Instructables
Picture of Electric Height Adjustable Desk
I really wanted a geek desk, but they're like 1,000 dollars. So I built my own for about 200 bucks (not including top). This is simply a regular desk that can rise up with a push of a button and turn into a standing desk. It takes about one minute to raise, speedier linear actuators are expensive. 

Parts
Pair of linear actuators (found on eBay for 150)
Premium pine (Home Depot 50 bucks)
12v power supply (found in my electronics junk box)
wire
screws
electrical tape

Tools
miter saw
drill
clamps
wire cutters
stapler

 
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Step 1: Design

Picture of Design
I wanted to figure out how this thing would all fit together before I started making any cuts. So I drafted a 3D mock up in Autodesk Maya. I know Maya is usually used for animation, but it’s what I know, and it works. I wanted to take my current IKEA desk and just swap out the static legs for dynamic columns.

Step 2: Gather all the parts

Picture of Gather all the parts
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I found a pair of linear actuators on eBay for only 150 bucks shipped. They came with a wiring harness too which is great because I don’t know anything about electricity. They have a 16 inch stroke and are rated at 220 pounds each, but I wouldn’t put more than two monitors on this desk.

I went to Home Depot to find some wood, I ended up spending about 50 dollars for premium pine. All the cheap pine was warped and I figured a telescoping column should probably have straight edges.

Step 3: Cut and assemble the legs

Picture of Cut and assemble the legs
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I’m basically going off my 3D mock up here for measurements
I mounted the linear actuator to a small wood base, then built the inner column around it. Then the outer column around the inner.
I tested the first leg built to see if it could lift the table top. It did, so I built another one.

Step 4: Attach legs to table top

Picture of Attach legs to table top
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This was pretty simple. Just keep in mind that if you plan on using an IKEA table top, most of them are just made of cardboard, so drilling legs into it isn’t strongest hold.
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King of Clubs8 months ago
Can you post a link to the actuators because I don't see them on ebay?

Search for a better manufacture on height adjustable office table furniture, please refer to this manufacture: Foshan Changteng Intelligent Home Furnishing.
For better undetstand it, here is their web: www.gdhsmart.com.

Actually they also make the international Selling by Alipay. something just like Ebay, but it's in China.

2 Leg Electric -Height adjustable office table.JPG3 Leg Electric-Height adjustable office table.JPGCTHT-6006.JPGCTHT-6303.JPG
jwilcott (author)  King of Clubs7 months ago
looks like the seller only has a 12 inch stroke pair listed right now. But I bet you can contact them to see if they have 18 inch stroke actuators available. http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-TWO-Heavy-Duty-12-Inch-Linear-Actuator-Wring-Switch-Kit-225lb-12-Volt-DC-/400330190977?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&hash=item5d3589f081&vxp=mtr
dave36712 months ago
Not to be a Luddite and playing around with limit switches, breadboards and all are way cool, but I think I'd look at setting up a couple of 1:4 cable purchases inside the legs, and snare a couple of $10 hydraulic bottle jacks from Harbor Freight. You could cross-plumb the jacks so they'd always produce identical force, and get "calibrated" every time the table comes all the way down. $25 for 4 double sheaves from Home Depot, $20 for the bottle jacks and $0 for electrical design or troubleshooting. If you wanted to get fancy, order some bare ball-bearing sheaves, use stainless cable (or Spectra!), build the whole thing of Lucite. Watch it work.

Heck, both my Prius and Jetta have "pump-em-up" adjusters on their drivers seats. Who needs electronics?
MrRedwood dave36712 months ago
As far as I can see from some webpage reviews, the throw of a bottle jack is pretty limited — five to eight inches? To switch from a sitting to a standing desk requires about fifteen inches or so.

I'm thinking about using a dampened gas strut or two repurposed from some minivan for this, instead.

I think I'm going to try this with these: http://www.harborfreight.com/3-ton-super-heavy-dut...
These jacks go from 24" to 44" which I think should be plenty. I'll just leave a cut out in the side of the bases for the pump handles. May not be as cool as the electronic, but I figure it will be cheaper, easier to set up, and more reliable (anything electronic seems to be doomed to give out).

jwilcott (author)  MrRedwood12 months ago
I think a gas strut would be the next step in simplifying this design. Please post if you give it a try!
a.steidl dave36712 months ago
I like hydraulics, myself. Tractor supply sells or can order just about any size ram cylinder.
pddonovan201112 months ago
Great Idea, jwilcott. A pair of Roller Contact Switches and a different Control Switch, are all you need to make this fully automatic. If you want it adjustable you can mount the second switch in Tandem to the switch you current use and have a smaller selector switch to choose between them. If you use your desk in the two positions only, THAT is the easier modification. Let me know what you decide and if you want my help. I'll draw a wiring diagram for what you decide. I do this type of control system all the time for the Garbage Trucks I repair. Garbage tricks now have an industrial computer to make an automated arm pick-up the cans instead of a human being. This eliminated TWO workers off the truck. Now the driver uses his wrist ad thumb on a Joy-Stick to collect the cans. When they work correctly they save backs and are WONDERFUL. But, when they fail, they are a nightmare to repair!

Great Idea, I think I'll give this consideration for a project I have in mind. A pop-up for the teardrop trailer I plan to build!
I'd love to see a diagram for what you're talking about.

I was thinking about doing this with some number of presets, and a method of 'saving' a preset. I think that's going to require an arduino, though, and I haven't figured out how to have the arduino 'measure' the displacement of either actuator.
jwilcott (author)  B2Pi7 months ago
I'm currently trying out a Raspberry Pi to control presets. I haven't tested it yet, but I'd like to try a ultrasonic sensor to measure distances. Here is a great tutorial on how they work with the Raspberry Pi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xACy8l3LsXI

The actuators that I picked up from Surplus Center have hall sensors built in. I'm just at the beginning stages of building my own, so I'll let you know how it works with the Arduino.

