I just stumbled on this thread, and all I can say is -- WOW! What a fun thread for someone who is a home theater buff AND an occasional woodworker. I'll have to snap some pix of a major HT woodworking project I did last year and share them with you.
Thoughts on materials, finishes, etc.: I also use the iron-on edge banding, and have discovered through experience that banding the individual pieces prior to assembly is, indeed the right way to go. I've also learned (the hard way) to hand-sand the edge banding, because it's so easy to put too much pressure on any kind of power sander and ruin the banding (much less bearing surface than when you're on the flat of a piece, so the lbs/sq in go way up).
For those of you in the Boston area, you might want to check out Boulter Plywood in Somerville (on the Charlestown line), who carry all manner of hardwood plywood. I constructed my project of maple veneer plywood with a natural finish (water-based poly); looks great! (Maple takes stain more evenly than birch, for those who do want to stain). If you're not in the Boston area, Boulter will ship, if you're willing to pay the freight! www.boulterplywood.com
is the web site.
I also concur with the advice to make sure your unit is deep enough. I found that too much of the stock furniture available in stores is just way to shallow for today's components; receivers, especially, seem to be getting deeper and deeper. Be sure to allow room for connectors and cable bends, too. Quad shield RG6 does NOT like tight bends!