Introduction: IKEA Hack

Picture of IKEA Hack

The nice thing about IKEA furniture is that it is cheap and easy to hack. In other words, lets say that you were to buy two cheap $30 Gorm shelving units and assembled them to discover that one was crooked. Well then, it would be really easy to spend an afternoon converting the crooked one into a solid, stylish and symmetric bookshelf bench.

As you probably just guessed, this Instructable will show you how to convert a Gorm shelving unit into a bookshelf bench. With a few extra peices of hardware and a couple of basic power tools, you could be on your way to relaxation and organization all at the same time.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

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You will need:
(x1) Gorm shelving unit
(x1) 2x4
(x1) 92.75" x 12" x 3/4" piece of plywood (I inherited an awesome piece of bamboo plywood for this project)
(x16) 3/8" Crossdowels
(x16) Bolts 2-1/2" (to fit crossdowels)
(x8) 2" woodscrews
(x1) 50 feet of rope
(x1) A tape measure and pencil
(x1) Circular saw
(x1) Sanding block and/or sandpaper
(x1) Power drill, 3/32" and 3/8" drill bit
(x1) Assorted hand tools

Fabric, foam and stuff for a cushion - see Step 13

Step 2: Assemble Your Crooked Bookshelf

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Assemble your Gorm bookshelf to realize that two out of the 4 posts are crooked. Stare at it in displeasure.

Resolve to take drastic actions.

Step 3: Cut a 2x4 Into 4

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Cut four 12.25" lengths of 2x4.

Step 4: Drill Holes

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With a 3/8" drill bit, drill holes in the ends of the 2x4 such that they are 3/4" in from each edge (top, bottom, left and right).

Also drill holes on the flat surface of the board that is 2" in from the far edge and is perfectly aligned with the hole you first drilled. In other words, this hole should intersect at a 'T'.

Step 5: Take Apart Your Bookshelf

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Disassemble your horribly crooked bookshelf. Select the two prettiest and straightest beams to cut up for use as the supports for the bench.  You will be able to make six supports with these two beams.

Using the two ugly beams, you should be able to get 1 support from each.

Step 6: Cut the Beams

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Cut one of the nice-looking bookshelf beams starting from the bottom edge (edge that used to be on the floor) and cut it to a height of 18.25".

Next, take the first piece you cut and line up its holes with the holes on the new bottom edge on the board. Make a mark on the longer board at each end of the first cut beam. Using the two lines you just drew as cutting guides , make two cuts. You should now have a second beam. Now, use the first beam to line up to the holes on the opposite side of the board and make cut marks as appropriate so they are all the same size. Cut at these markings. You should now have 3 beams.

Repeat this process on the second pretty looking beam.

Next grab the two ugly-looking beams. Measure in from either the bottom or top edges (whichever edge looks best) of both ugly beams and make one cut on each to produce two more 18.25" beams.

You should now have eight 18.25" beams with all of the holes lined up.

Step 7: Sand

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Sand and smooth any rough edges you may have from sawing and/or drilling the 2x4 or bookshelf beams.

Step 8: Insert Cross Dowels

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Insert cross dowels into the four holes drilled through the surface of the 2x4 sections. Depending on the tolerance involved, this may require driving the crossdowels into the holes with a hammer. To push it in beyond the surface of the board, place a screwdriver or chisel atop the crossdowel and slightly tap it with the hammer. Make certain that the slots on the crossdowels are all facing the same direction inside the board.

Step 9: Build the Frame

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Using the Ikea hardware, attach three shelves to the lowest holes in the bookshelf beams. Next, using your 2.5" bolts and crossdowels, attach the 2x4 sections to the topmost holes of the boards.

Step 10: Fasten the Seat

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Flip your bookshelf bench upside down so that it is perfectly aligned over the top of your plywood.

Drill two 3/32" pilot holes in each of the 2x4s such that it goes all the way through into the piece of plywood.

Using your woodscrews, fasten the plywood to the 2x4. Make sure you apply a lot of pressure downwards while drilling so that the two surfaces are fastened tightly flush together.

Step 11: String It Up

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Thread rope through the extra screw holes in the boards to serve as book ends and keep books from falling off the ends or through the cracks in the middle.

Basically, on the two ends, you should tie a knot and pass the rope through to form a rectangle. Once all the way through, pull it tight and tie the rope together so that the rectangle is closed.

