semantics aside, my client asked me to design and build an entertainment center which would cover a wall in his living room.  Since the wall included a fireplace and a large flat-panel television, I decided to incorporate a mantel and bridge for the purpose of adding continuity to the structure and to frame the television.


My client asked only for a particular style of door (traditional stile-and-rail with tongue and groove panels) and asked that the doors on the right-side cabinet be flipper doors (often incorrectly called pocket doors) in order to accommodate the use of remote controls without having to leave standard doors open.  Since most of the furnishings and flooring in that part of the home are red oak, it seemed a likely choice of wood specie. 
When you add together: red oak, that particular door style, the fact that the doors will be inset rather than overlay doors, a dark stain, and the fact that the piece should blend with, not dominate the space, all roads lead to an early 20th century traditional American  style.




This piece is constructed of domestic red oak, using (for the most part) traditional methods of joinery.  Faceframes are dowelled rather than biscuited, and they are rabbeted into the cabinet face rather than simply applied to the cabinet edge, the cabinet backs are rabbeted into the sides, the tongue and groove door panels are hand-cut, etc.
This is a free-standing piece of furniture, and its major components can be disassembled in about 20 minutes.

Some departures from tradition:     

1)  The cabinet backs are full 3/4" stock, and pocket-screwed in.  (Often, backs from the past century were 1/4" thick or less, and simply nailed at the edges, offering little or no real structural strength).
2)   Cabinet boxes are rabbeted along all joints, and joined using aliphatic resin glue and pocket screws.
3)   All shelves are adjustable.



The finish used for this piece was an oil-base paste stain. While this is a time and labor intensive method of staining, it serves two important functions.  First, it offers superior penetration and protection to the wood surface.  Second, this was a common method of staining until the early 20th century, when the development of new tinting agents allowed for thinner stains which did not have to be rubbed in.  While these newer stains were faster and required no muscle to use, they also give a different appearance to the wood.  So, another reason I chose to use an oil paste stain is to faithfully duplicate the appearance of an early 20th century piece.  The topcoat is hand-applied tung oil.