Introduction: Easy Laptop Stand
Problem: So this Lazy Old Geek finished up my bed frame with lots of storage. Being Lazy and Old, I like to lie down more than sit up and being a Geek, I like to surf the internet and play on my laptop. AHA! I need a laptop stand. Well, a quick search and I find another Instructables that is very close by ‘jumpfroggy’.
JumpFroggy’s is much better looking and robust then mine. But it’s also similar so I will focus on differences, development problems and solutions.
This would be great for students on a tight budget, who need an alternative to a desk chair.
Step 1: Attaching Velcro to Laptop
I put this step first because you may decide you don’t want to do this Instructable. Turn over your laptop and find two areas along the sides that you can put two strips of Velcro. Stay away from anything that looks like ventilations holes. Try to stay away from screws and access plates but not so critical. The strips should be parallel to the sides and about eight inches long. Attach the double sticky Velcro softer side to the laptop and measure how far in from the sides the tape starts.
If you don’t want to do this step, you should look for a different way to attach the laptop or alter the design or search for a more suitable design.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
This laptop stand is designed for a 15.4” laptop and my particular body but should be flexible for most situations. Adjust dimensions as necessary.
(Pricing is August 2010, Grand Junction, CO)
6.5 feet ½” PVC about 10’ for $4
4 ½” PVC 90º elbow about $0.28 @
20” x 8” ½” particle board scrap
4 #8-32 x 1 ½” bolts
4 #8-32 bolts
2 sheet metal screws
16” double stick Velcro
Total cost about $7
PVC cutter or saw
Step 3: Safety
General safety procedures should be used.
Of particular concern is PVC primer and cement.
For the safety conscious, look at the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) at:
These include wearing gloves, safety glasses, using proper ventilation, flammability and proper disposal. Included is information on what these chemicals can do to you. If you worked in a manufacturing facility all of these would have to be followed.
For personal, occasional use, I strongly recommend at least using these products outside or with good ventilation and away from anything hot.
I am OLD and don’t want to lose any more brain cells than I have to.
Step 4: Assembling PVC Pieces
I cut ½” PVC as follows
2 12” sections for base support
2 2” sections to join elbows
2 20” sections for laptop support arm
For anyone who hasn’t worked with PVC, here’s some suggestions.
Use outside, away from heat.
(Purple) Primer evaporates very fast so try to use quickly and screw cap on tightly right after use.
Get all of your PVC pieces laid out on something clean but disposable (newspaper works). The primer seems to get all over everything. You may want to wear gloves if you don’t want purple all over your hands.
The screw top will have a little round brush (dauber) attached.
Unscrew the top, run the dauber around the inside of both ends of all the elbows and at least an inch around the outside edge of all the PVC pipe ends that need to be glued together. Screw the top back on.
Cement isn’t quite as messy. When cementing you want to do one joint at a time.
Unscrew the top, daub the inside of one side of an elbow and the outside of the PVC, screw the top back on and immediately push the pipe all the way into the elbow. The cement dries quickly so you don’t have much time to adjust anything.
Clean all the PVC pipe and the elbows with the PVC primer.
Glue an elbow on to one of the 12” base supports using PVC cement. Do the other one.
Glue a 2” PVC piece into the other end of one of the base elbows. Do the other one.
Glue an elbow on one of the 20” arms. Do the other.
NOTE: The pictures are just representative of the assembly as my laptop stand was already built.
Step 5: Body Measurements
Measure the width of your hips and added three inches (mine was 16”).
Measure your belly height from the bed and add two inches (mine was 7”). Don’t cheat while doing this as you will regret it later.
Take the board length, subtract hip width+ and divide by 2. Mine 18”-16” = 2”, divide by 2 = 1”
Draw a line this distance from the left side of the particle board and another from the right side. The distance between the two lines should be your hip width plus three inches. The long PVC arms will be bolted to the board along these lines.
On these lines, measure down 1” from the top and up 1” from the bottom and mark four holes for the bolts.
Drill the four holes through the particle board with 3/16” drill bit.
Do not glue but push the 20” support elbows into the 1" PVC sticking out the base supports so that you have two lopsided U s.
Set the two U s side-by- side with the long arms inside. This is so the base supports extend away from your hips.
Rotate the long arms up to the approximate angle you think you will use. Mine is about 60º.
