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Wraparound Desk Made From One Sheet of Plywood, 2 Filing Cabinets

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Five years ago I wanted a desk. When I was a kid my mother made a desk out of an interior door and two filing cabinets. I already had one filing cabinet about 29 inches tall, so I bought another the same height and tried the desk out.

It blew.

It was ugly, tended to slide by itself, I hit my hip on the corners occasionally, and I heard disconcerting cracks and creaks when I put my 20" CRT in the middle where I wanted it. So I thought again.

My specifications were, in order of importance:
1) Elegant - I liked desks that wrapped around you
2) Easy to Make - Minimize tools and time
3) Cheap - Ideally made out of one piece of plywood.
4) Movable - I 've moved too many times to set myself up with a cumbersome desk.

I like corner desks as a rule, so I drew up a design with 6' legs from a corner, with a couple of curves. 6' on a side was a good size not just aesthetically, but because with judicious cutting I could cut all the structural pieces out of one piece of good, double-sided plywood. In my book, elegance of design is something you enjoy long after you've forgotten the monetary cost.

This project took an morning for the woodwork, plus the rest of the weekend for staining and poly coats.

Caveat maker: I have no in-progress photos of this project as I made it 5 years ago. I've done my best to provide as clear instructions and drawings as I can. If you are unclear about any step, leave me a comment and I'll try to explain better.

(Please rate this project by hitting the (+) or (-) buttons near the upper right of the page)

