This project involved a mix of engineering, woodworking, and electrical techniques. The customer purchased the desk from a local natural wood furniture store and the hutch from Ikea. The mismatch in components created a challenge in how to fasten the two together in order to make the final assembly sturdy. While at it, I opted to enhance the desk by adding built-in LED lighting so the user would not need to consume desktop space for a lamp. The LED strip also provides uniform light that would minimize shadows on the desktop.
Special thanks to all those who have inspired my ideas and taught me the techniques used in the building of this project.
List of Materials I used (feel free to use others or support your local hardware store instead of the Big Box stores):
Ikea MICKE - http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90180025/
2x2 furring strip - http://www.homedepot.com/p/2-in-x-2-in-x-8-ft-Furring-Strip-Board-165360/202076422
#6 x 1 5/8” drywall screws - http://www.homedepot.com/p/Grip-Rite-6-x-1-5-8-in-Philips-Bugle-Head-Coarse-Thread-Sharp-Point-Drywall-Screw-158cdws1/100112584
Clear Acrylic sheet to protect desktop - http://www.homedepot.com/p/OPTIX-36-in-x-48-in-x-093-in-Acrylic-Sheet-MC-09/202038045
HitLights 2A LED Strip Light 24 Watt Power Supply - https://goo.gl/1dqoiR
HitLights SMD 3528 (8mm) LED Light Strip DC Connector - https://goo.gl/jxoq8X
HitLights Led Light Strip Dial Dimmer - https://goo.gl/JMGbDA
Warm White LED flexstrip - http://ajroilluminations.com/index.html or https://goo.gl/ZEDBy5
Step 1: Sizing Up the Problem
The stock braces that came with the hutch were tiny little metal strips. Thinking back to Physics class and the concepts of levers, I figured that these would not provide much holding strength should someone lean against the hutch with it not being securely placed against the wall. In the case of this installation, the room's baseboard molding would force a gap between the hutch and wall. The mismatch between the desk and hutch also resulted in the stock strips not even lining up with the wood, so another solution was needed.
In order to secure the hutch to the desk, I decided to design and fabricate some braces that could connect both pieces given the misalignment of their edges as well as compensate for the baseboard molding that prevented the desk from resting flush against the wall. The braces were made from 2x2 furring strip and secured with standard drywall screws (the duct tape of the fastener world, in my opinion).
Step 2: Brace Design
As shown in the photo, I sketched out some dimensioned drawings of the two braces. The offset holes allow for the screws to be centered on each respective piece of wood to minimize the risk of splitting. Holes will also be pre-drilled into the hutch and desk for the same reason. Note the two braces are mirrored from each other. A notch will need to be cut in each brace to make up for the thin board attached to the rear of the hutch which makes up the magnetic whiteboard.
Step 3: Brace Fabrication
Use a miter saw to cut a 45 degree miter on the ends of each brace. This is mainly for aesthetic reasons and is completely optional. I just needed an excuse to use the miter saw which I had not used in a long time.
Next, measure, mark, and drill the screw holes. I used a drill press to make things a bit easier. The drill press made drilling the larger holes even easier because I could set the depth of the press. The desired depth is deep enough to allow the screw head to recess and the threaded portion to protrude approximately an inch from the bottom of the brace. This should allow sufficient bite into the desk and hutch.
If you don't have a drill press, you can use a hand drill. Apply a piece of tape to the bit as shown in the photo to act as a depth indicator.
I used a table saw to cut what could loosely be referred to as a rabbet in each brace. Since the round table saw blade cannot perform a square cut, I used a scroll saw to complete the cut. Again, if you have different tools, feel free to use them. A jig saw or even a joiner or router might work just as well or even better.
Step 4: Test-fitting the Braces
Before painting and fastening, test fit the braces to the desk to ensure all holes and cuts are correct. Note in the photos the brace holes are mirrored and the notch (rabbet) allows the brace to sit flush against both the hutch and desk.
Step 5: Cutting the Acrylic Sheet
I opted to install an acrylic sheet over the desktop to protect it from rough use, dropped markers, etc.
The sheet can be treated similar to a piece of sheetrock, using the score and snap method to make the straight cuts.
Securely fasten the sheet, leaving the protective film in place.
Using a straight-edge and sharp utility knife, score the sheet several times (possibly 10 or more). Do not apply too much pressure while cutting or 1) you could go off course and gouge the sheet in a place you want to keep, 2) cut your finger which would NOT be good, make a mess, lead to a lot of harsh language, and cause undue delay of the completion of the project, or 3) you could crack the sheet.
After cutting, use some medium grit sandpaper (220 should do) to smooth the edges of the sheet. I also opted to hold the sanding block at a 45 degree angle to put a bevel on the sheet. If you do not have a sanding block, a scrap of the furring strip should do.
Remove the protective covering from the bottom of the sheet, clean with a clean, lint-free rag if necessary, and place on desktop. Pull back part of the protective cover from the top of the sheet far enough to allow the hutch to be put into place.
Place the hutch into position on top of the desk.
Step 6: Brace Installation
Perform one last check to verify the proper alignment of the hutch to the desk.
For each brace:
1) Place the brace into position and predrill one of the screw holes into the desk.
2) Install screw to secure brace to desk.
3) Recheck alignment of desk, hutch, and brace.
4) Predrill remaining holes and secure remaining screws.
Use caution when securing screws with a power driver. Using too much force can split the wood.
Step 7: Prep for LED Installation
Cut a small slot in the upper left corner of the whiteboard to allow routing of the LED wires.
I initially started with a drill, but the thin metal inside the whiteboard to make it magnetic along with the desire to make a slot led me to using a Dremel tool.
Hey, cut me some slack - I like using tools.
Step 8: LED Wiring
The LED lighting was assembled from the previously listed components as well as some odds and ends such as 16 AWG speaker wire, solder, and electrical tape.
I had to directly solder to the LED strip because the clips that came with the adapters did not match the LEDs. If you opt to purchase HitLights LED's then you should be able to use the clips. In either case, the speaker wire was used to extend the length of the cable so the dimmer could be conveniently located for the user.
I chose to keep the cable a bit longer than needed in the event the hutch needs to be separated from the desk.
1) Secure the wire to the LED strip, paying attention to which wire connects to the positive and negative. Typically on speaker wire, one side is smooth and one side has ridges.
2) Secure the barrel connector to the other end of the speaker wire. This barrel connector will connect to the dimmer module.
At this point, I plugged in the power pack and made sure the system worked.
One common sense note - do not look directly at the LED strip while turning it on or else you might see spots for a while afterward.
3) Locate the dimmer on the side of the desk so the user can easily reach it to adjust the light level. The dimmer I bought came with double-stick tape for easy installation.
4) To install the LED strip to the hutch, feed the LED strip through the hole in the whiteboard, peel back the adhesive backing, and press the strip into place. Work on a few inches at a time and be careful to not kink or damage the LEDs. LEDs can also be sensitive to static electricity, so use caution when handling. Do not wear staticy clothing while working with LEDs.
5) Once installed, work backward to the dimmer, securing the cable in place with wire management devices.
6) Finally, connect the barrel connector of the dimmer to the one you installed on the speaker cable.
Step 9: Final Touches
At this point, you can plug in the wall adapter and move the desk into its final position. As shown in the photo, the end user can easily reach the dimmer to adjust the brightness of the LEDs as needed.
I hope you enjoyed this project. Please feel free to comment with your suggestions and ideas on how others can make this project even better.