How to Make a Retro Stereo Cabinet

Making a Vintage Stereo Console

I’ve been wanting to make this retro stereo cabinet for a while now. I spend a lot of time in my basement shop working and wanted to have a turntable in there to play records but also protected from dust. It uses some basic butt joint construction done with loose tenons and made from cherry plywood. The turntable is enclosed with a hinged lid and the stereo component compartments have a removable grill cloth face to keep dust out but allow air circulation.

I did run out of time for a few final details because I’m taking for for a trip. I still need to add some pulls to the front grill faces and lid support or a kickstand to hold the top open while changing records. Once I get back and complete these tasks I’ll post pictures down below and update the steps.

If you make this stereo cabinet please tweet me some pics so I can share it with the world. Thanks for dropping by and as always be safe, be passionate and make something

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Tools and Supplies Used

retro stereo cabinet

cutting wood on tablesaw

Step 1: Cut All Cabinet Pieces

First thing to do is cut all pieces of the main cabinet to width and length out of cherry plywood. This includes the two sides, the three shelves, top, bottom and front faces. The plywood board I used came from Rockler and comes in 24″ x 48″ pieces. You will need 5 sheets. Exact dimensions are in the plans.

cutting edge banding

Step 2: Cut Edge Banding

To cover up the exposed edges of the plywood I’m cutting 3/16″ strips out of solid cherry. You can buy pre-made edge banding that can be ironed on but I prefer to make my own.

attach edge banding

Step 3: Attach Edge Banding

Before gluing up the cabinet I attached the edge banding to the front faces of the shelves. This is easier done now because the shelves will be inset. Just add some glue and clamp them into place. You can use painters tape or these Rocker Bandy Clamps you see here. I suggest cutting the edge banding a little long as the excess can be removed in the next step. I also recommend having the edge banding slightly taller than the thickness of the plywood. Once the glue dries you can then flush it up. See step 5.

flush trim saw

Step 4: Cut Off Excess

Once the glue dries on the edge banding you can use a flush trim saw to cut off the excess.

wood scraper

Step 5: Flush the Edge Banding

I’m using a scraper to flush the edge banding to the plywood. You can also use a card scraper or just sand it down. If you choose to sand it down be careful to not sand through the plywood veneer.


Step 6: Sanding

Now’s a good time to sand all the cabinet pieces as it’s much easier to sand before assembled.

festool domino

Step 7: Cutting the Cabinet Joinery

There are many ways to butt joint the pieces of the cabinet. By far my favorite and one of the easiest ways is to use a Festool Domino mortising tool. The tool cuts a mortise into each piece and is connected with a pre-made loose tenon called a Domino. A much more economical and budget friendly way to join the pieces is to use dowel joinery using a dowel rod and a drill. To see how this is done check out my video “Dowel Joinery Tips and Technique”

cabinet glue-up

Step 8: Cabinet Glue-up

Whether you are using Dominos or dowels, glue in the loose tenon and assemble the two sides, 3 shelves and the bottom. Apply glue to the tenons and where the two boards will meet and clamp it up. Once you get the clamps on make sure everything is square and adjust if necessary.

cabinet clamping

Step 9: Allow to Dry

Once you get the assembly clamped up, allow it to dry for a few hours.

edge banding

Step 10: Final Edge Banding

You can now edge band the remaining exposed plywood edges.

route groove

Step 11: Route Inlay Groove

This is purely for a visual element and not necessary, but I’m routing a 1/4″ groove through the front face of the turntable compartment. This will accept a 1/4″ brass dowel rod.

brass inlay

Step 12: Brass Inlay

I then mix up some 5 minute epoxy and glue in the 1/4″ brass dowel rod. Brass is a very soft metal and can be cut to length with a hacksaw.

stereo cabinet

Step 13: Completing the Turntable Compartment

Next I attached the front and rear boards to the turntable compartment. I used three loose tenon Festool Dominos on the bottom and only glue on the sides. Afterwards I realized I should have added this during the initial glue-up so there would be reinforcement on two edges and not just one. Although I’m sure this will hold up just fine for the life of the cabinet. Be sure to add clamps and allow it to dry for a few hours.

resaw plywood

Step 14: Resawing Plywood

The lower two compartments will have removable faces with grill cloth. I’m resawing the plywood faces that’ll make up the front grill. Resawing plywood is not a common technique and may cause the board to bow or cup as the tension is released. I didn’t have any issues with mine but you may want to use solid cherry for yours as the inside faces will have exposed plywood that will be visible in the final piece. See the end of the video above.


Step 15: Cutting Out the Grill Shape

I then printed out the grill template and attached it to one of the grill faces using spray adhesive. I cut the shape out on the bandsaw entering from one side going with the grain. This entry kerf will be closed up in the next step and will hardly be noticeable. Once I cut out the shape I traced it on the remaining pieces and cut them out on the bandsaw as well. You should have 4 pieces with this grill cutout.

close entry kerf

Step 16: Close the Entry Kerf

Next you’ll glue the entry kerf made by the bandsaw. Just add a little glue and clamp it up.

grill cloth

Step 17: Grill Cloth Front Face

Next I cut some guitar amp grill cloth to the size of my panel and tape it down to my bench. Taping it down allows you to stretch it out and get a nice tight fit. Once taped down I glue the front face of the panel directly to it using some Titebond Quick and Thick glue. Throw some weight on top an let this dry for an hour or so and cut it loose from the bench.

grill cloth

Step 18: Grill Cloth Back Side

Now you can take the glued up assembly and glue on the back side. Again I’m using Titebond Quick and Thick glue but I’m guessing wood glue will work as well. Set some weight on top or use f-style clamps and allow it to dry. Repeat steps 17 and 18 for the second face.

grill face

Step 19: Edge Banding the Faces

Next you can edge band all the edges of the two face panels to cover up the exposed plywood.

lid bumpers

Step 20: Lid Bumpers

Before attaching the lid I’m using adhesive backed, clear rubber bumpers on all for corners of the top.

hack saw hinge

Step 21: Cutting Piano Hinge

I’m just using an inexpensive piano hinge for my lid. This can be cut to length using a hacksaw.

attach piano hinge

Step 22: Attaching Piano Hinge

To attach the piano hinge I set the lid in place and use masking tape to position the hinge. I pre-drill all the holes to prevent splitting and screw it into place. Once all the screws are in you can remove them and pull off the tape and re-screw them back in place.

drilling hole

Step 23: Drilling the Cord Hole

Next you can drill out a hole for the turntable cables to go through. I’m using a 1 1/8″ forstner bit.

velcro grill panels

Step 24: Grill Panel Stops

I cut some 1/2″ wide solid cherry and glued them into the compartment sides. These will be used as stops for the grill panels. I add some velcro to the stops and the back of the panels.

add feet

Step 25: Add Feet

For the feet I’m just using some simple rubber feet that screw right into the bottom. If you’re using this cabinet to play records you will likely want to use rubber feet to absorb some floor vibrations that may happen when walking around the stereo.

spray lacquer

Step 21: Spray Lacquer Finish

And to finish it off I take my cabinet outside and spray a few coats of rattle can spray lacquer made by Minwax. If I had more time to work on this project I probably would have used boiled linseed oil and polyurethane.

retro stereo cabinet retro stereo cabinet retro stereo cabinet


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