This ingenious IKEA hack will make you smile

Pile of 3D printed shelfie brackets.
Start with a pile of 3d printed brackets

Last month, we (my wife and I) disassembled an IKEA Expedit shelf unit, and while I didn’t take a photo of ours before disassembly, it was a 5×5 unit identical to the one featured here. The room the Expedit was in was getting rearranged and there wasn’t going to be a place for it any longer in the room. We don’t really have any other spot in the house where it would fit, so my wife suggested putting it on the curb.

I realized that while it wouldn’t fit in the closet in our home office, I could salvage much of the material and repurpose it for a custom shelf system. What I figured I could salvage and reuse were the 20 short pieces (the vertical walls in the photo on the above linked page) and the four long and thin pieces (the horizontal pieces in the photo on the linked page.)

On Thingiverse there is an thing called the Shelfie, described as a DIY parametric shelf and storage designer. I had made a few of the brackets a few years ago when I had a surplus of small plywood panels, but I never finished that project. Originally, you could use the customizer on Thingiverse to configure the brackets exactly how you wanted them, but the Customizer hasn’t been working on Thingiverse for awhile now. However, you can load the design in OpenSCAD and customize the design to be whatever you need.

The screenshot above shows how the Customizer in OpenSCAD is used to configure the part to be a T shaped bracket with a back and a pass-through channel so the long board can go all the way through.

I did a quick measurement of the closet and figured out that the long boards would fit in the width of the closet and that I could easily get three rows of shelves to fit without having to work around anything already mounted in the closet. So, I drew up a quick sketch:

This is messy, but I think that messiness shows a part of the making process.

I wanted a few tall cubbies, so I scribbled out the parts where there wouldn’t be a shelf. Then, I came up with a shorthand for planning out what brackets needed to be 3D printed: Ts = standard T bracket, Tp = T bracket with passthrough channel, Xp = X bracket with passthrough channel, and each of the corners was going to get a standard L bracket, so I didn’t label those.

I needed two complete sets of the brackets, one for the front and one for the back. The ones on the back I decided (after suggestions from other Workshop 88 members) to add the option to screw a backer board onto.

After customizing all the designs in OpenSCAD, I started printing. And printing. And did some more printing. I lost track of the total print time, but it could have easily been a week of continuous printing. With the breaks I took between some of the prints, it took me about three weeks to finish all of them.

Finally, I was ready for assembly!

Attaching brackets to the wall.
Shelf unit taking shape!
Building up the shelves!

Somewhere towards the end of the assembly, I realized that I had miscounted the number of short panels I needed. I thought I would only need 18 of the 20 panels from the Expedit, but I had forgot to count the three horizontal short panels needed for the top three cubbies! So, it turned out that I needed 21 panels, but only had 20 available. Whoops!

Fortunately, my design only was using three of the four long boards, and since they were all the same thickness, I cut the end off the extra board to make the last needed small panel.

I also made a last minute decision to attach the brackets directly to the wall panel in the closet. I figure that it is a closet that I don’t mind if the wall panel (it is a panel, not drywall) gets some holes in – especially since they will be small holes. Hopefully the shelves last quite awhile, though!

Finished with the assembly!

In the assembly process, I only had one bracket break – a T bracket with a passthrough and wall attachments. The reason it broke was that I had attached it to the wall before putting in the last horizontal long board. It wasn’t lined up with the other brackets, so when the long board was inserted, it bent the bracket and snapped off one side of the passthrough channel. Fortunately, I had a leftover test print that worked as a replacement part.

Broken bracket.

In the Workshop 88 slack there is a channel called “entropy” which I find to be delightful because members use that channel to discuss the various ways that they try to reign in the disorder in our workspaces. I don’t have a “before” photo of the closet, but I can attest that although the closet is accurately described as a “walk-in” closet, it would have been impossible to do that before I added the modified shelf. Here is the photo after adding all the stuff back into the shelf:

It’s hard to see in this photo, but there is actually space now to walk in the walk-in closet.

I’m really happy with how this Ikea-hack project turned out. I’m cautiously optimistic that the shelves will have an extended life helping to control the disorder in this closet.

About Workshop 88

Workshop 88 is a makerspace in Glen Ellyn Illinois. We are more than a workshop, we are a growing community of creative talented people who aspire to learn and share knowledge, experiences, and projects.

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Revamping Workshop 88

Spring is in the air, flowers are emerging, and Glen Ellyn is slowly climbing out of what has been an incredibly trying winter.

The new season has inspired us to take a new look at Workshop 88 and revamp our main room. While it’s a homey basement that holds many fond memories, members have been encouraging me to come up with some new ways to change the space around to be welcoming to new members. I wanted to post some photos of the current layout so that we can work on rearranging some things.

Workshop 88 members spend so much time working on their projects and discussing new ideas that they don’t pay much attention to the space around them; but space is important. Space communicates what we value, inspires our creativity, and develops our sense of belonging. Therefore, it is really important that we spend time recreating Workshop some in order to make our space more inviting.

What do you think we should do to revamp Workshop 88? Maybe some color? Reorganizing the layout? Please comment with your ideas!

photo 1 photo 2 photo 5

IOLab: The Pocket Physics Lab

The University of Illinois has developed a new device called IOLab which allows students to explore physical principles and concepts in one all-in-one unit which can easily fit in a pocket. Andrew, a physics professor at Joliet Junior College, has high hopes for the device in the classroom and beyond. IOLab features a variety of sensors, many of which can be found in a physics lab, in a portable and affordable form. Built-in wheels record the displacement of the unit, measuring acceleration and velocity. It also features a force sensor, a barometer to measure air pressure, as well as a light, magnetic, temperature, and sound sensor.

IMG_2742Andrew is excited about IOLab because he hopes that the device will work in a way that engages our particular population of students today. It’s a great kinesthetic learning tool, encouraging creative exploration of physics in a non-threatening way. He mentioned that an additional benefit is that it has expansion capabilities to discover other yet to be determined inputs and outputs. Due to the utility flexibility of the device, it can be used in a variety of settings and serve a plethora of purposes. Andrew has a lot of imaginative ideas of how to use the device in his classes; one thought he has is to take some data, give it to the students and tell them to recreate the graph and figure out the experiment.