Introduction: $12 Desk

The desk in my apartment isn't exactly what I would call sturdy or nice to sit at. Plus, I can use all the surface space I can find. And there can always be more workshop desk space!!! This is why I set out this weekend to build a desk. I have been wanting one for a while now.

On Friday when I walked into Menards (which auto-correct wants to replace with 'Gaurdsmen') haphazardly (yep, this is what I do with my college weekends ;)  ) I stumbled across the lumber section (how could that happen!?) and saw that a 3/4" thick 2'x4' sheet of MDF cost only $6. Additionally a 2'x4' sheet of pegboard only cost $3.68. I bought a couple 2x4's (10 ft sections) and had them cut them on-site. I then bought a few 19 cent scraps of lumber. Finally, I bought a box of screws and checked out with all the materials I would need to assemble a fine desk for just $12. Brilliant I think!

This whole project should come together in an hour or two, tops. I would say $12 + 2hrs = new awesome desk is a pretty awesome deal!

Step 1: Materials

Bill of Materials!
  • one 2x4's (10 ft long)
  • one 2x4 (or any dimension) that is 4' long (actually 4' - 2*1.5"=45" long)
  • 2ft x 4ft (3/4" thick) for surface of desk (I used nice MDF because I like its feel)
  • [optional] pegboard (to hang stuff on)
  • 4 pieces 2ft scrap wood (for braces, not structurally required, just for stability)
  • 3" or 2.5" screws
  • [optional] shorter 1.5" screws for the pegboard
  • [optional] drill or dremmel (you can hand screw the screw into the wood just fine, it just takes a lot longer)
  • screwdriver (or screw gun if you have one, mine broke)
this project could probably be improved with much more tools or at least a level. But I managed to put it together without such tools, so don't worry if you don't have access to power tools! I started out hand screwing all the screws through the 2x4's until I remembered that I owned a dremmel.

Step 2: Just Build It!

I would first recommend that this project be done in a garage or somewhere not in your bedroom. I started making this desk ON TOP OF MY BED. You would have thought that I would know better. Then again, there isn't much space anywhere else in my room... and I didn't even consider building it elsewhere for fear it wouldn't fit through the door, which it does easily. Also, the entire idea was completely spontaneous, I designed the entire desk in 1 min as I walked through the store buying lumber. The moment I got home I put it straight together. So the whole design process was kinda improvised. To those who know me well, this is no surprise at all... I have a habit of spontaneous engineering (at the expense of not studying at all for my test)... I digress...

These instructions will be crude, but I think the whole process should be fairly self-explanatory. It can be assumed that every attachment is made with 2 or 3 screws.

I started with the pegboard. seems counter-intuitive, but here is why. By mounting the two legs to the pegboard, it gives you a nice 90 degree angle with which to make all other affixments. Each leg is exactly 30" long.

Next, I installed the 45" (4 ft - 3 in) 2x4 between the two legs along the top of the pegboard. This will lay directly underneath the desk top. It will help hold everything rigid and will guarantee no shaking in one direction.

With the pegboard laying on the ground, attach two braces (the scrap 24" boards), one on top, and on on bottom of each of the two legs at 90 degrees. Once they are mounted, stand the desk up on its two legs with these braces just holding over space.

Make sure the legs you are about to add are standing straight up and down (use a level if you need) before screwing them to the braces. You should have four legs and the pegboard and the all the brace-work in place now.

Finally, just lay the surface MDF board right on top of the whole thing (it should be very sturdy right now) and just tack it in with a screw in each corner and maybe one along the back.

See, I told you that was quick!

Step 3: Finishing Touches

To make this awesome desk just that much more awesome you can paint it or make a logo/stencil for the desk!

With that in mind, I made myself a fun octopus stencil.

Also, as a precaution, MDF doesn't take too well to getting wet. I already spilled water on my desk, and it fared just fine. However, if you want, you can add a coating of polyurethane or something if you are worried.

Someday I hope to add a shelf above the desk that I can mount things to.