Introduction: A Better Laptop Stand for Bed

Picture of A Better Laptop Stand for Bed

Make a simple but incredibly useful Laptop Stand for around $15 and 30-60 minutes! Great for use in bed while typing, browsing, and especially watching movies.

When I use my laptop in bed, it's often uncomfortable. I have to balance the laptop on my lap and sit up, or on my chest when laying down. This laptop stand makes both laying and sitting laptop use a whole lot more comfortable, and it's simple to make... about $15 and 30 minutes. Let's do it!

Step 1: The Background

I use my laptop in bed a lot, as it's more comfortable for me. However, it's hard to balance the laptop on my chest and type with my hands sideways, so I needed a laptop stand. I found this one, but I'm a cheapskate and it looked simple, so I decided to make one myself. Turns out I spent just over $15 and took 30 minutes in the garage to make it, and it worked great for months! I just made another one, so I've chronicled it here for your building pleasure.

Another commercial stand is the Lapdawg laptop stand - possibly the worst name ever.

Materials Needed:
-wood strip, .75 in x 1.75 in x 6 ft. Just about anything of the right size will do.
-hard board, MDF board, etc - I used MDF the first time due to the clean white melamine coating, but the plain hardboard looked better and seemed more durable.
-two knobs attached to screws/bolts
-two big washers
-two socket anchors
-2 very short wood screws (for the lip)
-4 medium wood screws (for the legs)
-4 small nails
-4 plastic checker pieces (optional)

-circular saw (could use a hand saw, but it'd be messy)
-power drill
-(Optional) dremel w/ sander bit

This was made to be simple and quick. You don't really need too many measurements; just line things up and saw away. I only measured the tray itself (11 x 20 in). The rest are self-evident as you're going along. Even the lips were circular-sawed freehand. Be careful where you put your hands! (If you want to keep them).

Step 2: The Legs

Picture of The Legs

-Cut in 4 pieces
First, get the .75 in x 1.75 in x 6 ft stick. The height/width dimensions are not important, just something about that size. You should have at least 6 ft. Cut it the stick in quarters (in half, and then each part in half again). This should yield (4) 1.5 ft sticks. Great.

-Round the corners
With the circular saw, cut off the edges on one side of each stick. Be careful! This is to round the corners so they don't stick out as much. Optionally, you can take a dremmel and smooth the edges here (I made them very round... really doesn't make any difference).

-Drill holes
Pair up the pieces, and stack them so you can drill through 2 at a time. Now drill a hole big enough for your big screw/bolts and socket/anchors through 2 posts, and then the other 2 posts. This makes sure that the holes are aligned. Make sure you're holding the drill completely vertical! (unlike what I did this time... still came out ok).

Step 3: Leg Hardware

Picture of Leg Hardware

Now install the leg hardware. Put in the socket/anchor, and put a small nail through the hole so it doesn't turn. It should fit snugly, and the nail isn't really necessary. Then put the knob through the washer and feed it through the opposite side into the socket. Repeat for the other pair, and you should now have two working joints.

Finding the Hardware

The black knobs + screws that I used are very hard to find.  Most places do not have these.  Big chain hardware stores (lowes/home depot) carry similar 3-prong triangle knobs with screws attached, but the screws are usually not very long.  For alternatives, the easiest thing to find would be a normal bolt and a wingnut.  Instead of turning the knob/screw into the T nut, you turn the wingnut on the stationary bolt.  Same effect, different parts.

Those stores also have wingnut/bolt combos - basically a bolt with a wingnut on the end.  If you can find one long enough, these are probably the best alternative.

Optional jackfishjoe checker mod:
Thanks to an idea by Strapped-4-Cache , which was tested out by jackfishjoe , we have a great mod for the joints. Normally the joints are held in place by the friction of the wood, and the pressure of the bolts holding the wood together. This requires a lot of pressure and can be a pain sometimes. A better way to do this is to insert plastic checkers pieces so the "teeth" grab each other and prevent movement.
-drill a hold through the center of 4 checkers
-carve a circular impression/hollow in each leg for the checkers to be inset slightly. This will be on the sides facing each other, so the knob goes through each checker.
-assemble the legs like so: knob - washer - wood - checker - checker - wood - socket.

