The Finishing Touches
Dec 1, 2006 8:00 AM, By Ron Bartlebaugh
Studio furniture function and appearance are directly related to the amount of attention given to details during the design and installation process. Items such as cable management, equipment ventilation, termination hardware locations and miscellaneous storage all need to be considered. Openings of the proper size and placement through the top, sides or bottom surfaces of the furniture will enable easy pass through of cabling to and from various locations. Bottom surface openings will be necessary if the furniture is to be set over conduits or a cable floor duct. Openings in the vertical surfaces of adjoining furniture sections allow for horizontal cable paths between the sections. Insertion of metal or plastic trim grommets in all exposed holes or taking time to paint the uncovered surfaces of holes will create a professional appearance.
Heat generating equipment is often mounted within studio furniture. Ensure the heat is properly ventilated. Single space rack vent panels or other perforated metal products make excellent covers for vent openings. Be sure to have one opening low in the space and a second toward the top of the space to allow for proper airflow. When it is necessary to install computers within the furniture, always consider the noise factor in addition to ventilation requirements. Internet research will yield information regarding soundproof cabinetry for computers that is adequately ventilated and can be easily integrated into the studio furniture design.
The placement of analog or digital termination hardware needs to be considered in any furniture design. Termination points can be located inside the rear panel of larger furniture cabinets or, if rear panel access is not an option, the termination points can be located behind the vertical panel at the kneehole or behind a side panel. The termination surface should be of sufficient strength to provide a solid backing for the mounting of hardware and for punch block wiring activity. When possible, consider using a swing-down terminal mounting wall. The bottom of the panel would be hinged to allow the panel to swing downward to rest on the floor, permitting a work surface that is ergonomically more stable and pleasing. The use of removable panels to conceal the termination hardware allows for easy access and also provides for a clean external cabinet appearance.
Rear or side removable access panels need to be considered for any countertop mounted equipment turrets. Always include an electrical receptacle wired to a dedicated circuit in the area of the termination panel for operation of a heat gun, soldering and test equipment. Installation of natural light task lighting in the area of the termination panel makes for easy interpretation of wiring color codes.
When establishing a cable routing plan within the furniture always ensure adequate isolation between cables of different signal levels. There are many cable management accessories on the market including channel duct, plastic cable bundle rings and, of course, cable tie wraps in a variety of configurations. Always plan a good documentation system prior to beginning any project and strive to keep it updated.
The incorporation of drawer and storage cabinet space into the furniture can be used for storing writing tools, program logs, patch cables, studio cleaning supplies or other items that may need to be kept in the studio. Be sure to use good quality hardware on cabinet doors and on storage drawers. European-style hinges work well on cabinet doors because they allow for easy removal of the door when required. Ball bearing drawer slides are well worth their investment in terms of weight supporting ability and overall reliability.
Placing extra thought and a few extra dollars into your furniture project can save you years of grief and regret. Take the time to do it right the first time.
Bartlebaugh is director of engineering for the WKSU stations, Kent, OH, and president of Audio and Broadcast Specialists, Akron, OH.