Instructables
This desk was designed to meet specific needs- it had to be:
1) Large enough to spread out a textbook, notebook computer, and writing notebook.
2) Durable, with legs that do not wobble or a span that bends under weight.
3) Without nooks and crannies that would fill up with knick knacks.
4) Modern, clean, stylish and a positive addition to my workspace. 

My finished product has douglas fir legs, a birch top with steel panels and an acrylic overlay. The edges are finished with aluminum angle. 

And so we begin with the materials: 
1 4x8' 3/4" Birch Plywood
1 3x6' 0.118" Acrylic Sheet
1 12' 4x4" Douglas Fir 
2 8' 1" Aluminum Angle
12 8x12" Galvanized Steel Flashing in Pre-cut sections
10 3/4" #8 Stainless Screws
4 4" 3/8" Hanger Bolts
4 3/8" Tee Nuts
1 Can Polyurethane Finish
Double Stick Tape
Glue
Wide Tape
Aluminum Polish
Car Wax

Tools:
Circular Saw
 Jigsaw
Square
Tape Measure
Drill with various drivers and bits
Router
Tin Snips
 
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Step 1: Plan and Cut to Size

This step was relatively  simple for me, as my steel panels were 8x12". My final dimensions for the top were therefore 32x60". 

But layout a design on your available plywood and see what works best. With an acrylic top, you can put nearly anything underneath, I considered pictures, lights and many other designs. 

I used a circular saw to cut the plywood down, a table saw or hand saw would work just fine as well. 

Step 2: Cut Legs to Length

Picture of Cut Legs to Length
 This is the step you'll feel the most once you have your finished product. The best advice is to find a table you like the height of, and copy the leg length. I cut my legs to 29", and they're just on the edge of being too long. But I'm a tall guy, and with an adjustable chair it's very comfortable- if anything a taller desk forces you to sit with better posture. 

When working with a 12' beam, we chose to cut it into quarters, then down to our desired size. Wasteful yes, but easier to manage and keep square. 
tecneeq4 years ago
Not bad. Not bad at all. Did you consider to get real glas instead of acrylic sheet? Should be scratch free for many years.
zwild1 (author)  tecneeq4 years ago
Glass is a great suggestion- and it would look great over the steel panels.. Unfortunately the cost is prohibitive, and plexiglass is cheap, easy to work with, and lightweight. I'm also pleased with the durability so far- under normal use scratches should be a non-issue. 
 Yeah and you can always sand the plexiglass back to clear if you need to.
Can you sand plexiglass to clear? I've not had luck with that; is it just a matter of going to a high enough grit?

Actually, even sanding the plexiglass frosted would be a very interesting look with the checkerboard materials behind it.

IF you search the net, you will find that even in the highest polished of materials, the bottom line is, the higher the grit, the finer the scratches become...in other words, you can start out with a scratched up, ugly looking piece of acrylic & as you sand it with the different grits, getting finer grit with each change, eventually, you will have a gorgeous piece of acrylic....

Keep in mind though, "polishing" acrylic can be do 2 things:

1) it can take a loooooooooooong time to get it how you want it.

2) it can also be very hard, pain in the posterior, back breaking work..

Notice I said "IT CAN BE..." some time it is & other times it is not....all depends on the quality of the work you put into it.

Also a good point to remember here is that it's always easier and faster to sand and/or polish 1cm x 1cm area, than 1m x 1m area. Also the bigger the area, the harder it gets to get it "evenly" sanded/polished.

You can sand it to clear again, but it is a slow matter of working up from ~200 to somewhere above 10 000 depending on how clear you want it to be.

Oh and also you would be sanding with water on the surface (to clear the dust between the surface and the sandpaper) for most of the time.
SIRJAMES0922 days ago

I can not say it enough...

ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!! :)

Must be hell without a mousepad.

I have used an optical mouse for more than 12 years & in that time, I have NEVER needed a mouse pad....

even some of the older mice with the tracking ball inside do not NEED a mouse pad....besides, If'n I ever need a mouse pad, I'd rather make my own....it's a lower cost that way.

zwild1 (author)  josiahkerley4 years ago
 Optical mice work just fine! But It's my computer-free, distraction free workspace anyhow. 
Ok, cool.  Great looking project!
SIRJAMES0923 days ago

AWESOME!!

Absolutely GORGEOUS!

Tho it does not seem hard to do, I believe that what you have accomplished, has taken a lot of time, effort, and very exhausting...

BUT,

To see the finished product, makes it all worth it. : )

TY for sharing Sir....Absolutely GORGEOUS! : )

Great project! I would have never thought of putting aluminum on a desk top. Bravo! I also built several desks which you can find on my website: krazy4projects.com. Thanks for sharing!
Danieljr2 years ago
What was the wide tape used for?
zwild1 (author)  Danieljr2 years ago
No idea. I suppose I meant the painter's tape used when I bent the aluminum angle.

The desk is still going strong by the way, 2.5 years later!
kid007la4 years ago
Great instructable. Just one quick question. Where did you buy the acrylic sheet and how much did it cost you?
scrain kid007la3 years ago
I was able to find a sheet with the exact same dimensions listed above at Lowes for $47.75... on their site it's listed as "DURAPLEX 30" x 60" Clear High Impact Acrylic", Item #: 11289, Model #: 1AG1775A.
How durable is the acrylic with use?
f2a4 years ago
Nice, you could even write on it with dry erase markers if you wanted.
Zeboaz4 years ago
Did you cut in more then you did on the second picture? Or simply cut all the way through the top part of the angle, and bent the bottom to fit the work bench?
Thanks for the great instructions. How long did this take you and about how much did it cost?
zwild1 (author)  ballisticboy1014 years ago
 It took about two days with plenty of downtime, a single trip to the hardware store, and $172.

I have no doubt that this could have been done cheaper, but the price isn't so far off from a nice IKEA desk, and it's much sturdier. And hey, if I get tired of the design, I'm only a few screws away from changing the design. 
BHStibal zwild14 years ago
 does the price it cost you include all of the tools, or was it just materials? I really like the table and it looks really cool!
zwild1 (author)  BHStibal4 years ago
 Dpdk is right- that's only a materials cost. But simple had tools, like hand saws and an inexpesive drill, could be used to complete the project with equal quality. It'll just take a bit more time and effort is all. 

Thanks for the comment!
Dpdk BHStibal4 years ago
Haha, that's going to be only for the materials.
RCMadMatt4 years ago
Very nice! Simple, yet elegant at the same time. Well done!

Matt
lemonie4 years ago
Very nice job, and good instruction.

L
zwild1 (author)  lemonie4 years ago
 Thanks lemonie!
nanosec124 years ago
I think I would like to try this, but with a set of tarnished brass plates and a deeper mahogany stain.  I like the step by step of your 'ible, not too many boring details, and an overall assumption that if you are going to try this, you have some clue of what you are doing. Well written.
zwild1 (author)  nanosec124 years ago
 Thanks! This would look great with a little victorian flair. You could even use brass screws or put laser cut gears and things underneath the acrylic.