Picture of Cheap and easy desktop electric outlet
I use an old corner unit computer desk as a workbench for computers and other things that people make me fix. I got tired of climbing under the desk to plug and unplug tools and other things that I was working on. I am also a neat-freak and didn't want a power-strip/surge-protector cluttering up my desktop. My solution was to actually install 2 electrical outlets near the rear of the work area and try not to start a fire.

I am not an electrician, so I headed to Home Depot with an idea and some questions. (Home Depot employees have all the answers.) The part-time employee assured me that my idea would work and not start a fire. I rejoiced, built two of them that worked like charms, and decided to share the process.

Here is a step-by-step of how to make easy and safe desktop outlets.

Step 1: Collect your materials.

Picture of Collect your materials.
There is a relatively short materials list for this project. All you need is:
1 - outlet
1 - face plate
1 - electrical cord with ground wire and plug.
1 - plastic outlet box (I am not sure what these are called. They have plastic tabs that fold out and can be tightened with screws to hold them to the wall, or in this case, the desk.)

You are also going to need a drill, a screwdriver, and a saw of some sort.
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paganwonder6 years ago
A power strip is much safer.
This is just as safe, if not safer than a power strip. Would you rather assemble something yourself, and know that you did it correctly, or buy something that was made in china by mindless factory workers?? And, most (all, from what I've seen) power strips do not feature GFCI protection, but if you build it yourself, you can incorporate that. The only difference is that this won't have surge protection, but, you don't need it unless you're using delicate electronics such as a computer...and I'm sure someone could figure out a way to incorporate a surge protector in with a relay or something that would make it just as good as a power strip... Just my two cents...

Since this outlet is used mostly for temporary connections, there are probably other, more permanent items on the desk that require power. A power strip with surge protection mounted behind or under the desk would be required for those connections anyway... Plug this extra outlet in the power strip and Voilà! --you have surge protection!

Very nice. I'm going to make one. I'm going to plug mine into GFCI outlet because I'm a klutz and am worried about spilled drinks. Also, there are thingys for lamp wiring that are called "strain relief" that can be used for the extension cord instead of a zip tie. Zip ties tend to deteriorate after a couple of years.





Thank you! Best regards, Arlene

SRDGadgetRepair made it!7 months ago
what a fab idea. im from Uk so worked out a little expensive. £20 sockets but with 2 USB Ports included i couldnt comlplain..Thanks for the idea
bellyr681 year ago
There are cheap usb controlled power strips, If you add USB outlet interface, it's perfect! Get more information
aloew2 years ago
I just finished upgrading my nightstand using your instructable. I used a steel box (plastic isn't up to code) and a 2-plug, 2-USB outlet instead.
DangerArt (author)  aloew2 years ago
I like it! I'd do it, but my night stands are glass topped. :-(
aloew DangerArt2 years ago
The one time buying IKEA furniture has paid off, I guess. I would do it to my desk, but it's got such a nice wood top that I'd hate to ruin it, and getting it down to my workspace would be awful
anvil_man2 years ago
I would use a outlet type that uses wire clamping screws when your using stranded wire.
if you look close at the outlets (receptacles) there different grades. I would use a Commercial or a Industrial better contacts.
FYI. my studio is wired with stranded wire. in conduit.
that is why I like the clamping type Terminal screws.

