As a college student and more importantly, as a maker, a desk is not optional. Living 120 miles from home, portability was a large designing constraint. And as a student with no job, doing things as inexpensive as possible is a must. The first place I looked was the local classifieds. Finding many desks out of my price range or not entirely portable, making my own was the only answer. Not needing anything too fancy, I thought of the table that I'm sure that we have all made from time to time. I will show you how I made my inexpensive desk that is portable enough to fit in my Ford Fusion.
Step 1: Parts and Tools Needed
- 5 - 2x4's $2.15 each (I had mine from a previous project)
- 1 60x36x1/2" MDF $14.99 (mine was just laying around the garage)
- 2 pair of Sawhorse brackets $6.97 each
- Fence brackets $0.76 each (I found some extra from fixing my mother's fence)
- Grabber Screws $5.24 for a 1lb box (I had plenty lying around)
- I found some bed risers at Walmart that I needed anyway that happend to include an outlet/USB combo for $11.97)
- Spray Paint $5 or less (I had left over spray paint from previous projects)
Total price for me $25.91+ tax
Total price with nothing - just under $60 with a way better desk than you can get for the price!
- Compound Miter Saw (or hand saw)
Step 2: Cut Your Boards
Your preferred desk height will determine how long the legs should be.
I wanted my desk to be 30 inches tall. That means that each of my legs should be 27-1/4 inches long.
Total 2x4's needed
- 8 - 2x4x27-1/4 (for a 30 inch desk)
- 2 - 2x4x27 (this will vary depending on how shallow of a desk you are building)
- 2 - 2x4x37 (this will vary depending on how long your desk will be)
- Mine is 49x33 out of half inch MDF. Cut to what size you personally need.
Cut the bottom of your 8 sawhorse legs to be level with the ground. I set my miter saw to 10 degrees and that worked great!
Step 3: Cut the Hole for Your Power
This step is completely optional. But one thing that I felt would set this apart from other desks is to have power readily available. There are a few handy USB plates available out there. You can find one here or here from Amazon. Mine came from a set of bed risers on clearance from Walmart.
Measure your device for mounting. Mine was a 2-13/16 square. Mark where you'd like your hole. Mine is 1-1/2 inches from each edge.
Drill a hole for your jigsaw.
Cut your hole out.
Step 4: Paint
Not much harder than that.
I had some yellow and black laying around so I figured, why not?
Step 5: Build Sawhorses
Time to start putting it all together.
Take 4 legs at a time and insert them into your sawhorse brackets.
Make sure that you place them in the bracket with the mitered legs the correct direction.
Use screws to attach the bracket to the legs.
Insert the cross members into the bracket to attach 2 of the legs to the other 2 legs.
Step 6: Insert Cross Beam to Create Table
This step was originally not planned however when building this I actually came across this instructable that was created quite a while ago and that's where the idea of the cross beams came from.
Attach brackets, insert cross beams, and secure with screw.
I chose not to paint mine because I was running out of paint and no one will really see them anyway.
Step 7: Portability and Final Thoughts
This desk was built in about an hour and a half and is extremely portable. It fits nicely in my back seat and trunk.
To put it together it only takes 16 screws and a drill.
I was just a little bit cautious about plugging my expensive USB powered devices into the Walmart brand adapter, so I busted out my trusty oscilloscope to do a little testing. The 5th picture shows the surprisingly smooth 5VDC output over a 1k ohm resistor at .2 volts/division from the Walmart brand adapter. Impressed I wanted to compare it to the USB adapter that came with my new Samsung Galaxy S5, that output doesn't look so pretty in the 6th picture.