Introduction: Secret Storage Floating Desk
First Prize in the
Hiding Places Contest
So I got bored of my regular corner desk and decided to build a floating desk into the corner alcove of my room to replace it.
Then, I thought 'If I'm going to build a desk anyway, why not make it some funky james bond style desk?'..... so I decided to give it hidden storage compartments, and lights and stuff!
Step 1: What Is It and How Is It Done?
Basically, what I have done is build a 4-inch deep frame to fit in the corner alcove, fit a sheet of MDF to the bottom so to create compartments in the frame, and then fit the desk worktop to the top surface of the frame with drawer sliders in between.
..The result, a seemingly ordinary, but still pretty awesome floating desk, that slides open to reveal hidden storage compartments! (Cue the James Bond music)
Step 2: Materials You Will Need:
- 45mm(2") x 90mm(4") wooden baton - Length depends on location of desk and measurements needed, so measure up and then add at least a metre to that measurement to allow for design adjustments, or in case you f*** it up. I used over 6 metres of baton here, but that was because of the extra-support measures I incorporated into my design - but you will no doubt use more wood than you'd expect.
- 9mm(1/3") MDF sheet - Again, size depends on your measurements, but I bought a 2.44m x 1.22m sheet because I would use the rest in other projects.
- 25mm(1") thick board - This can be chipboard, plywood, MDF, HDF, solid wood - whatever you want to use, as long as it is fairly sturdy. I used my old desk worktop as it was perfectly suited for my needs (recycling and all that).
- A pair of 800mm(30") drawer sliders - These will extend to 1.6m (60") to allow for the entire first section of desk work top to slide out completely. I bought the pair off of eBay for £30.
- A pair of 450mm(18") drawer sliders - These will be used for the smaller section of worktop, again to allow for the entire section to slide out completely. I also bought this pair off of eBay, for £7. Make sure these are the same thickness as the longer pair!
- 100mm(4") long, 5mm(1/5") thick multi-purpose screws - I did go a bit over the top by using these, you can get away with 75mm(3") long screws, but I wouldn't recommend any shorter. I used 100mm for additional strength and support. Amount will vary, so just get a big box of them - you can always use the rest another time.
- 25mm(1") long, 5mm(1/5") thick multi-purpose screws - These are to attach the MDF base to the frame, so don't want them to be any longer/ wider - smaller screws could be used. Again, get a big box of them.
- 10mm(1/3") long, 3mm(1/10") thick multi-purpose screws - These are to fix the drawer sliders, slightly different sizes may be needed depending on sliders chosen.
- Brown wall plugs - Use wall plugs to match the screws you are using.
- Masking tape - This will be used to hold stuff, protect stuff, and probably write notes on.
- 9mm(1/3") cornice - This is optional, but gives a nice edge to the base of the frame. Lengths will vary.
- 18mm(2/3") x 6mm(1/4") edging - This can be used to give the desk a nice edge, but I use it to build a small USB flash drive compartment and blank an edge gap.
- Multi-purpose high-strength impact adhesive - This is to stick on the cornice, and various other bits together.
- Wood stain - This is also optional, but gives the wood a nice colour, also means you can make it match your furniture.
- Clear wood varnish - Again, optional, but protects the frame from knocks and scuffs, and gives it a nice sheen. I used Ronseal Diamond hard floor varnish because I had some left over from doing the floor, but any clear wood varnish or lacquer will do.
- Non-slip material sheet - This is something I wont initially be covering, but I plan to use it to cover over the work surface in order to give a more professional/ 'techy' look to it.
- Pair of USB 3.0 extension cables - These are for the optional USB dock built into the frame for your PC. Lengths will depend on your circumstances, such as distance to PC etc.
- High-strength impact spray adhesive - This is to adhere the rubber material to the desk surface, it must be high-strength and multi-purpose.
Step 3: Tools You Will Need:
- Hammer drill - To drill the holes in the wall.
- Screwdriver - To screw the frame together and then mount the frame.
