Monday, June 2, 2014

Hacking Hemnes! + #BB4Life


I am a Blackberry user 4 LIFE. #BB4Life

When my phone goes off and I am working, in an instant I step away from the saw and reach into my pocket to pull out my Blackberry.  I read the e-mail and in the next 3 minutes I bang out a well crafted essay - a quote - all without having to take my work gloves off. The quote goes through. I am the world's first professional IKEA Hacker and I love my Blackberry. 

Chapter 1

Did it -  my first Hemnes Hack. I feel more confident now, as it looks like there is a much larger in the works for late summer. Oh it is going to be beautiful! It's a combination of bookcases, a desk, a  really nice Abet Laminati* work surface , solid wood slab doors - all hacked and repurposed. All accented with some nice luxurious touches - fabric. 

It was a conversion of a desk into a make-up vanity. The owner let me design it for him - he already selected the tiles. Since I  already decided to use the White Hemnes desk I wanted to offset it with something. 

IKEA made a mistake - yea! IKEA makes mistakes! [but shhhh....don't tell anybody, OK?] - and for the kitchen downstairs they delivered a wrong size AKURUM - a 36" lower unit that I was going to reuse for vanity. I like their high-gloss white doors and their cool, modern look would contrast well the softness of the whitewash solid pine of the desk. 

The white Hemnes is my favourite - a very nice pastel finish. I had a friend -  another designer/maker -  fooled into thinking that I did it - I am a pro-finisher. But I did finish the solid wood drawers that come with nice BLUM slides with a water based finish - 2 things - the finish really brought out the nice grain of the drawers AND drawers are easy to clean, water base will resist nail-polish remover better. Hey! it's a quality product. 

I was really impressed  with the quality of their solid wood panel - it was surprisingly thin, only 1/2". I can hear some purists argue that it's too thin. Nah - it takes good skill to produce a well made solid wood panel at that thines and such large size. Plus, with IKEA consuming 1% of world's wood - they source from all over the world - they make that panel any thicker and the forrest behind your house will be gone.**

Looks aside, from the technical point - I was challenged. While I have the BILLY bookcases system nailed, and PAX is just real nice design to hack - they are sheet goods designs. You can put a screw anywhere you want. Hemnes is different - it's all solid wood. All the fine craftspeople will tell you that building with solid wood is expensive and difficult - especially when you got large surfaces to cover.  That's why I like the Hemnes design - the frame-and-panel design allows to cover acres of space! That is important when you are building storage, bookcases, desks, doors. Solid wood, even though cut down, machined, milled, sanded and finished is still a living product that reacts to the environment - mainly moisture. Frame-and-panel designs date to, oh, JC and Joseph at least! Modern woodworking technology managed to improve on production time - BUT solid wood is still is the master of its own domain. 

And this is why, when I first opened the Hemnes box and I inspected the various parts and elements of the Hemnes box I decided to take the rest of the day off. Yea! A day off! You know why? Cause I had to think and brainstorm. I had a coffee first. I walked around and looked at all the pieces. I handled them and tested them for strength. Then I had another coffee and did more of the same. Then 5 o'clock hit and I cracked a beer. Then I lured Charles - who is a hacker in his own domain - Ultimate Workshop - with a promise of a beer so he could comment on the project. Then Tom and Alistair came by - both designer and woodworkers. We had some more beverages. It ended up being a free-for-all Hemnes hacking party! Everyone does IKEA hacking. Everyone. 

I first decided to finish the drawer boxes and the backs of the  drawer faces. Oh the grain on the solid wood just popped up - I really liked the look. The water-based finish in semi-gloss is an excellent, durable, easy-to-apply finish that is hardwearing [trust me, good story there....] and will resist harsh chemicals such as nail-polish remover aka acetone MUCH better than any solvent based finish. 
I reasoned that if the lady of the house was going to use this as a make-up desk/vanity it was very likely that some beauty product - like nail-polish or mascara was going to end up on the drawers and will need to be cleaned up.

The next challenge was of engineering type - I had to strengthen the structural integrity - the frame itself, in my opinion, was too weak to appropriately carry the weight of the stone, given the fact that I intended to have the kicks set back significantly and quite high. I had to find a way to transfer the weight in a safe and sound way down to the base. On the drawer box, this was done by the means of the two vertical solid pieces that support the slides. This was not an option on the cabinet side - it all visible on in inside; why have obstructions? - I opted to add plywood strips [I buy a premium aspen plywood for that]. 

All the visible elements on the make-up desk are made from solid wood - I made extensive use of the extra parts. The visible filler on the left side was cut off from a front support that I did not use in the design. The very visible, high kicks are clad in really nice solid wood - for that I cut down the from the desktop. 

The addition of a generous back stretcher ensure that when screwed to the wall the box would not flex and would remain square. The additional blocking on the wall ensured that the front of the desk was co-planar with the other side of the vanity - smooth, seamless design. I think it is nice. 


Favourite 'not-seen' detail - the front stretcher is a clever joint - a nice strong, stiff L-section that is combination of 1" wood with a 3" wide strip of quality Aspen ply, all glued, nailed and screwed. That stone top is going to be rock solid!

*my favourite laminate manufacturer - they are the best
**IKEA is very ethical.