Instructables
Picture of great looking, inexpensive computer desk
DSC_5878.JPG
When looking for a computer desk for my home office, I couldn't find anything that was reasonably priced and met my needs. All of the nicer desks I was looking at were at least $1200 or more and weren't exactly what I was looking for. I also didn't see a lot of instructables for desks, so I decided to build one and set myself a budget of $300.

The desk consists of four pieces.
- table top
- 3 drawer cabinet (writing supplies, computer cables, etc)
- 2 drawer file cabinet (drawers are sized for hanging file folders)
- printer cabinet

I chose to build it this way because it is easy to transport, and it can easily be shifted around to a new room if I chose to move at a later time. I also chose a fairly simple construction, no crazy joinery, and tools that every basic wood shop would have.


Materials:
- 3 (4'x8') sheets of 5/8" mdf (I would have liked to use maple veneer plywood, but its about 3 times the price)
- 2 (4'x8') sheets of 1/8" mdf or hardboard
- 1" brad nails
- 5/8" brad nails
- wood glue
- wood filler (for nail holes)
- 5 pairs of roller tracks for the drawers
- 7 drawer handles
- 1 pair of cabinet door hinges
- 1 gallon of primer
- 1 gallon of paint
- brushes and rollers


Feel free to build as many or as few cabinets as you need to suit your application. And if you build one post some pictures!
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Necessary Tools

I wanted to post this instructable using common tools. These tools are very common and for the most part inexpensive. Chances are if you don't have all of these tools, your neighbour will be able to help you out.

The tools I used were:
-drill
-table saw
-miter saw
-tape measure
-adjustable square
-paint brush and roller
-brad nailer
-cutting pliers
-drill bit and driver
-screwdrivers
-palm sander
claudg19501 year ago
It is your fault! Due to your great looking desk, I felt compelled to try my own –for my wife-- but in hindsight I'm surprised that I managed to do it.
I copied the type of handles you used, the trimming for the drawers and the desktop, and the general idea.
Just for the record: The 60x175cm desktop (24x69 in), the 40x50cm (16"x 20") cabinet and drawer`s sides and back were all made with 15mm (5/8") white melamine. The trim for the cabinet and the table top is some inexpensive 5 cm (2") wide softwood door molding. The bottom and face of the drawers is 9mm (3/8") MDF.
Strip moldings and MDF were stained with a water-dissolved powdered pigment (in fact, brown pigment for fabrics, as I couldn't find true wood pigment). Notably, by brushing the pigment horizontally the illusion of wood grain appeared (just a fluke).
Thank you very much indeed for your inspiration and your instructable.
Wife desk.JPG
phish8143 years ago
Using an old door would be convenient for a top. You could even use the old hole for the handle as a place to route the computer cables.
Drojen4 years ago
Thanks for the great plans! My wife and I built a variation of this desk this week and it turned out great with a few customizations.

We changed the dimensions a bit since we used 1/2" MDF instead of the 5/8". We also used a hollow core 24" x 80" interior door slab for the top and made two simple cabinets with hinged doors based on the printer cabinet plans you made. To those I drilled some holes on the inside for adjustable shelf brackets and cut some simple shelves for extra storage. I've attached some pics below.

Once again thanks!

IMG00004-20101112-0847.jpgIMG00005-20101112-0853.jpg
Great variation. Since I've NEVER built anything before, I am going to try your version (since it doesnt have drawers, which I find intimidating). Could you tell me how you mounted the doors and shelves (hardware). Also, the doors, are they mounted directly on the frame of the cabinet? There seems to be another piece of wood in the picture that the hinges are bolted to... Finally, could you give provide the measurments of the cabinet...

Thanks for any answers/help you can provide a newbie.

CJ
Hey CJ. The doors are mounted with some of those European style hidden hinges 1/2" depth. They require a screw that is about an inch long to mount them to the cabinet box, so we had to install one more strip of 1/2" MDF which we cut to fit and glued to the sides. This allows the screw to go all the way in and anchor everything well.

On the door side, you have to use a forstner bit to drill out the hole to mount the hinge. The hinges come with handy little templates that make it easier. I got everything at Home Depot. They basically just sit inside the hole you just bored out and are anchored by a couple of screws. Just go slowly so you don't bore all the way through the door face.

For the shelves I just drilled some holes in a line and put in some of those little adjustable shelf brackets like you find in store bought bookshelves. They just pop in and out so we can adjust accordingly. Eyeball your drill bit and the side of the cabinet box and then put some tape around the bit to mark the depth so you know when to stop drilling so you don't pierce through. I put the holes about 1.5" apart. Just make sure the front ones are level with the back ones, mark everything out, and go to town.

The cabinets are 20" on the inside, 21" on the outside, and 22" where the trim pieces go on the top and bottom. They are 28" tall. The construction is the same as the printer cabinets in this instructable. Since I used 1/2" MDF, I used rounded off measurements to make it easier.

I hope this helps, good luck.

Jason
Jason,
Thanks for your detailed response, I greatly appreciate it. I will let you know how I make out.

Happy New Year!