- Counter sink - Not necessary, but recesses the screws into the frame and looks better.
- 7mm Masonry drill bit
- 3mm Wood drill bit
- 1mm Wood drill bit
- Hammer - At some point, you will need a hammer!
- Spirit level - What's the point in an awesome floating desk if it's wonky.
- Pencil - To mark out measurements, position etc.
- Saw - I recommend using a minimum of 12TPI (teeth per inch) for this, gives a nicer finish on exposed edges.
- A pair of G-clamps - Always useful for holding bits together.
- Sandpaper - Get a mixed pack so that you can get a really nice, smooth finish on all the woodwork.
- Cloth - For applying the wood stain, should you choose to use it.
- Gloss brush or fine bristled brush - This is to apply a nice smooth coat of lacquer.
- 14-18mm flat drill bit - This is for running the cables through the desk in an optional end step.
Step 4: Step 1: Have a Plan.
Before you start, you need to have a plan to work to. Sketch where the desk is going to go and design your desk frame. Take all relevant measurements of where the desk will go and the baton you will be working with, then make a note of these measurements.
Once you have your plan, you will need to work out exactly how long each section of the frame is going to be. Then hopefully you will have enough wood to construct your idea.
The frame itself doesn't have to be exactly as mine is, I just designed it this way to maximise strength - the frame is supported by as much wall as possible.
Step 5: Step 2: Preparation.
Next you will need to cut all the required lengths of baton for the frame. I used a regular saw for this, but use a circular saw if you have one as it will probably give a neater, more precise cut.
Once you have all the baton cut to length, place them on the floor in the position they will be in the frame and mark where you will be drilling the screw pilot-holes.
The pilot holes are to stop the screws from splitting the wood, now you have the baton all marked up, you need to use the 3mm wood bit to drill them. I then countersunk the pilot holes so the screws would sit nice and flush with the wood, but this is necessary if you don't want to.
Once all this is done, the frame is ready to be put together.
Step 6: Step 3: Assembly.
Now all the pieces of baton are cut, drilled and counter sunk, it is time to assemble the frame. I used the 100mm screws for this because I wanted the frame to be as sturdy as possible, but you can use shorter screws providing they will reach all the way through one piece of baton and fix it securely to another.
Hopefully the frame will look something like your plan once assembled. Now lay it on the MDF sheet and draw around the edge of the frame and each individual internal section of the frame to roughly mark out the base. Put the MDF to the side for later.
Step 7: Step 4: More Prep.
If the frame is put together, and nice and solid, it is time to mark its position on the wall - you may need two people for this.
Offer up the frame into the alcove and position it at the desired height - not forgetting that the desktop will end up approximately 30mm higher than the frame once the sliders and work surface are on top - place a spirit level on top and make sure it is level - then mark the position on the wall.
Now take the frame down and place it on the floor again, decide 1) how many screws you think will be required to hold the frame in place (I used about 30, but this is a bit overkill), and 2) where the holes are going to be. Mark all of these points on the frame and, once again, drill the pilot holes and counter sink them from the inside.
Then you will need to offer up the frame to the wall once more, carefully positioning it where you marked the wall, and drill lightly through each hole to leave a small indent on the wall where the holes in the frame are. Once all the intended holes in the wall are marked, place the frame on the floor and grab your masonry drill bit.
Step 8: Step 5: Fixing the Frame to the Wall.
Use a drill bit that is the right size for the wall plugs - these sizes are usually written on the back of the packet - in my case, it was a 7mm bit.
Use your hammer setting to drill each of the indents on the wall making sure you're going sufficiently deep, and more importantly, straight. Place a wall plug into each hole - you may need to tap them with a hammer if a bit snug. If this doesn't work, remove the wall plug and drill the hole slightly wider.
Once all of the holes are ready, grab your 100mm screws and screw through each pilot hole in the frame, careful not to go completely through the baton. This is where I do recommend you use your longer screws to ensure that the frame is adequately fixed to the wall.
