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A great Ikea Detolf modification!

Author Cody Bredendick

A great Ikea Detolf modification!

It seems that the number one display case for collectors has for a long time been the almighty Ikea Detolf.  There's a good reason that it is, its a great display case!  As a collector, I have for many years looked for the ultimate display case and have bought and sold many, but I still own 6 of these in my collection.  I have always tossed the idea around about how even better these would be if they were a little wider.  Well someone did just that and it looks amazing.  Long time collector, Cody Bredendick, now brings Eternal Collector his story.  Check it out!

I had to take a short break from model building this month.  On the side, I had been acquiring more and more figures and I was running low on available space in my small apartment.  I had a nice spot that could fit two Detolf cabinets, but building my own custom cabinet seemed like a good adventure.

However, a bit of research surprised me, so thus the Dual Mod was born.

Detolf cabinets have become the economic go-to display case for practically every collector of every flavor out there.  I’ve seen them in other homes and even in stores.  There is even a Flickr group dedicated to Detolf owners.  I’d say one aspect that attracts people are their versatility, as clever owners have found ways to add additional shelvesadd additional lighting, and even dust proof them.  However, I think the reason everyone loves them is that they’re cheap!

They’re typically 60 dollars at IKEA.  SIXTY DOLLARS.  In December last year, they were even selling the beige sets for 20 bucks a pop!  There really isn’t any other competition.  I have browsed for other all-glass cabinets and similar display cases in the past, and the cheapest comparable thing you’ll find is well into the middle hundreds.  The cases you’ll see in stores are over a thousand dollars, even in liquidation sales!

So, wanting to act on a budget and not spend a fortune, I knew my options were basically, “buy two Detolfs” or, “build your own.”

A wider, open glass shelf lets me cram in a Queen's Blade collection.

A wider, open glass shelf lets me cram in a Queen's Blade collection.

Even though plenty of people stack their Detolfs in a row and achieve good results, the one thing that irks me about about that setup is the usable space you get.

I had to split them up in a Detolf.

Had to split them up in a Detolf that used the same space.

Because you’re in contest with the hard glass walls on either side, you end up getting limited by the wide bases or outstretched arms and weapons that figures and models tend to have.  Look at these pictures.  The open shelf on the left is only 3 inches wider than the Detolf, but having no walls lets me maximize the space and place twice the number of figures.  This makes having a wider case much more appealing.

The quest was on then to find some glass to make my own case.  But that quest was short.  I discovered tempered glass is expensive.  Even through the local glaziers in the Orange County area (so I wouldn’t pay massive shipping), the lowest quote I could I could get for:

  • (1x)  30″ x 64″ x 3/16″
  • (2x)  13″ x 64″ x 3/16″
  • (2x)  15″ x 63 1/2″ x 3/16″
  • (4x)  29″ x 12″ x 5/32″

…was 275 dollars.  And that’s basic, rough-cut tempered glass — no beveled edges like the IKEA glass.  When you add in wood, stain, and all the mounting hardware I’d need, I’d probably be looking at 350 to 400 dollars total.  That’s pretty much when the light-bulb activated.

“Two DETOLFs would cost 120 dollars.  They already come with mounting hardware.  I would only need some cheap wood and stain, about no more than 50 dollars.  Then I could make my own double wide and even have glass leftover.”

$170 sounded a lot better than $400.  There’s something to say for IKEA’s economy of scale and mom-and-pop-shops-not-wanting-to-compete-with-big-box-brand-stores here, but that’s best left for it’s own discussion.

The Build

This wasn’t very complicated.  I’d upload a picture of my blueprints, but they are just chicken scratch on a single 8″x11.5″ sheet of printer paper.  The only thing that stopped me from copying IKEA dimensions directly and basically doubling the width was me being cheap.  Home Depot doesn’t carry any manufactured wood in 1 inch thickness which meant I’d have to go to a specialized wood shop and pay more.  Since I planned to stain it really dark, 3/4 inch particle board was going to get me through this.  There would only have to be 3 adjustments to make due to this:

  1. Cut the metal scaffolding a bit shorter.  The bolts can over-tighten already so it doesn’t have to be much.
  2. Cut the channel that the glass sits in a little shallower.  I don’t want to go too deep and weaken the particle board.
  3. Be prepared to have the door hinges have extra space.  It’ll actually be more space, because since the channels are shallower, the inside measurement for the top and bottom will actually be greater than before.

