With our kids moved upstairs, my wife finally got a room of her own on the main level.  She needed a strong desk to support her sewing machine and especially two knitting machines - these things clamp to the desk and require a fair amount of force to operate!  Any work surface that isn't attached to the wall or floor inevitably shifts back and forth as the carriage clatters on, row after row.

So, I built this simple desk for her.  I'd done one just like it for myself a few years earlier, so I know it holds up well.  The main criteria was that the desk didn't move, even a little bit, no matter how you yank and pull on it.  However, cost and simplicity were also factors, and I know I nailed all three on this job!  It is made of simple 2x4 lumber and a veneered plywood top - and lots of screws.  The tool list is small, and the whole thing can be built in a weekend.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials
The amount of materials will naturally scale with the size of the desk to be built.  The design for this room called for an L shaped desk attached to adjacent walls.  The desk is only two feet deep to accommodate the knitting machines, but not stick out too far into the room.  I used almost an entire 4x8 foot sheet of plywood.  To build the desk as pictured in this instructable, you will need the following:
  • One 4x8 foot sheet of 3/4" thick veneered plywood, either stain grade or paint grade ($50-$65)
  • Six (and maybe one extra) pieces of 2x4x8 pine lumber.  Make sure they're straight!  (approx. $2.75 each)
  • Eight to ten 2" L-brackets (less than $1 each)
  • Two flat brackets
  • 100-pack of flat head 5/8" long screws
  • 3", 2.5" and 2" construction screws
  • Paint (optional)
More tools will make some jobs easier, and the finish nicer.  If this will be used in a workshop you can get away with just the essentials.
  • 10" or larger compound miter saw
  • Drill, with countersink bit and 2.25" hole saw bits
  • screwdriver
  • bubble level
  • studfinder or magnet and plumb line/laser level
  • Tape Measure
  • Jigsaw or circular saw (optional, not required if you have the plywood cut at the store)
  • Router with 1/4" roundover bit (optional, for rounding over edges)
  • Random oscillation sander (optional, for sanding the surface)
  • Impact driver (optional, for driving screws faster)
  • paint brush (if painting)
Just finished. Took me somewhere between 2.5 and 3 hours. Solid. Thanks
jeff-o (author)  Wmedwards56251 month ago
Time well spent. You're welcome!
TimJ39 months ago

Please tell me what size did you cut the 4x8 plywood?

jeff-o (author)  TimJ39 months ago
One of the sheets is 30 inches deep, the other 18 inches or thereabouts. But remember this design scales, if you want a three foot deep desk then just make the supports bigger.
iahaleem2 years ago
This is a spectacular Instructable. Following your guide, I made a desk that wraps around 3 walls of my office. I've had it for 6 months and can vouch for it's strength. It supports my home business as well as my full weight whenever I need to climb on top of it.

I personally used 3/4-1" thick MDF board for the table top since it is incredibly cheap. It doesn't exactly paint well, so I ended up covering it with wood pattern contact paper (my inexpensive go-to solution for such situations).

If I could change one thing, I would use the skinny side of the 2x4 for the cantilever. I store a lot of things under my desk, and the wide width prevents me from fully utilizing the space under there. I don't know if it would negatively affect the strength though.
jeff-o (author)  iahaleem1 year ago
Yep, you could have used the skinny side without any trouble. Either way, it turned out great.
xJaYhAwKeRx2 years ago

I absolutely loved your desk design so I took it and ran with it!
jeff-o (author)  xJaYhAwKeRx1 year ago
Cool, well done.
eureka_foo1 year ago
Just used this to build a work bench. Worked out awesome! If I can figure how to upload pic I will. Thanks!
just couldn't do it from my phone. BAM!
shed bench.jpgshed bench.jpg
jeff-o (author)  eureka_foo1 year ago
Looks great!
weird uploader.... anyhow, for anyone interested, I used same "triangle measurements" as OP, and my joists happend to be 24 OC. After I completed it, I got up on it and jumped up and down and it stayed put. I'm ~200 lbs.
Study renovation over; Result:
jeff-o (author)  hobbitcakes1 year ago
Wow, nice work. Those stripes of light wood look really slick.
Great idea!!! I did the same thing a few years ago out of welded steel and it's awesome. The amount of leg room makes you realize how much you give up with the traditional desk setup. Great instructable!
pudtiny3 years ago
Get Job, but would pre-painting all the parts be quicker?