The checkers should face each other and lock into place via the teeth, and when assembled you shouldn't really be able to notice the checkers. This will allow you to use less pressure to lock the feet in place, and avoid cracking the wood (or having the platform slump down and accidentally drop you laptop).

Step 4: Make the Tray

Picture of Make the Tray

Now take the big hardboard/MDF board and cut off an 11 in strip. Then cut the width down to 20 in. You can adjust these measurements for your laptop, this was for a Powerbook G4 Aluminum 17 in. It's not even mine. Remember to leave room for the lip, and you don't want to make the width too small - It's got to fit over your hips.

Cut two more very small strips of hardboard, these will serve as the lip. Make sure they're straight (or straight enough), then line them up on one end of the tray and nail them down. Put a screw on either end of the lip, since nails don't seem to hold very well. Use short screws so they don't poke out the bottom of the tray.

Step 5: Attach Legs

Picture of Attach Legs

You should now have two legs with working joints, and a tray with a lip. Now line the legs up to the edges of the tray, mark the spaces, and drill holes. I drilled the top hole for a leg, put a screw in, then drilled the bottom and did the same. This way they stay aligned, no measurement needed. If I line the top of the leg with the top of the tray, it fits just right for me. If you're skinnier/fatter, you'll need to adjust the leg height. You can do this by drilling a bunch of evenly spaced holes in the legs (every 1/2 in) and then two holes in the tray. This way you can unscrew the tray, and choose a different height. Once you find one that works, you wont need to change it.

Step 6: Celebrate

Picture of Celebrate

Your stand is ready to use. You'll have the tighten the knobs quite a bit, takes some force or a neat trick. Balance the stand on it's side, move the leg and knob together. Then hold the knob still and move the leg back. In this manor you can tighten the knob much harder than if you were to move the knob by itself. Careful not to overdo it; the soft pine (in this case) legs are prone to crack, as seen in my previous stand.

You should be good to go. Tighten to where the legs wont move under the weight of the laptop (plus your hands as you type). Put the laptop stand over body, and put laptop on stand resting on the lip. Use laptop freely and abundantly, full of newfound semi-ergnomic convenience. Great for surfing, watching movies, etc. You may notice your arms get tired with long typing; make sure the laptop is as close to you as possible, that you don't have to raise your elbows off the bed to type.

Step 7: Other Thoughts

The most noticeable area of improvement is the joints. They have to be tightened fairly tight to stay put, and this puts a lot of strain on the relatively soft wood. The commercial stands have ribbed disks that go between the two sides to lock the joints in place, and therefore use less pressure. If you can make something similar, or find something cheap, let me know.

Update: view Supafly's comment below for the "leg-nail" mod. Supposedly it works great, and it seems the best/easiest way to assure no slipping. Thanks supafly! If you can't find his comment below, then here's a basic description: Drill holes in the bottom leg starting near the joint and going out along the leg. When you assemble the leg and open the joint, you can put a nail in one of the holes and it'll stop the upper leg from sinking. You can move the nail from one hole to another to accommodate different angles, and you can remove the nail to allow the whole thing to collapse.

The length of the legs will be determined by your stomach size, arm length, and how comfortable you want to be. I make it as short as will fit over my gut. If you wanted to get creative, you could cut out the portion of the lip/tray that touches your stomach, as long as there is enough lip on either side to hold the laptop from sliding off. A small indent like this may give you an inch or so (till the laptop is resting on your stomach), which may make a difference in comfort.

If you make one, please post up and let us know how long it took, how much it cost, and what it's like to use it. If you have suggestions, post them up. Good luck!


AndreaGonz made it! (author)2016-07-18

I made one inspired by your design. I liked the way it turned out, and it works really well!

mgondal made it! (author)2015-11-26

i have made one

jumpfroggy (author)mgondal2015-11-27

Very cool!

