I work from home exclusively at a computer – I do technical support for a hosting and vCloud service provider. This entails spending a lot of time in my work area with random blocks of downtime where I cannot stray too far from my PC, or at least my laptop. There are many tools that I have to perform my job on my iPhone while mobile, but they’re rather difficult to utilize while actually talking on said phone – I don’t get to choose when my customers need my assistance.

During my downtime I work on random hack projects such as my 3D printers, various electronics projects, and recycling/reclaiming parts from discarded items for future use. I am also a self-taught musician and have a modest home recording studio and collection of guitars which I like to have easily accessible. This all has to fit in the same space and given the size of my one-bedroom apartment that I share with my loving partner and a couple of cats – it ought to be not a complete eyesore in the corner of our living room which I occupy.

My previous desk was a huge hack and as fate would have it – an IKEA hack, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone else or post it to ikeahackers.net (big shout out to Jules and her wonderful site – it’s a treasure trove of inspiration). If you’ve never been to the site before, please check it out.

I’ve had this aforementioned desk that I bought at a discount at Computer City somewhere around 2001/2002 – it was a flat-pack design, much like IKEA (which ironically owned the mall the Computer City was in and had their own store a few outlets down the row) – however I was able to get a fairly full-featured desk that didn’t occupy much space for cheap due to my staff discount. I lived nearby and I recall borrowing one of the store’s two-wheeled carts overnight and just rolling the boxes for it home down the sidewalk since I was so close. I’ve moved around a lot since then and it’s been disassembled to flat and rebuilt and back again more times than I can count. Over the years the primary desk surface has collected so much water damage from a decade of drinks placed on it without coasters it’s got blisters on the veneer. I had a 21″ CRT on it at one point that required a strip of 2″x2″ reinforcing wood to preventing it from bowing to the point of breaking, and much of the back section was held together with replacement scrap wood since the original thin-nailed-together support typical of flat-pack units was long ago destroyed.

I was still using that desk two years ago – that’s a lot of millage out of such a cheap piece of furniture so kudos to the original manufacturer, whomever that was, I’ve long since forgotten. However – about two years ago, it was becoming clear that I needed something bigger. Two LCD screens, a large Antec computer tower, and only about 60% of the desk being original, there wasn’t much left to work with and there was absolutely no place to hack. Lo-and-behold, someone threw out an IKEA futon in broken pieces which I quickly snatched up. So much useful pine. It took a bit of time, but I turned the wood into a fairly substantial L-shaped desk. I did some finishing work and made a nice workspace for the side, and used the original desk surface as the main computer area. All the dimensions where based off of the original desk since, well, I didn’t know any better. The motto of most of my projects is “Well, WTF do I know?” – and then I proceed so that I will ultimately know what I did not before.

On some levels I’m kind of proud of what I built. Primarily scrap and a lot of pine slats, only a few bits of new pine (pre-cut at Home Depot) for the desk surface – I still have a pine section the same size as the original desk top but I never got around to performing all of the sanding, priming, staining, sanding, staining, sanding, poly urethane coating, sanding, poly coating, sanding… and so forth on it that I did on the side section. Too much work, too many fumes, too little desk space added as it turns out. The whole project was only about $50 and it’s lasted two years. My frustration caused by lack of work space, complete lack of storage, inadequate leg room and just slightly incorrect surface heights finally came to a head recently and I decided to do something about it.

The primary concerns I had were that all the dimensions where just slightly off what they should be – although I researched before I built the last unit there was a margin of error compounded by the source material being recovered wood. The other issue was since it had no storage, every change of project required that I clean off the mess from the last one, tuck the bits away, then start anew at re-populating my work space with other … crap. Lots of rubbermaid draw units on wheels which more often than not where not wheeled out of the way. It was an ergonomic nightmare which was starting to take a toll on my physical well-being. More often than not I was working around the setup rather than working within it and it was interfering with the primary use of the area.

After some recent reorganization by my partner, I was able to move my 3D printers to a smaller furniture unit that was a desk she had been using as a shelf. Since I had bought it for her as a laptop desk for school use and not for use as a shelf, I quickly reclaimed it. Inspiration from ikeahackers.net lead me to re-examine a new desk setup – but my original plan of building up a modular Galant unit was thwarted by IKEA’s recent discontinuation of that line. The remaining pieces for sale at the local store were inadequate for my plans and it’s replacement line isn’t designed to be modular – plus I think the Bekant series sucks, at least for my purposes. Ok, really I think Bekant sucks on every level from lack of modularization, and overall visual appeal to actual use.

So, the next idea was to hack out a system from the Expedit system – except they’ve ditched that line too. Thankfully Expident’s replacement series, Kallax, is actually pretty nice stuff and very similar. I’ve got a few bits to work out, but yesterday I picked up a backbreaking load of bits and pieces. I started with the Kallax 4×4 unit and a medium sized Linnmon table surface and some Olov legs. This is pretty bog-standard for the new IKEA lines and essentially replaces the old Expedit shelf/desk system. In this case I think it’s actually a better concept. A $5 bracket set connects the Linnmon table right to the Kallax shelf unit and was clearly intended for this purpose. The brackets are part of the Linnmon series and only fit the Kallax shelves – although you can use it with any of their non-Linnmon table tops as long as it has wood on the bottom surface.

Ironically perhaps, filling the 4×4 Kallax unit with four door units, four drawer units and four bin units (leaving four open cubby spaces) costs more than the 4×4 Kallax unit itself. I put the top row as all door units, the bottom row as all bin units and the right-middle four as dual drawers. The remaining four left-middle units are just open cubbies because they would be unusable with other filler units due to the Linnmon brackets and whatever is on the desk itself. This is a lot of storage – and it’s all out of sight which is a major plus in terms of having to observe it as a portion of the living room.

The desk surface is a nice height for typing but too low for monitors. I’ll be hacking it up a bit with a pack or two of the shortest Capita legs and one of the larger Ekby shelves as a monitor stand. I didn’t check the overall level of the desk surface when I first unpacked and installed it, but it has a slight (aprox 1º) bend to it – it’s rated at 110lbs, and my two LCD displays are defiantly less than that so it’s a bit concerning that it has such a dip in the middle already, I can’t help but think it came that way from the factory. No worries, I’ll run a pine rib along the bottom tomorrow to ensure it can handle this usage. I’ve already hacked IKEA’s Signum cable manager to the bottom. I’m going to be adding a second set of Linnmon brackets (for a total of four, which is two $5 packs) for a bit of overkill mounting. I like things overbuilt.

I’ll update this blog with pictures of the completed project soon.



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  1. Ikea Hacking – Kallax and Linnmon Mega Desk | novakane.ca - […] per my long post the other day, I’ve been rebuilding my workspace with some of the new Ikea product…

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