The middle sections are slightly trickier, but basically you do the same thing, but rather than closing the rectangle by tying it shut, you start to pass it through again from the back to form another rectangle. Once done, you pull it tight and tie the end of the rope to the knot at the beginning. This will create two sets of two parallel ropes and two "vertical lines" in the front, which will aesthetically match the two ends.

Step 12: Add Books

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Arrange your books on the book shelf. You may want to consider placing larger books towards each end to make sure the rope doesn't accidentally let smaller books slip through.

Step 13: Make a Cushion (optional)

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Make yourself a nice comfortable cushion as outlined in the this Bench Cushion Instructable.


Garggle made it! (author)2016-01-06

I did it ! Thank you for the idea and the step by step explanations. I made some adjustments (lenght, height) but the idea is totally here ! Bybye the awfull old shelving that was neither practical nor pretty.

walter1999 made it! (author)2011-03-09

perfect apt book solution. THANK YOU!!!!

randofo (author)walter19992011-03-09

That's awesome! Glad that worked out for you. It works well with all of those plants.

dollywild made it! (author)2010-05-06

 Here's what I did with your idea- Thanks!  We are all hanging out on the porch much more now.

randofo (author)dollywild2010-05-06

Wow. That looks great! Very cool. I like how that turned out very much.

LovesGadgets (author)2017-01-01

We lost all our Gorm shelving screws in our last move! Worst thing that happened. Ikea sells 4 screws for $9.90 plus shipping, but need about 50. What size do I need as a replacement? Figure it must be metric.

Any help from the Instructables community is MUCH appreciated. Thanks.


Luziviech (author)2016-12-18

if you need a shoe rack, replace the silly black screws by ~15cm long counter-sink bolts that run with their heads evenly into to the planks and use wooden angles cut to 45° (Pythagoras helps out measuring the longer sides of these trapezes) for stability of the construction before screwing all to a wall - i'm too lazy to write an ible for this; i build all my boards like this, cheaper than buying angles from the hardware store.

BartholomewH (author)2015-04-28

Dope flat pack hack you've done there! The crooked bookshelf you've assembled has turned out look absolutely awesome! Montage looks clean and stable, all steps are clear and easy to follow. This is how you do furniture assembly the right way! I myself would personally even change to bookshelf colour but RAW is beautiful as well!

Kind Regards!
Fantastic Furniture Assembly

BartholomewH (author)2015-04-19

DOpe instructable!
Ikea assembly services can only envy you!

BartholomewH (author)2015-04-09

Nice job mate!
You could be a pro!

ninjachimp09 (author)2014-12-28

cool looks like I'm going to IKEA

raxas (author)2014-09-01

hahaha best assistant ever!

RobertP1 (author)2014-08-11


carabistouille (author)2014-07-10

Great job !

tdũng1 (author)2014-02-06

I Made it. Nice solution. Thanks.

msharpe4 (author)2014-01-08

What weight will it support?

mwilson50 (author)2013-02-05

'Looks great!

djabunDANCE (author)2012-07-10

I love this! but i need a specific size for my project (70"W x 20"H).
I didn't see the finished size anywhere (maybe i didnt look hard enough ;)
Seems 92.75"W x 18.25"H x 12"D to me...
Could you let me know for certain? Thanks!

Schmidty16 (author)2012-06-25

cool i thought it was a bed with storage first lol

_pstsh (author)2012-05-24

Hello guys !
Im from France and I have to convert all those measures to european system.
Anyone knows what size of lumber in centimeters is a "2x4" ?
Is it 1.5 in × 3.5 in so 3,8 cm × 8,9 cm ?


tfm (author)2011-12-13

Could someone tell me the size of the heads on the hex bolts? Even Ikea doesn't know...I need to break some down in my storage space and I don't want to lug a full ratchet set.


ljohansson2 (author)2011-12-13

How long is that in cm?

shivika (author)2011-07-05

how do you get 4 12.25" pieces from a 48" piece of wood. doesn't that total 49". should it be 12" inches each?

randofo (author)shivika2011-07-05

I never specified the length of the 2x4.

yoga_beyotch (author)randofo2011-10-07

Uh, yes, it's right there on the Step 3 page.

"Cut four 12.25" lengths of 2x4."

