Introduction: Building a Computer Desk / DIY Desk PC

In this two part video and Instructable, I'll show you how to build your own computer desk / desk PC. What's a desk PC? Well, you take all of your computer components and shove them into your desk, negating the need for a computer case. More importantly, they're fun to build and trick out!

Make sure to check out the two videos above before moving onto the Instructable! There's a lot of detail that's hard to convey through pictures and text alone. Onwards!

Step 1: Gather Your Materials, Hardware & Tools

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This desk has a LOT of hardware, I tried to list everything below as that's the most common question on these Instructables usually. The tools needed for this build are pretty simple, you could build the whole desk with a circular saw, jigsaw, and drill.

Materials Used on Computer Desk / Desk PC Build

Tools Used on Computer Desk / Desk PC Build

Step 2: Get to Know the Design

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Let's take a look at the SketchUp model before getting into the build, so you can get a handle on this project. Here's the complete desk.

Also, I do have plans available for this desk, including the SketchUp file, cut list, and cutting diagram to help break down the plywood. You can check the plans out here:

The second photo is the "midsection", as I'll call it in this build. The midsection and cabinet legs are separate structures. This makes them easy to separate if/when the desk needs to be moved. Since this desk is all plywood, it is incredibly heavy. Having it as three separate structures makes it much more manageable.

On the cabinet legs, the channel you see in the back right and left of the cabinets is for cables to run through. The hole on the right cabinet is a compartment for a subwoofer. The sub is located inside the desk, surrounded in foam to isolate the sound. This desk is in a dorm room, and the isolated sub really helps keep from pissing off the other students.

Step 3: Break Down Materials

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Alright, now that we know how the desk will look, let's get onto the build! First step is to break down the sheet goods. I used a table saw and track saw/circular saw, but you could get away with breaking down all of the pieces with a circular saw. Just make sure to keep everything square!

Step 4: Cut Holes Needed in Cabinet Legs & Assemble Cabinet Carcasses

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After the pieces are broken down, I cut the individual holes into the various pieces using a jigsaw. This is the back of one of the cabinets, and is where the cables will run out. In the second photo, I'm cutting the hole for the subwoofer compartment.

After cutting the holes, I assembled the cabinets and most of the desk using pocket holes. Pocket holes are a great choice for assembling sheet good projects (plywood, MDF, etc). They're fast and plenty strong for these applications. This is the pocket hole jig I used. It has paid for itself many times over, I use it all the time.

I assembled the desk with 1 ¼" pocket screws and glue. When drilling your pocket holes, make sure to orient them so they're facing either the inside or the back of the structures, this way they'll be hidden in the final desk.

In the second to last photo, I'm assembling the cable channel that is mounted in the back of the cabinet. Brad nails and glue are plenty here.

The last piece in the cabinet carcasses are these top stretchers. These help to strengthen everything and keep everything square.

Step 5: Assemble the Desk PC Midsection

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Next, I started assembling the midsection. I attached the sidewalls with screws and glue from below. Make sure to pre-drill! In the first photo, I'm installing the back of the midsection.

Continue adding your pieces. I would also highly recommend countersinking your holes, otherwise the screws might not sit flush and will cause gaps between the midsection and cabinets.

I decided to get fancy with the front pieces of the midsection and cut the vent holes and USB hub mounting hole with my CNC. This is obviously completely optional, but I thought this was a nice touch. With the holes cut, I mounted the front piece, again with screws and glue.

In the last photo, you'll see the inner divider, which will hold the fans. There is one of these on each side of the midsection, and one set of fans will pull air in and the other will push air out. This will create plenty of circulation in the midsection. It's attached with pocket screws.

Next, I installed in the inner side walls. This is where the keyboard tray will mount.

Step 6: Cut Away Excess Plywood From Desk PC Midsection

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After getting all of the side pieces mounted, I flipped the midsection and cut away the excess plywood from inside the keyboard tray area. I marked out my lines using a framing square then cut away the excess with a jigsaw. I left about ¼" of excess material, just to make sure I didn't cut into the sides of the desk.

