Convertible Standing/Sitting Desk for $200

Picture of Convertible Standing/Sitting Desk for $200

There's evidence that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health. However, standing for long periods is also not great for your body, and trying to switch from a sit-down desk to a standing desk too abruptly can result in a sore back and aching feet.

So although it would be healthier for us all to use standing desks, ideally, you'd like to be able to ease into it gradually -- and hopefully without needing to schlep your computer back and forth between two desks.

To accomplish this, I designed and built a convertible standing/sitting desk. My computer stays put, and I can smoothly and easily adjust my desk up and down to either stand or sit in front of it.

This desk is designed like an elevator. There is a counterweight at the back that is attached to the desktop, and both the desktop and the counterweight move up and down on drawer slides that act as guiding rails.

In this project, I kept things very simple. I bought my supplies at Home Depot and had them "rip" my wood, i.e. cut it to the correct sizes for me (you pay a little extra for this.) Then all I had to do was drill my guide holes and bolt everything together like The Thing That Came From Ikea.

The entire project cost $200, not including my local sales tax. The equipment list is in the last step of this Instructable.

By the way, if you've got modest carpentry skills, you aren't obligated to birth a pseudo-Ikea-monster like I did. You could certainly make a more permanent (and attractive) version of this desk using wood glue and proper joining. You could also scale this desk up to a larger size, because as long as your desktop platform is braced adequately, you can throw a sock full of buckshot in the counterweight to lift a heavier desk and computer.

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thesamhill26 days ago

Nice! I was just brainstorming something like this as a tv lift. Thanks for the inspiration!

jjdebenedictis (author)  thesamhill20 days ago

(Oops; sorry for the tardy reply.) Thank you! I hope the design -- or something similar -- works out for you!

pholy20 days ago

A very nice design, very clever. Using 2x3s for the uprights would allow diagonal pieces on the outside, to front and back. This should eliminate a lot of wobble. Another diagonal piece between the uprights would also help (I think).

Do you recall the model number of the slides you used, or if they were medium or heavy duty? I need a Canadian replacement version.

jjdebenedictis (author)  pholy20 days ago

Great suggestions on eliminating the wobble! If I need to remake the frame someday due to stress damage, I'll use some of those.

And as it happens, I am Canadian. :-D I don't have the exact part number, but I got these slides at a local Home Depot, and I've seen them in more than one Home Depot in my city, so they should be easy to get. Tell a clerk you're looking for the drawer slides that have ball bearings in them, if you need assistance.

This is so cool!

How stable is it? Does it wobble at all?

Thank you so much! It does wobble a bit. It's fine for typing, but if you wanted to use it as a workbench, you'd probably want a more robust frame and possible three uprights instead of two, for stability. A taller "backstop" with two locking pins per upright, instead of one, might also help.

CorryWan27 days ago

If you are looking to replace the galvanized carriage bolt/locking pins, you might look at "hitch pins" (the kind used for farm equipment, lawn tractors, and trailer hitches). You can find them at Tractor Supply Company, Harbor Freight, and even Home Depot. They are several types of "handles" available, and come in at least two diameters (1/2" and 5/8").

jjdebenedictis (author)  CorryWan26 days ago

Thank you! I actually asked someone at Home Depot for something with no threads, but I didn't know what to call the beastie, and so they couldn't direct me to anything appropriate.

Madeaj27 days ago

I love this! I've seen a lot of them on the net and I think this is probably one I could do (with a carpenter friend, lol) and like. This one is very elegant in its simplicity.

jjdebenedictis (author)  Madeaj26 days ago

Thank you! I took about two days to make all by myself, but it was fairly simple (except for getting stuff lined up square; that took some worrying and planning. :) )

asibonzai27 days ago

Harika bir masa, çok beğendim.

jjdebenedictis (author)  asibonzai26 days ago

Teşekkür ederiz! (I hope that's right. :D)

CorryWan27 days ago

Milled lumber (like 2x4's and your fir pieces) start out at the true (aka RAW) dimension but are milled to be more or less flat. The milling is what causes the material loss, not shrinkage.

Sheet goods (plywood, particle board, MDF, OSB, etc) are always "true dimensions". Perhaps because sheet goods start out as veneer, sawdust, or chips and are glued together in jigs or molds.

