This instructable will show you how to take a tall, narrow Ikea bookshelf, plywood and a sheet of whiteboard and make a stylish multi-functional project desk. We use it as a computer desk, scrapbooking area and a place to sketch or leave notes with a dry erase marker. The whiteboard material will stain (a red candle sat on it for awhile and stained it even though it wasn't burning), so keep that in mind. This one is 6.5' long and 2.5' wide. I think it cost about $25 for everything except the shelf.

You'll need:
Supplies -
Plywood (at least 1/2")
Whiteboard (cut to the same size as your plywood)
Donor shelf (mine was Ikea, but I think any tall/narrow shelf would work)
1" Wood screws
Liquid Nails (or similar heavy duty adhesive, and 1 tube is probably enough)

Tools -
Circular saw
Cordless drill
Caulk Gun

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Step 1: One shelf becomes two

Picture of One shelf becomes two
We started with a 6+ foot tall bookshelf that we no longer used. It was the perfect size to become the legs/shelves for the desk. Plus, the red color kept the desk from looking too homemade. I used a circular saw to cut it in roughly in half. In the process I discovered that the core of the "boards" was hollow with cardboard bracing. Benefit - lightweight. Drawback - fewer places for attaching screws.

Step 2: Painting the Plywood

Picture of Painting the Plywood
My wife is a graphic designer and aesthetics are a bit more important to her than me. In order to keep everything looking spiffy, we painted the edge of the plywood white to match the whiteboard that would eventually be glued on top. I think the paint says "Charlie", which is the name of our cat.

Step 3: Attaching the plywood to the legs

Picture of Attaching the plywood to the legs
A quick note about this step: I built this 9 months ago and had to take it apart to move it into our new house. When I put it back together, I decided to use 4 pieces of spare wood screwed to the plywood to help guide the legs to the correct place on the underside of the plywood. I dug out a few inches of the cardboard bracing to accommodate the wood guides. They don't bear any structural load but simply help to keep everything in the right place.

Step 4: Glue the whiteboard to the plywood

Picture of Glue the whiteboard to the plywood
Glue like crazy. I used Liquid Nails. Everywhere. Almost a whole tube on just the top, actually. Then put the whiteboard top on and put heavy objects on top to keep everything tight. You may want to open a window and turn on a fan, as that much Liquid Nails has a stronger odor than you might realize at first.

Step 5: Finito!

Picture of Finito!
Finally, after a few hours of work and several hours of drying (at least 4, but 24 helps clear out the vapors) you have a fabulous desk that is quite functional without looking tacky or too homemade.
Nyxi6 years ago
you could also cut a hole through both layers of the desktop and cover it with those little plastic desk grommet covers, maybe a red one, for a more finished look and easy wire access.:)
dsantil71 Nyxi1 year ago
That is a cool idea about using the grommet cover. Where can you get them?
mbear dsantil7110 months ago

Woodworker supply stores usually have them. Rockler and Lee Valley are the only two I can think of, but there are more out there.

axia4 years ago
Is the whiteboard surface mouse friendly? I hate mousepads...
dsantil71 axia1 year ago
You could also use a cheap acrylic cutting board.
swaweet (author)  axia4 years ago
I believe so. However, the whiteboard surface may show wear marks from the mouse.
dman3051 year ago
hello just to say lo e this idea but what was the name of the shelves that you used to for the legs thank you
swaweet (author)  dman3051 year ago
It's from Ikea and it's the Lack line of furniture.
swaweet (author) 2 years ago
By whiteboard I mean dry erase board. In regard to table stability, that's not a trait that I really tested, and it wasn't an issue. The legs are large squares, and the bottom surface of the plywood is in contact with 4 (total) good-sized rectangles on the legs. The way I show it built is pretty sturdy. If you are concerned about the strength you could screw wood blocks (sized to fit inside the hollow legs) to the bottom of the plywood and then screw through the sides of the legs into the blocks. The screws wouldn't be visible unless you were under the desk and would help draw everything up tight.
Minimum 0002 years ago
Hey! Thank you so much for posting this. I think it's going to become my go-to solution for a desk. I have the same Ikea storage thing.

I have a question though: even with the pieces of reinforcement wood that you used on the underside of the table top, how do you prevent the table from wobbling if the inside of the legs is hollow? What provides the table's stability?

Thanks so much!
jaldana062 years ago
By "Whiteboard" what do you mean? Do you mean MDF wood? or whiteboard as in a dry erase board?
The color combo really does make it look "factory made"!
sindean4 years ago
Just a tip: in the lumber section at your home improvement store, there is a 4'x8' sheet of melamine material. Exact same as whiteboard, but in a massive sheet for about $15. We put two of them in our kitchen and covered one entire wall and used it as the "draw wall". Just food for thought.
jsimmy5 years ago
A tip for all whiteboard/LCD TV owners: if you do happen to get Sharpie-esque permanent marker on your whiteboard or flatscreen, completely and liberally cover over the permanent marker with a dry erase marker. Give it a second and then erase with an dry-erase eraser or a cotton cloth and both the permanent and dry-erase ink should come right off. This has saved my 6 year old's bacon several times.
Tagarashi5 years ago
Make sure this desk is absolutely sharpie free.....

(yea yea ya .. I know from experienced)
Tdburn6 years ago
I love the idea of using the whiteboard to create the smooth surface! We need another work desk in our office and a solution like this will be really nice.