IKEA ALEX drawer units are a great way to organize all kinds of stuff. The stacks of deep drawers offer a lot of space for storing a variety of things. Both in my home office and workshop area I use a lot of ALEX units to store tools, parts and other items I would otherwise have just lying around somewhere.

Unfortunately, once you have multiple ALEX units it can start to become difficult to keep track of what you keep in which drawer. The drawers do not have a built-in labeling solution. Additionally I did not want to label the drawers with stickers, because I felt it would ruin the clean aesthetic of the cabinets.

To solve this, I set out to design and 3D print a label system for the drawers. I started designing with the following goals in mind:

  • The labels should be easily readable.
  • I want to be able to swap out the labels when I change the content of a drawer.
  • No permanent modifications to the front of the drawers, so that if I ever want to remove the labeling system everything looks like it was before.
  • Because my workspace gets dusty, I ideally also wanted to cover the hole in the front of the drawers and keep dust out of the drawers themselves.

What I came up with is this:

A hand pulling on a 3D printed handle with label on an IKEA ALEX drawer.
3D printed handles with insertable labels

In this article I will show you how to 3D print and install the labels for your own IKEA ALEX drawer units.

How does the labeling system work?

The labeling system consists out of two parts, a 3D printed handle and a 3D printed label. The handle gets placed into the original handle gap of the drawer, and the label gets placed into a slot in the handle.

Aside from providing a space for the label to sit in, the handle also covers the hole in the drawer, so it keeps out dust.

Does it require permanent modifications to the drawers?

The handle drops in place into the drawer and can be easily taken out, so no permanent modifications to the drawers are necessary. The installation is completely reversible and there is no risk of ruining the front of the ALEX units.

Optionally, the handles can be secured in place with two small screws at the back of the handle. This creates two small holes on the inside of the drawer, but these are not visible from the outside if you ever decide to remove the handles.

That said, the screws are in my experience not strictly necessary. They prevent a minimal amount of side to side movement of the handle, but that’s about it.

Do the handles and labels work with any IKEA ALEX unit?

As far as I can tell, the system is compatible with any of the IKEA ALEX drawer units. This is because the front of the drawers all have the same thickness and have the same size gap in it, and thus the handle will fit.

If you encounter an ALEX unit with a different size hole in the front, just drop me message below and I will try to design a resized version for it.

Is it possible to make your own custom labels?

Yes! For anyone who wants to create their own custom labels I wrote an easy to use OpenSCAD script that does just that. You can find it further down the page, and you can use it either in the Thingiverse Customizer, or in OpenSCAD itself.

The script has the option to generate labels with any text, with a wide range of fonts, font sizes and text extrusion/inset settings. It even has an option to create labels with braille text for people with visual impairments.

A screenshot of a Thingiverse Customizer window with settings for a 3D-printable label.
The script in Thingiverse’s Customizer.

What kind of labels can you generate with the OpenSCAD script?

Many kinds! As mentioned above, the script generates labels with a wide range of fonts, font sizes, and other settings. Together with multi-color printing, this gives an endless amount of label appearances.

Some examples:

An extended drawer on a white IKEA ALEX drawer unit, with a 3D printed handle and white label with blue text.
A white/blue label with extruded text in a handwritten font.
An extended drawer on a black IKEA ALEX drawer unit, with a 3D printed handle and black label with green text.
A green/black label with inset text and Righteous font.
Front view of an extended drawer on a white IKEA ALEX drawer unit, with a 3D printed handle and white label with braille text.
A white/black label with braille text. I used the Marburg Medium Braille Specification for the dot and cell spacing. The dot diameter and height can be customized in the OpenSCAD settings.
A side close-up view of a 3D printed handle and a label with braille text on an IKEA ALEX drawer.
A close-up of the braille text. Aside from using braille, the individual labels themselves can also be printed in different distinct colors to help people with a visual impairment.
An extended drawer on a black IKEA ALEX drawer unit, with a 3D printed handle and an orange label with stencil text.
A simple orange label with a stencil font.

These are just some of the possible combinations, but hopefully enough to give an idea of what is possible.

Read on to learn how to use the labels and handles for your own IKEA ALEX drawers.

Materials (per drawer)

Tools

3D Printed Parts

The .stl file for the handle and the OpenSCAD script to generate .stl files for the labels can be found on Thingiverse. I recommend using the Thingiverse Customizer to change the script parameters and create your ideal labels.

For each drawer you will need:

  • 1x Handle
  • 1x Label

Print settings

I printed the handles with a 0.6 mm nozzle, 0.72 mm extrusion width and 0.3 mm layer height. I set the infill to 20% and outer shells to 1.

It is important to use support material for the handles. In order to remove the support material with ease I recommend a 2 mm horizontal separation setting and 1 upper separation layer.

I printed the labels with a 0.4 mm nozzle so that the text has finer detail.

For instructions on how to print in multiple colors, please see the article on how to multicolor 3D print with a single extruder.

How to install the labels and handles on IKEA ALEX drawers

A hand removing support material from a white 3D printed handle.
Remove the support material from the handles. I found the best way to do this is to press firmly along the side of the support material. If printed with the settings from above, the support material should come right off without leaving anything behind.
A white 3D printed handle with in the background support material that has been removed.
A nice clean result.
A hand placing a white 3D printed handle on the extended drawer of an IKEA ALEX unit.
Place the handle on the front of the drawer.
A hand inserting a label with the text "Drawing Tools" in a 3D printed handle on an IKEA ALEX drawer.
Insert the label.
A hand using a screwdriver to drive a screw into an IKEA ALEX drawer to secure a 3D printed handle.
Optionally, secure the handles in place with the two screws. Make sure not to use screws longer than 14 mm / 1/2″, otherwise they will penetrate the front face of the drawer.

Final results

Front view of a desk composed out of an IKEA KARLBY walnut countertop and two white IKEA ALEX drawer units with 3D printed handles and blue and green labels.
The desk cabinets with all handles and labels installed. Aside from the white IKEA ALEX drawer units I used an IKEA KARLBY walnut countertop for the desk.
A single black IKEA ALEX drawer unit on wheels, with 3D printed handles and red labels, and on top of the drawer unit a 3D printer.
The mobile ALEX drawer unit on wheels on which I keep the 3D Printer.
Two black IKEA ALEX drawer units stacked on top of each other with 3D printed handles and red labels, on the side of the drawers units are two guitars mounted.
Two stacked ALEX drawer units with orange/white labels.

Conclusion

I absolutely love how the labels and handles came out. The different color schemes per cabinet work very well. I also like how the handles blend in with the drawers when they are 3D printed in the same color.

Aside from the aesthetics, it is also a lot easier to find what I am looking for now.

It was the first time I used OpenSCAD for something. I had to get used to the script-based modelling, but once I got a handle on it (pun intended) it went smoothly. You can expect to see more projects that use OpenSCAD here in the future.

If you find this article useful, please share it or leave a comment. I love to hear your feedback and questions!

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