Smart Hack: Making a Work Table out of Filing Cabinets

Smart Hack: Making a Work Table out of Filing Cabinets

Range Govindan
May 23, 2011

When space is at a premium, you need to scale things down so that you don't waste any space. That's the quandary that Graham Stinson faced when he finished renovating his basement. He had a room that was perfect for crafts and a workstation, but he needed a desk that would work well in either case. He drew inspiration from a magazine and started hacking some IKEA filing cabinets.

Creating a work table or workstation like this has multiple uses. For example, it could easily modified to become a standing desk. Graham took a look at the design that he was using as inspiration, and came up with the idea of using two IKEA Vika Alex storage units, one Alex flat file drawer unit, one Vika Blecket tabletop, and one Rationell shelf. While this hack might look simple, there's quite a bit of planning and design that went into it, so if you're not comfortable with this, you should try and find something easier to do. The overall cost for this build, just in IKEA parts, is around $360.

1. Assembling the Base: You need to combine the two Vika Alex units and the Alex drawer unit. You'll need to center them, clamp them, and drill them. Once that's done, make sure you screw them together very tightly. Now that's done, you can put the units together normally. You'll have the Alex filing unit stuck in between two Vika Alex units like a sandwich.

2. Casters: If you plan on using casters, now is the time to mount them. You'll need to install a total of four casters. Graham mounted his on the Alex drawer unit since it comes ready with casters. This will make the table slide around easily.

4. Installing the Top Shelf Flush: One of the great things about this build is that the top part of the shelf, that's located right underneath the tabletop fits flush with the top of the Vika Alex units. You'll need to cut it to size and carve out some pin notches. Once you've drilled the shelf pin holes, it's ready to be installed.

5. Install tabletop: This build uses the Vika Blecket tabletop, since it has a nice little lightbox, but any tabletop could be used. For a non-IKEA look, you could simply get a piece of wood from a lumber yard or hardware store, and have it cut down to the right size. Staining and varnishing would set it apart from the MDF look of most IKEA furniture. Graham used Capita brackets, but once again, this can be changed to customize the look of the work table.

6. Installing Doors and Drawers: The hard part has been completed. Now, all that's left is to install the doors and drawers.

The desk needs some good integrated lighting so that it's distinctive. LED Dioder strips can be placed behind the desk, and in some of the drawers. You could also add more storage to the desk under the tabletop, especially for tools and/or computer peripherals. A pull-out keyboard drawer might work well in this situation. The IKEA Summera looks good and won't break the bank.

In order to not compromise the overall surface area, you could wall-mount a large computer screen on a nearby wall, and rig one of the shelves to serve as a docking station for a laptop. You'll have to run cables out of the back, but it would have a minimal footprint and you could still use the work table to get stuff done without it becoming simply another workstation for your computer.

Standing Desk Variant This work table is almost tall enough to be a standing desk. In order to convert the hack, you'll have to add another shelf under the tabletop The height of this should be adjusted to your standing height, so that the desk is fully comfortable for you.

(via Ikeahackers, photos by Graham Stinson, Flick Member by The Shopping Sherpa, via Creative Commons License, and image with permission from Flickr member Guille Valarino)

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