Before we moved into a new home in September last year, I thought about a new workspace. Because of budget reasons we decided to use Ikea furniture, but not in a regular way. A really good source of inspiration for this purpose is Ikeahackers.net. Our maximum budget was 400€. Because of our multi-monitor setup we needed enough space (round about three meters). I really hated the PC cases of our last desks and we've decided to build in our computer hardware right into the desks. Beside the computer hardware and many documents also our peripheral devices (Printer, Scanner, NAS, Router) should be integrated in the desk environment.
Painting of Ikea Forniture
Ikea furniture is a robust and cheap solution for initial fitting-out. But the color selection (especially for the Alex series) is kind of stuffy. Therefore, we decided to get some color on our furniture. This is how we proceeded: First of all: Do you a favor and pick the white base furniture. In the second step we used 200er fine sandpaper to roughen the surface. The more thorough you ploish the better the finish is. After this, you should carefully vacuum the surface. In the last step we used an acrylic based two-in-one lack (primer and paint). If you want to reach perfection you can finish the furniture with transparent varnish.
Alex as a PC Case
If you try to integrate PC hardware right into a base unit you have to deal with the following two obstacles: cooling and noise reduction. The second problem could be solved with insulation plates or really quite fans (or watercooling). For cooling purposes I've used one AeroCool Silent Master 200mm and one Cooler Master SickleFlow 120mm. For the front- and backplate I've cut a 190mm x 190mm in the front and a 110mm x 110mm square hole (just some centimeters beside the circular hole in the backplate of Alex) in the back plate of the Alex base unit. If you have the right tools you can try to cut circular holes in the plates (which is really difficult for the smaller one because of the slight angle). The plan was to derive the hot air to the front of Alex by aligning the two fans. The fan on the backplate is pushing cold air in while the front fan will pull the hot air out.
To mount the mainboard I've ordered a plexiglass plate with the dimensions of 31cm x 24cm (for mounting points). You can use an old ATX mainboard to mark the drill holes. The nice characteristic of plexiglass is the flexibility. To attach the screw nuts I've drilled a 1.5mm hole and screwed the nuts carefully in. To install the power supply I've also cut a square hole in the upper part of the Alex backplate in about 40cm height. The power supply is attached on the shelf of Alex and was screwed on a small plexiglass plate with steel tape. I've also attached the harddrives on the shelf. The cables are laid through a hole in the shelf. To protect the front fan I've searched for a 200mm fan grill. At first I tried a Filter Grill, but these doesn't convinced me (neither in stability nor in design). A good looking solution are Subwoofer Grills. They are much cheaper than fan grills and better looking. Simply screw them in the front plate and you are done.
One thing is still missing: the power switch and the usb ports. I've installed both of them in the Linnmon tabletop. Be careful with your hole cutter because the Linmon tabletop is about 90% made of cardboard. In addition, the surface is likely damageable by splintering. So for my next Ikea table hack I will use a solid tabletop and not that cheap crap Linnmon. For the power switch I choose the DimasTech Power Switch. You can find the pin assignment here. AS a tabletop usb port I've choosen this one. Unfortunately I didn't find a shop outside germany where you could buy the tabletop port.
First of all we aligned the three Alex base units and screwd the two Linnmon tabletops on it. After this, the two Billy shelfs were applyed on the outer corners and used 8cm screws to mount it from the bottom. In the second step we attached the four Lacks at the wall. This installation was the biggest challenge on the whole project because the shelves have to be fit tight. The third and the last step screw the two Billy's and the four Lacks together.