Introduction: IMac Desk

Picture of IMac Desk
This is a teak desk, with a 1" thick arcyclic top/inlay. The desk is 31" tall, 48" wide, and 24" deep. The dimensions were chosen to maximize leg room and working space.''

If you hate wires, this arrangement is for you...

I bought my iMac in early may, and refused to open the box until I had the proper desk to place it on. I had a few specifications in mind: I wanted luxurious leg room, and a simple and architectural design that both incorporated the sleekness of the computer as well as the darkness of the woods in my room. 

I didn't really have a specific budget in mind, but i figured a large desk with a veneer and a cool top would cost me around $300-$400.

Asides from being ripped off in Chinatown, the costs of this desk were kept pretty low... kind of.

**Home depot's 4" blocks are actually 3.5".

update: I recently added a remote controlled mount to my desk that allows me to use my iPad as a distant monitor and as a mouspad.

This is a motor driven iPad mount created using a Firgelli track actuator. The iPad can be used as a monitor or as a visual mousepad for your desktop computer.


Step 1: Materials and Equipment

Picture of Materials and Equipment

*Everything mentioned can be purchased at home depot except for the veneer and acrylic.

4"x4"X6' pine beams/< $30
1X 2'x4'x1" acrylic sheet w/ 4" squares cut out of corners/~$300, I purchased this from canal plastics in chinatown, they did a nice job cutting and polishing the acrylic, but it should have been about 50 dollars cheaper.
1X 4'x8' teak veneer, with 20 mil backing/$120
1X Wood filler/$9
1X Clear Polyurethane Semi-Gloss /$12
1X Minwax finishing paste/$9
1X Dry wall screws/$10

1 Miter saw
1 Drill
220, 300 grit sandpaper
#0000 steel wool
Old Rag
Miscellaneous bits

Total cost of materials: $490

** If you can avoid buying wood from home depot, you should, their wood is wet and painfully crooked. I made the mistake of buying their beams, and spent an extra 6 hours sanding to get everything level.

Step 2: Measuring

Picture of Measuring

You will need to cut four legs out of the 4"x4" beams. Depending on the size of your room, the legs should range from 28"-34". Finding a chair for anything larger or smaller may be difficult.

Using a large meter stick, measure out your desired length. I averaged the heights of the desks in my house and came up with 31".

It's more important that all the legs have the same height rather then be exactly 31". Since the tops of the legs will be exposed, make sure your cuts are completely square, if they are not, the acrylic top will not be flush with the corners.

As for the cross beams, you will need to measure very carefully... additionally, depending on the thickness of the veneer you choose, you need to account for this when cutting the cross beams.

Since the top of the desk is 2'x4' with 4" square cut outs in the corners, the 4' cross beam only needs to be 39" 7/8, this is because each corner subtracts 4" and the veneer will account for 1/8" of thickness.

You can use this same formula for the 2' cross beams, which will leave you with two 17"7/8 pieces.

Step 3: Cutting

Picture of Cutting

Using a miter saw, along with a nice flat working space, you should cut all of the measured pieces. This step is pretty straight forward, but remember, everything needs to be square, if you need to shorten your desk a little, it will definitely be better than a hideous wobble!

After you make the suggested cuts, you should be left with:

4 x 31" legs
1 x 39" 7/8 crossbeam 
2 x 17" 1/8 cross beams

This design is for a floating lip at the front of the desk, hence only having one longer crossbeam.

Step 4: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

This wood is considerably thick, don't worry about tearing it up, because it is all going to be patched up and veneered. With that in mind, don't worry about the aesthetics yet...

You really should work with a level and a square ruler.

Using another table to hold the legs up, I drilled 4x 1/2" wide pilot holes into 1 side of each leg. I drilled these holes about 3.5" deep and started about three inches down. Since the top is 1" thick, you need to have the screws start at least 2" away from the top of each leg.

After the holes are drilled, use a 1/8 bit, and drill through the wood.

I made the left and right sides first, then attached the long cross beam. I held the cross beam in between the two left legs with blue tape, and drilled 4" dry wall screws in. The blue tape should hold, but in some cases where the pilot holes weren't drilled properly, the wood would twist. To avoid this, you can clamp down the leg and/or the crossbeam.

Using an additional table to hold up the heavier parts came in handy. This step shouldn't be too difficult if you use clamps, blue tape, and the proper drill bits.

Too make the desk even sturdier, you can use wood glue in between the joints.