DanielD4 (author)2015-10-20

Good idea. Now add a third strip so the legs form a Z instead of an L, and you can make it into a standing desk platform on top of your desk.

jumpfroggy (author)DanielD42015-10-20

Yep, you definitely could. I have an aluminum store-bought one like that (has 3 sections to the legs, locking joints, built-in fan). But I don't like it much, so I got rid of it. If you did the Z thing, you'd have to be even better w/ the locking joints; even a little slip would dump your laptop off.

DanielD4 (author)jumpfroggy2015-10-20

Here's what I don't know about those aluminum ones or this one. How much weight can something like this support? I don't want just a laptop stand. I want a full desk top with a monitor and keyboard that I can move up and down. (I'd probably want to attach a VESA monitor arm to it.)

jumpfroggy (author)DanielD42015-10-20

For that, you don't want a laptop stand, you want a moving desk. This instructable (and the aluminum one I mentioned) are just for using a light laptop while sitting/laying in bed.

What you *do* want is a sit/stand desk. I have and highly recommend the Ikea Bekant Sit/Stand desk:

It may seem pricey, but this is by far the cheapest one out there by a few $100. Add any table top you want and you have the perfect desk. And it can support quite a lot :)

There are other options out there, but they're more expensive. This ikea one is great. And it's awesome to be able to stand while working (doing that right now).

DanielD4 (author)jumpfroggy2015-10-20

Well, yes, those products exist. But I don't have that kind of money to spend. So I'm trying to think of cheaper ways to accomplish the same goal.

jumpfroggy (author)DanielD42015-10-20

I'd say no; this laptop stand (and those aluminum ones) are not what you need. You can see a pic of someone using the metal one this way:

There's no way that'd support monitors or anything heavy. They're just not sturdy enough.

If you were just doing a laptop, you could do something very cheap like this:

I could probably make one of those with a jigsaw and a "handy board" from home depot.

But if you want dual vesa arms, that's heavy. I've seen things like this:

You might be able to make one of these out of wood... just pivots up and down. That's doable, and you'd have your monitors, keyboard/mouse, sit/stand, etc. It'll require some trial & effort, but if you don't have the budget for the big ticket ones then that's what I'd try to do.

I haven't seen very cheap sit/stand desks that can handle monitors & other heavy equipment. Especially since monitors must be mounted. You could also try something where you move the monitors from desk to stand & back, I can do that with my ergotrons. But that's a lot of hassle.

Let me know if you try the varidesk-style thing; it'd be a neat project.

DanielD4 (author)jumpfroggy2015-10-20

So, my question is, given my tight financial constraints, would this or something similar "do the job?" Is it sturdy enough to support my monitor/laptop dual VESA arm, a keyboard and a mouse while adjusting up and down?

DHussain_786 (author)2015-10-10

Do you know where you got the leg hardware.

jumpfroggy (author)DHussain_7862015-10-20

I got it from some random hardware store (not a national chain). I haven't found them in any Home Depot / Lowes style stores yet. However, just recently I saw a good replacement; lawn mower handles/knobs:

Here's one example:

And you can find more at local hardware stores. This is probably your best bet, I'd personally get a plastic 3-prong/triangle one. Round is hard to grip, but 3 prongs is the best.

neo71665 (author)2014-01-14

A rubber washer made from an inner tube would work instead of a checker and be thinner.

TheCAG (author)2013-03-03

I followed the directions for this project pretty closely and everything went pretty well except I could not find the hardware needed to lock the legs into place so that the desk could hold up the weight of the laptop. I went to a number of hardware stores but could not find any sort of mechanism to make that design work.

I finally came up with a variation to the design using two flag pole holders and two wooden dowels. This design is actually very straight forward. You need to use slightly wider boards on the outside. Wide enough so that the flag pole holders can mount. I drilled a hole in the dowels so the tightening knob and screw that comes with the flag pole holder would go all the way through dowel so the dowel could not twist in the holder.