Good idea .
Mpgervace3 years ago
I have a question. I just came across your project. So you're saying that taking an extension cord, splicing it from a 3 pronged outlet and jumpering it to another outlet (to make desk outlet hot) is safe?
I would think the "house" wiring behind walls, is not the same as extension cord wire... How has this worked out for you?
silliou7 years ago
Might be worth noting that at least in Australia you are not legally allowed to do electrical work like this by yourself. That being said I still say awesome instructable, well done.
jongscx silliou7 years ago
Really? Even if it's not part of the internal house wiring? I'm in Athens, Georgia, USA and we're legally able to work on ANY and ALL Parts of our home so long as they meet the requirements ("to code") and are inspected by the county. I did all the wiring in an 800 sq ft deck, all the way to the junction box myself, and I'm not licensed to do it.
In the uk, i think were allowed to modify electrics as long as it plug in to a wall outlet, thats why i've exploited it by putting pretty much everything in an extension lead (don't worry about overloading, the fuses in the uk are in the plug itself)
if im not allowed to do that then, oh well, it's already installed.
silly health and saftey laws are whats killing the country.
i am only 15 and haven't been killed by home electrics, how hard can people find it?
crache jongscx7 years ago
I've heard that australian law requires something as simple as changing light bulbs to be done by a certified professional.
no, we are aloud to do that, your not ment to but you can get around doing things like this instructable, but im 16 ran down to a home depo type store and did it in an afternoon,we just have strict laws due to people, oh i dont know, DIEING! lol
SplatU crache4 years ago
LOL How many of them does it take??
Autralians get the laws they didn't plan for because a socialist system is so important to them that, like Americans, they're too reluctant to vote the bad blokes out. What a shock!!
Socialism is economic. You're associating it with nanny-state like laws. You're wrong.
DustySeven74 years ago
I have a friend that works with wiring and the slots are either or. If you leave them they act as a cable snag to hold the wires. You can also remove them.
hairyyy04 years ago
I go to a new technical college in Wichita Kansas and all the desk in any computer lab and the auditorium have desk with built in power and Ethernet just like your instructable. I tend to be reminded of this every time I see one of those tables. You are on the leading edge sir!
Eigtball4 years ago
Exactly what I was looking for!!
cfishy7 years ago
Which wire goes where? (also, maybe you can use something other than live power to do testing before hooking it up.)
I'm not sure this is true for every outlet, but all of the ones I have worked with have colored screws. Green for ground, silver for white, and usually a darker metal for the black. Most outlets also have spring clips in the back that you can simply push the wire into, instead of the screws on the sides. Those are usually labeled, as well.
Absolutely right, however, those stab holes aren't meant for stranded wire. This is a pretty nice instructable though. Simple, easy, and to the point.
You really shouldn't be using stranded wire for something like this anyway. Just dangerous.
ajmontag7 years ago
that blue box is called a post construction electrical box
thanks for your comment...makes me look less foolish asking for a plastic eletical box at home depot, lol
Sandisk1duo7 years ago
HA-HA Emachine! i had one of those, it broke....
DangerArt (author)  Sandisk1duo6 years ago
So did mine. :-(
yeah, they suck
aandre6 years ago
I finally did it! I also put a switch for my 2 pedant lamps with 42 watt CFLs (blindingly bright). As for my questionable way of making the whole in my desk, don't ask. The good part is that the whole room is GFCI protected, so I don't have to worry about water getting on the outlets.
DangerArt (author)  aandre6 years ago
Awsome work!
Nice! I'm going to try this both with the outlets, and another one with multiple USB cables to make a hub. five stars and fav'd :)
DangerArt (author)  jmacfarlane8236 years ago
Thanks! I did the same thing with 3 ethernet plugs and switch that I screwed underneath my desk. I may throw that up as an instructable as well.
tigerdog3306 years ago
hey i love this idea and i did something very similar recently.. but when my dad came home and saw it, he said that it was against code... idk about where you guys live, but here in new york you might not want to do this.. ya know.. just in case some under riter guy comes to inspect your house
Your dads wrong, this is the exact same wiring that your house uses, just with a plug on the end so that you can plug it into an outlet. As long as you correctly ground it, it is up to code just as much as your whole house is. The only part that could be questionable by code is the fact that the wire could be pulled out of the back of the box because someone tripped on it or something. If this is a concern, use a metal box that you can buy clamps for, and clamp the wire down so that it won't pull out of the back of the box. Just make sure to split off another ground wire to ground the metal box.
no i checked and its against code. i know how electricity works just as much as anyone else and i know this is exactly like having it hardwired and in the wall in theory, but it isnt in the wall or hardwired, and its against code and my dads not wrong about this sort of stuff.. hes an electrician
No disrespect, but can you give me your source where it says that its against the NFPA electrical code?? What chapter/section?? I am curious about it...
i cant remember.. i looked it up in november when i first commented here i remember from it though that this is against code in a residential setting, but not in an industrial one. if you go into home depot, youll see those big retractable cords hanging from the ceiling with 2 dual gang outlets in a j-box on the end thats hanging. this is the same thing, but thats in an industrial setting, and this is a residential one.
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