Before you secure the middle crossbeam you should have 2 H like pieces and 1 long cross beam.

One of my legs was a little crooked, so i used a shim to bring it out a little. Measure the distances of your legs, make sure the spaces between each leg, top to bottom, are the same. Use shims to correct for marginal errors.

Step 5: Veneering

Picture of Veneering

Once the glue has dried, and you feel confident that you have assembled a strong and sturdy structure, you will need to prep the wood for the veneer.

I palm sanded the entire desk with 220 grit sand paper. Additionally, I used wood filler to plug up all the drill holes. I also used the filler to level off parts of the cross beams. If the beams are not perfectly aligned with each other, then the acrylic top will wobble.

When the filler dries, sand the body of the desk again with 220 grit paper.

Now comes the, boring and tedious part. I found that cutting the 4'x8' sheet of veneer completely in half, to form 2x 4'x4' sheets worked best. Use a very sharp box cutter to cut the veneer. From those two separate sheets, you will need to cut out 4" wide strips that span the entire length of the sheet ( with the grain) . Doing some simple math, that equates to ~ 24 strips. You don't have to cut them all in advanced, but I made a jig using a meter stick and a weight, in order to cut the pieces quickly. The edges of the veneer can splinter, so watch out and make sure you keep your hands protected.

Measure out 31" on 10x strips, and cut using the box cutter.

The other 6x leg strips will be 31"- 1" acrylic top - 4 "beam,  so 26".

For the crossbeams, cut 8x 17" 1/8 strips and 4x 39" 1/8 strips.

For the sides of the exposed posts, cut 6x 1" strips.

The exposed tops of the 4 leg posts will each require a 4"x4" square (4x), try to use a nice section of the grain for this because it becomes a focus point.

Grand total of cut pieces: 38

There are a lot of different ways to adhere veneer, I used regular strength spray glue, I recommend using extra strength. You can also use wood glue.

If you want to use wood glue, use a paint roller, and spread a thin layer of the glue over the entire surface of the desk and on the back of the veneer. Once both dry, you can use a cloth covered steam iron, to adhere each piece to the wood surface. This will give a better bond then the spray glue.

I sprayed the back of the veneers and neglected to spray the desk, I did this because I was scared that I'd spray the good side of the veneer accidentally. I was satisfied with the results, but the glue could have definitely been stronger. Don't be afraid to lay down a thick coat of the spray onto the back of each piece of veneer. Every square inch of the veneer should have an even layer of the spray glue.

Start off with the legs, lay a single piece down, spray the back, line it up, and press down starting in the center and working your way outward. If you use a thinner veneer, you may see bubbling, but with the 20mil backing I never saw a single bubble.

After each piece you put on you should line up the edges and lay down the pieces accordingly. Since the veneer has thickness, the edges do not allign perfectly... but it's pretty close...

The rest of the veneering isn't difficult, it just takes time. Remember to line up the corners, and make sure that you press down firmly on the veneer. If you mess up, you can slowly peel the veneer off, respray, and then re-apply.

Order of veneering: Legs, Crossbeams, Exposed 1" sides, Tops.

if you can't get the corners to line up exactly, use a dark stain pen to cover up the exposed wood frame.

Step 6: Sanding

Picture of Sanding

Using 320 grit sand paper, sand down the entire surface of the desk. Follow the grain, and sand in one direction. DON'T sand too hard. DON'T sand through the grain.

It should feel smooth...

Do the exact same process again except use 400 grit sand paper, your supposed to use water, I didn't, it sanded pretty nicely.

Run your hand over the surface of the wood, if it feels velvety, it's probably done. It should feel soft and smooth.

Step 7: Varnishing

Picture of Varnishing

I used a 10 dollar brush from home depot to apply the polyurethane coating. You want to make sure the bristles do not fall out easily. The brush should also be angled. Since the wood is 4" wide, I used a 4" brush.

The fumes are toxic, apply in a well ventilated area... or if you want to kill off some of your brain cells, do it in your closet. The brush strokes disappear as you lay down the polyurethane. Each coat takes about 1-2 hours to dry. I waited like 40 minutes, I have zero patience for drying liquids. In my defense it was 100 degrees out with zero humidity.

After each layer, softly rub down the shine with #0000 steel wool.

I put down about 5 layers of the polyurethane. On the final coat, I really spent a good amount of time rubbing it down with the steel wool... I wanted to have a really nice luster.

