Are you interested in building your own desk? This guide provides detailed instructions of the structure and assembly of a metal-plate desk, with schematics you can modify to fit your needs. No gimmick design, but a practical, full-size, easy to transport desk you will be comfortable with using for years. For a more unique addition, this guide will include the installation of LED-based ambient lighting to the underside of the desk.

Purpose and Design Choices
This construction seeks to create a practical, metal home-office / gaming desk. In designing everything, I found it very difficult to find well-written instructions for DIY desks that weren't gimmicks, such as "Cinder-Blocks and a Door", or "Hang a Desk From Your Ceiling." This guide is meant to be educational, easy to understand, and highly-detailed.

Large desks are heavy and difficult to transport, this desk is designed to be light-weight, sturdy, and easy to assemble. Kee-Klamp joints are the basis of the construction, and require only a Hex-Wrench to attach or remove. Aluminum is the plate material, for the reasons of A) Rigidity, less flexible than steel; B) Weight, lighter than steel or hardwood; C) Soft metal, easier to polish, cut, and drill; D) Resistance to corrosion or discoloration.

This is a costly project, the total for the two desks, with parts, shipping, and tax, was around $420. This price is assuming that all plates are obtained used, not new. There is also a large investment in time, I designed and assembled everything during the weekends over two months. This does not include the cost of power-tools, which are listed on Step 1. The cost can be lowered by not using flanges for feet, and buying only one large plate. Despite being over $400 for two desks, it is easy to spend more than that on a low-quality, particle-board pedestal desk; the burden of cost for this project is time, not money.

Every day I use this desk, and I am extremely satisfied with the results. I hope you enjoy and learn from this instructable, and encourage you to adapt and modify this knowledge to suit your needs. Good luck, and enjoy!

Step 1: Tools, Parts, and Costs

Overview and Access
The tools and parts used in this guide are common, what I use is not necessarily the best. If you do not own these power-tools, ask a neighbor, relative, employer, or friend to borrow theirs; the DeWalt angle grinder used in this guide is a borrow. Many work benches are stocked with sad, unused equipment, with owners that would be glad to see them put to use. Making this desk at a reasonable cost requires resourcefulness.

Power Tools
  1. Jigsaw w/ 12-16 TPI Blades - Used to cut the plates. To properly cut aluminum, you should be using a plasma cutter. As I do not have access to one, this will have to do. Blades are $8 per 5-pack at Lowes, I used three blades during this project. Don't use tungsten carbide or wood-blades.
  2. Power Drill - Drills the holes that connect pipe-flanges to the plate. Two bits were used, a 1/4" and 9/16".
  3. Angle Grinder w/ Steel Wire Brush - Cleans and polishes aluminum. Since scrap-aluminum comes with scratches, creating brush-patterns makes it look new, reduces the visibility of wear-and-tear, and is quite beautiful.
  4. Mitre Saw w/ Steel Grinding Disc- Cuts the pipes used for the frame. A hacksaw will work, but is exhausting.
Misc Tools
  1. Four-foot Level - Measures everything.
  2. Sharpie - Marks everything.
  3. Hammer - For making bolts flush.
  4. Crescent Wrench - Tightens hex nuts.
  5. 1/4" Hex-Key - Tightens Kee Klamps.
  6. Cutting Fluid - Makes your jigsaw cut much faster, vibrate less, reduces heat, and keeps your blades from wearing out.
  7. Acetone - Cleans up pen marks, dirts, and oils.
  8. Bar-Clamps - Hold the plates to a stable surface.
  9. Saw-Horses or Cinder-Blocks - You need the plate elevated to cut it properly.

