Ikea Hack: Kallax Work Table

I've been using one of those cheapo plastic pop up tables as a work table forever. The problem is that I'm usually standing to cut fabric and so I have to lean over to since it's not a standing height table and it's giving me all kinds of back issues. I already had one of these ikea units and I had put the matching set of casters on it years ago so it's perfect standing height for me as is. I figured it would be pretty easy to build a table top and add a couple of post legs to the other side. There were a few snags along the way but in the end I think it came out great!

Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm not a woodworker or builder or really work with lumber all that much so I'm pretty sure there are much more professional ways to do this but this is what I did.

Materials

  • Kallax Unit - 8 square
  • x3 Sets of Caster Wheels from Ikea
  • x2 2"x4"x8' pieces of wood
  • x3 2'x4'x.5" MDF sheets
  • x3 .74"x1.5"x8' pine boards
  • 3" screws
  • 1.25" screws and matching washers
  • drill
  • saw - I used a hack saw
  • staple gun
  • clamps
  • felt & glue gun (optional)
  • Margaritas & Queso & a laptop to play bobs burgers in the background (necessary)

THE TABLE TOP:

Alright I know I'm explaining a lot but I feel like I need to tell you how I got to where I did because I made a lot of mistakes that I want to tell you so you can avoid them.

Problem #1: I originally thought I would be able to use a nicer piece of plywood from the hardware store. You can get a good piece of pine or oak plywood that's pretty thick. The problem is that it comes as a 4'x8' board. I didn't know this was a problem because the size of that did not sink in when I read the dimensions on the website. When I got to Home Depot and looked at the board in person I was like OH, this is enormous and isn't fitting in my vehicle or literally anyone's vehicle that I know. I probably could have got them to cut it down to size for me but at this point I was second guessing what the final dimensions should be and what would fit in my studio. I decided I would opt for getting multiple boards that were 2'x4' and attach them together using a kreg jig to make pocket holes. So I picked up 3 boards and figured that if 8 feet was too long I would only use 2 boards. Now, if you read that and thought to yourself 3 boards measuring 2'x4' won't make an 8 foot long table then you would be better at math than me. I got to my studio lined up the 3 boards side by side and was like oh this looks great. I guess 8 feet isn't too long and then I held up one of the 8 foot pine boards I also bought at the hardware store and was like wait why is this longer. And then I took a measuring tape and measured all of the MDF boards and was like oh yeah 2 times 3 is 6. Please use this as a warning sign of how incompetent I am at building things. But you know what that didn't stop me. I just kept on keeping on making mistakes and learning from them.

Oh also I landed on MDF board because it seemed to be the smoothest option for that size board and I really need something that won't snag fabric or anything like that but you can choose whatever option or thickness you like from this section. I would definitely make sure the thickness is at least 1/2" or more so it's easier to add screws on one side without it going through the other.

Problem #2: I watch a lot of diy videos on youtube and I had seen people use a kreg jig before and it looked super easy. It was not easy for me. It kept sliding around because I couldn't really clamp it to the middle of the board. The drill bit you have to use is also super big and I was afraid it was going to go straight through the board and the whole reason I was using it was to join the boards together seamlessly. So I just scratched this whole plan and decided to build a frame to attach all the boards together.

FINALLY REAL INSTRUCTIONS: To join the boards together I first lined them next to each other and made sure everything was even and then clamped both ends. Then as another precaution I added a row of staples to ensure nothing would shift when I started to add screws. Note, I did not use wood glue because I know at some point I will want to take this table top apart. If that is not the case for you I would absolutely include wood glue when joining the boards together.

Next, I cut one of the pine boards to about 1.5' so that it doesn't quite go to the edge when I place it along the seam. Then I marked 9 sets of holes along this board about 1/4" in from the edge. You only need to drill pilot holes in the sets along the edge to start. Attach the pine board to the seam of the two MDF boards by adding two screws to either end of the board. Once the board is secure I went back and drilled pilot holes in all the other marked spots by using the tape trick to make sure I was drilling through both the pine board and into the mdf but not all the way through to the other side. Once you've drilled all the pilot holes add screws and repeat the whole process along the other seam. Note, the screws I got were just slightly too long so I used a washer to make sure it didn't pop through the other side of the mdf board.

After covering the seams with pine board I added another board along the length to make a complete frame. Since it was along the edge I was able to clamp the board and add all of the pilot holes in the same way as before. Repeat to the other length, flip right side up, and your table top is complete!

THE TABLE LEGS:

I had the completed table top balancing on top of the kallax unit so it was easy to measure from under the table top to the bottom of the caster wheel to know how tall I needed my table legs to be. Cut 4 pieces of 2x4 to that measurement. Screw together 2 of the pieces together to form one leg, sand smooth, and then hot glue a piece of felt to one end to prevent the wood from scratching the floor. Repeat for the remaining 2 pieces of wood. Now you have your two table legs!

ASSEMBLY:

This is a two person job to make sure everything is lined up and looking good. I started by attaching the two post legs. I attached each leg about 4-5" in from the edge by adding four 3" screws from the table top down into the legs. Note, I'm using this table for pretty lightweight things like cutting fabric and craft classes. There's never going to be a ton of weight being put on the table so this method of attaching the legs is totally fine for my purposes. I had talked to someone who actually knows how to build things and he had mentioned making sure there's some kind of brace like either a crossbeam of wood connecting two of the legs together or having a bracket situation but I ignored these suggestions and did what I wanted.

After both post legs are attached I moved on to adjusting the kallax unit. It took several tries of Ashley slightly lifting the table top and me adjusting and measuring the unit and then taking a step back and adjusting and measuring again. Once it's in place I locked the wheels so nothing moved around while I secured it with screws. Originally I was hoping to find a way around screwing into the top of the kallax but at this point in the project I was so ready to get this thing finished that I didn't care anymore. I did want the screws to be the farthest to the edge that they could be. However, because there was the frame between the kallax and the mdf board there was a gap along the furthest edge so I used some of the scrap pine board from building the frame and filled in the gap so that when I screwed in from the top it went through mdf board, pine board, and then into the kallax. I used three 3" screws to make sure it went into all the layers along each side of the kallax.

What a table journey this has been! I love the way it came out. I can gently lift the side of the table with the post legs and roll the whole table around if I need to. It's high enough that I can store stools underneath when I don't need them. And it's big enough to fit 8 people around comfortably! I bought some yellow metal stools from Amazon that look awesome with it. I'll make sure to update this with some photos when I have my first class around the new table!

 

Leave a comment