When applying the polyurethane, be careful not to drip on the edges, it makes sanding  more difficult... but if you do, wait till it becomes solid before you sand. Sanding wet drip spots, will tear up previous layers.

Step 8: Waxing

Picture of Waxing

This stuff is awesome... all it requires is some elbow grease and an old t-shirt.

I've never used it before, so I didn't know that it congealed after it was applied. I put on this really thick layer thinking all you needed to do was wipe it off... I was very wrong.

Put a thin layer of the wax on all surfaces of the desk, let it dry. Once it dries (30 minutes later) rub it off with an old t-shirt, I found that going along the grain worked best. If you have a buffer machine, you could use that as well. This entire process took about 2 hours.

The more you rub, the more it will shine. Try to rub along the grain and really put some elbow grease into it.

Step 9: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

*Wear socks on your hands when lowering the acrylic onto the frame. Since you can see the wood through the acrylic, you can also see finger prints. If you use cloth or socks, you will not leave finger prints.

Lift the large acrylic top into place. The corners should all line up, and the top should fit in nice and snug.

I hate looking at wires, so I routed the iMac's wires on the back surface of the desk, which contributed to a nearly wireless free working area. I put the desk near a window so that the light could really bounce through the acrylic.

Since this has a see through top, you'll need a mouse pad, I made one out of the extra materials.

Final remarks: Acrylic can scratch easily, I put felt pads on my mouse pad and the keyboard. When veneering, make sure the glue you choose is strong enough, test it out first. If you can peel it off after a few hours, it's not strong enough!


carrera997tt (author)2015-07-12

Nice design. I like the simplicity of the acrylic with the natural wood (no veener or particle board). Do you have any issues with the acrylic and static build up during the winter?

tigerbomb8 (author)2011-04-08

i am making one

Romado12187 (author)tigerbomb82011-04-08

Very nice, I want to make a bigger one too... use one piece of glass or acrylic though!

what kind of wood are you going to use

tigerbomb8 (author)Romado121872011-04-08

pine and i might stain it to look like red wood

eb3604 (author)2011-03-03

your math doesn't add up. I'm confused

Romado12187 (author)eb36042011-03-04

what math are u referring to?

eb3604 (author)Romado121872011-03-04

First off, when you buy lumber it is not actually the size it is called due to it being dried in a kiln, etc. So a 4x4 is really 3.5"x3.5". Yes one could buy a 6x6 (5.5"x5.5") and get it cut down to exactly 4"x4", but A. Home Depot doesn't do that, and it would cost more than $30.

Secondly, your math is wrong for the two shorter cross beams. Your instructions say that you need "18" 7/8 cross beams," and the depth of the desk is 24". Using your measurements, 19+4+4 = 27". Even using the true dimensions of a 4x4, it would give a depth of 26".

Romado12187 (author)eb36042011-03-04

All of the wood used for this project ie. the wood beams, was less than $30... and it was purchased from home depot. Lets say the beams are just 3.5", they are referred to as 4" blocks in the store... so I refer to them as being 4" as to avoid someone looking for a 3.5" blocks that doesn't exist.

As for the measurements, I just remeasured it, and it's 17" and 1/8 (for both cross beams) and the legs are 3.5" plus a little extra for the veneer. So, 17+7 and change is 24" and change.

"For the crossbeams, cut 8x 18" 1/8 strips and 4x 39" 1/8 strips." that's in reference to the veneer for the cross beams, hence the 8x... but alas, it should be 17 and 7/8 and I will edit that in that section.

I'll also add a blurb that says the 4" beams are actually 3.5".

sebgonz (author)2010-11-08

Have you run into the issue of the desk wobbling back and forth at all since you have a "floating" front lip? I've been building this design (without the acrylic top) and so far it seems a bit wobbly.

Romado12187 (author)sebgonz2010-11-10

not at all, its very sturdy because of the 4" wide legs, if it's wobbly one of your angles may be off... try to use dowels too

sebgonz (author)Romado121872010-11-12

It's got dowels in it. It's actually a lot sturdier once the glue dried. Thank goodness. :)

forte1994 (author)2010-09-10

Very nice work all you need to add is a couple leds and you will have a light up desk.

nice work

nallen (author)2010-08-18

The table is a beauty. I suppose it's an iMac on (a) Window?!

