Introduction: Simple Modern DIY Plywood Desk | One Plywood Sheet

About: Software engineer trying her hand in creating things for her home one item at a time. See more on my Youtube and Instagram @homewithmelody

Can't find the right desk for your home office? Using some basic power tools and one plywood sheet, you can have your own budget friendly custom desk. This was my first time using a circular saw and I built this out of my living room and patio, with a bit of patience, I would say this is a beginner friendly build!

See my youtube video for more details of the build process.

The desk

Height: 68cm

Width: 145cm

Depth: 65cm

The design

Inspired by a desk that The Offcut designed and made, but lacking the necessary power tools, I modified the design of the legs so the desk could be made using some basic power tools.

1) made entirely from plywood

2) legs are at an angle away from the centre

3) "hair pin" legs

The build plan

This is the plan laid out over an 8x4 (244cmx122cm) plywood sheet. From top to bottom, the rectangle pieces are desk top, legs x 4, support (long) x 2, support (short). This will come in handy later.


*At time of purchase

Plywood ~£40 (full sheet)

I already had the other supplies, see below for specific items, but the polyurethane and screws that I used for this built would equate to less than £10.

Total would roughly equal to £50 ($68 at the time of writing).


8 foot x 4 foot (244cm x 122cm) 18mm birch plywood sheet

Circular saw (what I used)

Mitre saw (what I used)

Japanese hand saw (what I used)

Orbital sander (120 grit) (what I used)

Water-based polyurethane clear satin finish (what I used)

Clamps - quick grip (what I used)

Clamps - sash (what I used)

Pocket hole jig (what I used)

Electric drill (what I used)

Step 1: Rip Cuts to Rough Size (circular Saw)

Rip long cuts to get a rough size of the pieces needed, see red dotted lines. Note the plan does not account for kerf (thickness of blade). There is a 3cm allowance on the 122cm side of the plywood for that. The kerf of my circular saw blade is 2mm.

Step 2: Getting Exact Pieces (circular Saw and Mitre Saw)

Cut a diagonal in the leg pieces along the long side to get 2 triangles per piece.

Cut the short support, long support and legs pieces to size using the mitre saw. See image for exact measurements.

Short support: 44 x 6 cm

Long support: 125 x 6 cm, cut with the same angle as the legs

Leg pieces: 2 cuts; 1 from the 9cm side at 8 degrees.

Another 68.7cm down also at 8 degrees. Keep the off cuts together with the piece it came from, you'll need them later for the connectors.

Note: I left my mitre saw angle set to 8.3 degrees for the duration of the project so I can have consistent angles.

Step 3: Connectors

Here we will make the connector of the "hair pin" legs. Using the long triangle off cuts from the legs, glue two triangles together to form a trapezium. Saw a 2-inch piece off at 8.3 degree. I cleaned them up with a handsaw and sand paper. You might need to try a few times to get a good trapezium, it doesn't need to be exact. Bare in mind the best you need to do is align two of the edges; bottom and outer edge.

Step 4: Chamfer (optional)

Optional chamfer. To give an extra detail to the table top, I set the circular saw at 15 degrees and created chamfer along all 4 sides.

Step 5: Pocket Holes

Drill pocket holes to the support pieces. I set the length on my pocket hole jig to be the thickness of the plywood 18mm (3/4 inches). The short support pieces attach to the inner legs, the long support attach to the desk top.

Step 6: Sand

Time to sand! I used an orbital sander for the desk top. I took care to round off all the edges and corners, they can be very sharp! I used a sanding block (sand paper wrapped around a block of scrap wood) to handsand the rest. I used 120 grit sand paper, would have used a higher one but that's the highest I had at the time.

Step 7: Assemble - Legs

Now you're ready to assemble the desk! Lay the desk top upside down and put a layer of plastic on top (or at least 4 smaller pieces for the corners).
Screw the inner leg pieces to the short supports. I clamped it lengthwise to make sure they don't move when driving the screws in.

Step 8: Assembe - Frame

Grab your wood glue. Work on one side at a time, glue a long support to the outside of the inner leg piece then glue the outer leg piece onto the other side of the long support, and clamp them tight. Adjust if needed (they might move when you clamp). Repeat for all 4 legs. Make sure they are resting on the plastic so the glue doesn't set onto the desk top prematurely.

Note, the pocket holes on the long supports should all be on the inside! The image shows one of them having holes on the outside, I assembled it wrong! It isn't a big issue for me though, because my desk sits against a wall lengthwise, so hides them quite nicely!

Step 9: Assemble - Connectors

Take the connector leg pieces and glue them into place. I used rubber bands to keep them in place! Mainly because I had ran out of clamps, but also seems like a good idea without adding too much weight to move the other pieces out of place.

Step 10: Assemble - Frame to Desk Top

After 24 hours, unclamp and sand off any excess glue. Mark the centre of each edge of the desk top and the supports. Aligning them should then centre your legs and top. Apply wood glue onto the top of the frame, and glue it onto the bottom of the desk top. Apply generously as the cross grains can absorb some glue. Drive screws into the pocket holes along the long supports. Lay some weights on top and leave for 24 hours.

Step 11: Applying a Finish

Apply polyurethane for a smooth finish. I applied it with a synthetic brush. I used a clear satin finish so it doesn't alter the colour much and it makes the wood texture pop a little more. I applied 1 coat to the legs and support, and 5 coats to the top as it will be used heavily. I did a light hand sand between each coat.

And you're done!

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