Hold one assembly on a flat surface. Measuring straight up from the bottom of the base PVC, mark the belly height+ on the top of the angled PVC with a Sharpie. This marks where the bottom of the board will go.
Repeat for the other assembly.
To make it easier to drill, rotate the long arms flat. Mark the centers of the long PVC 1” above the belly marks so the board mounting holes align with the board edge on belly mark. This is where the bottom bolts will go in the PVC.
For the mechanically challenged (like me), it’s easier to bolt on the two bottom bolts before drilling and attaching the top two. So drill the two bottom holes at the marks at right angles through the center of the PVC. Put the 8-32 bolts in the bottom two holes of the board and through the PVC. Screw on the nuts hand tight.
Rotate the PVC pipes so that the centers align with the lines on the particle board, so everything is square.
Put the drill in the top holes and drill through the PVC. Insert the other two bolts and nuts and tighten all.
If you have a lot of PVC sticking out above the board, you can cut if off an inch or two above the board. I use the extra inch to tie cables to. (See the picture below) Also if you happen to gain some belly girth, you may have to reposition the board upward.
Rotate the board up about 60 degrees and try it out. You should have a couple of inches clearance over the belly and a little room on the sides.
Making sure the long unglued PVC elbows are snug against the PVC and the tilt is to your best liking, drill two small holes in the middle of the elbow but not through the pipe.
Screw in two screws to keep the tilted assembly from rotating.
Step 6: Attaching the Laptop
Measure the width of the laptop and draw two lines on the particle board to center the laptop. Get the measurements from Step 1 for the Velcro and draw lines on the particle board. Take pieces of the rougher Velcro and stick to the particle board along the lines. As an improvement on mine, I would suggest actually wrapping the Velcro around the particle board maybe an inch and put a machine screw on the back side to keep the Velcro from loosening up. The Velcro carries a lot of weight with the laptop hanging on it and when you remove/attach the laptop or take it off to move it up or down, there is even more stress. See Problems.
This part may be done while laying down with the stand over you. Using the laptop width marks on the board, adjust the laptop height to where you fill most comfortable and attach the laptop to the board. Theoretically, the Velcro pieces will line up. I adjusted my laptop so it clears my belly and allows my arms to lie flat on the bed with my hands on the keys.
I have a power cable, an Ethernet cable and an audio cable plugged into my laptop. I bought an extender cable for the audio. I ran all the cables to the left side and used Velcro ties to bundle them to the top and bottom of the left side PVC arm. You should run the all the cables to one side so that you can easily swing the whole assembly to one side so you can get up on the other side.
Step 7: Calibration and Usage
It is fairly easy to move the laptop up or down by unsticking the Velcro and adjusting. I adjusted mine so that my arms rest on the bed while typing. I have a cordless mouse resting on a flat notebook. If belly girth changes, you may have to re-drill the board mounting holes to move it up (or down).
It is a little harder to adjust the angle. You have to unscrew the two machine screws adjust the angle and reset the holes, possibly drilling new holes. When I found an angle I liked, I just left it.
I store the laptop/stand on a TV stand so the laptop is flat and the base legs stick out underneath.
To use I open the lid (with a screwdriver), turn it on and put it on the bed. When laying down, I pick it up by the left side PVC and swing it over.
Personal thoughts about long term usage: I have 2” memory foam on top of my firm mattress which seems to give me good support. I just use a standard pillow under my head. Actually, I’m using a hull pillow. I have not had any problem with long term use. I do most of my surfing, writing and most of my programming on my laptop/stand. And, too much 'Spider Solitaire'.
Now being OLD, I do go to the bathroom a lot and my dog, Marcus likes to go outside sometimes so I do like the ease of being able to swing it off to the side.
Step 8: Problems
Okay, I admit it, my laptop and stand fell off my single bed several times. Fortunately, my Lenovo 3000 N100 held up. The little lever that opens the screen popped out and I couldn’t find it. So don’t be stupid like I was. When I swing it to the side, I try to close the screen, leaving an inch or two. This gives it better balance.
After months of use, one of the elbows cracked at the machine screw, so I had to replace the PVC pipe and elbow. I tried two screws but still had problems.