After rough cutting the cutout, I flushed everything up with a flush trim bit on my router.

Step 7: Cut Holes Into Desk PC Midsection

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Next, I needed to cut a bunch of holes into the sides and bottom of the midsection for the cables to pass through. I made a little template and used a template bit on a trim router to make these holes. I first tried cutting them with the jigsaw but they looked sloppy and it was a slow process. With the template, I was able to knock these out really quickly.

Here, you can see the template in action. I clamp it down onto the midsection, lower the router into the template, and follow the template with the router bit. This bit has a bearing that rides along the edge of the template. I had to take two passes since the cut was fairly deep.

The last piece I needed to get done for the midsection was this long divider (third photo). This piece really stressed me out, as this is where the computer components will be mounted. I had some pretty exact measurements I needed to hit here. I actually managed to cut this on my relatively small CNC by cutting the holes on one half then flipping the piece over and cutting the rest of the holes. You could also use a jigsaw.

Step 8: Build the Drawers

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With the midsection and cabinets done, I started working on the drawers. They're made of ½" plywood for the sides and ¼" plywood for the bottom.

I initially assemble the drawer with brad nails and glue then come back and reinforce the corners and bottom with screws. Again, make sure to pre-drill!

Next, I routed the drawer handles into the drawer fronts. I made a quick little template and used the same template bit I used previously, this time on the router table. You could definitely use a handheld router for this. Using a template ensures that all of the drawer fronts will look the same.

Step 9: Build the Keyboard Tray

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I assembled the keyboard tray in the same way as the drawers, with brad nails, glue, then screws. The tray is basically just a drawer with no front, and is made with ½" plywood. The holes are for the keyboard and mouse cables.

Step 10: Fit the Computer Desk Top

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Next, I chamfered the top and bottom edges of the desk top with the router. This helps with wear and tear on the edges of the plywood, and also gives the top a nice, finished look.

Step 11: Install the Drawers & Drawer Fronts

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I installed the drawers using inexpensive bottom mount drawer slides. These install really easily and are nice and smooth.

Next, I installed the drawer fronts. You can see how clean the pulls look since I used the template. I spaced the drawer fronts evenly using playing cards, then clamped them in place and attached them with screws from the inside of the drawer.

Step 12: Add Spacer Blocks to Bottom of Cabinets

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The last pieces to add were these spacer blocks on the bottom of the cabinets. I needed to add these, since the casters I used needed 1 ½" of mounting depth and this plywood is ¾" thick. I just glued and brad nailed them in place.

Step 13: Connect Cabinets and Midsection

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Next, I need to connect the cabinets and midsection. I used biscuits for this, but you could also use dowels if you don't have a biscuit joiner. I added two biscuits along the front edge and three biscuits along the side. I glued the bottom half of the biscuit into the midsection slot but didn't glue in the top half. This way, the desk can be separated for moving. This worked really, really well.

Step 14: Prep for Finish

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I filled all of the holes with wood filler and then sanded all of the surfaces smooth. I used hardwood plywood on this project, and I would highly recommend using something like that. It starts out really smooth, so it didn't take a ton of work to get it ready for finish. Sheathing grade plywood would have been a pain.

Step 15: Paint the Computer Desk (aka a Complete Nightmare)

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For the finish, I used a black milk paint covered with a clear polyurethane top coat for protection. I attempted to spray the milk paint, and it was a major fail.

Here I am trying to spray the paint, trying being the operative word. This was a HUGE pain and was incredibly slow, no matter how much I thinned the paint. I ended up having to paint the desk by hand, and it was a very, very, very slow process. It took my wife and I over seven hours to put two coats onto the desk. It was not fun. I almost had a breakdown here. Many thanks to my lovely, patient wife for keeping me sane here.

Step 16: Apply Clear Coat to the Computer Desk

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After painting, I sprayed on three coats of water based polyurethane. This was so much quicker, and probably only took an hour and a half for all three coats, plus the couple of hours of drying time between coats. I also sanded with 320 grit sandpaper between coats.

