Tutorial: How to build a Helmer

By | March 9, 2013

We briefly mentioned what a Helmer is in this newbie vocab post here – it’s a stack of drawers from IKEA, which nail polish addicts discovered was amazing for housing hundreds of polishes in one neat block.

So you’ve started collecting polish, and you took the leap, braved the crowds at IKEA and got yourself a Helmer – what now? Luckily Kaz of Pretty Random and Pretty Serious fame is happy to guide us on our journey…

How to Build a Helmer

After building Helmer #4, I decided I was pretty clever.

I’ve built all of my Helmers on my own, the first being about five years ago. My first Helmer building experience was nothing short of an ordeal. I know next to nothing about building things and I think I even failed metalwork in high school. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I plugged away, cut my hands, broke nails, screamed, cried, swore, danced, swore and screamed again. Eventually (somehow) I came out the other end with a Helmer. But at the very least I learned from it.

When the time came to build Helmers 2 & 3, I at least knew what NOT to do. It still wasn’t easy, but I’d managed to learn a few shortcuts that made the task a little less frustrating. There were fewer broken nails, less screaming, no cuts, no crying and much more dancing. There was probably the same amount of swearing though. I call that PROGRESS.

Something must have really clicked with Helmer #3, because when the time came to start on #4, I had that sucker built in 30 minutes. Clearly I have some sort of otherworldly understanding of Helmer construction now and it would be awful of me to keep it to myself. So I grabbed my camera and set about documentation of the birth of Helmer #5. And today I’m sharing that wisdom with you! You lucky ducks!

First of all, here is what I think you will need.
1. A Stanley knife (box cutter) to open the box, of course.
2. A screwdriver. IKEA claims that this is the only tool that you will need to build a helmer but having built five of them, I call shenanigans. But I’ll get to that next. As far as screwdrivers go, you’ll be best off with both a flat and Phillips-head (star shaped) screwdriver. The flat one will help you push down metal tabs while the Phillips-head will help you with the screws. I have one that has an end piece with both heads which you can just pull out, swap around and plug it back in again. Genius.
3. A drill. This is optional, but I gotta say it makes the job SO MUCH EASIER. While there are precut holes in the Helmer for the screws you will need to put in, they are really hard to tighten. REALLY hard. The drill makes short work of this problem. Grab your power tools and let that bitch know who’s boss! (YOU ARE.)
4. A tasty beverage. You are about to embark on some really hard work.

When you open your Helmer box, this is what poor disassembled flatpacked Helmer will look like. Ignore the fear you feel rising from the pit of your stomach. You can do this. Don’t worry. I’m here for you.

When you finally battle through all the plastic and styrofoam, this is what you should have in front of you.

2 x Side Panels, 1 x Back Panel, 6 x Drawer Front, 6 x Drawer Back (they are tucked inside the drawer front), 12 x Drawer Supports, 1 x Top Panel, 2 Base Pieces and 6 Flat Drawers. There will also be a little plastic bag with your wheels and screws but we don’t need that yet. IKEA tends to be pretty good in terms of quality control and I’ve never had a missing piece.

The first thing to do is to put your side pieces together. Pick up one of your side panels and lay it flat on the ground in front of you with the side with the C shaped cutouts to your left. This is the right way up. Now you’ll need the drawer supports. Be mindful that although the twelve of them may look the same, six of each will face opposite directions. Find the six supports that are for this side of the Helmer. They will have a sideways tab on the left and a tab pointing down on the right when the flat part of the support is facing your side panel. Click the left tab into the C shaped cutout, then slide the downwards tab into the hole on the right. Your drawer support will click into place. Remember, left, then down. Simple!

One of the biggest mistakes that I made in early Helmer construction was clipping the wrong supports into the wrong panel. They are a pain in the butt to get out too, so make sure you have the right ones for the right side. There should be a little shelf sticking out at you when you clip it in. This will support your drawer. Also, the wrong support will not clip in straight. We all have great eyes being polish lovers, and this definitely helps to determine when the support isn’t straight.

After you have clipped in the supports for both your side panels, it’s time to connect the two using the base pieces. Turn your panel upside down so that the drawer support shelves are at the top instead of at the bottom. Take the base piece and slot it into the hole at the bottom of the side panel. It will resist at the point shown in the picture above. Grab your other side panel and do the same. They should now be connected by the base piece. Giving the resistant corners a sharp whack with your hand should force them in. Once that is done, pick up the other base piece and repeat for the opposite sides.

If you’re on the right track when you turn your Helmer up the right way again it should look like this. Isn’t this exciting? It’s starting to come together!

Now you can slide in your back panel. You can identify the back of your Helmer by the small slits at the top which you can see in the photo above. It doesn’t have those at the front. It should just slot in snugly but still a bit loose.

Remember earlier when we talked about a small bag of screws and wheels? Well you need that now.