Is that correct or should it be 12 inches? Just want to be perfectly correct in this hack.

randofo (author)yoga_beyotch2011-10-07

Yes. The Ikea shelved are 12.25" wide. You can measure them to make certain this is correct.

cracker_jax (author)2010-09-21

Just finished and I feel like I wasted $100. Here are some observations:
-The variable spacing of the holes in the ikea planks used makes this unlevel on the floor.
-A "cross dowel" costs, literally, $1 at Home Depot. These 16 parts cost half the shelving unit.
-Without a drill press, you cannot guarantee your holes will go in straight, therefore you either redrill old wood, redrill new wood, or accept that 1/4 of your 2x4 supports are half supported
-The variable spacing of the holes in the ikea planks used makes this the wrong height on the top for a sheet of 3/4" plywood, and only revealed when complete how each is differently too long.
-Cutting plywood to be the legs without a chop-saw is unrealistic. Luckily I had access to one.
-2 1/2" bolts are too short. 3" bolts fit perfectly. Another trip to Home Depot to switch them out. As for those cute flat bolts that use a hex key to screw in, those are also very expensive and hard to find at length. I had to use generics which I fear will tear up the legs of those sitting on the bench.

Suggestions for anyone about to build this:
-Get some good wood screws and predrill your 2x4s for that, not the cross dowel debacle. Muuuuuch cheaper, and flatter. No need for crossing the holes.
-Use a chop saw for the 2x4 cutting and if you can have the store rip your plywood, do it. Hand guiding a circular saw is not easy or accurate.
-If you're some super cool woodworking pro, have at the original instructions.

Thats all. Still a welcome education but there will be a lot of work trying to fix this so nobody gets hurt.

randofo (author)cracker_jax2010-09-23

Did you try lining up all of the holes with the initial section that you cut before you made additional cuts for the remaining sections as directed? I didn't have this problem.

A 3/8" hole is much larger than you actually need for the bolt and drilling a straight hole for the nut halfway down through a 2x4 I didn't find particularly challenging as you are only going down about an inch at most.

Even if the hole that you drill in to meet the nut isn't perfectly straight, assuming that you pay attention to what you are doing to begin with, sink the nut in straight, and the bolt ultimately meets the nut, the angle at which the channel is drilled is irrelevant. The bolt is only going to screw into the nut at a right angle (give or take a tiny bit).

And then, assuming that even a bolt or two is sunk in crooked and two adjacent bolts are at mildly different right angles, when fastened to the leg, considering the softness of the wood and the tension created by fastening the bolt tightly, this will only be a problem insofar as your bench will not look pretty as some screw head will appear to be sunk in mildly crooked. I don't see how you figure them to be half supported.

I didn't buy cross dowels at Home Depot as they are too expensive. Home Depot deals mainly in moving mass quantities of generic goods and not specialty items such as cross dowels.

If I remember correctly, I spent about $15, give or take, on the hardware and bought full boxes of both the screws and the nuts, which was way more than I needed. If you are interested in saving money you can shop at your local independent hardware store, like I did, or order online from McMaster-Carr.

You can also use wood screws and washers as you suggested, but, in my opinion, it slightly changes the aesthetic and I felt it would be stronger if I used cross dowels.

If you don't have a chop saw, you can use a circular saw or jig saw. If you are not confident enough to measure and cut the semblance of a straight line on your own, you can use C-clamps and a piece of scrap wood to create a guide for the saw. Claiming it is unrealistic to use anything but a chop saw is silly because I did just that and it turned out fine.

I don't have a giant shop at my disposal with drill presses and chop saws, but a modicum of power tools. It was not my goal here to teach anyone basic woodworking skills, but to show how I went about making this bench

woodNfish (author)randofo2011-04-24

You are right about the strength using wood screws. Wood screws do not hold as well when screwed into end-grain. However, cross dowels are expensive and not easily found. They are available from most woodworking stores and online.

Drilling a straight hole can be difficult, but you can buy inexpensive alignment jigs that will attach to a power hand drill and will let you drill straight holes at any desired angle for under $30 US.

alanemartin (author)woodNfish2011-04-25

My cordless drill has a bubble level built on to the back so that it's easy to keep those vertical holes vertical. I'd imagine you could buy a bubble level and hot glue/super glue it to your drill.

Ditto on the cross-dowels vs. wood screws. Especially if this becomes a bench with folks sitting on it. It's like using mini bed hanger bolts.