Great instructable, BTW.

jjdebenedictis (author)  CorryWan27 days ago

Thanks so much, and thanks for your clarifications! I'd only heard about the moisture content affecting things, as bulwynkl mentions below.

timber changes shape with it's moisture content. It shrinks differently along, across and through the grain. If the timber is milled slightly wet it may warp.

Veneer, particle and fibre products don't face anywhere near the same problems. They are produced from green timber but because they are re-arranged so that most of the asymmetry is in-plane, shrinkgae does not have the same effect.

I'm sure some creative person could conceive of this as a nice laptop adjustable desk for a wheel chair bound person. Using hidden attached wall pockets like the older windows would hide the weights completely and screwing to a wall would increase stability. Wider desk area, place for rolling computer chair as well as a wheel chair. Use wooden cutting board top and make adjustable work station in kitchen for various height users. So I can envision someone from small seated child, adult wheel chair position work station, 5'1" standing person work station, some one up to 6'+ work station. Could be quite an adaptable idea. So if your idea takes off, you've helped more than just us computer users, you've created a universal design desk/work station!

That would be awesome, and I love your suggestions for hiding the weights and increasing the stability. Thanks for your comment!

MVANDORN27 days ago

You have a fantastic idea there, not only because the stand up desk has become popular but you have created a way to make quick height adjustments at production assembly stations. I'm retired now, but I can imagine that there is still a need for what you've made. Good Job!

jjdebenedictis (author)  MVANDORN27 days ago

Thank you so much; how very kind!

Cool desk!

The counterweight box is a great idea. You can put in anything you want to serve as counterweight. Like plastic bottles filled with plain sand. You can put as many as needed for whatever is on top of the desk.

jjdebenedictis (author)  MerlinTheGreat27 days ago

Ooh, a bottle of sand is a great idea -- I actually do need to weight mine down a little bit more. The laptop is heavier than I thought!

builtofire28 days ago

that's very awesome, just added to my to do list. thank you.

jjdebenedictis (author)  builtofire27 days ago

And thank you! I hope it works out great for you.

jkimball28 days ago

Can you post a video so we can see how smoothly is transitions and how loud it is when it does so?

jjdebenedictis (author)  jkimball28 days ago

I did embed a video in the Instructable showing that; is it not displaying for you? The desk is quite quiet -- about as noisy as opening a desk drawer. I find it very smooth and easy to move up and down, although I needed to add weight to the counterweight box to offset the added weight of my computer.

My mistake- My flash blocker was hiding it.

Did you make the counterweight a box specifically to make it modular for changing circumstances?

jjdebenedictis (author)  jkimball27 days ago

I didn't know how much my computer weighed, so I wanted to make sure I could throw a sock full of buckshot into it, if needed! :)

gcline28 days ago

Very cool design, thanks for sharing!

jjdebenedictis (author)  gcline28 days ago

Thanks so much!

kokomorock28 days ago

Awesome job . Thanks for sharing.

jjdebenedictis (author)  kokomorock28 days ago

Thank you!

kal walid1 month ago
awesome design..gonna build one for me soon. thanx for the tutorial.
jjdebenedictis (author)  kal walid1 month ago

Glad to be of help! I hope it works out well for you.

Ergonomics is such a deeply important set of design principles to apply to modern life...thanks for sharing this!!

jjdebenedictis (author)  craftclarity1 month ago

You're very welcome -- and I agree! :) I built this desk because sitting too much is playing havoc with my knee and hip joints.

cbrooks021 month ago

Well done! Very innovative and simple. My only worry is that I'll bring this to work and be bombarded with requests for more =)

jjdebenedictis (author)  cbrooks021 month ago

Thank you! You can always send 'em here and tell them to make their own. :D

EmmettO1 month ago

When I did tech support we had desks that would do this. They were amazing! I've been wanting one for home ever since.

I already built a desk, but I've been thinking about how to convert it to a standing sitting desk, maybe I can use the mechanics here!

jjdebenedictis (author)  EmmettO1 month ago

Thanks! I hope the design is helpful to you if you do tackle converting your desk. :)

nodcah1 month ago

Neat project! I've never seen one of these before, and they look awesome! :-)

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