B2Pi brentmore7 months ago

Do you have a link for the actuators?

brentmore B2Pi7 months ago

Yep:

http://www.surpluscenter.com/Brands/VistaMounts/24-VDC-18-STROKE-LINEAR-ACTUATOR-5-1785.axd

jwilcott (author)  pddonovan201112 months ago
Awesome! Thanks for the great ideas.
mushisushi9 months ago
Can I ask, how did you connect the Linear Actuator into the Table Leg itself? From the diagram, it looks like a metal foot was created?

I'm interested in this as well, but I would like to work out the details before I go and buy the parts/pieces.
jwilcott (author)  mushisushi9 months ago
well for the bottom i used (2) 1 inch angle brackets (one for each side). For the top I just ran a long bolt through the column and added spacers and tightened and adjust. The long bolt method was easier because the bracket method required cutting the linear actuator mount. The actuator came with a ball and socket type mount, but I wanted it to be stationary, so I had to file down the ball so it was flush with the socket, took a while and it was really messy. I attached two picks to try and help explain.
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Sweet!

Thanks for the info, this helps a lot!
tyscof11 months ago
Hey cool project, instead of buying your actuators you could have made them for cheaper? I made one for a project using a 18v motor from drill and a psu its pretty powerful and cost like 30 bucks. Pulls around 12 amps not sure on the load it can push(I didn't need as much power as you) but I think it could probably do the job. Or you could even take apart the actuators and change up the gearing.
espdp2 tyscof11 months ago
Where's the link to the 'ible? :-)
jwilcott (author)  tyscof11 months ago
a drill motor, great idea! I'll keep it in mind for desk v2.0.
andygreyrider11 months ago
Well done, I love this and it has given me an idea for a motorcycle lifting bench.
Thanks Again.
tnorm582812 months ago
Great article. I've been looking for an idea like this for a couple weeks. I saw someones completed L shaped desk with 3 of these actuators. They had a video and boy did they seem loud which turned me off of the actuators since I live in an apartment.. I've been thinking of doing a wire and pulley system with a hand crank though I haven't created a design yet.
Build_it_Bob12 months ago
I am looking to do something similar and appreciate your sharing in detail this project. The power supply you are using looks rather small ...what DC voltage and output current does it deliver ?
Build_it_Bob
jwilcott (author)  Build_it_Bob12 months ago
It's 12v 2amps. I think. Go for it bob! Send me a link when your project is finished.
ebala12 months ago
very cool project. i'm working on a monitor stand to popup. initially i wanted to use pulleys ('cause i'm cheap) and i thought cheaper actuators would be noisy.

How noisy are the automators?
jwilcott (author)  ebala12 months ago
they are very noisy lol.
stevenvachon12 months ago
A "Geek Desk" (www.geekdesk.com) is just a Conset 501-17, which is a light-weight desk. The Conset 501-11 is more heavy duty and is the one that I have: http://www.svachon.com/blog/decluttered-elevating-desk/
a.steidl12 months ago
Just recently been working (exhaustively) on a slide-in truck bed camper, and it's leveling jacks would be perfect for this project.
rohitbanerjee12 months ago
jwilcott, the timing of your Instructable couldn't have been better!!! I have been musing over building a "geek" desk myself, over the past 6 months but it all stayed back on the drawing board.

I was especially stuck deciding between the line actuator approach and the articulated lift approach (www.moeckel.com).

Your Instructable will definitely help me do a Proof of Concept and then decide better.


Thanks a lot.
jwilcott (author)  rohitbanerjee12 months ago
Thanks for the feedback. Yeah man, I was thinking about doing this project for like 6 months, I looked everywhere online (including this site) and I couldn't find any DIY geek desk to copy. So one day I found this pair of actuators on eBay for a pretty cheap price and I figured if the desk didn't work, I could find some other use for the actuators. So I just started building and it actually worked out. I'm glad I could share it with everyone.
kishida12 months ago
Nice work and cool table.
Do you have any problems with the linear actuators staying at the same height over time?
I guess if they get out of alignment, you could reset their height by raising them both to their maximum height and one would stop while the other continues until it stops.
jwilcott (author)  kishida12 months ago
This pair stays in sync really well. The only thing I've noticed is one will finish about one second sooner or later than the other. Which is unnoticeable as far as tilt of the table surface. There might be something in the wiring kit that helps with this, I'm not sure.
mr fat12 months ago
Really cool project!
derekvan12 months ago
I've read in other places (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?194702-How-to-build-an-electronically-height-adjustable-desk) that the actuators can sometimes be "out of sync," with one moving up at a different rate than the other, causing some desk wobble. Does this happen to you? Maybe the actuators you bought have some mechanism for preventing it?
jwilcott (author)  derekvan12 months ago
Great question. This pair stays in sync really well. I haven't had a wobble yet. The only thing I've noticed is one will finish about one second sooner or later than the other. Which is unnoticeable as far as tilt of the table surface. There might be something in the wiring kit that helps with this, I'm not sure.
ThamarBerber12 months ago
Oh wow! I wish I could make this for my kitchen! (The city has denied my request to adjust my kitchen, when I got my new wheelchair)
pmarin12 months ago
Awesome...ingenious....brilliant...tks
oneempowered12 months ago
I have some that originally cost over 2500.00 for sale for 400 each on CL ... http://oklahomacity.craigslist.org/bfs/4020749845.html
It says 500 but I'd take 400.
awesome diy though!!!!

I like the wood look better than the original metal ones but they do hold up to 250-300 lbs each.
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