This is what will be inside that little baggie. 4 x Wheels, 6 x Labels, 6 x Handles, 2 x Push Pins, 12 x Base Screws, 12 x Handle Screws. Like I said earlier, IKEA quality control seems pretty good, and I’ve never found anything missing. Right now though, you just need the push pins.

Push them into the holes at the back of your Helmer as shown. They’ll hold the bottom of your back panel in place.

Now you’ll need to secure the top part of the back panel of your Helmer. Find the small metal tabs at the edge of the back panel and push them in with your flat screwdriver so that they wrap around the inside of the side panel. The back should now be secure!

Now all that’s left to do to create the outer husk of your beautiful Helmer is to put the top on. It’s easy and will just clip into place.

Turn your Helmer on its side with the bottom facing you. Find the screws with the pointed end. These are the ones that you will need to secure the base of your Helmer. The flat bottomed screws are for your drawer handles, which we will deal with later. Put the screw into the hole marked with a 1 in the photo above. Holes 2 and 3 are for the wheels. I used the screwdriver to screw it in lightly and make sure it was straight. But as the holes in the Helmer are not prepped to receive screws (ie, there are no grooves in the hole), screwing them in is HARD.

So I attacked it with the drill. MUCH better.

Once all your screws are in, your Helmer should look like this! Unfortunately we can’t party yet because we still need to put the wheels on. Unless you want to skip the wheels, in which case, PARTY! What I believe to be the hardest part about building a Helmer is now over for you! .

I put the wheels on pretty much the same way as I did the frame screws. Screw the wheel on loosely with the screwdriver, and then tighten the screws with the drill. Repeat for all four wheels. AWESOME!

Now we can see that all the wheels are on and all the screws are in! Hooray! Now we can all celebrate.

Now it’s time to make the drawers! Pick up one of your drawer pieces and lay it flat in front of you. Make sure that you have the side with the arrow facing up! If it is facing down, you will fold your drawer the wrong way. I have done this! It weakens the metal considerably and is quite scary when bending it back the right way. Metal doesn’t like to be bent and could very well snap off if you bend it too many times, so be careful or you might end up down a drawer.

Oh and please ignore my nails. I told you they were in horrible shape.

Take both sides of the flat drawer (remember arrow side facing up) and fold the outer panels inwards to a 90 degree angle. This is the base for your drawer. Little bits of paint may flake off at the bends but don’t worry, they won’t be visible once it’s all together. You’re done with this bit for now, so put it aside.

Now you’ll need the following parts. 1 x Drawer Front, 1 x Handle, 2 x Handle Screws.

Using just your hands, screw the handle to the drawer front loosely. Once both screws are attached and you are sure the handle is on the right side (yes, I have done this too), you can tighten using a screwdriver. Unlike the base, there are already grooves inside the handle to make screwing it into place much easier.

Or, if like me you really like using the drill, you can use that to tighten the screws too 😀

Grab the front panel of your drawer that now has the handle attached and the bottom part which you put aside earlier. Find the end with the small slits on the sides of the outer panels that you folded inwards earlier. This is the front of your drawer. As pictured, slide the tab on the inside of the drawer into the slit, then repeat on the other side clicking the front into place. It might take a bit of force, but it will snap in.

Flip the drawer on its side with the inside facing you. Using your flat screwdriver, push the metal tab sticking through downwards towards the front of the drawer. This will hold the front of the drawer in place. Flip the drawer on to the other side and repeat with the other tab. Now that the front of the drawer is done, it’s time to move on to the back!

With the flat part of the drawer-back facing the front of the drawer, slide the back panel upwards. The edges that stick out should slide underneath the folded back part of the bottom drawer panel.

If you’ve slid it upwards correctly it will look like this, tucked neatly into place underneath the metal folds of the bottom of the drawer. Use your screwdriver to push in the tabs detailed above at the arrow points to secure the back into place much the same as you did with the tabs on the front of the drawer.


All that’s left now is to repeat the drawer process five more times, and you’ll have a Helmer! Woooo!

Or in my case… five of them!

If you’re interested in a Helmer, they can be bought from IKEA in Australia for $129.00 if you’re on the east coast, $79.00 if you’re in SA or WA, and are available in red, silver and white. If you’re anywhere else in the world, they are a lot cheaper, so lucky you!

A Helmer can typically hold around 500 polishes on average, and the drawers are just tall enough to hold the old Sally Hansen Hard as Nails bottles. Taller bottles will not fit. I love them and even despite the price I still recommend them as a neat polish and makeup storage solution.

Happy Helmering everyone!

Kaz is a vintage polish lover whose idea of an awesome day is scouring market stalls for long discontinued Revlons. She is an expert at building Helmers and has an embarrassingly large stash. She writes reviews for terrible movies in her spare time and also loves animals, makeup, shoes and t-shirts with print on both sides. She is the Gumleaf Mafia admin and has recently started her own polish and makeup line – Pretty Serious Cosmetics. She also blogs sporadically at Pretty Random.

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