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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bmehrman made it!5 months ago

Weekend project. It was fun. I think I will make another with a larger desktop. Thanks for the post!

jjdebenedictis (author)  bmehrman5 months ago

WHOO-HOO! That is so awesome! I'd love to see pictures of the larger model, if you make it (and I'd love to hear how it went, i.e. tips on scaling the design up successfully.)

BobS411 months ago

What knot did you use to tie the paracord? I am building my own version of this desk using an old beat up Target mission-style computer desk as the platform, which is working great so far! Thanks for the great idea!!!

jjdebenedictis (author)  BobS411 months ago

Ooh, looks very cool! I hope it works out great for you!

The knot I use is basically two opposing clove hitches. You lie the two cords side-by-side, with their cut-ends pointed in opposite directions. Then use one cord to tie a clove hitch onto the other cord, and then use the second cord to tie a clove hitch onto the first. Then you pull the two cords and slide the two knots together so they lock against each other.

The problem with doing this is, because you slide the two knots together, you're lengthening the whole loop after you've tied the knots. That means you have to arrange to tie the loop smaller than you need and hope that when you pull the two knots together, it will be the right length. I had to jimmy around with my knots for quite a while to get the loop the right length. (I probably would have had to anyway just due to rope stretch, however.)

The double-opposing clove hitch is a really sturdy (and nice-looking) knot, but it does have that down side.

Again, good luck with your desk!

Polymathic1 year ago

What an elegantly designed adjustable desk! Thank you for this!

jjdebenedictis (author)  Polymathic11 months ago

And thank you! (And sorry for the very late reply. :) )

thesamhill1 year ago

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

jjdebenedictis (author)  thesamhill1 year ago

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

pholy1 year 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)  pholy1 year 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.

CorryWan1 year 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)  CorryWan1 year 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.

Madeaj1 year 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)  Madeaj1 year 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. :) )

asibonzai1 year ago

Harika bir masa, çok beğendim.

jjdebenedictis (author)  asibonzai1 year ago

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

CorryWan1 year 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)  CorryWan1 year 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!

MVANDORN1 year 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)  MVANDORN1 year 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)  MerlinTheGreat1 year 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!

builtofire1 year ago

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

jjdebenedictis (author)  builtofire1 year ago

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

jkimball1 year 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)  jkimball1 year 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)  jkimball1 year 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! :)

gcline1 year ago

Very cool design, thanks for sharing!

jjdebenedictis (author)  gcline1 year ago

Thanks so much!

kokomorock1 year ago

Awesome job . Thanks for sharing.

jjdebenedictis (author)  kokomorock1 year ago

Thank you!

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

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