Offer the frame up to the wall once more and screw into the wall plugs, do not completely tighten each one as you go as you will most likely need a little bit of play to make sure every screw is into its wall plug. When each screw is half way into its wall plug, you can methodically work your way around a tighten each one completely - the frame should now be completely anchored to the wall.
Step 9: Step 6: the Base.
Grab the MDF you drew the frame outline onto earlier and reduce the outer edge of the frame outline by 9mm. This is so when you fix the base to the frame, you can stick cornice between the baton and MDF to hide the underneath. This will prevent people from noticing the desk may in fact be used for storage, and also gives it a more professional and neater finish to it.
Now cut out the base using the line you just drew, but do not cut out the internal sections of the frame outline. This should give you a large piece of MDF the same shape as your desk frame, only a tiny bit smaller. Off this up to the bottom of the frame on the wall and check that it 1) fits as it is supposed to, 2) covers over all of the internal sections of the frame, and 3) has a 9mm border around the outer edge of it where you can still see the frame.
Providing it is all to satisfaction, it is time to mark and pilot drill where the base will fix to the underneath of the frame. This is where drawing the around the internal sections of the frame is useful, as you know where the frame will be in relation to the MDF base. Make several pilot holes for this step, as these will need to take the weight of the base as well as the contents of the desk when it is loaded up. Do not countersink these holes as it will reduce the integrity of the MDF and possibly cause the base to fall off. Offer the base up to the frame again and mark the frame through the holes you just drilled, then pilot drill these marked points in the frame.
Finally affix the MDF to the frame using the 25mm long screws, same principle as before - do not fully tighten any of the screws until all of them are in their designated pilot hole. Check the base can handle the weight of anything you might put inside the desk, if it can then you're desk isn't far off completion.
Step 10: Step 7: the Desktop.
Grab your wooden board that you will use as the desktop surface, place on top of the frame and from the underneath, draw around the outer edges of the frame.
Place the board on the floor and draw around the frame outline making a boarder approximately 80mm outward from the existing outline. This is so the desktop surface will overhang from the frame making it more difficult to see the sliders, it will also enlarge your workspace slightly.
Now you have the desired size marked out, cut out the desktop and sand all edges to a smooth finish. Place aside for now. Do this for both sections of the desk worktop.
Step 11: Step 8: the Sliders.
First, grab your 800mm sliders and position them where they will need to go on the top of the frame. Make sure they are as straight as possible, as otherwise it will make it difficult to pull out the desktop once complete. Mark all of the fixing points on the frame and then drill 1mm pilot holes for each of the 3mm diameter screws. Do the same for the 450mm sliders, on the appropriate section of the frame, and then fix all four sliders in place with the 10mm long screws.
Make sure the sliders are fully closed and then place the desktop on top of them. From beneath, mark the position of the sliders as much as you can, then weigh down the worktop and fully extend the sliders.
Realign the markings on the underneath of the worktop and then mark all of the slider screw holes. Remove the worktop and pilot drill each marking with the 1mm drill bit. Now place the worktop back onto the sliders once more, align with all of your markings and screw through each screw-hole on the sliders with a 10mm long screw.
The desk is now almost fully assembled, just the finishing touches to go!
Step 12: Step 9: the Finishing Touches.
First, grab your 9mm cornice, hold it against the gap between the frame and base and mark out the points at which it will be cut. It is a good idea to measure and cut one piece at a time to ensure that they all fit correctly - these are the finishing touches so take your time.
Cut the first section of cornice, sand down the rough edges to a smooth finish and hold it up against where it will go. Check to make sure it fits perfectly and make adjustments as needed. Once it is absolutely spot on, offer up the next section, mark it and repeat the process. Do this for each section, and check them against each other to ensure a tight fit.
You should now have all the pieces required, and they should all marry up nicely. Place a thick line of the high-strength glue along the back of your first section of cornice and spread out the glue evenly. Allow it to start drying - times should be on the back of the tube - and them push firmly into place. Hold in place with masking tape until dry(usually 24 hours), ensuring that you use enough tape to keep the pressure applied during the drying process. Wipe any excess glue that spurts out from between the gap as this will prevent the stain from penetrating the wood. When fully dry, remove the tape and check the cornice is held in place securely.
