Playroom Radiator Cover And Bench

Old steam radiators are cool, but they get very hot.  And they get dusty.  And things fall under them.  Lots of people love their radiators, but better that they feel the love and not the hot iron, hence the radiator cover.

The Situation

This is a playroom for a toddler boy.  Most likely he would only touch a hot radiator once on purpose, but he is after all, a toddler without great motor control and too much easy proximity to that burning beast.  Also, there are a bunch of wires where the AT&T Uverse feed comes in with its modem box and added wifi and several other gizmos with lots of tangled wiring.  It was covered with a blanket to delay the boy’s curiosity long enough that an adult could intervene to save the wiring.

A nice radiator cover could solve both problems.

The Design

I can’t take credit for the convection design that I like to use – long shallow inlets at the bottom to supply colder air at the floor, and matching long shallow outlets at the top where warm air exits creating a natural convection loop – but the rest is mine, all mine.  The cabinet extends about 14 inches on the left to house the electronics, and there is an access door there when you need to switch things around without moving the whole thing.

When I start a project I like to start fresh.  I tape a heavy piece of white paper to my assembly bench and get out my measuring stuff – including my sector, for proportions, and my dividers and a story stick (those items aren’t shown, but they are there!).


The homeowners like the simplicity of plain white.  Not uncommon these days, but a little antagonistic to the current designs of the house which was probably built in the late 19-teens.  The other radiator covers were a stained and varnished oak.  I couldn’t match to the others using stained oak, but they all had a design detail that I could incorporate into my white version.



I had to proportion my dimensions for the end design, taking a few liberties.


I cut this out as a template and used it for the right side panel and the left side door.


The face frame with the air conduction spaces was made using a hole saw, a band saw, and a drill press adapted into a spindle sander.


The front panel is 1/2″ Baltic Birch plywood inset in grooves (rabbets) in the face frame, and the top is 3/4″ birch ply screwed to a top frame and trimmed with some moulding.  As usual, my pieces are pre-painted, except for glue edges.  That makes for a much more even finish in the final product, but it sure does slow down progress!


The door is a right-hand swinging door using concealed hinges. The jamb edge uses inset neodymium magnets for a closure.  The magnet uses a brass center screw that keeps the magnetic field more even.


The door has two matching steel screws that are also inset.  Since they are screws they can be turned in and out for adjustment.


So now we are complete.  Except for the glass knob.  Because I forgot to buy it!




Installations can always be tricky but I had this one mapped out great.  All of the dimensions of the cabinet were tweaked to follow the undulations of the floor, so it was pre-trimmed.  The back edge sits on a wood ledger screwed to the wall.

First, I have to get it there.  My assembly bench sits at just about the height of my truck bed, so I roll up the garage door, back up, and slide it in – easy!  And, yes, that’s snow on the ground outside, but my cabinet is safe and warm in his moving blanket.


The ledger is in place, I have untangled and tie wrapped most of the wiring and mounted the plug strip on the wall.


The cover just barely enclosed the outlet on the wall.  There is a simple black hasp in the middle of the top at the wall.  That is there to ensure that the top does not creep off the wall while someone is sitting or standing on it.

The cover is easy to move when necessary, just lift the hasp and pull it out.  Align it back up with the hasp when replacing.



And here is all the wiring, safely tucked away.  And the glass knob I finally added.


Looks great, practical, sturdy.  Fun to build, too!

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