two things come to mind. First, it seemed like he was assembling it all from scratch as he went, Paint may have been an afterthought. Secondly I wouldnt trust myself to NOT gouge or scrape paint off when I was assembling it, so that may have been their reasoning too.
elguappo3 years ago
Great looking desk, very similar to something I just installed in m yloft/office area.
One major difference in mine, and I think its an improvement, I was able to use a Kreg pocket hole jig to make recessed screw holes and only a single support brace from the desk bottom to the wall. I also did my angled supports on the edge rather than on the flat.
I was also able to attach the left and right top parts with the pocket hole jib, thus needing no brackets and a wicked strong corner joint.
yoyology3 years ago
Love it. Would be a challenge to do in our house, which is almost 100 years old now. Nothing in the structure is straight, plumb, or level!
jeff-o (author)  yoyology3 years ago
It could be easier than you think. Each support is individually adjusted for level, so as long as you can drive everything into studs you should be able to make it work.
seamster3 years ago
Nice! Super-strength tables are awesome.
Hmm, I've been needing a good work bench, as all I have right now is one of those plastic flooding tables.... but since my work area is in the living room (actually I think it's supposed to be the dining room) It needs to be relatively nice looking, but since I also do metal work and such, I need something stable... this fits the bill one those two points... but unless I can convince my aunt, I don't think she would let me have it permanent... Also one quick question.... what is the approximate cost per support and per square ft for the top?
To convince the aunt, tell her that when it comes time to take the desk down, you'll install a wainscot and chair rail to cover the unsightly holes. It ought to be at about the right height for that, and it would be appropriate in a dining room. And in the mean time, if the room ever needs to be used for something other than your projects, simply attach a velcro-mounted banquet table skirt to the front edge, throw a table runner on top, and your workbench becomes a buffet, with the added feature of being able to hide your tools, materials, works in progress, etc. behind the skirt.
jeff-o (author)  BrefelanDesigns3 years ago
Yeah, the permanent thing could be a deal breaker if she doesn't want you driving screws into her walls. But on the other hand, she'd have a nice sturdy worksurface for herself once you've moved out.

Cost per support is probably about $5 (one 2x4, some screws and brackets), cost per square foot of desk space averages to about $1.60 a square foot - but if you want a desk deeper than 16 inches you pretty much have to buy a whole sheet of decent plywood ($55).

If you tossed in a few sturdy door hinges you could make the table fold flat against the wall...
Thanks for the info, but for now I should really focus on trying to find a (new) job...
but, I might see what I can do to win her over... and maybe see about splitting the costs.... well, anyways thanks for the help!

Good Luck and Happy Making,
jeff-o (author)  BrefelanDesigns3 years ago
Good luck finding a job! I happen to be in the same situation, myself...
Void Schism3 years ago
OK, I know I'm going to get called a pedant for asking this, but...
Surely the very definition of a cantilever is that it is not braced?
jeff-o (author)  Void Schism3 years ago
Nope, that's an excellent point! One I considered myself as well. But since the edge is not supported by the floor, and lacking a better name for the design, I decided to call it a cantilever.
It's a little misleading as I only clicked the instructable to see how you managed a cantilever desk. It's a Truss desk if you need a better name
jeff-o (author)  -A-N-D-Y-3 years ago
Thanks! I'll see if I can update the name. The title might have to stay the same but I'll try to fix the rest of the text.
Hi, I later realised my comment may have sounded rather negative to what is both an excellent instructable and finished desk. Further thought it is maybe better described by stayed desk? Anyway it's just a name! thanks for posting
jeff-o (author)  -A-N-D-Y-3 years ago
Thanks! And no worries. I'll do more research and figure out what to call it.
HollyMann3 years ago
I love it -it looks awesome. Did it take a long time to build it?
jeff-o (author)  HollyMann3 years ago
Just a weekend. Less, if you don't paint it.