Step 17: Install Computer Desk Hardware & Electronics

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With the finish applied, it was time to install all of the hardware. First, the access panel for the subwoofer compartment. I installed this door using a piano hinge and barrel bolt.

Next, I installed the fans. One of these 90 degree impact driver attachments is a necessity here.

I continued installing the electronics, attached the USB hubs and power button. I used the playing card trick again here to get even spacing.

Next, I installed these cable pass through brush plates. There are a total of five of these on the desk. Two on the front, behind the keyboard tray, for the mouse and keyboard cables to pass through into the desk. The other three are on the back of the desk, and this is where the cables for the three monitors route into the desk. Pretty slick.

Next, I installed the piano hinges on the back of the top. I used two 30" piano hinges, and they seem plenty strong to support the top.

I installed the drawer slides for the keyboard tray next. I'm not super happy with the way the keyboard tray works, since it's a little loose when it's fully extended. It's not a huge deal, but not as good as I had hoped. I think some different drawer slides might have worked better.

Finally, I installed the gas struts that help lift the top and hold it up when working "beneath the hood", so to speak. These were a royal pain and took a lot of fiddling, but I finally got it right.

The last step in the build was to install the casters. These were simple, just drilled a few holes, pounded the caster sleeve into the hole with a hammer, then popped the casters in. Done! Also, my niece found these casters fascinating.

Step 18: Marvel in the Greatness of Your Super Awesome Lift Top!

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This was an extremely satisfying moment.

Step 19: Trick It Out With Your Computer Components!

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Obviously, this desk can be customized to fit any configuration you need, and you can also swap out parts as they become obsolete in the future. This desk should last for many, many years.

Step 20: Enjoy Your Desk!

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Hopefully, you all enjoyed this build. This was a huge undertaking for me, and I'll really happy with the way it turned out.

Again, I do have plans available for this if you want to replicate this exact desk, including the SketchUp file, cut list, and cutting diagram to help break down the plywood. You can check the plans out here:

If you liked this project, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. I put out new projects like this every week and would love to have you as a subscriber!


JimM38 (author)2018-01-15

You did a nice job on this. You're going to find naysayers in every corner of the maker world. Don't let them discourage you. Thanks for sharing.

BenCC (author)2018-01-15

Your efforts are well worth your end result! Thank you for stepping up and showing us your design. Ones with bad comments are the ones that usually sit on there hands. Be proud!

KipA2 (author)2018-01-15

That's awesome. After that much effort and expense however, I'd pony up for better drawer slides, but I love it!

nhm91135 (author)2018-01-15

Nice idea but I would rather have the computer components in the drawers of the desk. I have more than a few things on my desk, and would not want to remove it all just to get at the computer.

fireballcz (author)2018-01-15

Nice example, how to make simple things diffcult :(

JacobR4 (author)2017-01-20

Probally got the idea from Linus.

+1 for compleated

tutdude98 (author)JacobR42017-01-21

guess you never heard of l3p d3sk or red harbinger

crazypj (author)tutdude982017-12-31

Nope, you going to supply links?

tutdude98 (author)crazypj2018-01-01 harbinger is simmilar, but can be bought online instead of DIY, i was planning to do something like that but had no time for it

crazypj (author)tutdude982018-01-06


Cantilevered desk is a nice touch.

The desk I designed and 'built' isn't a 'square box' but designed to fit into a corner with a curved front for easy access to all the peripherals plus various shelves built in for storage, printers, extra monitors, etc

tutdude98 (author)crazypj2018-01-01

You just have to google it, it was really popular few years ago

RadekJ (author)tutdude982018-01-02

That... was a classic faceslap sir ;)

iphillips1 (author)2018-01-02

I think I'm going to do this with a TV stand, for an Home-Theater PC.

