Monday, March 30, 2015

The advantage of IKEA Hacking

Chapter 1

I am in the process of building my new favourite thing - they are all my favourites. This design was particularly challenging - given the desire to create a a elements of symmetry - and balance - in a difficult space. I am using my favourite material - plastic laminate from ABET - nice, white, high-gloss. My favourite thing about laminates is the ability to create large seamless surfaces - properly prepared substrate will produce superior results - large flawless sheen. Put that together with some detailing and proportions and you got yourself a beaute! 

Not only it is a nice design, I am have the pleasure of building it properly - just as it should - the right material used in an appropriate way - structurally superior. It just feels right. 

The right materials are always used for the appropriate purpose. Exterior plywood that is glued and screwed together will make for a nice rigid base - it will need it - it will fill with books in no time. Bookcases are so nice to design and build because they are put to use immediately - they just fill up with books right away - the new owners take advantage of the increased functionality immediately. 

In front you can see the bottom of the torsion box that will be used to create the two slabs. The really nice, I wanna say 'luxurious', detail is the curvature of the horizontal slabs - they are very subtle - gentle sweep across the bookcases - top and bottom. On top, two boxes with dividers - the most optimum way of utilizing that space, but still making it look really good. Curved elements always require making of a template that is then used to fabricate the finished piece.- it's an additional cost. Here, I bend a plank to achieve a fair curve. 

[To Be Continued}

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Properly installed IKEA island - part 2 OR What was wrong with AKURUM?

CHapter 1 - From my last e-mail;

Hi Richard,

Sorry, one last thing - I opened a set of legs - I wanted to see something - if you could not return them - I will pay you for them. I opened them because I wanted to see how they would perform in your situation - if you hired anyone else they would have very likely used them along with the 'stabilizing kit' - which in my opinion is not that great.

I expect to be in Oakville in near future, I could always pick them up then. I could always look at the slab too, see how it is sitting.

Also, based on my experience with this slab - since I make 'aftermarket parts for IKEA kitchens' I was considering making a set of L-rails predrilled for IKEA pattern that would allow for slab such as yours to be held down properly - would you be interested in an add-on like that? There is cool metal shop right next to my shop‎ - I would ask for a quote - this would be a prototype - if you decide to purchase then I will install it for you free - a test. I think it would be successful - and I will start offering it.

All best,

Studio Kosnik

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.


I am a sucker for my Blackberry - Q20 - it's easy to bang out e-mails like that. It's natural.

Chapter 2 -What was wrong with AKURUM?

This install actually got me thinking - what if Richard did not hire me, it would have been likely that whoever did the install would have used the IKEA legs - at about 6" high, they would be tipsy. 6" was not an arbitrary height, it was required to match the other side of the countertop height. My idea to start making custom bases for IKEA kitchens came out of the frustration of plastic legs snapping off during AKURUM installs - especially on tall pantries - 'it was pain in the a** to use them!'. Then it was only natural that when the first kitchen island came, and it was like 'how do I fix this thing to the floor now, so it don't wobble?' - and the plywood kicks were so easy, especially with plumbing or electrical, it was good fit. Once the parts were fabricated - with the use of adhesives - one part naturally reinforced the other, all components working together - it was easy to level - great deal of frustration was taken out of the process of installation. I had the AKURUM system nailed!

And then SEKTION happened. Now SEKTION did not happen arbitrarily. IKEA recognized that there was market for a well manufactured, mass produced, very affordable kitchen. They sold 7.7 million units previously and they are clearly going for a new record - everyone needs a kitchen. The renovation market is huge, why not advantage of it. SEKTION has completely new geometry - for me, who is a designer - I consider myself fairly experienced - I am still thinking about all the choice that IKEA made - IKEA does not make arbitrary choices - IKEA only makes profitable choices. Any difference between AKURUM and SEKTION are a direct result of an improvement of a weakness. Here is the list - there probably still will be things added to it, but these are my immediate thoughts:

A] Made in the USA. AKURUMS were also made in the US, but the print was tiny, and easy to miss, and no one at that time was mass producing cabinetry in China. But on SEKTION? Boy, when I saw that big, bold and printed on the back of the gables, for something that will never see the light of day except for few short hours as it is being put together; good choice of font; great contrast; clear and easy to read on what seems to be a sealed edge [I am actually quite curious as top that edge treatment - remember, I am new to SEKTION as well, just like you dear reader] - 'MADE IN THE USA!' it shouted. It's true there is a lot of cabinetry - cheap cabinetry being imported from places were labour is cheap and sourcing of materials is not as strict and regulated. Feel good about your purchase, you are supporting a strong AMERICAN economy! Although I bet that it is manufactured somewhere in the deep south - not the heart of Manhattan.