Shake up the tin of wood stain and wipe down the wood work with a damp cloth, apply the stain to the cloth and rub into the wood evenly. Leave to dry for appropriate time - which should be on the tin - and then apply a second coat. It is optional whether you give it an additional coats but two is usually enough. Allow to fully dry - usually around 24 hours - and then paint over the top with a clear lacquer, applying with a fine bristled gloss brush. This will also require multiple coats - I gave it 4 to make sure it was nicely protected. Allow a full 24-48 hours to fully harden and you're done!
Step 13: Step 10: Time to Test Out This Bad Boy.
Try the sliding mechanism to ensure smooth operation, and if all has gone well, take a minute to appreciate your handy work - you now have a shnazzy looking floating desk with secret storage inside.
Now you are done you can make optional additions such as lighting, plug sockets, or usb sockets. I plan to cover my worktop in a non-slip, anti-static neoprene rubber to give it a nice modern look to it.
Step 14: **Edit: Step 1: Modifications to Further Camouflage the Storage.
After initially publishing this tutorial, I received a few comments and messages about the flaws with my design - so I decided to take the suggestions on board and modify it slightly.
Firstly, there is the fact that from one particular viewing angle, the sliders are still visible - not very subtle - so I used some of the 18mm cornice I had left to cover them over. I simply scuffed the melamine surface of the underneath of the work surface all along the length that I would be attaching the cornice, wiped the dust away with a damp cloth and then applied a thin layer of impact adhesive. Then, while that was drying, I cut lengths of cornice to replicate the lengths of visible frame and sanded smooth; it is worth noting that cutting cornice at a 135 degree angle is not as simple as one would think, a lot of sanding and tweaking is require for the pieces to sit flush. After I had all my pieces of cornice cut to the correct size and shape, I applied a fairly generous amount of impact adhesive to the back, pressed firmly into position and used masking tape to hold it there while it dried. Leave to fully cure - around 24 hours - and then remove tape. Sand any ill-matching sections to ensure smooth and level, do not worry about any visible gaps between the sections of cornice as these will be filled.
Once all the cornice is of desired shape, any gaps between them will need to be filled with wood filler (or regular filler as it will take on the stain quite nicely) and sanded before staining the exposed wood. If you didn't stain the desk frame previously then this step will not apply to you, but if you did then you will need to use the same stain and the same method as before to make the newly fixed cornice match the existing wood. Once stained, treat with lacquer as before and leave to fully dry (around 48 hours).
When complete, the desk will no longer have a visible sliding mechanism and will, hopefully, look as if it were never tampered with at all - and thereby successfully hiding the secret storage even more effectively than before.
Step 15: **Edit: Step 2: Unnecessary Additions to Further Conceal Sliding Mechanism.
After all the effort to conceal the sliders, I noticed that at one end of the desk there was a small cavity; the cavity gave a clear view of the sliders from a very particular - and unlikely - viewing angle. Yet this still defeated the purpose of running cornice all along the underneath of the desk, so I had to find a way to 1) conceal the cavity from view, and 2) utilise the small amount of space - might as well use it for something instead of letting it go to waste right?
Looking at the small expanse of space, I thought 'what would even fit into such a shallow storage compartment?', and then I noticed my small collections of USB flash drives and realised that these would fit perfectly into such a space, and it would keep them hidden from view.
I started by measuring the space and deciding on a configuration for the tiny compartment; it had to use thin pieces of material so as to not reduce the space much further, it had to use a material that wouldn't look out of place from the rest of the desk, and it had to be fairly solid in construction in case it was knocked about over time.
