Introduction: Cheap and Easy Desk

Picture of Cheap and Easy Desk

My son is almost 8 now, and he had a nice little Crayola desk that my mom had bought for him to do his schoolwork at, and he had an old school desk with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse on it for his computer, and he had a lot of junk in his room. With the new school year looming on the horizon, I wanted to get him something a little better than that, out of a desperate hope that he'd spend a little time in there doing his homework and projects, instead of ruining the coffee table further.

With that in mind, I consulted all of my friends and coworkers for their best ideas for a desk. It turned out that my initial thinking (largest possible broad flat surface for the given space) was a pretty popular idea. This leads me to wonder why there are so many desks with little specialized compartments out there, but not enough to actually research it.

Step 1: Go Shopping.

Picture of Go Shopping.

I had about 81" of wall, my son's "Floor to elbow" measurement is 31", and his reach is 21" so I pretty much had figured on a 24"x80" door as the surface for the desk and just needed to find something about the right height for it. Lucky for me Target had these Chrome Wire Storage things on sale for $15. So I bought 2 of them.

Final shopping list was:

2x wire shelving units
1x 24" wide 80" tall hollow core door (if this was for me, I'd have gone solid core, but the hollow seemed strong enough for him)
1x bag of 6 copper pipe hangers, 1 1/4" diameter
1x box of #8 phillips head wood screws, 1" long

Step 2: Assemble the Shelves and Test

Picture of Assemble the Shelves and Test

The only tricky part here was realizing that the top shelves needed to be mounted upside down. These shelves rely on gravity and the weight you put on them to hold in place, a slightly trapezoidal cylinder rests over these black plastic pieces that rely on the ribs of the posts and the pressure from the shelf itself to hold in place. If the top shelf were mounted according to their instructions, the top shelf would be pulled off the legs by the next step. Since it's just a few screws, it's not a big deal to take it apart if we'd move.

In the background, you'll notice an episode of Charmed on the TV, a broken fan on the right next to the doggy bed, and a length of CAT5 running across the floor.

Step 3: Attaching the Door to the Shelves With the Copper Bits.

Picture of Attaching the Door to the Shelves With the Copper Bits.

I'd have bought steel or aluminum if Home Depot had had either in stock, but you can see here that these pipe hangers fit just right, and that I was able to bend one for each shelf to hold it on the side that was too far from the edge. Since this is a hollow door, you can't just put a screw in anywhere, you have to do it at the edge. I drilled out pilot holes first so that it wouldn't deform the door at all when I put the screws in.

3 seemed to be enough to hold it very steadily on each side, so I didn't bother adding more. With a solid core door I'd have probably used more.

Step 4: Finished Product

Picture of Finished Product

As you can see, it's a lot larger than the desk it's replacing. The desk on top is going back to my mom's house, and the one underneath is ready for installation in his room.

Step 5: In Place in His Room

Picture of In Place in His Room

The walls washed out in the flash here, but you can see how much space he has now, w/ the 17" screen and the USB microscope tucked off to the side. The desk is 31" tall, so it'll be perfect counter height for him now, and perfect desk height as he grows into it. We're planning to just buy him a normal sized desk chair for doing his homework.

Total shopping time: 1hr
Total build time: 1hr, plus time to clean off the old desk


Daybringer (author)2011-02-02

This is a great instructable. I used it to make my new desk. I used wood shelving units instead of wire and I covered the door.
Here is a picture.

uberwald (author)Daybringer2011-02-02

Looks great!

credmond2 (author)2016-10-27

Thank you so much for this DIY Desk! I have been after my husband for a couple of years now to let me make over his computer area. He finally asked me what I had in mind and I presented your page to him. He did all the diy for years, however, now he is disabled and I'm ready to show him that I can do all he has taught me through the years. I'll post a picture as soon as I'm done with it.

uberwald (author)credmond22016-10-28

I can't wait to see the picture, and I'm glad you liked it :)

johngibson91 (author)2014-01-20

This is my first build from this site. I just made this desk in 30 minutes!! All together it cost me around 65 bucks. The shelves were $20 each at walmart. I used a hollow door but i think it will be fine for a few monitors. The only thing I changed was bringing the shelves in a little because I was a little afraid of the door sagging after a while. Overall, Awesome instructable!

cooldude3398 (author)2012-03-28

My dad was a house builder and had a lot of odd things around all the time. My desk as a kid was made from a four drawer chest about 14" wide at one end and two screw on legs at the other. The desk surface was a piece of kitchen counter left over from one of his jobs with the edges finished off. I am sure it was cheap and now it is in my basement with a computer on it, which my kids use. I believe it is probably 40+ years old. Also, wipes clean if something spills on it.