So what I did was super glued the two pieces of PVC on both sides. You might wonder why I didn’t use PVC glue. PVC glue dries very fast and I couldn’t think of way to fix the angle before it set. So what I did was get it at the preferred angle either with friction or with machine screws, then poured in some super glue. The only disadvantage I can think of is that the seal may not hold water. Hum, maybe it should be water cooled.
After a few years and sometimes unfastening the Velcro, the strips started to come loose and the laptop would slide down. For the Velcro on the particle board, I hot-glued them and screwed them down with a couple of machine screws. For the pieces on the laptop, I would recommend replacing them. (What I tried was hot glue but think I ended up using super glue. Not recommended.)
I do not have a problem with the DVD player being tilted. Most laptops CD/DVDs should work at any angle.
If you have a wireless adapter and antenna, a tilted orientation shouldn’t affect this either.
I do have a cordless mouse with a little USB dongle that plugs in. If I switch my mouse to the left hand then I have occasional problems with the mouse. The problem is apparently caused because the body of the laptop blocked the wireless signal. My laptop has a USB port on both sides so I just switch the dongle to the other side.
The curious may wonder why I switch hands for the mouse? Well, sometimes I have trouble with carpal tunnel and for me it is always in the mouse hand. I hate to admit this, but this was more of a problem playing too much ‘Spider Solitaire.’ Switching mouse hands really helped. It didn’t take me long to use my mouse left-handed although it’s a little harder to target the mouse pointer.
Step 9: Cooling
Here’s my GEEK thoughts on cooling:
Most laptops have fans in them that turn on when the CPU gets too hot. I believe they’re also designed to shut down if they still overheat before the CPU is damaged. Even with older models, any decent design would allow it to run on a flat surface for extended periods of time. Admittedly, this may be too hot to put on your lap. Most CPUs have a TjMax of 100º Centigrade. This TjMax is the maximum temperature the device can run without damage. 100º Centigrade is the boiling point of water (at sea level).
Here is a nice little program called CoreTemp that will tell you the temperature of your CPU and it will tell you the TjMax for your CPU.
If you have a multicore Intel processor, it will tell you the temperatures of each one. The suggested maximum running temperature is 10-20º Centigrade below TjMax. Unfortunately, it won’t work on older CPUs that didn’t have temperature sensor built in to them.
My laptop stand is slanted at about 60º. You have probably heard the statement ‘hot air rises”. It is true because hot air is less dense, e.g. hot air balloons rise. With the laptop slanted the hot air rises away from the laptop much easier than when it’s flat so it should run cooler.
My Lenovo has a cooling fan exhausting out the side that only comes on when the CPU cores are too hot. My Core temps run between 50º and 60º C.
Here’s another theory of mine. CPU temperatures are largely dependent on clock speed and voltage. Most computer GEEKs noticed that newer/faster CPUs had faster clock rates getting up to 4 and 5 GHz. But now with Dual (and higher) Core CPUs the clock rates have dropped. My dual core Lenovo is only running at 1.66GHz. It used to be CPUs ran at 5VDC. My two cores are running at 1.15VDC. Hence, it should be cooler. To be fair there are other factors like two cores and more transistors.
You certainly should make your own decisions about cooling.
About the only situations, I would be concerned are if I was doing a lot of multimedia editing like video translation or if I was an extreme gamer. If you are an extreme gamer, then you probably have a gamer laptop with built-in cooling. You might be more concerned about all that weight on little ole ½” PVC.
As an aside, I think most commercial advances in high speed multi-core CPUs and super fast graphics is driven by the gamer markets as they are the first ones to buy them.
If you are concerned, I would definitely install and run CoreTemp or a similar program if you have a newer CPU that it will work with.
I’ve been running my laptop for about four years typically ten hours a day without a problem.
Several years ago I did some failure analysis on some computer systems. Most electronic components including CPUs have advanced to the point of insignificant failures over the lifetime of the systems. Highest failure rates are in mechanical components such as fans and hard drives.
Okay, the hot air balloon is not very relevant but it's got my initials on it!!!
Step 10: Likes and Dislikes
Easy to make
Easy to use
Not very robust
Ugly but functional
I do not miss the ability to lie it flat.
I do not miss the adjustable tilt.
If you would like a laptop stand, besides mine, I think there are several others on Instructables and other DIY sites. There’s also a lot of commercial products. Get ideas about what fits your need best and what you think you can design and build and go for it.
Lazy Old Geek