Introduction: Space Saving Tripod Computer Desk for Two

My kids really wanted a computer. Mostly for Minecraft but for other reasons too. Their older step-brother bought a new computer so I decided to see what I could do on a reasonable budget with his hand-me-down.

Step 1: Gathering the Materials

I had bought a telescope many years ago that eventually acquired a defect that pretty much made it impossible to use. I saved all the parts but bought a new one (pictured in the next step) that I moved to a different location. I used the old tripod as the base for the new workstation. I went to Home Depot and bought a 2' x 4' piece of 1/2 inch Russian birch plywood. It is exceptionally strong and the edges are attractive in their post-cut state (a little sanding might be needed to soften any corners).

Step 2: Down to the Nitty Gritty

I covered the middle bearing with plastic wrap to avoid getting grease all over everything. I used a carriage bolt hammered through the hole I drilled in the center of the triangular piece. A washer was required on the bottom before I placed the nut. The keyboard trays are cut 1 ft x 2 ft and the triangle is 2 ft long on all three sides. This is the footprint of the tripod.

I had some L-brackets left over from an old fence. They're old and quite solid (not like the ones in the hardware stores these days). The brackets need to be mounted with their top sitting level regardless of their orientation. I chose 30" from the floor as all the tables and desks in the house were at that height. The top triangle is at about 35" off the floor.

I used a carpenter's square to figure out the fancy cut on the front edge of the keyboard trays. I put a flat bracket underneath to stabilize the joint and filled with wood filler. Once the trays were in place I put a piece of 1"x2" across the back and used mini-L-brackets to attach it to the tripod and the underside of the tray. You can see it in the pictures on the next step. The trays feel very sturdy even when I'm using the keyboard so it should stand up to them fairly well.

Step 3: Mounting the Computer and Dealing With the Wires

Any modern computer that can support two monitors as an extended desktop can be configured to work as two workstations. I used softXpand to achieve this with Windows7 but Ubuntu and other Linux distros can be used for free. At $30 I felt the program would accelerate the setup so I deemed it a worth-while purchase. I started by working with the existing windows but soon learned that was the wrong decision. I performed a recovery to factory default and all the previous problems evaporated. I recommend that you flat-line windows from the start (should you wish to try).

I attached a 1"x2" along the back at the bottom and then used a 1"x4" which I notched out before attaching. This is so I can still adjust the height using the tripod. It also allowed me to remove the center tray. I needed that in order to get the computer case in there. I used a foam ball to provide front support to avoid pinching the case which would be hard on it due to unavoidable movement of the desk. I dropped one short screw through the bottom of the case into the 1x4 in order to ensure it wouldn't float away. Once I cleaned all the dust out of the inside, I purposefully turned the air pathways out into the open side rather than up against the wall.

2 keyboards, 2 monitors, 2 mice, 2 headsets (as requested by the kids), a DVI-to-VGA converter, & a wireless USB NIC. Cha-ching, this is definitely not a budget friendly project. I figured two mini-laptops would have cost me $600-700 minimum and I think I've spent $300-400 so far.

In terms of cable management a little thought, Velcro straps and black twist ties can do a lot. Try to avoid a lot of tight bends and never cinch tighten straps when two wires are involved. Avoid putting power wires together with signal type wires except for short runs of a couple of inches. When they are together in parallel cables tend to leak which propagates as noise on the line or worse, premature loss of equipment.

Step 4: Final Thoughts and Finishing Touches Not Yet Done

Judging from the hugs I got, they like it just fine. It takes up a surprisingly small amount of floor space, is easy to sweep under and makes supervising computer use very easy. I haven't run into any games or apps that won't work with the split desktops but apparently it can happen. There are work-around(s) so I'm not too worried.

I think I might put some black paint on the bare wooden parts that I added to the tripod below the keyboard trays. I'll stain and wax the plywood to bring out the beauty of the wood. The final addition might be a small UPS so that I can unplug it and move it to a new plug without having to reboot.