Remember NAFTA? Just for kicks, I will price out an identical kitchen in the USA - say New York City, Manhattan? - and than factor in pick up+delivery - and with the plunging plunging Canadian dollar, who knows...road trip! Through the Catskill's cheaper...we'd stop to swim in a river...haulin' IKEA SEKTION kitchen. I like long roadtrips - I would make it a good one - we'd have to shoot video. This is what the drive through Catskill Mountains looks like...

And if you are thinking, that this is outrages - I was once asked if I would consider doing an install in Buffalo, USA! There is no IKEA in Bufallo, the kitchen was purchased in Toronto, Canada and hauled over the border. I did not do it - yes, I would show up with a van full of tools, and I would have to explain to the American border agents that I am going to Buffalo to install cabintery, and I would be back in few days - I would promise them that...

So, 'Made in the USA', it is a purely psychological improvement - IKEA always made their kitchens for the North American market in North America.

B] that printed dotted line - also found on the back of the gables - it indicates 'nail along the line'. I bet that there were lots of missed nails, visibly popping through the sides - it happened to me too, couple of times - although I used a nailer.

C] the grooved gables + slide in backs - if you did not glue in your AKURUM back and put in an occasional screw, the humidity, the movement eventually cause for gaps to appear between the flexible, thin backs and the more rigid sides. Grooved design eliminated that. 

D] the MDF stretchers on AKRURUMS are now replaced with steel stretchers. They would occasionally snap - I always made a point of not lifting AKURUMS by the stretchers - sometimes I would add a plywood vertical strip to it - when it was possible to do so, for strength.


FIN [the end]

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Properly installed IKEA island.

Chapter 1 - A nice IKEA kitchen island - properly installed. 

I am getting so many requests for a 'full-explanation' blog post on how I build my IKEA islands - from all over North America. 'Please write more'., 'provide illustrations'. I like the idea, but consider that it may take up to 36 hours to produce a proper e-book that would deal with the subject. And I would not call it a beginner's project - if you are having trouble assembling the SEKTION boxes, than you likely would find fabricating my kicks challenging. But I am considering it - I am not sure how much I would charge for such an e-book. And I would likely expand on more subjects - pertaining to what I call a 'better IKEA install'. 'IKEA does a good job - you make it better' - I should copyright that phrase.

Look - once the solid wood slab will be added, this thing is going to be like a rock! Here is something - the height of the wooden slab on the island was matched to that the existing granite slab. But, the height of the the existing garnite slab is atypical - it's higher - at that height I would advise against using the IKEA plastic legs - IKEA base cabinets are only 30" high. With my system, this was not an issue at all - it was set at the required height - that's flexibility. 

Here is my base all nice and leveled. The geometry and method of fabrication make the base act as a thick slab - it's very rigid. 

What is the easiest way to strengthen any project - on the cheap? Use adhesives - the right adhesives. Woodworking glue, silicone adhesives, polyurethane adhesives are inexpensive, and if properly used will provide superior performance  - I use adhesives liberally in all my work. This bottom cleat is screwed down to the floor but it is also bedded in an adhesive - it will make for a a very strong joint between dissimilar materials. 

And finally, even for smaller IKEA installs it is surprising the amount of equipment required to achieve superior execution. This is my setup - I have all the tools. Biggest chuckle I get is out of those IKEA instructions booklets showing a Philips screwdriver used for major assembly, ha ha ha! Put in that cordless drill! Be realistic at least!
I really love my minivan - the Dodge Grand Caravan will fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood flat, once the seats are folded into the floor - it is an excellent, very flexible work vehicle for me. I use it to haul from IKEA all the time. 