DarthHeizenberg (author)2011-01-03


Pratchett discworlder?

uberwald (author)DarthHeizenberg2011-01-03


emptyhunter (author)2010-06-10

I love the ingenuity of the project and i'm going to follow it myself - I just have a question before hand. With the wood being a hollow core door, is it stable in the middle enough to hold the weight of your computer?

victor1966 (author)emptyhunter2010-06-17

I had just used hollow core doors as part of desk in the past . They are able to hold up and the LCD screens are much light that old monitors .

pointthegun (author)2010-06-09


wperry1 (author)2006-07-27

That's pretty sweet. You should consider picking up an under-desk keyboard drawer for it though. It is bad for one's neck to spend much time looking to the side like that.

natnie (author)wperry12009-08-05

I have a long-broken keyboard drawer on my current desk, but I just put the keyboard on my lap whenever I want to type.

uberwald (author)wperry12006-07-27

Thanks! so far as the keyboard tray is concerned, good call... Except that the next plan is for him to get a flat panel... probably at the black friday sale :)

TheAmazingQuackinator (author)2009-07-23

Where did you buy the wood? and how much did it cost

That's a 24" hollow core door from home depot... I don't remember how much it was, but it was less than $20...

matbh (author)2009-05-26

impossible to find a easiest table...

kyannik (author)2009-05-11

This looks great! I've been looking for ideas for desks like this and this is one of my favourites so far. Thanks for sharing.

jrcoughlin (author)2009-01-03

What is that blueish looking thing on the desk in front of the computer?

uberwald (author)jrcoughlin2009-01-03

That's a USB Microscope...<a rel="nofollow" href="">Digital Blue USB Microscope</a><br/>

kyannik (author)uberwald2009-05-11

That looks so cool! I might get one for myself.

ChristianDBrave (author)2009-01-01

Very effective idea.

LinuxH4x0r (author)2007-10-08

I get lots of scratched or dented (usualy only on one side and very small) doors from menards for 1$. Great for budget projects. Nice Instructable

tanya-merp (author)2007-08-29

Hi, uberwald, Great idea for a simple desk! So I'm making it. But I'm unclear on what you say in this step about mounting the shelves upside-down. Since they rely on gravity (and a little force) to hold everything together, with the wide end of each socket facing down, if I mount them the other way round, how will the shelves stay put? Don't they just slide down the legs? Also, I'm not clear on why you mounted them upside down--how could the top shelf be pulled off if installed correctly? Thanks so much for the clarification!

uberwald (author)tanya-merp2007-08-29

Only the top shelf is mounted upside down, and it's held in place by the brackets that hold it to the desk surface -- if you mounted it normally then the whole top would pull off easily. In fact the "top shelf" is totally unusable as a shelf in this instance, unless you have a need to store individual sheets of paper :)

tanya-merp (author)uberwald2007-08-29

Oooh. Light bulb. Ok, I get it. Thanks for the quick explanation!

nobody (author)2006-11-26

Putting the PC tower in the bottom would add more desk space, along with lowering noise made by the fan and such. I also agree with the other members about putting a under the desk keyboard drawer. You can also save money by building your own out of scrap pieces of plywood and a set of cheap drawer slides.('nother instructable?)

blksheep (author)2006-08-07

I did this in grad school. You can also attach a drafting parallel edge, and still have plenty of space for your computer, tools, etc.

Ryan Shuck (author)2006-08-04

I did something similar to this in the past, only I used a 8' section of kitchen counter MDF from Home Depot for the desk top, since it had a nice bullnosed edge on the front. It lasted a while, but eventually bowed due to lack of support along the back edge. If I did it again, I'd make it slightly shorter and brace it properly.

AaronsAquatics (author)2006-07-30

I would like to combine this with the aluminum computer desk idea. I would get some offset boards and instead of wrapping the aluminum around plywood, wrap it around a solid core door.

graphak (author)2006-07-29

nice job, i dont know how many doors ive had to take off the wall in my apartments so i can use it for a desk like this. I used to use boxes and other junk to hold it up but i like your idea with the metal shelves.

plasticorange (author)2006-07-28

yeah i bought my under the desk keyboard tray at ikea and it works well. i also bought my desk there, and like it, it was $100. I like youre idea. I had a similiar idea before and was going to build it, but instead of wire shelving i was going to use a 2 drawer filing cabinet on each side. Also I was going to make the top drawer of one of the filing cabinets a dummy drawer to hold all the computer wires and peripherals. I like yours, looks like it will work.

About This Instructable




Bio: 30 something IT guy, raising a brilliant son to carry on my tradition of messing with people
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