Warlrosity (author)nallen2010-09-10


sebgonz (author)2010-09-05

Geez! So many haters on a DESK instructable. Calm down folks. To the OP, this is a great design and right up my alley. I've been looking to build a new desk for months. I might have to use this one.

criggie (author)2010-07-25

So how does it go with the scratching? Have you made any marks in the top from use? How about fingerprints from day to day use?

Romado12187 (author)criggie2010-07-25

Haven't scratched it yet. Depending on what your doing, the top can get pretty smudged up. The acrylic has a few benefits to glass: I'm pretty sure it has a higher refractory index and it's much easier to work with. Glass would be easier to clean, and it would also be much more resistant to scratching.

EmmettO (author)Romado121872010-08-07

Actually acrylic has a lower refractory index unless it's Pyrex glass. Thats why glass tables have a green edge and acrylic doesn't. At least thats what I've been told.

tuckerton296 (author)2010-07-23

why a mac? good desighn enjoy all those games your going to be playing

Romado12187 (author)tuckerton2962010-07-24

The 27" display is seducing to say the least. It's lightning fast, and it can handle all of the video processing and CAD work a man could need!

lukeyj15 (author)Romado121872010-07-25

I love macs. Dislike windows with a passion. I agree with you totally.

Ghost Wolf (author)lukeyj152010-07-26


Kasm279 (author)Romado121872010-07-25

My 400MHz G3 iMac can handle the video editing I throw at it! :D (just standard def from a DV camera)

NitroIX (author)tuckerton2962010-07-25

You do realize Steam is on Mac now.

Tampaguy (author)tuckerton2962010-07-25

This has nothing to do with this instructable. It can be used for any computer. It is simply a beautiful and functional design.

Timmymna (author)tuckerton2962010-07-25

Because a pc wouldn't look as good on the desk. I am a pc windows 7 user but I would buy a mac purely for the design and amount of thought they put into all the small details. The only reason I don't is due to the cost, I can buy a perfectly capable pc for £300-400 where as a mac will run into the £1000 mark. I would install windows 7 because I prefer windows to osx and the software I use is mostly windows only.

MarcusAvery (author)2010-07-26

I have been looking for something like this! Very Cool! Thanks!

prodo123 (author)2010-07-24

To be frank with YOU, Windows is FAR more customizable than any Mac. If you got a virus, you probably visited a bad website, downloaded illegal software, opened a weird email, streamed music encoded with a virus, got hacked, or simply neglected to install a FREE ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE! Macs are just as vulnerable to viruses as Windows, do not be mistaken. I have used both. If you don't use antivirus on either platform, you are either brain damaged or just plain stupid. Linux is an OS by itself, and with some software on Windows, you can install it there too. Speaking of windows, "Windows Desk" is a more fitting name for this desk xD

shrdlu (author)prodo1232010-07-25

I've always wondered how Windows if more customizable that OS X. In what way? I have not used antivirus software on a Mac in over a decade, and I do not limit where I go on the Internet or what I download on usenet, etc. I guess I'm just plain stupid, but I've never had a problem. You can install Linux on a Mac. I can also run Windows applications without an emu, type Unix line commands, and with Fink I can even run Unix software. But I think the main thing, beyond functionality, is that the iMac is one beautiful piece of art and this table compliments it wonderfully. When I upgrade to the 24" iMac, I'm making this project. Nice work, Romado. The only mod I might make is a place to conceal my Bose desktop speakers.

prodo123 (author)shrdlu2010-07-25 This is my own screenshot. It's a Windows XP SP3. That's how customizable it is.

shrdlu (author)prodo1232010-07-26

Nice homage. You should see my son's iBook Pro. It looks like Banksy designed the GUI.

Kasm279 (author)prodo1232010-07-25

You don't realize that there is a reason it's not customizable. The GUI is designed for efficiency. However, it is not for everyone. I wish people would just use what they use and not try to force it on others all the time.

gmjhowe (author)prodo1232010-07-25

I think that your comment, and the attitude with which you make your points both detract from this instructable, as well as detracting from how you appear to others. Keep the comments relevant to the project, keep the discussions for the forums.

gmjhowe (author)gmjhowe2010-07-25

Infact, everyone in the comment chain is just as bad. This guy has made an amazing project, and your all acting like little children about his preference of computer?

Kopolis777 (author)prodo1232010-07-24

" Speaking of windows, "Windows Desk" is a more fitting name for this desk xD" Oh I get it, because Macs are on top... lol.