EDIT: Someone commented on my Grand Caravan. My Grand Caravan is awesome! If you live in the city of Toronto and spot a dark Grand Caravan with blue lights underneath - that's me! When I was in high school all the 'cool kids' had lights under their cars - and I was preparing for my 'engineering career', and I promised myself that one day I too will have a cool car with lights underneath. Now - years later... - someone's got to live the dream, right?  LOL.

Chapter 2  - Symmetry is beautiful

One of the greatest challenges when designing millwork is dealing with 'awkward dimensions'. What are 'awkward dimensions'? Well, so imagine a nice house. And that house has a very nice, big, spacious, bright, open, finished basement. What it also has are - windows, casings, doors, bulkheads, boxes, access points. How do you create a nice, coherent design in a 'chaotic space'. Creating symmetry is such space - using cabinetry - is very challenging. 

But I think I have succeeded. I am finishing sketching/resolving/brainstoming all the nitty-gritty details that were bothering me - it's an important step - for a really nice design. It will have a very luxurious feel - it's gonna be part IKEA hack - part custom built. It will have all the right design elements. It will look gorgeous. Check back, for the next update I should have some elevation sketches ready and be cutting into the Billy bookcases!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Where are the kitchens! Huh?! Where are the kitchens?!

Chapter 1 - Sorry!

No kitchens here just yet! They are coming though! See - blogging - is almost like a full time job on top of being a designer and a woodworker. My hope is to give you 'the best of Studio Kosnik' - I almost had a TV show - for real - so there was an opportunity to stream my crazy life for all to see - but that fell through when IKEA sued and the producers got scared. Ya, crazy - I wrote about it here.


Someone wrote complaining that there are 'not enough kitchens' being shown. 'Where are the kitchens?!' - they wrote - 'where are the kitchens?!'.
Well.... Instead of a kitchen I present you 'the library'! Keeping in line with me being efficient - just like IKEA - I blog and e-mail at at the same time so.

Hello Katherine and Darren, I would like to present you with your new 'little library'!

Couple of points:

A] Remember to tighten/un-tighten the screws on the door by hand - if you use a power tool you run the risk of stripping the thread. The human hand will apply just enough pressure to properly adjust any screws. Also remove all hardware prior to painting. Once dry you should install weather-stripping on the interior frame to completely seal the box - no bugs will get it.

B] All exterior screws are stainless steel - just paint them over - it's an economical way of building. All joints feature exterior grade glue. 

C] The plywood itself is hardwood - baltic birch plywood, 1/2" thick. The box features a design that - in my opinion - is 'vandal-proof'. My worst fear was a bunch of teenagers driving in an el-Camino on a Friday night  smashing the mailboxes/libraries. The doors are partially set-in to protect them from side impact. The box is very rigid with interior hardwood framing - it will take quite the bashing before it breaks - AND - it protects the doors. I decided to upgrade the window to thicker acrylic. 

D] Reading properly into the 'small library trends', I made a decision to make the library compatible with LP [aka VINYL], large coffee table books, hard cover units as well as paperbacks, pulp fiction and even 'cheesie' harlequines [sp?] - if you choose to. It will be up to you to make a decision as to what to stock up and what not.

E] The oak doors are well made and can be stained and then need to be clear coated with an oil-based top coat - 2 coats minimum- sand lightly between coats. One thing to keep in mind, varnishes require more maintenance than solid colour paints. 

F] Leave the roof unfinished. It's cedar shingles - they will age nicely and acquire a charming patina. I tarred the roof before application of shingles! Only quality build here!

To be continued!

Chapter 2

Some pictures, because they still show I work, but they take less time to post!
I am a visual person too!

From ABET's Serigrafia collection, I am using it do a nice Storage/Media unit - it's going to be a MALM hack. I keep promising the guys at ABET [Hi Hernan!] that I will write a proper review of how much I love ABET Laminati, what an awesome product that is - I have done acres of laminates in my previous life as a commercial cabinetmaker - they are beautiful quality, Italian laminates, that come in all 700 colours of the rainbow - in stock everyday. Their showroom is incredibly impressive - all the finishes are ABET - from laminates, to flooring, wall treatments, lighting panels - absolutely anything you would need to spec out your project! There I did it! A short and sweet review!

It was so nice and warm for the last couple of days that I opened the door to air out the shop. First time this season!!