KrithikaS3 (author)2017-01-24

Nice build..but you decided not to go with a glass top like Linus Sebastian did to show off the components (maybe you gave a reason for that in your video but I didn't watch all the way)

RadekJ (author)KrithikaS32018-01-02

Breaking news: Linus wasn't the first to build such desk. Google for L3P for instance.

leonardipc (author)2018-01-01

I really liked the idea!

You can think of doing only the top and put on a table already ready.
Congrats on the idea.
Sorry the translator

ajayt7 (author)2018-01-01

Great idea, fantastic job

BobH160 (author)2017-12-31

I could never make anything like this as your workshop is bigger than my house. I couldn't even make it in my shed as the desk is bigger than that too.

SherylinRM (author)2017-01-24

I like it :)

About 20 years ago I did something similar.

The woodworkers said "why"? The computer people said "can't be done".

I like when people say impossible. Then I go and do it lol :)

Good build :)

crazypj (author)SherylinRM2017-12-31

LOL, yep, I 'designed' mine around 1999 and built most of it in 2001. Unfortunately, I built it in the room I was going to use it in and it got put into service before being finished as I was working 12+hr shifts for over 3 yrs. So far, 16 yrs later, it still isn't finished but has been 'upgraded' over the years. It's one good thing about having a LOT of space for components

FloridaJo (author)SherylinRM2017-12-31

That's great Sherylin. I love putting perplexed faces on people by thinking out of the box too.

darrellrisley (author)2017-12-31

WOW! A computer nerd (like me) and a wood worker (also like me)! A very creative and practical idea. Great build, very well explained. Roughly what was the cost? I didn't notice it in the article. And kudos to your precious wife for putting up with it and actually helping! Better hang on to her, she's a keeper.

RickO8 (author)2017-12-31

Great job and Instructable. Another take on this would be to use your ideas for the top (pc) portion and retrofit an existing desk. Save $$.
Also a person could utilize a micro frame pc like a Dell 7050 micro and add peripherals as needed (DVD , outboard ssd storage etc) to keep component continuity.
All in all fantastic job. Kudos

JeffTR66 made it! (author)2017-12-31

Just finished mine last week! Installed a Hackintosh inside.

PaulC80 (author)2017-12-31

This looks damn smart, mine were desks that were built into part of bedroom / dining room.

What I can't find is any references to earth points. All of the parts must be earthed. If you don't then you open up the equipment to electrical damage and worse - fires. Simply join all equipment (that would be found in a PC case) with 1mm wire (link all in a path and this will cut down joining all at the end) , scrape around a screw point on the power supply, put a ring electrical connector on the end of the earth cable and screw to the power supply, all safe and sound!

james0071st (author)2017-12-21

Awesome build!! Would love to try this, with some modifications of course. The link that you provide to the plans is not available anymore. Please help!!!

Thanks for letting me know! I updated the link to the plans.

Link still don't work.

Neat idea though, really neat.

jtmosgoode (author)2017-12-31

Everytime I try to download, I get a "No Thanks" button to click, nothing else.

lorryt0 (author)2017-12-31

I like it but would prefer when the lid lifts all components with lighting covered by perspex and a large monitor being exposed/fixed to the underside of the lid.

Not knocking it in anyway thanks for posting and food for thought.

Cheers Lorry

KentH8 (author)2017-09-07

I made a similar desk back in July 2011. Yours is a lot more detailed then the one I built. I used 2 X 2 White Oak for the legs and 1/4 inch white Oak for the sides. I used 3/4 inch strips where the door slides went and attached them to the 2 X 2 legs. The desktop is 3/4 inch White Oak. I found it a lot easier to spray stain and wipe it down with rags. To make the Groove cut for the 1/4 inch sides I used a Dado blade set since when I would use a 1/4 inch router blade it would burn out the bit rather quickly. The second photo shows where the computer tower went on the left. I did not put a back on it for ventilation reasons. To drill the holes for the wiring I used a hole saw kit for my drill. I used the hole saw door kit since there only $20. It took one sheet of 3/4 inch plywood ($85) and one sheet of 1/4 plywood ($35) for the build. The second cabinet I built was for storage that goes behind my existing desk. Don't remember how much the 2 X 2 legs were except they were inexpensive.

