Smaller Shelf Swap for Ikea HEMNES

Introduction: Smaller Shelf Swap for Ikea HEMNES

About: I'm an electrical engineering grad from Colorado who loves to hack my stuff and make it better. I also enjoy building things from scratch! Interested in electronics, microcontrollers and video game-themed crea…

The Problem:

I got this Ikea HEMNES, but I was a little disappointed with the small size of the upper shelves. Just look at how the PS5 barely squeezes in there! I thought, what if I swapped that space in the center, so that the shelf is roughly the size of the drawer, and vice versa? And with the One Board Contest, it seemed like a good way to try to accomplish that!


The Board

One 1x4 inch Pine, 6 ft long. This project only needs about 4 ft, but this is the smallest I could get. I went with pine since the original furniture was made out of it as well.

Note: Remember, the actual width and thickness are 3 1/2" x 3/4"!


Saw (nearly any, but table saw would probably work best)


Square/straight edge


Calipers or measuring tape

Wood glue

Step 1: Cut the Board

This is pretty straightforward. I measured the dimensions of the original drawer to size my board, then cut it with a handsaw. I would have preferred a table saw here if I had one available in order to get a more square cut, but the pine is at least relatively soft and can be cut through with a handsaw without much effort.

Step 2: Assemble Main Frame of Drawer

While the original drawer had some fancy plastic pegs with a nice smooth head, I opted to go basic here with some wood screws, since they'll be at the back of the drawer where they aren't really seen. For this part I pretty much just eyeballed where to drill the holes, and then assembled while against a square to try to keep it as square as possible. This is where not having a table saw hurts a bit, since it would be more foolproof the more perfectly square the boards are. In the end it wasn't perfect, but it works.

For the roller rails (which come from the original drawer), this was also tricky to line up exactly. On the original, the back of the drawer had a groove at the bottom for the bottom sheet. I have no groove, but the rails are meant to fit with the bottom slotted underneath. I did this, and lined it up as best I could in the back against the back board. It's important here to keep the rails at about the same distance so they'll roll smoothly. An extra hand would've been helpful here, but I did my best to hold it together in the "correct" spot, then mark the spots for drilling. Once marked, drilling and screwing it on is pretty simple.

Step 3: Check the Fit

This step is just a quick check that our drawer shape and the rails are going to work out before we proceed. I slid it onto the stand's roller rails in their original position. It works!

Step 4: Prepare to Make the Front

First, I moved the rails up. It was hard to know exactly the right location as it's hard to judge how much space the drawer will take up until it's seated on the rails. Plus, there is no front yet! Ultimately I went about four inches from the top beam, given the 3 1/2 "height" of the boards, and knowing that if I screwed up and had to re-drill, the holes would be mostly hidden from view.

Also, I knew I was going to cut down the original drawer front to use for the front of my drawer, so it didn't really matter if this was too long. The second picture here is a bit hard to make out, but this is me holding it up while slotted onto the drawer to get an idea of my cutoff height.

Step 5: Cut Down the Front

Here you can see the front board from the previous step has been cut down. I used a jig saw here since it was too long of a cut for the hand saw - again, it's not the ideal tool, but it does the job decent enough! In this pic I'm again holding it in place, it's still not attached.

You'll see in the next step why I used the original front instead of the same board, because I wanted the drawer bottom to have somewhere to slot into. Plus it gives me a little added height in the front instead of being uniform, and it's already painted (I don't have any white paint at the moment).

Step 6: Attaching the Front

This seemingly simple step to finalize the drawer was one of the most tricky, for a few reasons:

  • Fasteners should be hidden from the front, so screws aren't an option.
  • The board was cut shorter, so there is less room for fasteners.
  • Because the front needs to be kept clean, it's difficult to mark the holes on the interior, as opposed to if you just drilled straight through the front.
  • I don't have the proper tools to make holes for the metal nut thingies (I don't know what they're called, but if you're familiar with Ikea furniture you may know them), so I had to rely on just the dowel pegs.

To do this, basically I had to hold up the front to the drawer, then trace lines around that. Then I used those lines to measure to the center of the existing holes on the front board. Then I took those distances directly to the drawer boards. So in a way I basically transferred measurements from the drawer sides to the front and back to the sides again!

Drilling the holes was pretty straightforward except that the dowels seem to be between two sizes of bit that I had. I started out with the smaller bit but then moved on to the bigger one. This made it so the fit was not super snug.

Step 7: Assemble!

If everything lines up, you should be able to just push the front onto the rest of the drawer, joined with the dowels. I put some wood glue on the dowels due to the aforementioned problem with the drill bit size. It's not perfect, but for a quick project with limited tools, it works!

Step 8: Conclusion


As is often the case with wood working projects, keeping things square can make a big difference! I made it square enough to be functional, but there are definitely noticeable imperfections. This is where better tools can help out. The other thing, not to much surprise, is that finding the right measurements and locations for drilling, etc. could be quite challenging. The actual cuts and assembly are rather straightforward in comparison.


I realize I could have uniformly cut down the existing drawer. Then, I'd basically only be faced with the challenge of cutting each board straight, and not have as much to worry about with measurements. But since I don't have the best tools for that, and entering contests is fun, I thought I'd take on the challenge of building it on my own from (mostly) new wood!


In the future, if I get paint, I may paint the top of the front board, as well as re-center the knob when I can paint over the filled hole. I may add washers to the rails if I'm not satisfied with how the drawer sits on them. I could also experiment with moving the drawer back to the bottom, as I'd still get more shelf space. I consider it "done" now, but there's always room for improvement.

Thanks for reading, and happy making!

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