Introduction: Inexpensive PVC / ABS Monitor Arm

Picture of Inexpensive PVC / ABS Monitor Arm

This is the plan for a set of monitor arms that I recently built for my new desk. This desk is based on the plywood top from my original desk, but for I purchased a height adjustable frame for this desk.

I've been using fully adjust monitor arms for a number of years, but they are heavy, and I realized that I never actually adjust them. I decided replace them with something fixed, and this was the solution that I came up with.

The total cost for these monitor arms was about $40, including the glue and all of the screws needed to mount them.

Step 1: Parts

Picture of Parts

After much planning, and several hours spent wandering around a home improvement store, I decided to use 2" black ABS pipe and fittings to build the stands. You could just as easily build it from PVC, and then paint or dye the PVC parts.

The base of the mount is made of two parts. A flange, and an adapter. The flange is actually for a 3" or 4 " pipe (there were no 2" flanges available), and the adapter goes from 3" to 2".

I also bought some slip connectors so that I could cover the hole from the top, and create a stronger mount. This isn't entirely necessary, and could be left out, especially for smaller monitors.

Step 2: Planning

Picture of Planning

For my desk, I wanted to have the flanges mounted to the bottom of the desk, and only the pipe come through to the top.

This adds additional complexity to the design, since the holes must be drilled in exactly the right location, or the monitors won't be located correctly.

This also meant that I had to contend with the frame of the desk, and make adjustments to the location to accommodate the cross member.

This aspect of the design can be changed quite easily so that the flange can be mounted on the top of the desk (as explained in the next step).

The pictures below are of the completed mounts.

Step 3: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

Since I decided to mount the flange to the bottom of the desk, I inserted the adapter into the flange backwards. If you wanted to mount the flange on the desktop, you would insert the flange backwards from the way it's done in the pictures.

Since this is backward from the way that the flange is designed to mount, it's fairly stiff, and takes quite a bit of work to get it inserted. Since it was so snug, I decided not to disassemble and glue the joint, but if it was mounted the other direction, I would probably glue it.

I then cut and drilled short pieces of PVC pipe for test fitting the mount.

Step 4: Monitor Adapters.

Picture of Monitor Adapters.

Since I already owned a set of monitor arms, I used the 100mm adapter from those arms as a size and drilling guide. Most monitors have a standard VESA mounting pattern, so you'll have to check your monitors to determine the location of the holes.

I ripped a piece of plywood at 5" wide, and then cut 3 squares just under 5".

Then I temporarily attached the old mount with screws to use as a guide.

Once I had drilled the 4 mounting holes, I then drilled the center hole, and hammered a long bolt through the hole.

Step 5: Drilling the Desktop, and Test Fitting.

Picture of Drilling the Desktop, and Test Fitting.

I had an extra piece of plywood left from the desktop, so I test drilled and fitted with that piece.

I then made adjustments to the measurements, and drilled the actual desktop.

The two extra holes in the desktop are for the cable grommets.

Step 6: Mounting the Flanges

Picture of Mounting the Flanges

Once the desktop was stained, varnished, and mounted to the frame, I glued up, and mounted the flanges to the desktop.

I glued a 2.5" piece of pipe into the flange, and then screwed the flange to the bottom of the desk. Then glued the straight connector to the top of the pipe, sandwiching the desk between the two pieces. This design is permanent, and required that the holes be very exact in order for the monitors to line up.

Once mounted, I reattached the PVC test pipes to the monitors to get a final measurement for the pipe sections that would hold the monitors.

Step 7: Finish

Picture of Finish

With the final measurements done, and the ABS pipe cut and drilled. I mounted, and glued the upright pipes in place.

I got the center monitor done first, carefully measuring to get it level, and parallel to the desk. After allowing it to dry, I did each side, making minor adjustments to both the height, and angle of the pipe during the gluing process.

As an added bonus, the pipes are large enough to run the cables through them, so there's no exposed monitor cables on the desktop.

I'm very happy with this design; It's very rigid, and feels like it will hold up for a long time. The frame under the desk is height adjustable, and there is no shaking or movement from the monitors while raising and lowering the desk.