I wanted to also raise the case up off the ground a bit.  I’m very tall, so having to look 6 feet down at figures at the bottom of the case isn’t fun.  I put my first Detolf up on another IKEA piece of furniture that I cut shorter to fit the space and liked that.  If it went too tall I couldn’t put any oversized figures on the top of the case, so 10 inches was going to be just right.

That said, there isn’t much else to say.  I drew from basic woodworking and cabinet making skills that I know, so pictures do a good job of telling the rest of the story.

“True woodworking” is done without screws or nails.  Wood is supposed to be held together by dowels, biscuits, joints, or glue, or any combination there-of.  It certainly makes it more complicated and time consuming, but it’s also more fun and produces a better-looking product in the end when you don’t see any metal.

This router cut is probably the most “technically compliated” part of whole cabinet piece.  It really just boils down to having a tool that can do it.  I now have a router attachment for my dremel tool — it by no means is a precision tool, but it gets the job done.

After those channels were cut, it had to be clamped and glued.  Having only two pipe clamps limits my options, but one of those Detolf boxes weighs 90 pounds alone, so that helped add a little pressure.  In the last shot you can see that the dowels barely show, so it was ok to put them all the way through the wood.  They also prove it’s “REAL WOODWORKING.”  :)

A sharp metal kitchen spatual doubles as a glue scraper.

A sharp metal kitchen spatual doubles as a glue scraper.

Veneer strips are cheap and add a very nice finishing touch to manufactured particle board.  I managed to get most of it looking very square.  At this point, the rest of the work could be done indoors.

Come together.....right now.  Over me.

Come together.....right now. Over me.

Oh boy, and it was nice finally seeing it get to this point too.  Also a huge pleasure to see everything fit and learning I wasn’t going to have to put a nail through my head.

There's a gap.  That rhymes with craaaaaaaap.

There's a gap. That rhymes with craaaaaaaap.

Since this is a “DETOLF Dual Mod” and not a custom build, I’m putting two sheets of glass together in the back instead of one big one.  But this is what happens when you’re not absolutely perfect.  Now, a commercial solution to this problem is to buy stuff called h-channel (example).  Plastic extrusion companies make this stuff in all sizes and colors, and I needed it to be for 3/16″ material and clear.  No luck.  The companies around here that cater to this sort of thing either didn’t have that size, or they required a huge minimum order (like 1750 feet with no samples.

My solution:  Carefully applied clear packaging tape.  Even though it folded over on itself in one little point, it’s still practically invisible.  It’s more invisible than clear h-channel would even be.

I was plesently suprised to find out that this didn't smell bad.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this didn't smell bad.

I put ebony stain and and a coat of polyurethane on it to match the other black-brown IKEA stuff I have.  I had to redo the top because a bad splotch randomly decided to develop.  Since I don’t have a power sander, there’s no way I could get that looking perfect again, but you can’t see it unless you’re looking for it.

Stuff like this makes me feel like a man.

Stuff like this makes me really feel like a man.

Remember the first adjustment I said I had to do?  I used a Dremel to cut the metal scaffolding a tad shorter.  Cutting metal never stops being fun.

Finally, pretend for a moment that these two pictures don’t spoil anything.  I just wanted to point out that I also dust-proofed the case.  I’m not the first one to do this with weather-stripping, but I did it on my first case and was sure to do it again here.  Also, you can see the clear packaging tape makes a return.  I folded it in a way to make a nice seal between the two doors.  There’s a commercial solution for this again (you see it on shower doors), but this is practically free, nearly invisible, and gets the job done.


Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the Double Wide Dual Modded DETOLF Glass Display Case!!!

And there it is!  You can see that extra width adds so much.  Eight queens blade figures don’t even feel cramped, where as before I could only fit three.

Anything Else?

From here, if there’s going to be another modification, I’ll definitely add lighting.  There are some good online companies that offer interesting options like LED strips or compact LED spotlights.  I guarantee both would look extraordinary, and much moreso than an overhead floodlight.

Another thing to note is that this concept would easily extend to three or more Detolfs.  What’s cooler is if you do at least three, you could actually use the four spare sheets of glass to make sliding doors for the front instead of hinged doors (cut two channels in the bottom and you’d be set).  You get some additional options for dust-proofing with the extra plastic corner joints too.

Lemme know if any goes that route!

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