Wednesday, 17 February 2016

OaKallax: Swedish particle board meets sexy hardwood

My study was a shambles, boxes everywhere, and a pile of disused red Expedit inserts working as free-standing storage after the shelves were filled with books instead.

I needed a shelf unit to display my precious things, i needed to do something with these damned inserts, and i needed to exercise my design muscles.

For a few years now i've had this thing for pairing satin white paint finishes with lovely local oak. During my industrial design studies i was a sucker for the purity of Bauhaus, but i've mellowed and come to love the practical, yet softer Danish Modern style. Simple things.

The new Ikea Kallax shelf unit, in white, with the exposed steel allen screw heads was a perfect starting point. Not only was it fine minimalism, but it was also very light for its strength, which is handy for building up high. I bought two of them, to mount horizontally, inside a solid oak frame.

My choice of timber was easy, the local hardware store had 18x18x2400mm sticks of "dressed all round" Tasmanian Oak. It runs the gamut from straw-yellow to pink, but there was so much available that it was easy to have a nice consistency. Once built it would be sanded smooth, and left raw.

I laminated the frame, building it from two separate layers. This had a range of desirable effects: It made the now 36mm thick frame significantly stiffer, it hid all of the screw heads and dowels, and it created very simple, very square double rabet joints.

In fact, because the frame stock was a square profile, each length of timber only needed to be cut once. Cutting the inner vertical pieces would automatically create the outer horizontals, and vice versa. There is no timber waste!

The inner verticals were pre-drilled with three counter-sunk holes per Kallax end piece, then screwed and glued to the Kallax. Then the horizontals were attached with another screw.

The outer verticals, which cover all of the screws and the end grain of the inners, are dowelled then glued to the inner frame, and clamped for several hours.

Once the frames were constructed (one per end), it was a simple task of joining them together by screwing the kallax centre sections in, then standing the unit up.

The skinny little frame can easily hold more than the Kallax can handle, but then it IS real wood. I love the way the timber plays against the satin white and raw steel. It's also good to be able to see the carpet in my study again.

With a Striberg light bar fitted to the back of the upper shelf, it provides a discrete display light. But things almost got much whackier:

Maybe some day, if i'm asked nicely...

Like this? See my other Ikea hacks!


  1. Hi, nice hack! Can you tell which software do you use for prototyping? Thanks!

    1. For this kind of stuff i just use Sketchup. It's super easy to work with, very fast compared to something like SolidEdge.

      And it's free, which helps! :P