Comments

YngJoe (author)2016-08-06

This is a great idea, and I'm already looking to add it to another instructible that builds a corner desk out of one sheet of plywood. I game and browse the interwebs, and currently I have my 50" and my 47" TV plugged into my computer (I really like my games). I don't have many tools or much experience building, but with your instruction and the corner desk, I think I could make an amazing gaming setup. Thanks and great job. Now I just need to get a second video card to support all three monitors, and three same sized monitors. haha. I play Star Trek Online, and a friend of mine told me how to get it to stretch across three monitors, and since I've been drooling over wanting to do that.

ToolboxGuy (author)2013-09-17

Question: the "long" pipe, is it glued as well? I can't imagine no swivel at all. I'd have trouble giving up the tilt portion.

hdsrob (author)ToolboxGuy2013-09-18

Yes, it's all glued.

Originally I was going to leave it so that I could swivel the right monitor, but the weight of the monitors causes the pipe to pull forward at a slight angle.

If you want swivel, or tilt, this isn't really going to work for you, although it could probably be modified some to work. Technically they rotate, but since they can't be swiveled, they only rotate until they hit each other.

In my case, I've had Ergotron arms for years now, and find that I'm always bumping something and knocking a monitor out of line. I never move them to a different location, or rotate / swivel them at all, so the fixed arms work better for me.

Dr.Bill (author)hdsrob2013-09-27

If the PVC Uprights had another PVC pipe inside them you could swivel all 3.
Tilt is not a problem if the screens are at eye level.

gpavlovsky (author)2013-09-19

Must be nice to have 3 screens. Don't your eyes hurt sometimes, though?
You mentioned that with your design it was necessary to drill in precisely right spots, otherwise the monitors won't line up properly. So if you ever decide to replace monitors (maybe even with the same size, but the outside dimensions might be slightly different) you'll have to relocate? Would be nice to have a little degree of adjustability somehow.

hdsrob (author)gpavlovsky2013-09-20

I don't find that my eyes hurt more from three monitors as much as just from spending too many hours a day in front of the PC!

I've had adjustable arms for many years, and grew tired of constantly having to move them back any time the desk was moved. There is definitely some degree of risk with this design, but these monitors are fairly new, and I've been able to repair monitors and keep them in service before. The worse possible case is that I'd have to rebuild the desktop itself, which is only one $45 sheet of plywood and of course the time to cut / drill, and stain it.

PrncssGeek (author)2013-09-19

Love this project! Just a question though, I see you don't mention the size of the monitors you are using. I, too, use three monitors, but mine are different sizes. I have a main 32in monitor and two side 21in monitors. I know that I can adapt your instructions to fit my needs as long as the original design will support the weight of a 32in monitor.

So...what size monitors are you using?
Thanks!

hdsrob (author)PrncssGeek2013-09-19

Thanks!

All three of mine are 27", and weigh about 14 lbs each. Unless the 32" is substantially heavier, you shouldn't have any issues with the ABS. PVC is probably a bit sturdier, but you'd have to paint or dye it if you didn't want the white.

PrncssGeek (author)hdsrob2013-09-19

Cool thanks for the reply! I'm seriously considering upgrading to three 32in monitors. I've been looking at some of the pre-made racks but cannot justify the cost! This would be perfect for my needs. I can even adapt it to work with my current desk. :) Thanks for the inspiration!

I use my setup for weather and design. So it's helpful to have multiple monitors. :)

jogarcej (author)2013-09-18

Nice project. How big are your monitors? I have a couple of 32" TVs and I wonder if the same PVC pipes, flange and adapter would do the job.

hdsrob (author)jogarcej2013-09-18

Thanks,

They are 27" each, so a 32" wouldn't be much larger.

PVC seems to be a bit more rigid than the ABS pipe is, so that may be a consideration as well.

mgonzalez1 (author)2013-09-17

Wow. So simple and yet so beautiful. No one will ever see the back of it (unless intentional of course), especially you sitting in front of it and it looks neater and better overall than most mounts out there. Great stuff!

hdsrob (author)mgonzalez12013-09-17

Thanks so much!