After happy with my design I decided to use some 6mm thick wooden edging to build it. I cut the pieces to length, sanded the edges smooth and applied an even application of impact adhesive to all the surfaces that would be married together. I allowed the adhesive to soak into the wood and dry over 10-15 minutes and then applied a more generous amount of adhesive before pressing each section firmly together and holding for about 3 minutes. I then left the miniature frame to fully dry over 24 hours before sanding all the imperfections smooth. Once the mini-frame was dry and solid, I sanded the base of it to remove the rounded edges and increase surface contact area. I glued the frame in place in the same way I stuck it all together - applying the glue, letting it soak in and partially set, then apply more glue and firmly pressing the surfaces together while the glue dried. After all of this I left it for another 24 hours and then went about staining and treating it to allow it to blend in with the rest of the desk.
Job done - fully concealed sliding mechanism and a dinky flash drive storage space.
Step 16: **Edit: Step 3: Optional USB 3.0 Ports Built Into Desk Frame.
This is another non-necessary step, but I thought it would be cool to take the USB storage compartment to the next level, by adding in some USB 3.0 ports that are wired into my PC.
To do this you need to make a hole through the desk frame just big enough for both cables to fit through - keep in mind that the female end is what will be fixed into place and these ends are slightly larger than the male end of the cable. The easiest way to make a hole in the desk frame I found, was using a 14mm flat wood drill bit, but if I were to repeat this step in the future I would use a 16mm, or even 18mm bit.
I drilled through a bit wonky on this step, hence the hole in the frame is a huge gaping hole in a totally random shape. Make sure you know exactly where you are drilling through when carrying out this step to avoid my mistake. If the hole ends up a bit sh***y, like mine, don't worry as we will be filling in the hole later on.
Once you have a hole of sufficient size you will need to sand the edges of the hole so that you have at least one straight edge - this is what the cable ends will be placed against to keep them straight and flush with the frame. After this, the hole is done ready for the cables so you'll need to feed them both through, rough up the plastic outer edge of the cable ends and apply some impact adhesive to both female heads. Allow the glue to partially set on both heads - about 5-10 minutes - then press firmly together and align as perfectly as possible. Use a clamp to hold in this position for at least 2 hours while the glue dries then apply some more adhesive to the outer edges of the now dual-USB port and again, allow to dry slightly over about 10 minutes. The glue will form a sort of skin, at this point apply a bit more adhesive on top of the existing adhesive, and place into position inside the desk hole. Use a clamp, or an off-cut of some sorts, to wedge and hold the ports in place while the glue completely sets - this will take a full 24 hours. After you have done this, the remaining gaps in the wood will need to be filled to give a nice smooth finish. Regular filler may react with the metal on the USB cable and quickly rust it, so either use SUGRU (a self-setting rubber) or some form of filler that you know for definite will not react with the metal. Allow the appropriate drying time depending on what you choose to use and then sand any excess down to level out the surface off the USB compartment once more.
To finish the compartment off and neaten it all up, either cut some black material to fit into the compartment, surrounding the USB ports and, more importantly, covering the filler, OR, use a thick oil based paint to cover over all imperfections. I used some spare neoprene rubber sheeting, cut to size and glued in place - refer to pictures above.
To do this I traced a template of the USB enclosure and position of USB sockets onto some transparent plastic material I had lying around - tracing paper would probably be best though - I then used this template to cut the neoprene to a perfect size and shape. I then spread a thin layer of adhesive across the back of the rubber and the inside of the enclosure and left to partially dry - roughly 10 minutes. After this I applied a second, slightly more generous, coat of adhesive to the back of the rubber and inside the enclosure and pressed the rubber firmly into place. I cut a couple pieces of scrap edging to the internal dimensions of the USB enclosure and laid then over the top of the rubber; I weighted these down using a metal block (but you can use anything relatively heavy), the flat edging strips just spread the weight of the block out and evenly exert pressure to the rubber as the glue dries. I left it all like this for a full 24 hours before removing the block and edging strips - the enclosure was then completed and neatly finished.
Run all the cables underneath the desk using cable clips, and plug into PC - you now have two USB 3.0 ports built into your secret USB compartment!
Step 17: **Edit: Step 4: Applying the Non-slip Surface to the Desk.
