Building Hi-Fi Furniture (1959) -- Article Index and Intro

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1. Equipment

Tuners. Tuner dimensions. Vertical and horizontal mounting of tuners. Ventilation. Turntables. Leveling the turntable. Mounting level of changers and turntables. Tape decks and recorders. Amplifiers. Stack mounting. Construction of a tuner-amplifier compartment. Speaker enclosures. Infinite baffle. Bass reflex. Horns. Stereo equipment.

2. The room

Choosing the room. Placing the speaker. Room shapes. Room acoustics. Sound distribution from a speaker. Room traffic patterns. The scaled floor plan. Making room measurements. Scale dimensions. Making scale cutouts of furniture. Stereo effect. Room with an alcove. Positioning tweeter and midrange speakers.

3. Fundamentals of design

Good design. Visual order. Static and dynamic order. Basic lines. Designing a cabinet front. Cabinet front variations. Three-dimensional relationships. Adding a speaker enclosure. Cabinet shelf. Depth as a dimension. Dynamic planes. Creation of dynamic lines by static shapes. The scalloped edge. Spiral forms. Categories of curves. Proportion and balance.

4. Furniture styles

Modern style. Contemporary styling. Asymmetrical design. Examples of con temporary styling. Traditional and period styles. Hepplewhite. Directoire style. French provincial, English styles. Empire style. Chippendale. Chinese Chippendale. Sheraton. Adams brothers. American styles. Regency. Early colonial. Selection of style.

5. Materials

Woods. African and Honduras mahogany. Luan. Walnut. Birch. Comb-grain, plain sliced and quartered oak. Avodire. Blond Iimba. Chen Chen. Sapcle. Teak. Birdseye and curly maple. Fruitwoods. Gum. Knotty pine. Fir. Veneer cuts. Lumber cuts. Plywood construction. Graining standards' for veneer faces. Fir plywood. Special surface veneers. Hardware.

6. Construction

Layout. Cutting. Table saw. Overarm saw. Portable rotary saw. Band saw. Sabre saw. Power jig saw. Jointing. Butt joint. Shoulder butt. Double-shouldered butt joint. Mitre joint. Mitre and spline. Lock mitre. Mitred shoulder butt. Partitions. Doweling. Mortise and tenon. Assembly. Gluing. Fitting and edging. Hardware. Legs and bases. Kit construction.

7. Finishing hi-fi furniture

Sanding. Types of sanding. Machines. Orbital and belt sanders. Finishing curved and carved portions of the cabinet. Pre-coloring. Staining. Water, alcohol and oil stains. Bleaching. Removing filler. Filling. Pickling. Sealing. Final finish coats. Using a spray gun. Lacquer and shellac. Rubbing. Retouch. Re-assembly. Oil finish.

8. Retouch, repair and refinishing

Burns. French polishing. Water and beverage stains. Scratches. Nicks and gouges. Crushes. Loose or broken hard ware. Cracked, crazed or alligatored finishes. Grille cloth. Loose, peeling or blistered veneer. Open joints. Cabinet clamping tools. Pipe or bar clamps. Rope as a clamp. Loose legs. Broken dowels. Loose molding. Refinishing. Paint removers.


I have long contended (sometimes rather noisily) that a hi-fi system can, and should be, as pleasant to see as it is to hear. Subjects that have been amply treated elsewhere are treated lightly, if not downright summarily: in connection with speakers and enclosures their exterior design, styling and construction are treated, not acoustical principles.

Step-by-step do-it-yourself instructions on how to make a Chippendale sideboard out of three grapefruit crates and a grandfather's clock won't be found in this guide-there is already a lot of information of this kind around, but there is very little design-it-yourself literature.

Therefore, I have tried to point up some of the most important principles of design and construction as related to hi-fi furniture.

Because a pleasing end result is impossible unless the furniture housing the equipment is properly related to the room, both as to placement and styling, these aspects of the problem are discussed. And styling itself is a relatively meaningless term unless you are acquainted with the basic elements which, through various permutations and combinations, make up style.

The materials available for the construction of furniture are numerous and varied. Wood is the primary material and by becoming acquainted with the woods available you are likely to come up with some encouraging design ideas. Too, an extensive explanation of construction methods, types of jointing, and types and capabilities of tools is needed if you are to know which design ideas are practicable and which, though pretty on paper, would be difficult or impossible to build.

To make an intelligent choice of materials a knowledge of finishing methods and procedures is a necessary prerequisite. Knowing methods of repairing, retouching and refinishing will be of incalculable value, not only for maintaining your hi-fi housings, but also any of the other furniture you have that may fall into disrepair. It is likely that you will use this information most often on your standard furniture, although it is not unusual to find that someone has used the top of a speaker enclosure for a not very efficient ashtray.

As you go through the pages of this guide, remember that it is not the last word on the subject. I sincerely hope that after you have read it, you will be able to prove that.


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The author gratefully acknowledges the cooperation of these companies: Cassard & Walker, Inc.; Charak Furniture Co.; Colby Associates; De Walt Inc., Division AMF; Douglas Fir Plywood Assoc.; Electro-Voice Inc.; General Cement Manufacturing Co.; Grand Rapids Varnish Corp.; Grosfeld House, Inc.; Hardwood Plywood Institute; Herman Miller Furniture Co.; John Scalia Inc.; John Stuart Inc.; L. & J. G. Stickley Inc.; Museum of Modern Art; Porter Cable Machine Co.; Rockwell Manufacturing Co., Delta Power Tool Div.; Schmeig & Kotzian Co.; U.S. Plywood Corp.; University Loudspeakers, Inc.; Widdicomb Furniture Inc.; Wood & Hogan Inc.

Also see:

Installing Hi-Fi Systems (1960)

Understanding Hi-Fi Circuits (1957)



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Updated: Saturday, 2022-04-23 15:03 PST