CJ
kyzla4 years ago
do you think i can adjust the printer cabinet size?

my printer is very differently shaped :( but has a scanner and fax and printer all built in :)

i think i could, and then adjust the size in the plans and all, and adjust the top and such... i don't think it'd be too hard, do you?

also: GREAT job. i grew up watching my grandfather see a problem and fix it by building some custom piece of furniture. they were works of art, and easily replicable with plans and everything. yours is just wonderful. 5 stars!
looker19954 years ago
I did roughly the same thing for my computer desk. However, for my top I chose a prefab Formica countertop from Home Depot. The 6 footers cost about $45-$60, but I got a chipped one for $30. I set things up so the chip is hidden behind some of my peripheral gear, so it's not a problem.
clintiepoo5 years ago
I'm thinking about doing this... my desk is really old and very modified and it would be nice to get a new, larger one. Could you post measurements of the overall dimensions of this desk? I know i could tweak it, but if I build it to print I need to know how big it will be.
If I can't have a quick peek at Inst. before work, I am in withdrawal all day, so I clicked on and found your ible. Beautiful!!!! Just what I'm looking for. Tell me please, are those two filing cabinets side by side? I need four filing drawers desperately. Great looking desk!!! 5 stars :0)
This is the kind of cabinets I make all the time. After restoring about 6 houses, I'm happy to see that there are other people using the same techniques as I do. Also the kind of style you use is similar and primering with latex is o so easy, much better then these expensive primers. I got this cheap and easy technique from stage builders. Michel Portugal
Nymph5 years ago
You've made a very professional looking desk. I think the handles give it a great look -well worth the money. Good job!
jmthomas6 years ago
I'm going to get my boyfriend to build me one.
Spokehedz6 years ago
You know, it might be cheaper to get pre-built cabinets from Home Depot or Lowes... Plus, save a lot of time and effort as well.
nickfarnell (author)  Spokehedz6 years ago
thats a great call! the only thing to take into consideration is height. generally computer desks are around 30.5" tall, while kitchen counters are around 36.5" tall.
That is true, but that usually includes about 4" on the top and bottom that you could shave off. Also, the chair I have has a raise and lower adjustment level. 'bout time I used it for something.
nickfarnell (author)  Spokehedz6 years ago
very true! definitely a time saver
choch6 years ago
I did this years ago and it works great. I used bathroom cabinets, they already have a drawer and a door. Put one on each end, more if you have room. Put a standard laminate counter top on the cabinets and a brace on the wall at the back of the chair hole. Holes for electricity and cables as you like. The countertop is prefinished. I slid it in a window and dropped it into place for a wall to wall desk. Prefab is really cheap. Choch...
nickfarnell (author)  choch6 years ago
thats a great idea!
blackturtle6 years ago
Gorgeous! And it can be custom size to any space. Love it!
nickfarnell (author)  blackturtle6 years ago
thanks! being modular was the starting point for me. i know im not going to be living in the same spot forever, so i wanted to build a work station that could move with me. if i move, ill just build a new top - longer, shorter, or even an 'L' shape.
My computer desk is two two-drawer filing cabinets topped with a French door and a piece of glass on top. It looks almost identical to yours! Nicer and with more character than anything you'd find in a store. Great illustrations too. :)
nickfarnell (author)  jessandstavro6 years ago
thanks for your comments! id love to see your desk
adamvan20006 years ago
I've never built any of the projects on here, but this one, I will do. My wife's going to love her new sewing desk. :O) ~adamvan2000
nickfarnell (author)  adamvan20006 years ago
great to hear! post pictures when you do build it.
uncle frogy6 years ago
very nice work would fit in to any house or apt. nice project. I have an unused bedroom that I converted to a lab workshop I added a second desk using 2 used two drawer Steelcase filling cabinets from a local office supply store and a piece of 3/4 plywood that I cut down to fit the space not very elegant but quick. I would have used a cheap hollow core slab door but did not have the length. still not very elegant.
nickfarnell (author)  uncle frogy6 years ago
thanks! im glad you liked it
nickfarnell (author) 6 years ago
i just had a CAD (computer aided design) question... for this instructable i used SolidWorks - absolutely amazing software, but it is expensive (upwards of $6000 US) and takes a lot of practice before you really understand the program. i would recommend Google SketchUp as a great starter CAD system. easy to learn, pretty intuitive, and best of all - FREE!
west boyo6 years ago
I like the plan, it looks very professional. one thing I don't know about though is the material. MDF is not the strongest choice. you can get maple veneer particle board for bearably cheap, and it is much stronger and infinitely more waterproof. it can also be stained, if you like the natural wood look. great plan, otherwise.
nickfarnell (author)  west boyo6 years ago
maple veneer was definitely my first choice but unfortunately couldnt make it happen for less than the $300 budget i set myself. maple veneer is a much nicer material, stronger, and gives a better finish in the end!
And you'd have to edge-band it too.
It's gorgeous. A lot better than the ones I've seen in the store.
nickfarnell (author)  facadeparade6 years ago
thanks! enjoy!
You make it look easy. Shame on you!
fwjs286 years ago
pretty cool....5*
nickfarnell (author)  fwjs286 years ago
thanks!
aeray6 years ago
Excellent 'ible. Good instructions and illustrations, and good use of material. One tip-- If you drill two oversized holes in the drawer sub-front and then use two panhead screws with fender washers to attach the actual drawer front, the front can be easily adjusted for an even reveal once the assembly and installation is complete.
nickfarnell (author)  aeray6 years ago
thats a good call! i havnt come across that trick before
jdege6 years ago
I've never seen anyone nail and glue a drawer bottom on. They're usually set in a dado., and left free-floating. You're method has the advantage of simplicity. There are a number of ways of cutting dadoes, but all require tools and practice. The problem is that wood expands with changes in temperature and humidity, With a free-floating drawer bottom, that's not an issue. With the glued and nailed method you've used, your drawers will warp. It may be that with well-sealed MDF, you'll not see the problem. But if someone were to follow using these instructions using a different finish, or decided not to bother painting the drawer bottoms, they could have a problem.
nickfarnell (author)  jdege6 years ago
i thought about running dadoes, but i wanted to keep it simple. also after choosing a drawer slide that supports the sides of the drawers, i thought they would be strong enough once assembled. more than likely i would have run dadoes if i was building with plywood, but was afraid of the mdf chipping.