What do you get if you cross a Tobo with a Billy?

A new TV unit! It's a hybrid of an IKEA Tobo, a bit of Billy and some pine boards.

We’ve been telling ourselves that we’re going to get a new TV for a couple of years and we finally did it.  We’re now all super funky flat-screened, just like the popular kids are doing!

Our apartment is not the biggest and space is always at a premium so we needed something that would take up as little space as possible whilst containing all the TV junk.  We had our old 28″ widescreen CRT on wheels so we could swing it out in front of the sofa for movies then push it back again for a bit of space.  However the rest of the TV junk (DVD player, HTPC and all the DVDs) was in a stationary unit against the wall so the two together wasn’t the best use of space.

So the idea for the new TV unit was to combine the the TV and the junk into one more compact piece of furniture which would again be on wheels to allow as much space flexibility as possible.

We got the new TV at Christmas, a nice 37″ Samsung LED jobbie, but I couldn’t find anything that would suit for the base unit.  All the TV stands I could find were too low, too wide or too shallow. They were all intended to be stationary up against a wall, not surprising really…  I needed something with a bit of depth to be stable on the move, but no wider that 120cm to be able to fit in the 136cm space between the balcony doors.  Height was important too, it needed to be just right for when you have your feet up on the coffee table. 🙂

After almost giving up and going the hard route of building a fully custom unit (or getting it made professionally) I found the Tobo TV unit at IKEA, it’s 114cm wide by 50cm deep and the main carcase is 48cm high. Perfect.  Now with a bit of help from some Billy shelving, a few castors and some pine from my local wood shop I can add a whole bunch of storage and support the TV securely at the right height.

I won’t go into massive details about how it goes together but here are some construction photos.  I used Google sketchup to workout the details.  The great thing about IKEA stuff is the many of the models are already built for you so it’s easy to try things out even if you’ve never seen the unit in real life. Assuming that the models are accurate of course… not always the case!

This was my design for a custom built unit. It was probably a bit ambitious for me to really consider building it myself, I don't have the tools, space or time, but it helped me to work out what I needed in a TV unit.

This was an idea using IKEA's new Stuva childrens units, but it worked out that the TV would be too high for comfortable viewing and also maybe a bit unstable too due to the height of the TV.

Here’s what I ended up building.  The base is Tobo unit with a 3cm wider pine board on top, a cut-down 80cm wide billy shelf sits on top of that and some more pine board caps it all off and provides a sturdy face to mount the TV to.

Front of unit. Tobo on the bottom, truncated billy on the top. Lots of storage space.

Billy shelving is accessed from the back when the unit is swung out from the wall.

Same again but transparent to show construction.

When the unit is against the wall the center of the room is free and clear.

When we want to watch movies on the sofa we swing it out to the perfect spot.

Our living room is looking like an IKEA showroom.  The sofa is Manstad, there’s some Trofast in the corner for Hannah’s toys, a couple of Hol boxes… I think Tobo and Billy will feel at home, especially if they look around the rest of the apartment.

Here’s some photos of the construction.

Starting off with the Tobo carcase and centering the pine board on top.

Test fitting the billy. I cut the sides down to 48cm being careful not to mess up the laminate. Really all that's left of Billy is the sides and a single shelf. But for 25 Euro it was a cheap and easy way to go.

I added four of these shelf brackets inside the Tobo to add some extra stiffness so it doesn't fold when pulled sideways. I'm assuming that a unit intended to be stationary isn't designed to take forces in those directions.

Here I have the pine marked out where the Billy will go and have used the hole saw that comes with the Signum cable outlet kit to cut right through both the pine and the Tobo. It took a couple of goes but ensured good alignment.

I've widened it into one super-hole for all the cables to pass through.

View from the front. I'll cut a hole in the vertical panel for cables to feed the TV and another in the top for the other various things like the telephone.

The construction is now pretty much done so now everything is test fitted to work out the TV mounting position.

Now it all comes apart and I have to varnish the pine.  I used a thin coat with a tint in order to blend the unit in with the rest of the room then another thicker clear coat for protection.  The clear coat took two days to dry 😦

Finally the varnish is dry so I've rebuilt it all and put the back panel on. I want to minimise the cables connecting the unit to the wall. Just one power cord, a Cat5 network cable, telephone and TV antenna. Now I just need to work out where all the wires go.

Coming together. Nearly all the cables are routed now. The TV mount is a bit odd, it is sort of free hanging (it was intended for a wall, they don't move much normally) so I'll use some BlueTak to hold the TV steady when the unit is moved around.

A few photos of the finished unit in place and relatively tidy.

All ready to go. The pine matches the floor quite well. It's IKEA too...

Not bad for a weekend's hacking around.

It's a bit messy round the back, but I don't plan of spending much time looking at it from this angle.

Hope you enjoyed the show.
Thanks for viewing and I hope that it inspires you to get your hammer and saw out.

6 thoughts on “What do you get if you cross a Tobo with a Billy?

    • Ha ha! Funny… Actually there might be one eventually as I want to make a circuit for turning on the HTPC via the IR Remote.

  1. You’ve got me dancing now…a PIC, a PC, a TV Remote; all in one project? My 3 favourite things. Next you’re going to tell me there is a
    blue LED involved ==== *****RAPTURE*****!!!!!!!

    You may need to use a 20MHz crystal to get the timing just right 😉

    I know you will share it with us 🙂 Thanks in advance!

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