Nice Instructable, randofo. I'm having a bit of circ saw envy, though. ;)

woodNfish (author)alanemartin2011-04-25

My drill has the bubble too, but if you are trying to drill a hole to a certain depth, it is difficult to watch the level and the drill bit at the same time. The jigs come with depth stops and once you set the angle, you don't have to worry about it anymore.

Also, instead of using cross dowels, you can use a wood dowel and a wood screw. (I recommend Kreg screws.) Just drill a hole the diameter of the dowel through the narrow width of the board and glue in a length of dowel to fill the hole. Make sure you are only about an inch or so from the end of the board so that your screws are long enough to go through the dowel. The dowel is stronger than the end grain and will give you good holding strength. If you use kreg screws make sure you only drill a small pilot hole to guide the screw. Don't drill a hole the same diameter of the screw or it won't have any wood for the threads to grip.

slaitch (author)woodNfish2011-05-24

Simplest trick ever for drilling to a certain depth while watching the level: strip of duct tape on the drill bit. The sound changes when you reach your target depth.

mneedler (author)slaitch2011-08-08

nice tricks! Thanks guys. I love to woodwork but never had in instruction from anyone. Ppl dont expect a woman to be doing these kinds of things, but I enjoy it.
Thanks again.

alanemartin (author)mneedler2011-08-08


Check out and Lots of good info from men and women.

woodNfish (author)slaitch2011-05-25

Yes, that is a useful trick and one I use often. But it does not guarantee a straight hole. If you are too cheap or too poor to buy the drill guide I mentioned, you can use a straight block of wood with 90 degree edges to guide your drill bit. Just lay the bit up against the side of the block and drill. If you cut the block to the proper height, you can use it as a depth stop too.

poza (author)cracker_jax2011-04-26

i guess i'm a little late to the party, but... to straight cut plywood using a circular saw use another 4x8 sheet of plywood clamped on top of the one being cut - leaving enough width for the flat plate of the saw to slide on the plywood being cut. that is, the top, clamped plywood acts as a fence or guide. in my opinion the most frustrating part about sawing plywood is not the straight line - instead it's the large amount of space needed to work.

wilwrk4tls (author)poza2011-05-25

Here is a link to my Instructable for a circular saw fence to help deal with plywood and such.

Kelticpaddler (author)2011-05-26

I threaded the string across the back, diagonally to form a (tight) cross, making the whole structure more rigid.

You could also just buy wth wire braces that Ikea sell for these units.

жбеспалов (author)2011-05-25

Заходите!!!!!!!!!! Обо всём в сети

gamini (author)2011-05-25

wooooooow good ,,, I love the looks of this

darkclaw42 (author)2011-04-24

Cool project!
I've got to ask about those speakers though!

randofo (author)darkclaw422011-04-24

They are Pioneer CS-510 speakers. Some guy in my neighborhood was moving one day and was giving away most of his stuff and I picked up those speakers (amongst other things). I have been quite pleased with how they sound.

Smithcraft (author)2011-04-24

A screwdriver is not a punch or a drift!

Otherwise, very nice work. However I usually just take warped Ikea bits back, and get straight pieces. I have seen them go through every box looking for good parts. I'm not sure what they did with the sets of warped wood...

porcupinemamma (author)2011-04-24

dollywild-Love what you did! Would have been perfect when my children were young!

porcupinemamma (author)2011-04-24

Very coooooooooool!! Thanks for your excellent Instructable.:0)

LilithAvalon (author)2011-04-24

Nice idea. I'll probably skip the step of hacking Ikea furniture and just make a shelf the size I need. Because that's how I roll. Besides, I got an existing futon cushion I want to make a non-futon frame for, and I like practical furniture.

Brilliant use of what would otherwise be a waste of material.
I use Ikea cabinets and doors etc to make bespoke furniture for my clients.
I have come to see Ikea as a cheap supplier for my designs.
Well done you

ornamentea (author)2010-08-26

This is so clever! Perfect space-saving, and the open shelves still look cool.

frenzy (author)2010-08-13

I like that you as well own a copy of revolution for the hell of it.

matt.t.mcgowan (author)2010-08-11

What a great and simple idea. Looks awesome. I must pay homage to this project has inspired my work. Check out my GORM coffee table on Instructables to see more.

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Randy and I founded the Instructables Design Studio. I'm also the author of the books 'Simple Bots,' and '62 Projects to ... More »
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