I am quite happy with the design. The flag pole holder can be fully adjusted and locks into place for a wide number of angles.

jumpfroggy (author)TheCAG2013-11-19

Wow, neat! Do the flag holders tighten w/ friction, or do they have any kind of detents / ridges to hold it in place? Friction works well enough for me, but if these have any kind of ridges in the joint itself that would make it so much better.

gnach (author)jumpfroggy2013-12-24

The flag holder do have detents with a wing nut to tighten the joint. They are cast pot metal and not particularly light weight, but this is a good alternate use.

MmmDeion (author)2013-11-18

It took me awhile, with the staining and cutting, but I like the way it came out. I stole the idea to add independent support bars across the back to help with the weight. Came out pretty good! Thanks for the idea!

jumpfroggy (author)MmmDeion2013-11-19

Looks nice, I like the supports. I'm assuming you have some kind of bolt sticking in to rest in those notches?

amenhart (author)2013-05-14

I love this it gave me a great idea to make another thing to invent

geggodrums (author)2011-11-18

Hi there,

thanks for all your great Ideas... here is my Try :) Its really comfty, y Ellbows can rest on the wooden staves on both side and I can screw it in every position, even the underground is not even, so i just screw the both sides differently :)

For the tricky part I used simple Spanner (dont know the word in english) but you all know this :) its cheap and very stable :)

I used for the middle panel pine wood from the alps, nice smell, and for the side some hard wood, walnut... The ornaments are freely designed and they giv good circulation for the machine :) thanks for all your inspirations !

good luck Geggo

jumpfroggy (author)geggodrums2012-07-10

Looks great, and neat angle-lock! I still have mine just simply tightened - it works surprisingly well as long as I tighten it once in a while. I like the ventilation holes, looks great.

nlazaravich (author)2011-07-12

Thanks for this, I just finished building a very, very rough version. Sort of a prototype. I made mine a little bit too tall for my liking and couldn't get a hold of the adjustable screws this time but next one will be better. Thanks again!

jfer (author)2011-06-28

I always thought there had to be a better way.I use my laptop in bed a lot, as it's more comfortable for me. However, it's hard to balance the laptop on my chest and type with my hands sideways, so I needed a laptop stand.

zrahman (author)2011-04-24

Hello, I intrigued with project laptop stand and I was have made this thing according to your way show in this project. However, I have problem on this project product. Where are I can get T-nut and knob with screw in Kelantan, Malaysia? Reason I was went some stores hardware, but I not find this thing. If there is, help state name and shop address hardware that nearest with my place.

powdernine (author)2011-03-27

I wish I would have realized there were 3 and a half pages of comments before I planned out and built my version. There are some good ideas mentioned. Oh well, I thought I'd share what I made though.

Originally I was using the same design as the original. I thought I could put a rubber washer in between the pieces of wood to keep the legs from slipping but that was a total fail. So I decided to add supporting legs like another commenter did. I wanted to be able to adjust it though so I added 3 notches.

I was able to find the knobs at Ace Hardware. They had a few bins that had a variety of different knobs. I still like using the knobs even though I have the support legs because it keeps the whole thing from shifting.

All in all I think it turned out pretty well but if I did it again I might try the checker idea. So here it is:

jumpfroggy (author)powdernine2011-03-27

Looks nice! Is that laminated wood? Also, good to know ace hardware has those knobs, they're hard to find.

Strangely enough, I've been using the unrefined v1, just tightening the knobs to make it stay. It's worked fine, and I use this just about every single day. But if I were doing it over, I'd use plywood + the same support system you used.

powdernine (author)jumpfroggy2011-03-28

Thanks! The wood is poplar. I recently took a woodworking class and I had this left over. I'm planning on putting a clear polyurethane coat on it when I get a chance, I like the green streaks poplar has and I'm hoping that will preserve it.