I have another office so I am going to integrate some of your techniques for the new computer desk to hide the wiring and to make it more modern. You are a lot better craftsmen then me and have much better tools. I will show you the new desk as soon as it's built.

Andajus (author)2017-01-28

Cool project. Awesome license plate btw :D

Techminer71 (author)2017-01-24

what's the estemated price of this

psargaco (author)2017-01-20

Great stuff! Loved the idea of stuffing the boards and disks inside the desk but then I read that comment about interferences. Maybe that could be solved with a metal grid box. It wouldn't interfere with cooling but would hopefully work as a Faraday cage. Additionally you could also include some liquid cooling system to make it all the more quiet. I don't care much for the black, though, but that's a matter of taste. I understand that using some good looking wood would make it more expensive.

1Madkahar (author)2017-01-20

I do see what people getting at here, on placing in a drawer, I could see a few changed for those of us without bigger rigs. however the spaced out area allows for better cooling. Its a great build. I had thought about doing a build similar and might take your idea and do a build. Possible replacing the center with plexi and a wood frame to show off neon and or parts.

Definitely busted your tail on this one shows...damn good looking.

farna (author)2017-01-19

If you don't need much computing power it would be real easy to build everything into one drawer. Just mount a ITX or other small motherboard in there with a power supply. You just need to make sure you have enough cable slack to open the drawer. Many other small computers come to mind, the quad core Raspberry Pi for example...

kdinis (author)2017-01-19

Awesome I had seen this on reddit the other day!

TomK147 (author)2017-01-19

I love this concept, and your great instructions! Is it quiet with all the fans running? I'm concerned that the cavity would act like a speaker box and possibly amplify sound.

rundmcarlson (author)2017-01-19

It would be neat to have the uppermost areas as drawers instead of lifting the whole top (usability wise it means clearing off the whole desk to get at the pc). If you could fit the whole motherboard, and hdds in a drawer (even one without sides) the psu could still go in the back portion of the desk (under your lid) and the wires should have enough slack to slide the drawer out for testing or swapping parts. Might also be a good emergency measure in case things start to overheat (maybe a fan stops working or something). Being able to expose the board to ambient air at a moments notice might be beneficial. Anyway, great job and a nice design or inspiration point for others to use.

shd128 (author)2017-01-19

I've done this some years ago.
It really saves up some space. The only issued I had was when I needed to change something inside the desk, but besides that its great... really good instructable! I love your desktop

BuddyMartn (author)2017-01-19

Is the "Black Milk Paint" a electrical conductive paint? (sorry, I hadn't ever heard of it) If it isn't, what are you doing about interference from outside sources? (The main reason computers are inside metal boxes)

Thank you... very nice project! Buddy

ScubaSteve51 (author)2017-01-19

Nice!!! I've found a roller and foam brush to be much better for large cover tons of surface area with the roller and smooth the bubbles with a wide foam brush. Tipping and rolling.

rbormann (author)2017-01-19

Awesome! But you are not using safety wood pushers on your table saw...

jacobz_20 (author)2017-01-19

All it needs now is a scissors jack between the layers to turn it into a convertible sitting/standing desk, which is a change I plan to put in if I ever make this desk or something similar.

jacobz_20 (author)jacobz_202017-01-19

Also, good job! This is one of the highest quality desks I've seen in a while.

jacobz_20 (author)jacobz_202017-01-19

You even used the type of drawer fronts I prefer the most, since they don't need real handles!

jeanneambro (author)2017-01-19

This is so awesome!! I love to build with wood, and my son loves to build computers - win, win! And there are some great cabinet building techniques to use/learn as well. Thanx for sharing.

mstevens13 (author)2017-01-18

I would love to make this!

Go for it!

TheSponge66 (author)2017-01-18

this is beautiful. Ill definitely take it into consideration!!

About This Instructable




Bio: Weekly how-to project videos about #woodworking, metalworking, and more. #Maker. Created by Johnny Brooke.
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