3/12/2011

IKEA Hack - Expedit Door Panels

The IKEA Expedit cabinet is a great piece of kit. It sturdy enough to hold a ton of heavy items and cheap enough to be utilized by those on a tight budget. We use ours to hold everything from dog food to diapers, toys to tools.  While the cabinet looks great when used for displaying trinkets or photographs, it becomes quite cluttered when used as a storage unit. To deal with that issue I wanted to design panels that could either be hinged or attached with magnets to mitigate the mess. While IKEA does sell inserts, their high price put purchasing 16 of them way out of our budget.  Given that I had the tools and most of the materials already in my possession, attempting this IKEA hack turned out to be a fun and economical project.



I started by cutting 1/2" MDF into 16 identical squares on the table saw. Each of the 16 openings was slightly different in one dimension, so the panels were made with a single nominal measurement, 13 1/16" x 13 1/16".  After cutting them down, they were rough sanded with the bench sander and then final sanded by hand. I then made a few jigs for the drill press and set about making all the necessary holes for the hardware. Multiple coats of primer and semi-gloss paint sealed the doors and prepped them for attaching a large photograph on the front.

To attach the doors, I cut 144, 1"x1" squares of MDF to serve as stop blocks. Inset into each of these was a 1/2" diameter rare earth magnet. Initially a second magnet was inset in the doors as well, but this proved to be a weak connection so I expoxied steel washers to the doors instead. The stop blocks were attached to the cabinet using a combination of wood glue and hot melt, utilizing the quick drying time of the hot melt to hold the blocks in place while the wood glue dried. This method was quite efficient and effective. 

To create a focal piece out of the cabinet, I enlarged a photograph I took of Brougham Castle outside of Penrith, England and had it printed on gloss photo paper. Each panel had a portion of the photograph attached to it creating a large collage of the image. After the images were set, the handles and hinges were attached to the doors and the panels were installed.  All said and done, it was a great little project that turned out well.

Before, filled to the brim.
Raw MDF Panel

 
Drill Press Jig

Drilling one of many holes.

Painting the Panels

 

Adding the rare earth magnets to the stop blocks.
Attaching the stop blocks.
  I abandoned this method in favor of the hot melt + wood glue.

Attaching the Photographs

 

Adding the Steel Washers

Hinges

 

The picture I took of Brougham Castle.

The Finished Cabinet

Panel Detail

6 comments:

  1. I love this hack. I have wanted to do this for a couple of years to hide the boys toys. I have a few questions. Why do you need so many stoppers? Wouldn't one (or two) per door do the trick? And how did you find drilling into the expedit itself when mounting the hinges on it. That is my big concern.

    It looks great, love the photo!

    Vaughn

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  2. Drilling into the expedit wasn't too bad. I used a small bit and went very slow. I reinforced the holes with wood glue before I attached the hinges to help prevent tear out from the screws. I only needed two stoppers on the eight doors that were hinged. The other eight doors are attached with magnets. They needed all four stoppers to prevent the doors from falling out. Hope that makes sense!

    -J

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  3. Beautiful! I have had a similar idea that I have been wanting to develop for a while, but I was either going to screenprint the wood panels, or use a gel transfer method. What did you use to print your image on, and how did you attach it to the doors?

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    Replies
    1. I had the image printed on large format glossy paper. The individual panels were cut out and then mounted to the MDF with spray adhesive. It has been two years since I finished the project and they are mostly still intact. Some corners have come loose but that is to be expected with daily use.

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  4. I'm giving this a shot too (love the look!) - I found the same hinges you used, but I'm noticing that they are really stiff. Did you have any issues with the torque they were putting on the screws, or did the wood glue take care of that?

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    Replies
    1. Sorry for the late responses...So far the wood has held together and the hinges have not pulled out. The hinges are still really stiff even after almost two years of constant usage.

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