5 Tips for Great Woodworking in Your Theater
You can customize your theater room with care by adding some, or a lot, of beautiful and purposeful woodworking.
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Credit: Graham Hobart
September 29, 2009 by Steven Castle

It happens to many enthusiasts: You need a place to store the audio and video gear or other cool systems, and the best way to do it may be with some woodworking—custom woodworking.

Which leads many to go Gulp, Gulp, Ka-ching! And naturally so. Custom woodworking costs money. And really good custom woodworking costs lots of money.

The thing is, you don’t have to do custom woodworking throughout a whole room like this one. You can have one home entertainment cabinet built for a few thousand dollars—and to your exact specifications. Or for less you can have a customized hiding place crafted for your projector, or a place to conceal your big screen when it’s not in use.

So how do you get the best woodworking bang for your buck? We sought the advice of David Huse of Theater Advice in Dallas, Texas, woodworker Bill Beemer, and homeowner Jeff Allen, who worked together to produce this media room containing about $85,000 worth of custom maple woodworking. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Check for expertise.
“Find an artist, a craftsman, and not a ‘carpenter,’” Huse says. “Do not use big woodworking companies. They cost twice the money because they have to pay for insurance, unemployment benefits and hourly workers.” Beemer, for instance, usually works alone. “Bill’s a real craftsman,” says Allen. “That made the difference in this room.”

2. Find someone you trust.
Or someone your custom electronics (CE) pro knows and trusts. Huse and Beemer had collaborated on several jobs before this one. Huse takes Beemer to any job site that requires woodworking, “David usually has an idea in mind, and from that I get an idea of what I want to do,” Beemer says. Then Beemer creates a drawing of what the room will look like.

3. Share information.
Be sure to provide the woodworker with every bit of information you have on the electronics involved, or there will be mistakes, Huse warns. That includes all measurements of the electronics gear to be stowed. Huse provides Beemer with product cut sheets, drawings, specs, sizes, shapes and ventilation requirements. He tells Beemer which components can be stacked atop others and which can’t. He also specifies how long the cables will stick out and how deep the mount is and the space required to hang it.

4. Be involved.
“Do not just give them an idea and wait for them to do it. Include yourself in every aspect and be picky,” Huse says. After a screen hood had been installed to hide the rolled-up 100-inch projection screen, homeowner Allen noticed that the screen compartment protruded slightly from the bottom of the woodwork, and he told Huse and Beemer he didn’t like it. So Beemer brought it back to his shop and routed out a fraction of an inch from the inside top of the unit, so the projector compartment would hide behind it without any portion being visible.

5. Be open to suggestions.
If you hire talented people, listen to them. They often know best. This homeowner largely trusted the design of the room and the woodworking to Huse and Beemer, and they more than satisfied him.

... And does one even think about saving money in a room where the woodworking alone cost $85,000? Homeowner Jeff Allen tells us that he saved about $10,000 by switching woods from mahogany to maple. Woods vary widely in price, so seek all your options and look at samples, if possible.

About this theater:
The lovely entertainment credenza in this room was modeled after other furniture in the home and contains the audio/video components, plus a Sunfire subwoofer ported to fire downward to the floor, precluding the use of an acoustically transparent fabric on the front of the credenza. (The credenza is elevated on small feet, so the bass from the subwoofer sounds into the room.)
Home theater expert David Huse had the inspiration for a coffered starlight ceiling, and professional woodworker Bill Beemer designed and built the false beams, some which house vents for air conditioning.

Respecting the integrity of the woodwork, Huse chose MartinLogan Vignette ribbon speakers that sound great and could be mounted somewhat inconspicuously below the crown molding. The center channel is mounted above the plasma TV and is behind the acoustically transparent screen when it descends. There’s even a hidden door to a closet in the maple woodworking on the front wall.

Before:

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

Installer/Equipment List

Systems Design & Installation
Theater Advice
Frisco, Texas
www.theateradvice.com

Woodworker
Bill Beemer
McKinney, Texas

Equipment
Panasonic TH58PZ700U 1080p HD Plasma TV
Sony VPL-VW60 SXRD Projector
100-inch Stewart Filmscreen Visionary FireHawk G3
MartinLogan Vignette on-wall speakers (5)
Sunfire Solitaire 10
Marantz SR7002 Receiver
Panasonic DMK-BD30K Blu-ray player
DirecTV HD DVR
Nintendo Wii
Xbox 360
Sony DVPCX-777ES DVD changer
Escient DVDM-100 DVD controller
Panamax M5300-PM
Lutron 6-Zone Grafik Eye
Universal Remote MX-980
30-inch iSky panels with twinkling fiber optic stars (15)
MRF300 RF pack


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