For this step you will need some sort of material to cover the desk surface - a material of your choosing - but I used 3mm thick neoprene rubber. The reason I used this particular rubber is that it is incredibly hard-wearing; it is both chemical and heat resistant; it is waterproof; it gives a non-slip surface finish; it is anti static; it is easy to work with; it is aesthetically pleasing, it gives a professional feel to the desk and gives the whole project a modern look. I bought this sheet for roughly £20 from DeltaRubber - they sell a multitude of materials and will most definitely have something to suit your needs.
Okay, once you have your rubber (or alternate material) you need to lay it flat on the floor or on a large table top. Remove the desktop pieces and place upside down onto the material sheet. Position appropriately so that you use the least amount of material possible, but have enough to play with later on, then draw around the desktop pieces. Lay the desktops to one side and use a Stanley knife to carefully cut the shapes out on your material - cut on the outer edge of the outline so that the material is fractionally larger than the original worktop.
Next, get some course sandpaper and rough up the upper side of the desktop pieces. This is to provide a 'key' so that when you glue the material to the desktop, it can securely adhere to the surface. You don't want to scratch the surface to the point that it is all bumpy with chunks of wood carved out of it, but just enough so that you can feel lots and lots of small channels in the wood into which the glue can penetrate. Once you have done this to both pieces of worktop, wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove any wood dust.
After this you need to shake up a can of impact spray adhesive and set the nozzle to the medium spray setting (if possible). Moving from side to side, spray the entire work surface with a generous amount of adhesive, ensuring complete coverage and then let partially dry - though only for about 2 minutes. Get the matching piece of material, place it upside down and repeat the process - again, ensuring complete coverage. Apply another two coats of adhesive, working perpendicular from the previous coat, to both the worktop and the material, and then marry the two together. Line them up as best as possible - this is where the oversized material shape should prove useful - and the smooth down, working from the centre of the board outwards. Place the desktop upside down on the floor and leave to dry for a full 24 hours, do the same for both sections of desktop.
Finally, trim the excess material from the desktop using a Stanley knife and re-attach the two desktop sections to the desk frame - should be looking pretty sleek round about now.
Step 18: **Edit: Step 5: Cornice Edging.
For the desktop sections to be able to slide, there must be an ever so slight gap between the worktop and the wall to prevent frictional contact. This gap, in my opinion, makes the desk look as if it doesn't quite fit the alcove correctly, thereby reducing its aesthetic appeal. Attaching some form of cornice to the wall makes the desk look perfectly fitted and therefore makes it look as if it were done professionally - greatly enhancing its appeal.
For this step it is easier to stain the cornice as soon as it is cut and sanded to size rather than doing it when the cornice is fixed in place. To cut the cornice, use a mitre box to get a perfect 45 degree angle and then sand the edge to adjust it as needed. I didn't actually use a mitre box for this step as my walls are so irregular that a 45 angle is not the angle I needed.
Once you have all the sections cut to size and sanded to shape, put them all in their allocated positions to ensure that they fit together as required. Once happy that they do, apply some impact adhesive to the back of the first section and then apply some more to the wall where it will be going. Let the adhesive partially dry for about 3 minutes then apply a little more to the cornice and press the piece into its position. Use small tacking pins, tape or weighted objects to hold the cornice firmly in place as it dries. Work your way around the desk repeating the last step and then leave for a full 24 hours to cure.
Once all of the pieces are securely fixed around the edges of the desktop you will need to fill in any small gaps with either a colour-matched wood filler or a regular filler that will take to a stain. Neaten up all filled areas and leave to dry for at least an hour before staining to match the surrounding wood - if required - and then place masking tape around the cornice covering the wall and rubber desk surface.
After both the filler and stain have been left to dry for the required amount of time, use a fine gloss brush to apply a coat of clear lacquer over the top of the cornice - this will make it match the rest of the wood on the desk and protect it from stains, knocks and scuffs. Apply 2-3 coats of the lacquer with sufficient time between each coat and then leave to fully dry over 24 hours.
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