Introduction: $38 Adjustable Standing Desk Conversion
I recently switched to a standing desk at work and used a set of affordable and simple screw jacks to raise my desk to the proper height. Fully adjustable from 11" to 17 3/4", these jack stands will raise any normal desk to standing desk height for people between 5' 3" and 6' 1" tall, depending on your body geometry.
Now, let me be clear, while these are adjustable jack stands, they are not really something that you'd want to change on the fly throughout the course of the day, so be sure, this is no substitute for someone who wants both a sitting AND standing desk. For that, you've got to shell out the big bucks and buy a motorized system. This diy solution is more for someone who wants to commit to a standing desk, but wants the ability to dial in the perfect height for comfort and ergonomics.
For anyone who is thinking about converting to a standing desk - take a tip from someone who already has, you want to raise your whole desk up, not just your monitor and keyboard. Sure it's easier to simply raise your monitor on a stand or arm and buy a small platform that your keyboard and mouse can rest on at the proper height, as many diy standing desk conversions online suggest, but then you lose access to all the good stuff on your desk besides your computer. Where do you put your coffee, paperclips, obscene but thoughtful hand drawn christmas cards from co-workers and the 800 cords for your iPhone, camera, SD card reader and external hard drive? Having the whole desk at standing desk height sacrifices nothing (except your chair), gives you easier access to all your stuff.
Step 1: Purchase Jack Stands, 4 Nuts and 4 Washers
I'm testing a number of different jack stands to convert a normal sitting desk to a standing one, but thought I'd start with the simplest and cheapest solution first - these Husky aluminum screw jacks from Amazon for $36.
Then, go to the hardware store and pick up (4) 3/4" standard zinc plated nuts, and (4) large zinc plated flange washers.
Step 2: Assemble
The jack stands are pretty darn stable on their own, but since they come with only one nut that just "sits" in the base, I thought it'd be best to eliminate any rocking or shaking and lock the threaded rod onto the base with a second nut and flange washer so that everything is held tightly in place.
To accomplish this, first, slid the threaded rod that comes with the jack stand onto the base. Then, place the flange washer over the bottom of the threaded rod and follow it with the second nut.
Step 3: Slide Under Desk and Adjust to Proper Ergonomic Height
With some help, lift your sitting desk up around 15" and slide the four jack stands underneath your desk. Most desks have leveling feet of some kind - that's right where you want to place the jack stands. If you desk has some other kind of foot system, it's easy to use a small piece of wood to create a platform for the desk leg to rest that simply sits on top of the jack stand.
You can get a vague idea of how high you'll need to jack up your desk by using a simple standing desk height calculator here. That way, you can adjust the jacks most of the way before you put them under your desk, so you only need to do some fine-tuning once they're in place. It's a whole lot faster to feed several inches of threaded rod through the nuts before you plop your desk on top of them then once the heavy desk is in place.
Fine tune the height using the leveling feet and then threaded rods.
Even though this is really beyond the scope of this Instructable, my monitors had to be raised to the proper height as well. I bit the bullet and went to Ikea for some steel feet and a black wooden shelf to accomplish that. I'll publish something about the adjustable height monitor shelf that I'm working on now soon in a separate Instructable.
Step 4: Level
Level the desk once you've got the proper height adjusted. It's nice that all four jack stands can be adjusted independently since the floors in our office are actually quite sloped.
I used the original leveling feet on the desk to dial in the level, but it's really six of one or half a dozen of another whether you choose to turn the jack screws or the leveling feet.
Step 5: Secure
If you happen to be living in an earthquake prone area, like San Francisco, it's not a bad idea to affix your desk to the wall if you happen to be located next to one. This will reduce any minor shake or shimmy on the desk which may occur from simply the vibration of your hands upon the keyboard. The jack stands do not shake, it's actually the surface of the desk (at least on mine) that is moving.
Screw an L bracket onto the bottom of the desk and into the wall and it will really help lock everything into place. Don't want to screw into your wall because it's made of brick and you are scheduled to be moving to a new office soon? Use a wooden shim slid between the desk and the wall to put some tension on the system and hold everything in place. I'm not too proud of this solution, but until the move, it works just as well as a screwed in braket to reduce any shaking. Earthquake proofing...not so much.
With this configuration of jack stands and the wooden wedge, my desk doesn't move at all, can be adjusted to the exact proper height so that my arm forms a right angle at my elbow, and can easily be changed should I come into work wearing high heels one day, but flip flows the next.