I had seen a glass-top table made on an advertising campaign (for a stationers) and thought a LACK coffee table was the perfect candidate. Plus I had seen a back-lit world map wall mounted in an office and thought it was a good first subject to put under the glass.

Here’s the finished result.

back-lit world map coffee table - IKEA LACK hack

And with lights!

back-lit world map coffee table - IKEA LACK hack
Back-lit world map on IKEA LACK coffee table
IKEA items used: 
Other materials and tools:
  • Custom glass table top, 6mm toughened glass, 900x550mm (to match the table top), 6 holes drilled. 
  • This cost £40 from a custom glass supplier.
  • Dowel rods, cut into 2cm lengths (a few £ from local DY store)
  • Handful of screws and a couple of off-cuts of wood, plus some old paint we had from a recent home project.
Tools:
  • Table-top scroll saw (but hand held one would work fine. It’ll take a little longer)
  • Drill and bits
  • Screwdrivers
  • Band saw (again hand saw will work fine)

Back-lit world map coffee table instructions:

The map and supports 

I found an outline world map on the web, and printed it to the proper scale, and taped the sheets together.

outline of map


Then, glued it to the MDF sheet and used my scroll saw to cut it out. A bit of sanding and all the continents and islands were ready for their paint job.

I had to obviously not use some of the smaller islands, and also combine some island ranges into one piece of mdf.

Still, islands like Ireland and Tasmania proved to be very small.

cut out of world map

For the supports for each piece of MDF I started to hand-saw 2cm lengths of dowel, but very quickly realised I would get a much better and quicker result by using my bandsaw.

bandsaw
Adapting the table

I knew IKEA tables had solid corners to support the legs, but thin top and bottom pieces sandwiching a card/paper honeycomb pattern.

I scored the underside of the table, then pried the bottom bit of hardboard away. Then, I had some assistance to remove the cardboard and leave a hollow base.

  • LACK coffee table - underside
  • remove backing
  • expose honeycomb
  • remove filler


On the top side I marked the holes for the glass table top stand-offs (using the glass itself as a guide) then secured the stand-offs.

LACK coffee table with stand-offs
LACK coffee table with stand-offs

When I was deciding the placement of the stand-offs, I deliberately put them in the corners, so there is good purchase from the long screws, in to the corner blocks that support the legs.

For the two middle stand-offs, I glued some old scrap blocks in between the table top’s thin surfaces to give it more security.

Putting it all together

I laid out the world map on the table top, and drew around them. Then, marked where I wanted the dowels to site.

back-lit world map coffee table - IKEA LACK hack

I glued them in and once dry, I then marked the locations of the LEDs. I originally figured I’d need about 70 lights. But got carried away adding them and when I counted them up realised I had about 160!

sites to be lit
dowels for LED

Luckily I had ordered 2 sets of the 100 LEDs (thinking that I’d perhaps make another table after this one). I realised therefore that I could just wire them together to give me enough bulbs.

I drilled all the holes from the top, to give the cleanest finish. And then pushed the LEDs in from underneath and secured them with my hot glue gun.

back-lit world map coffee table - IKEA LACK hack

I made sure I kept testing the lights, as I did not want to get to the end to find them no longer working.

The final assembly was following the IKEA instructions to complete assembly of the legs and lower shelf, then gluing the (now painted) land masses to the dowels.

Finally, the glass was secured to the table using the chrome screw tops of the 6 stand offs. And that completes my back-lit world map coffee table.

Other useful information:

It took me a weekend’s work and less than £100.

What I like most is the back-lit world map looks stunning in a dim room.

back-lit world map coffee table - IKEA LACK hack

The hardest part about this hack was drilling the 170 odd holes for the LEDs.

What to pay special attention to?

Mounting the battery pack to ensure it can be “seen” by the remote control and that you can unclip the cover to change batteries.

Looking back, would you have done it differently?

1. The dowels were 2 cm long, too long in this case (too easy to see some of the bulbs underneath). I would halve this next time, as this was still plenty to clear the LED bulbs.

2. I’d work out the alignment of the land masses better and not use hot glue to secure them, simply because there isn’t the time/scope to re-adjust before the glue cools and goes hard enough to prevent fine adjustment.

3. I’d use fewer dowels, and even smaller (narrower) ones to avoid them being seen.

See the full tutorial on Instructables.

~ by Alan Hill

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