I started using it last night and I love it. Thanks for the idea!

lupin019 (author)2010-12-27

it looks great. where did you buy knob with attached screw/bolts and and socket anchors? thanks

jumpfroggy (author)lupin0192011-03-04

I got them at a local hardware store, and have never seen any since. I just randomly found another source at Search for part "5993K59". That should get you a 2 1/2" threaded stud 4-arm knob. Not a round one like I have, but an armed-knob is better anyway. I'm not sure if you need 2 1/2 inches... just enough to go through both pieces of the leg. Probably 1 1/2 or 2 would be fine.


nicubila (author)2010-08-06

I tried something similar butthen you get addicted to bed. My back started to be so stiff that i have to abandon it alltogether. I just switched now to a more portable one (Standivarius aero), especially as travelling is an almost daily requirement. Now work in bad is no more than 1/2h at once.

jumpfroggy (author)nicubila2010-08-06

Yeah, working in bed is a tricky thing - the ergonomics are all off. It's fine for web browsing, but I find that programming, writing, or any serious work requires good posture at a desk. Good posture in bed is important even for the little stuff. Make sure your arms don't have to reach too much forward (or it'll feel like you're holding them up in the air too long). Prop up your back slightly, and your head/neck a little more to angle forward. Don't angle your head too much forward... move the laptop closer to you. Make sure the laptop is as close to your stomach as possible w/o touching, it helps. So getting the position right helps. But like you said - serious work in bed should be limited due to the strain it'll put on you. I still have a dream of the bed workstation... I imagine a nice high-res head-mounted display (which they don't really make yet for less than 10's of thousands of dollars... I'd settle for 1080p or so). Then a split keyboard so you can have one at each side, near your hips. Arms out straight resting on the bed. Then an integrated pointing device, like a trackball or IBM pointing stick. That way you could be at a completely resting position and work on the computer. Some day.... (I think the HD HUD could be replaced by an HD projector pointed towards the ceiling, but I'm yet to be convinced that a screen directly overhead would be in the best viewing angle. The screen could definitely be huge though).

profpat (author)2010-05-19

 great instructables laptop  stand!!!

berci (author)2010-05-11

Can you make a photo with this checkers? My english is not the best, i can't understand what are this magic checkers with teeth :D

jumpfroggy (author)berci2010-05-11

Sorry berci, I haven't made this with checkers so I don't have any pics to share.  Browse the comments here - a lot of people have posted their pics of what they've done.  Maybe someone else will post pics of theirs.

Greenish Apple (author)2010-01-13

Great Instructable, I need to make one of these but I think I have a better idea for the joints, faucet rosettes. The ones I found at Home Hardware were about 1 1/2" across and 3/8" deep. They are found in the plumbing section, they go under the sink on the hot/cold water lines to the faucet. They are light metal and have bigger, deeper grooves than checkers. I didn't pick them up so I don't know if they correspond to 30, 45, and 90 degree angles.

I was thinking of cutting them half as deep and cut a couple big notches (like a castle top) then use a hole saw to cut a groove for it to sit in the wood. Or dremel it. Then epoxy it in place. One or both would be sitting above the wood line, the other could be flush.


Pics would be great, these sound like they might be really useful.

Here are the Faucet Rosettes I found at the Home Hardware Building Centre here in Southeastern Ontario, Canada. They are labeled Home Plumber (brand) and have stock number 3231-425. On the back it says "Imported for/importe pour Home Hardware Stores Limited, St. Jacobs, Ontario N0B 2N0" which suggests that they are made in the US. I paid $2.69 CDN for a set of two (even though this set said $2.59), the other Home Hardware charges $2.99. I tried most of the hardware locations here; Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Lowes, Rona, Bardon, even Wal-Mart. Only Home Depot had something close, but they were taller, narrower and had wavy teeth not zig-zag ones. Another set made by Master Plumber did not have very good teeth.

They are 1 11/16 inches wide and 3/8 inch high. They just fit on a '2 inch' piece of stock. The teeth are 1/8 inch high and 1/4 inch wide. The bottom is 1 1/4 inch wide with a 7/8 inch hole. They appear to  be made of steel, very strong but light. They mesh together very well but I might use a thin rubber washer between them to keep them from slipping. They have 12 teeth and 12 valleys so they would work for 0/30/60/90 degree angles.