 
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primedlt2 years ago
Thanks for this instructable. I have been wanting to make a desk top with this shape, but was worried about getting the curves right.
The ironman2 years ago
you could add chaulk paint to make to ultifunctial
tinker2343 years ago
hey metal table top
mroca13 years ago
good work :D
tinker2343 years ago
love the idea i might just use stronger legs in fear of my legs but for you it is perfect
jend55706 years ago
I love it!! but umm......where do you keep ur clothes?
Most People Dont Keep Clothes In A File Cabinet
my clothes are actually in a file cabinet.
Lol. Could probably get rid of what doesn't fit me and do the same!
clark jend55706 years ago
haha...what?
I like it! Just in need of a switchable power strip, and a few holes with gromlets to run the wires through... and a cable organizer to keep all the cables together... Love it!!
Cable organizer? Three words... velcro strip ties.
lol.. ok that works too...
Word of caution: Depending on your own height, the two filing cabinets could be just a little too high. I am currently using a slab of countertop and two filing cabinets as a computer desk, and I really like the countertop - no more mouse pad! But when my computer chair is high enough for the desktop, my toes are stretching to reach the floor. When my feet are on the floor, I find myself typing with my shoulders hunched up because of the height of the desktop. You may not have a problem - my height is 5' 3" - but you might want to measure the height of your current desk, then calculate the total height your new creation will be. You'd never know how important an inch or two will be until you're stretching your toes or hunching your shoulders. I'm currently designing a pvc pipe shelving base for under my countertop, with the filing cabinets being relegated to the sides of the desk again. In the meantime, I'm just stretching and hunching, depending on my mood.
n0klu7 years ago
Here is a top from 1 cut 4'x8' sheet 3/4" ply sitting atop 2 Wal-Mart wooden file cabs and a spare sheet of Ply for the power distribution / third leg.... (has my 20" monitor on top and slide out keyboard shelf under the mid section)
Desk1.jpg
n0klu n0klu7 years ago
Some more views of it...
Desk2.jpgDesk3.jpgDesk4.jpg
For any of these designs, you can add a 3/4" x 1-1/2" board around the back side. This has the effect of adding 1-1/2" of thickness, for support. They do this on high end shelving to stop them from bowing under weight. If you have to join two pieces and want their surfaces to remain flush with each, you can cut a 1/8" kerf down the center of the joining edges, then install a spline, which is just a piece of wood which just fits into the kerf and sticks out enough to go into the opposite kerf. You can cut the kerf with a router and bit, a biscuit machine, or a circular saw (after you clamp a couple pieces of wood to support and guide the saw. This could also be done with dowels with the one end rounded over (similar to what kitchen tables use). In either instance, careful marking and cutting is worth the effort.
GeekyAdam n0klu5 years ago
nice. i like the little extra shelf on the left as well.
themostbob (author)  n0klu6 years ago
An excellent solution, and the wood grain is a nice touch. Since I already had the one metal file cabinet, it was natural for me to go that route, but I quite like yours---especially the get-the-wires-out-of-the-way-board at the back. Nice job!
n0klu n0klu7 years ago
Here is the measurements and 1 sheet layout....
Corner_Desktop_9.jpg
natharious5 years ago
Any idea where I could get cheap filing cabinets or an alternative? I'd love to create a similar desk.
Milk Crates
themostbob (author)  natharious5 years ago
Thrift stores usually have a couple. The two drawer kind are usually just the right height. Maybe if there are business liquidators in your area, they would have some cheaper ones.
I have a question.. How much space is a metric buttload?? lol...
jolebitte6 years ago
Finally, I'm done with my desk!
The hardest parts were to get the halves to match (thick sheet, a bit shallow circle-saw) and the painting.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Swedish-Wraparound-Desk-Made-From-One-Sheet-of-Pl/
f��rdigt (Large).jpg
Your colours look very sophisticated. Love the grey and white. Well done!
myohmy5 years ago
This is brilliant!! I'm thinking more filing cabinets could be added and the desk top extended if a person needed more cabinets too. Well done!! I've been thinking of converting s closet into s tiny work station. This would be perfect!! :0) !
ReCreate5 years ago
since computers are metal on the outside they can survive some fires probably some of the outer plastics may be ruined
Maffu6 years ago
That's a simple but brilliant idea.
At around the time you were building this I paid around £200 (in a sale, no less) for a flatpack . corner unit
Ok, so mine has a slidey keyboard shelf and a monitor riser on it, but I prefer yours and I'm thinking that I may have to do one just for the sheer joy of having made it.
Genius.
Maffu Maffu6 years ago
Opps - fixed the link now.
Mak56 years ago
Props... I like the idea of nomadic furniture, I'm about to move AGAIN. I'm thinking desk, bed and shelves using this method. Again, props.
chalky6 years ago
nice shape i like it brilliant.
Jouda Mann6 years ago
Truly an elegant and easy alternative to the "disposable" furniture found at mega stores. Bravo!
this is a perfect way to make a corner desk! love it!! I just wish I had a truck to carry big pieces home now! :) Thanks!
themostbob (author)  copycatfilms6 years ago
Always befriend people with trucks. :) I want to get rid of mine, but I just can't---too much stuff to haul around!
blakelock7 years ago
much better than my blockity-block version. nice design.
Awesome, and the materials are way better than anything you'll find at the big box stores... real wood as opposed to sawdust + glue...
Nice project! I love custom-building things around the house. It makes way more sense than paying a ton of money for a store-bought piece that's locked into a certain size. I'm diggin' your jigsaw cutting work. Smooth. I've had good experiences with applying an acrylic finish to wooden top surfaces. It makes it completely waterproof and provides a shiny appearance.
Excellent design! VERY reminescent of the classic "Nomadic Furniture" DIY books. And such economy. Almost no wasted plywood. For myself, I think I'd build shelving in place of the file cabinets. If for no other reason than to have the LaserWriter right at hand and yet out of the way. Hmmm. Mounting the scanner on a sliding platform in the shelves on the other side would also work to keep it handy and yet not in the way. Off to SketchUp! I have some designing to do! Thanks for the inspiration!
themostbob (author)  Chris Tucker7 years ago
I can't say I've heard of those, but I'm not surprised. Once you constrain a design to fitting within a sheet of plywood, certain patterns are sure to emerge. I actually started thinking about a desk 8' on a side with curves like this, then made it smaller when I saw I could shoehorn it into a single sheet. The remainders of the cutting found life in other things around the house---pretty much nothing of that sheet went to waste.
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