David Catriel (author)2013-09-17

Very nicely done. Would be cool to have a design that does not involve going right through the desk, but stability would then become an issue. Thx for sharing!

altontoth (author)David Catriel2013-09-17

You could probably get away with using iron pipe, or 'rigid' instead, as you can buy pieces in various lengths that are threaded, along with flanges that you could screw or bolt to the desk. It would certainly have a much more 'industrial' look, though could be painted to be slightly 'steampunky'.

hdsrob (author)altontoth2013-09-17

Good point, there's lots of other pipe based options out there. You could also flip my design over, and mount the flanges on the desk top, but then you'd have to come up with a covering of some sort, or leave the PVC exposed.

hdsrob (author)David Catriel2013-09-17

Thanks.

I actually had a design in mind that ran behind the desk, but decided to run them through the desk for aesthetics. I don't think it would be too hard to use a number of PVC / ABS fittings to build it more like a traditional monitor stand.

My original inspiration to use PVC actually came from this racing setup, and the PVC monitor stand built for it:
http://www.flash.ae/sim_rig/

David Catriel (author)hdsrob2013-09-17

Very nice. PVC looks just like oversized Lego sometimes :)

DreamingSheep (author)2013-09-17

7 Days....

(The Ring reference to the photo in your last image)

Really like the look of this, thanks for taking the time to post this!

TK Trooper (author)2013-09-17

I wanna know how you get the one image across 3 screens?

hdsrob (author)TK Trooper2013-09-17

I cut the background images as one large image (5760 * 1080), and then set Windows to tile the background. If the image is larger than one monitor it will span multiple monitors.

In my case, since monitor 3 is on the left, I have to rearrange the picture so that the parts are in the correct order. For this I use a custom written app, but it can be done in any photo editing app.

There are also third party tools (like Ultramon, or Display Fusion) that can put a single image on each monitor, so you can cut a large image into parts, and do it that way.

TK Trooper (author)hdsrob2013-09-17

cheers for the reply, i was thinking more along the lines of gameplay ;-)

hdsrob (author)TK Trooper2013-09-17

For gameplay you need a graphics card that will support multimonitor gaming.

For Nvidia this means a GTX 550 or above that supports Nvidia Surround, and monitors that meet the requirements. I have a GTX 680 and can run most games on ultra high settings.

http://www.nvidia.com/object/3d-vision-surround-technology.html

For ATI, you need an Eyefinity capable setup:

http://www.amd.com/us/products/technologies/amd-eyefinity-technology/Pages/eyefinity.aspx

And of course the game has to support it. WSGF has a very good list of what games do and don't support wide screen gaming in general:

http://www.wsgf.org/mgl

I really enjoy that aspect of the setup, and would guess that more than 75% of my game-play is now on all three monitors.

tigerbomb8 (author)hdsrob2013-09-17

You can set individual wallpapers for each monitor natively in windows 8..

andreyeurope (author)2013-09-17

Nice project. I would like to have 3 screens.

hdsrob (author)andreyeurope2013-09-17

Thanks. This is where I work all day (as a software developer), so it's great for working on multiple tasks, or having multiple windows open for a single project. I've had at least 2 monitors for about 10 years now, and wouldn't work without them.

paryl (author)2013-09-17

I like that they can double as cable management. Great idea.

hdsrob (author)paryl2013-09-17

Thanks, it's actually just a happy coincidence, but it works well!

BigJim45 (author)2013-09-17

A really nice job! I can relate to the hours in the hardware store doing "in store engineering". "Can I help you, sir?" "Probably not."
Now I would suggest you become familiar with repairing monitors so that you can fix them when one fails and you find that your model is no longer available rendering your whole project a mess. (Hint: it's usually the capacitors on the power supply board.)

hdsrob (author)BigJim452013-09-17

I can't tell you how many projects I spend like that!

I've replaced caps on lots of monitors over the years, and managed to keep the last set alive for a couple years longer than I should have! These should be good to go for a while, but I can always redo the desktop if needed for new ones.

stevenrterry (author)BigJim452013-09-17

BigJim45 said: "Can I help you, sir?" "Probably not."

This really brought a smile to my face. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had that exact conversation. :-)

dsgreene71 (author)2013-09-17

Great instructable. Very nice result!

rudeo98 (author)2013-09-16

Looks easy but I don't think I'm able to set up like that my seckond monitor.. ;/

d_duck (author)2013-09-15

Great instructions and very useful. I will probably use this in the near future.

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