Oh yeah, the hardware for the joint. I was thinking of using a Carriage Bolt because the head is domed and it has a square shoulder that would lock into the wood.* Then I'd use a washer and a threaded knob on the other side to pull the joint together tight.


*I had found a torque washer online that looks like the socket/anchor but a square hole, no threads and the barbs. Couldn't find it locally.

Sorry, I meant that the torque washers have barbs, but no threads.

Chowmix12 (author)Greenish Apple2010-05-02

I believe "Ontario" suggests it was built in Canada.. just to put that out there...

notnorm (author)2010-04-15

A big tip of the hat to jumpfroggy for inspiring so much creation and imitation!  I don't have access to a lot of tools or a Home Depot that will cut wood for me.  I found a way to create a modge podge of parts from different things that just needs to be bolted together.  The legs (Two foot shelving brackets) are bolted to two shelf supports an and then attached with random hardware to a closet shelf that was intended to hang.  It' not collapsible or adjustable but it's very sturdy.  I intend to get some washers and wing nuts to make the process of assembling and disassembling more convenient.  There were two pieces included with the hanging shelf that work as a great cooling stand for flat surfaces (also pictured).  They just require a bit of bending.  total it cost me around 27.  More than I intended but I'm still happy.

nedfunnell (author)2009-05-09

Your last step mentions a "leg-nail" mod by a commentor named Supafly, but I can't find the comment. Has it been deleted somehow? Could somebody fill me in? Thanks.

robomaniac (author)nedfunnell2010-02-22

It is superfly289scroll down until you see some images.

jumpfroggy (author)nedfunnell2009-05-10

I can't find it either now, maybe I misspelled his name. Basically, drill a few holes in the bottom leg near the joint, starting closest to the joint and going out along the leg. Then when you want to lock it, open the leg and put the nail in the hole closest to the angle you want. This way the upper leg is prevented from closing due to the nail in the way, and you're not as dependent on the friction of the tightened bolt to keep the platform from sinking. Also, since you drill many holes you can change the angle just by moving the nail from one hole to another.

Kill3rash (author)2010-01-09

Another simple solution for the slipping legs is this circular fixing system. You just make holes in circle on both legs and you just have to insert a nail or some screw into the holes. But please consider to use a hard wood. Pine won´t work, as it won´t stick in the desired position. I have tested it with pine and it did not work properly. oak might be a much better solution. I used for my desktop stand the solution used by superfly

goldenskyz (author)2009-06-10

Ok guys heres my version.. there was a lot of debate about how to hold the position, knurled knobs, checkers, etc. While a method like this is nice because it allows for infinite adjustment, I decided that most likely there would only be need for 2 or 3 positions. I don't know much about ergonomics so I just guessed at 45,30, and 15 degrees. So far its worked great, I use the 45 degree position for typing and the 30 for playing games. I've found the 15 degree position pretty useless and if I build more will probably eliminate it. Everything is counter sunk and pocketed so that it folds flat. The basket is from an old freezer and is perfect because it already had the "lips" on it. The stands are made from aluminum bar that I found at the hardware store. Questions are welcome. Thanks jumpfroggy for the 'ible and inspiration!

jumpfroggy (author)goldenskyz2009-07-26

Could you post closeup pics of where the support meets the bottom leg? I'm curious, as this looks like a good solution. And man, that thing is *wide*. Looks nice though. It's funny, when you're making something like this you always think you'll need a lot of adjustability... then when you start using it, you realize you only need 1 or 2 positions. It's more about being able to collapse the thing for storage later, which I don't even do anymore... I just hang it off the end of the bed.

goldenskyz (author)jumpfroggy2009-07-27

Here you go..I did a little sketch up, it's not to scale but it gives you a decent idea about what's going on. For those of you that want more adjustability you can make the channel as long as and with as many stop notches as you like! And YES it is a little wide but keep in mind that the laptop in the picture is just a baby 13 incher! I use the extra space for a mouse and pad, it's awesome for gaming. Good to hear from you jumpfroggy!

jumpfroggy (author)goldenskyz2009-07-27

Awesome, looks great. Good ideas with the notches. I might do this if I can route the notches.

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