Comments

author
Malkaris made it!(author)2017-01-04

I'm curious what the system specs on that computer are? I was going to set my two kids up with raspi3 (one each) mounted behind the monitor, but I have a mini-gaming system that may split well.

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jds1969 made it!(author)2017-01-04

This is the desk I ended up making and the subsequent improvements.

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jds1969 made it!(author)2017-01-04

This is what it looked like after the modification.

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jds1969 made it!(author)2017-01-04

It was a gamer PC but I'd recommend staying away from this two headed approach unless you like endless fiddling and configuring. A second sound card is also required if I remember correctly. I ended up abandoning it and buying each of them a refurbished laptop. I set the screens to be an extended display and they were quite happy. I also ended up building a bigger desk but that's another story.

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%D0%98%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%9811 made it!(author)2016-01-16

The idea of going on but does not look so stable PC, and can easily be kicked. Better to be rotated 90 degrees.

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Lindie made it!(author)2013-09-19

Great idea!

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dfecker made it!(author)2013-09-18

This is awesome! I've got 3 kids and a cramped computer room! This will same me a TON of space. I may have to post my solution when I'm done with it too.

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jds1969 made it!(author)2013-09-18

Please do.

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Treknology made it!(author)2013-09-18

I'm impressed. While my own set-up is three keyboards and 6 monitors all in a straight line (still a single-user PC) and ruts in the carpet from sliding the office chair back and forth, because it's built for Power Use (not gaming, sorry), I like the very small almost "kiosk" design and it's great that you can keep all your children's computer use under scrutiny.

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econtrerasd made it!(author)2013-09-18

Genius!, I've used computers for 20 years and never tried two keyboards and mouse on a dual monitor setting.. It makes sense computers are really powerful now!..

Besides that your design keeps the kids together, that's another plus!

Nice!

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Helder4u made it!(author)2013-09-17

Smart and impressive :)

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spylock made it!(author)2013-09-17

Great job,this would be almost a must have for a family with two kid,or a couple who share a small home office space.Again real smart,great job.

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RandomIdeaMan made it!(author)2013-09-17

Fantastic idea!
Looks great, and I can imagine it works very well too. Great use of the single box-dual user idea too.

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macrumpton made it!(author)2013-09-17

This is a really nice project. It occurs to me that you could even add a third user on the empty side of the tripod.

It would be interesting to see if this would be useful for places that need to quickly set up a large number of computers for people to register for events or emergency situations where lots of people need to get online. Maybe even for a traveling computer school for Third World countries.

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jds1969 made it!(author)2013-09-17

Lots of possibilities. A smaller computer case and different approach to cables and it might work well.

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stephenf made it!(author)2013-09-17

Like the desk and setup. Ups makes sense and it provides the added benefit of lowering the center of gravity (added stability).
Any foot space conflicts?

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jds1969 made it!(author)2013-09-17

Not too bad in terms of leg room.

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kevgrn114 made it!(author)2013-09-17

Very Nice!! This may be something good to use in our RV!

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astral_mage made it!(author)2013-09-15

have u thought of using pc multiplier. its a program that uses usb ports and the cpu sores as seperate computers. free version will support up to 2 users. but more than that uill have buy the license 4 it tho. heres a link u can check out http://www.sharewareupdate.com/search/pc+multiplier/

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jds1969 made it!(author)2013-09-16

Lots of ways to skin a cat, as the old saying goes.

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jds1969 made it!(author)2013-09-15

I figured it was a good idea. Didn't want to just keep to myself. Glad you liked it spyder and bear.

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spyder2021 made it!(author)2013-09-15

great concept. would be perfect to game together with a buddy. love the idea.

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thebear1 made it!(author)2013-09-15

nice setup your kids got a great dad  very good idea something for me to keep in mind
thanks for posting this

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