Media Stand – Triple ellipse

I have a large wall-mounted TV, and needed somewhere to place the attendant Humax receiver and a DVD player. Off-the-shelf media stands seemed dull and ordinary, so I decided to design something a little more striking

Media Stand Photo

I considered lots of design ideas for the stand, and drew out the better ones using my CAD system. They would all tidy the two boxes and their cables out of sight, but tended to look too dominant. I really wanted a more discreet solution. This final design was sketched out on the back of an envelope. It’s a compact design, with soft shaping to avoid straight lines and corners that would draw the eye.

The perfect solution

The stand I created consists of three elliptical shelves, each supported by three legs. The finished appearance is compact and interesting, with the boxes off the floor and the wires concealed. The stand adds to the room without becoming a major feature, smoothly blending into the space. The organic arrangement of the shelves and legs adds to an attractive retro look.

This project is easy to make, with just a few components and needing only a small selection of tools. The shapes can be changed: just use your imagination, adjusting dimensions and positions to suit you and your equipment boxes.

The Media Stand Figure & Cutting List

Selecting the stock

You can make the shelves using many materials – plywood, hardwood, a mixture of species for each shelf – or simply use up some offcuts. I used spruce furniture board purchased from my local DIY shed. This has a pale colour, is easy to work and although it’s not particularly tough it’s more than sufficient for this project. The boards are available in various dimensions. Select them carefully, as the quality and condition of the sealed packs can vary. Some boards have more knots and some may have more cupping, or simply have damage from knocks in transit. I made the legs for the shelves from a 2.4m length of 35mm diameter pine dowel, the largest diameter stocked at my local shed.

Making an elliptical template

Start by producing an exact template of your preferred shelf shape. Although this is not strictly necessary, it enables the same shape to be easily redrawn when marking out all three shelves prior to cutting. I made my template from an offcut of 18mm thick mdf because it’s easy to mark, cut and sand smooth. Begin by marking out the ellipse shape you want on the mdf. An approximate oval is easily drawn in three straightforward steps.

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Step 1

Mark a pair of perpendicular straight lines that intersect at their centres, representing the width and height of the ellipse. For this project the ellipse is 710mm wide and 380mm high.

Step 2

Next draw a circle 220mm in diameter at each end of the 710mm line, photo 1. I used a medium-sized dinner plate, but compasses will do the job if you don’t have a suitably-sized plate.

Step 3

Complete the oval by marking a pair of large arcs on the template. Position the centre of each arc at the ends of the 380mm line and draw the arc so it just intersects the circumference of the two circles. I drew the arcs using the bow-and-string method. I made the bow using a 1m steel ruler fitted with a length of nylon cord, and tensioned it using a spreader to set the required arc profile. The arc dimensions are shown in fig 1. Hold the tensioned bow in position on the mdf and mark the pair of arcs, photo 2.

Instructions for making a Media Stand Photo 1-3

Now cut out the template, sawing about 1mm on the waste side of the outline. I used my bandsaw, but a jigsaw will also work well, photo 3. Then sand the template edge back to the line until it is smooth to the touch.

Instructions for making a Media Stand Photo 4Cutting the boards

Start by placing the template on the first spruce board and arrange its position to give the best shelf appearance. Then draw round the perimeter of the template. Repeat for the other two shelves, Rough-cut the shelves to size, sawing just outside the marked outline, photo 4, and sand the edges smooth back to the line. I finished the edges with some careful hand sanding using grit grades 120, 180 and 240 until they were clear of scratches.

Choosing a jointing method

I looked at several options for jointing the shelves and legs together, including long screws, keyhole plates or table leg fixing plates. I finally settled on some hardware called drawer front adjusters, photo 5.

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These enable pairs of shelves, separated by short legs, to be held together while keeping the tops unblemished. Each adjuster consists of a 20mm diameter plastic body with barbed retaining sides. Inside the body is a metal M4 threaded insert which allows several millimetres of lateral movement when loose. I used the adjusters with 100mm M4 bolts. About 5mm of the bolt will connect into the adjuster, as it passes through the 82mm long legs and 13mm of shelf.

Instructions for making a Media Stand Photo 5-7

Preparing the legs

I made the legs from 35mm diameter pine dowel. Before cutting the nine legs, sand the whole length; this is much easier to do now. I sanded it using a power sander while simultaneously rolling the dowel on the workbench, photo 6. I followed this by hand-sanding in the direction of the grain.

Cut the legs to length next. You can reduce breakout by wrapping low-tack tape round the cutting lines, photo 7. The three lower legs are made 18mm longer so their fixing bolts will be the same length as for the other legs.

Drilling the legs

Drill a 5mm diameter clearance hole through the centre of each leg, ideally using a drill stand for accuracy. I marked the hole centres using a simple home-made centre-finding jig, photo 8. It consists of a thin plywood plate with two strips of wood pinned on at right angles along the plate edges, with a 45° slot cut into the plate. To use it, place the jig on the dowel with the wood strips butting against the dowel and draw a line on the dowel through the jig slot, photo 9. Then rotate the jig by 90° and draw a second line. The dowel centre is where the two lines intersect.

Drill the holes slightly oversize to ease the insertion of the long M4 bolts during assembly. I drilled a hole in each end of the legs so they met in the middle; this also helped correct any wandering of the drill bit.

Next, drill a counterbore 5mm deep in the bottom end of the lower legs so you can recess the heads of their fixing bolts, photo 10. During assembly, if the counterbore depth needs adjustment, you can either increase its depth further or reduce it using some M4 washers.

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Instructions for making a Media Stand Photo 10-11

Time for a mock-up

Now dry-assemble the unit and choose your favourite shelf and leg arrangement, ideally by placing your black boxes on the shelves. I was surprised how the overall appearance was altered with only subtle changes to individual shelf and leg positions. When you’re happy with the arrangement, carefully mark the leg positions on the upper and lower faces of the shelves, photo 11. Before dismantling the assembly I also marked the underside of each shelf with its position in the stack sequence.

Back to the workshop

Now you can drill the shelves with holes for the fixing bolts and drawer front adjusters. Start by drilling 4mm bolt holes in the lower two shelves where the legs sit on the upper face of the shelf. Centre the holes using the locating marks made during the mock-up. Then upturn the shelves and counterbore the holes 5mm deep, photo 12.

Instructions for making a Media Stand Photo 12-14

Next, fit the drawer front adjusters to the underside of the shelves. Again use the leg locating marks to find their centre positions. Then drill holes to hold the adjusters and insert them. I cut the holes 20mm in diameter and about 11mm deep using a Forstner bit, photo 13. The adjusters are a firm push-fit and need knocking in until they’re flush with the shelf face, photo 14. I applied some pva adhesive to the barbs for extra grip, especially as this is only softwood!

The final stages

After checking the shelves and legs for marks and blemishes, I gave them a final sanding and applied three coats of water-based varnish, photo 15, cutting back with fine abrasive paper between coats. The water-based varnish helps to keep the natural colour of the wood true with minimal yellowing.

Instructions for making a Media Stand Photo 15-16

Finally, assemble the stand, starting at the top of the stack, photo 16. Make sure that the legs are vertical by using the movement provided in the adjusters before tightening the bolts fully.

Media Stand - Photo


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