Safety Equipment
Fabricating effectively requires safety, if you're hurt, the project can take longer or be canceled. A wood speck in your eye will eventually go away, an aluminum speck can dig in and require a trip to the hospital. I take safety very seriously, so I can continue making fun projects.
  1. Wrap-Around Eye Protection - I use sunglasses, and keep my head as far back from the jigsaw as possible. Available for cheap at any hardware store.
  2. Leather Gloves - Leather over synthetic, the metal is going to become extremely hot, especially when polishing with the wire brush. Your tools will become very hot after hours of use, not to mention sharp edges. Mine were $6 at the local hardware store.
  3. Earplugs - Your hearing only degrades with time, take care of it.
  4. Dust Mask (Optional) - During polishing a lot of aluminum dust fills the air, breathing it for awhile makes your nose and lungs stuffy.
Desk Materials
1/4" Aluminum Plates - The most difficult to obtain material for cheap. A new 4' x 8' x 1/4" plate costs about $400. All of the plates came from my city's scrapyard. Every purchase situation will be different, everything can be done with one large plate; Two plates were purchased due to projects not relating to the desk.
  • A 4' x 8' x 1/4" plate ($107). A full desk can be made with just one of these.
  • A 38" x 66"' x 3/16" plate ($31). I do not like anything lower than 1/4", this is what was available, being thinner requires more bracing.
  • 1" Overhead Canopy Pipe - Schedule 40 (Structural) pipe is available, but not necessary for this project. Electrical conduit piping, if it fits the flanges, can also be used.
  • 1/4" Diameter 1" Long Carriage Bolts and Nuts (1/4" #20)
    • Carriage-bolts are smooth on top, I do not recommend hex-bolts. Also acceptable are elevator bolts. List of Bolt Types.
  • Kee-Klamps - The joints that connect everything together, they use a hex screw to tighten onto a pipe and are easy to attach or remove. The difference between vendors is brand name and finish (chrome vs. galvanized), they all work equally well. The price difference for a 90 Degree Two Socket Tee is $12 at Simplified Design (Not recommended) vs $3 at Lab Safety Supply -- it adds up.
    • Two Recommended Suppliers
      • Lab Safety Supply - The cheapest supplier I could find. They sell galvanized, good selection. Extremely fast shipping. All connectors were purchased here.
      • DrillSpot - Great prices, absolutely amazing customer service. They sell both brand-name Kee Klamps and generic galvanized. I bought my 1" Flanges from them, but about 25% of my flanges have a hex nut that won't thread due to defects.
    • 14x 90 Degree Two Socket Tee 1"
    • 4x Single Socket Tee 1"
    • 18x Railing Flange 1"

LEDs Tools and Parts (Optional)
For ambient lighting / underglow. This step is moderately costly, but it adds greatly to the value of the desk.
  • 3W Luxeon LED Stars; 4x Red and 6x Blue.
  • 5W 3.3 Ohm Cement Resistors
    • Three were needed, pack of 10 from cn-resource on eBay.
  • 65W 12v Laptop Power Supply.
  • 15 W Soldering Iron, Solder, Wire - Instructable on How to Solder by noahw.
  • Artic Alumina Ceramic Thermal-Epoxy - Glues the LEDs and transfers heat to the underside of the plate.
Hey just wanna say i love your intstructables and always incorporating the lighting stuff, super cool!!
Are you using one monitor for your pc and xbox? If so, how?<br> <br> <strong>EDIT</strong>: bad phrasing Do you have to unplug and replug any time you want to switch? Multiple inputs? Or some special rig?
There are three Xbox 360s in the room. One for the 42&quot; TV (HDMI), one for the 36&quot; CRT TV (Component), one for the 24&quot; computer monitor (HDMI). For the computer it sits next to, we just switch the HDMI cable, takes about 20 seconds honestly. If you want multiple input, I'm pretty sure you can buy a VGA cable for the 360 online, they used to make them a long time ago, but they're no longer manufactured new.
Thanks! Love the 'ible by the way. I'll look into finding one of those cables.
I love overengineered stuff. Are you worried about the plate corners at all? They look pretty pointy.,,
That was a consideration, they could easily have been rounded during initial cutting. In the end, I smoothed them out a bit with the angle-grinder, but yes, don't bonk your head on one.
Hey Dan, when preparing the surface for bonding LEDs, you should clean the surface with a rag and solvent before applying the adhesive, as just blowing on it might not get all the aluminum dust off the surface. Because it is not structural it is not a big deal, but just good practice.
Thanks, good to know, I will add that into the guide.

About This Instructable




Bio: I have a passion for tweaking things. Whether it be modding video game consoles, creating custom laser displays, or any creations with lights I love ... More »
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