Beergnome (author)2010-07-25

its a nice desk... why not just call it a desk though?

dgrif (author)2010-07-25

Very cool, thanks for sharing. Love how half the comments turned into a apple hater parade. used whatever you want to, who cares ;) cheers!

stageone (author)2010-07-25

For people talking about the price of this table and for the poster as well, it is best to look up a commercial plastics company in your area when looking to buy plastic goods. You can buy 4x8 ft sheets in all thickness and colors and they can cut to any size you wish as well. Using nice pine or any less expencive wood stained to teak or whatever you like and hitting the plastics store will build this desk for about a 4th of that $490 price. It's up to you what you feel like spending on this one. You could make the legs out of solid gold and it would cost a million dollars. Also when if you use acrylic you really should put glass on top of it or the plastic goods WILL scratch. Even if you buy coated scratch resistant material it still will show wear and scratches. Hats off, nice job on the instructo and the table. I'm sure that you will enjoy it for years to come. If it hazes of gets minor scratches before you get a glass top the same place you buy the actylic they sell a scratch removing polish. Enjoy!

xhedos (author)2010-07-23

$490 seems like a hefty price tag for your simple design and materials. Any way to cut that down?

zack247 (author)xhedos2010-07-23

i think most of the price is the acrylic and the veneer, a sheet of 1/8" thick acrylic half that size is $75 at the home depot, and im sure veneer isn't too cheap either

stageone (author)zack2472010-07-25

I don't know where you live but online at HomeDepot a piece 24x48 .220 Clear Acrylic Sheet Model MC-20 is $55.00 Thats 2 times as thick as that $75 peice that is half the size needed you talked about.

Lord_Hate (author)xhedos2010-07-23

If you can afford the overpriced computer, than you can afford the desk. :P

cloudbook1994 (author)Lord_Hate2010-07-23

it isn't really overprice I tried seeing how much it would be to build it with similar specs and the imac came cheaper

... and it's amazing looking

mymixed (author)Romado121872010-07-23

well, they get thousands of the parts used to make it a day so ya, its pretty cheap

Romado12187 (author)xhedos2010-07-23

Don't use teak, and don't use acrylic. You could just paint the wood frame instead of using a veneer. You could also just make a wooden top... but then desk just becomes like any other desk. Good materials usually have their costs. The inlay design had it's costs as well raising the cost of a 1"x2'x4' from $170 to $300. So if you eliminate the veneer, and simplify the top design, you could make this for about, ~$240. While the modifications decrease the price, they would also decrease the aesthetic value of the desk. The desk is as much about the materials as it is about the design.

Tampaguy (author)2010-07-25

Anyone who has ever visited an Apple store (where they sell iMacs) will recognize that the style of this desk is the same as Apple uses - simple, functional, and beautiful. This desk is built along the same lines. I believe the choice of kind of computer used is personal. Comments should reflect that. I have both Mac and PC but spend most of my time on the Mac.

Romado12187 (author)Tampaguy2010-07-25

I actually did base the design off the apple store desks

handheadman (author)2010-07-25

I like the clean lines and materials, but I see a number of problems with usability, unless it's only for occasional use. Depending on your chair height, the mouse and keyboard are too high or the monitor is too low. Are you able to use it daily, at length, without aggravating wrist, arms, or neck? Where do you store basic desk supplies like pens, pencils, paper, stapler, and so on? Where do you keep charging cords for mouse & keyboard, removable storage media, headphones, etc.? If you do any printing or scanning from this station, are those peripherals within easy reach for making changes and adjustments? Have you considered what you'll do if you upgrade to multiple monitors?

I put a lot of thought into the desk system I built some years back, but more recently have been disappointed I didn't leave room for more than one large monitor. I also failed to plan for the drawing tablet and extra-wide keyboard I've since acquired so I'm headed toward a new layout soon.

Do you have any problems with dust accumulation? My acrylic shelves always seem to gather dust faster than my glass ones. I guess it's a static charge thing.

I too have used steel wool in woodworking, but there's a risk of particles that can rust being left behind in the finish. Brass wool is a better choice for that reason. I also sometimes use the back side of sandpaper between finish coats.

arctic_squirrel (author)2010-07-24

I'm sorry, but if you're stupid enough to get a virus, you kind of deserve it. it takes 2 seconds to get AVG or something free and even less time to avoid things that would give you viruses. plus, on windows machines you can partition the hard drive however you want and run red hat, ubuntu, or even unix i guess... personally i have ubuntu for messing around as well as windows 7.

About This Instructable




Bio: Rob Douglas
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