Introduction: Homemade Standing Desk

About: I am a Sales Engineer that likes to tinker. There is something so satisfying about taking something apart to find out how it works and building a gadget from scratch. My hands bare the scars of projects of my …


Have you ever thought to yourself, "Man I'd like to be healthier and have less back pain!" Those were my thoughts exactly!!! Well...the evidence was fairly daunting that having a standing desk rather than a sitting desk is much better for your overall health. Seriously! Do a google search and you'll see what I'm talking about. So whether or not you believe all the health benefits of having a standing desk, I realized that my back pain was only getting worse. I'm a Network Engineer, so life in-front of a computer(usually sitting) and back pain is something that comes with the job.

Tired of the back pain and ready for a standing desk I began looking online for one....and does the song go??? "Money, Money, Money!" Standing desks are expensive. There are variable adjust desks that raise and lower and these are the most pricey versions. Then there are the manual adjust desks. These cost a little less but we're talking a few hundos. And finally the fixed position desk. These are the most affordable options butttttttt still pricey and it's difficult to find one for the end users exact height.

So where does that leave me? I believe there is a saying about this..."If you build it, they will uhhhhh, save a lot of money." Hahahahaha, something like that! So I started looking around for ideas online and the desks I liked were the wooden topped desks with iron/steel frames. But those metal pipes cost a good bit too, not to mention that the desk would be incredibly heavy and I consider myself an apartment nomad, so moving a super heavy desk every year or two is not great.

Alright, alright. You're probably wondering, "So what do we do if we want a budget standing desk?!?!?!?!" Hopefully, throughout this post I will show how I built an awesome, durable, fantastic, and dare I say, sexy standing desk for less than $100!


Step 1: Design and Supplies

Alright now that I have you here. Let's talk about what my requirements for the project were:

1) Under $100 to build

2) Built to my height

3) Very sturdy

4) Some kind of disassembly for easy transport

5) Easy to follow design

This project was a "design-as-you-go" build but I took a ton of notes as I made little tweaks. What I decided to do is draw out a simple blueprint of everything so that others would have an easy blueprint to follow. If you look at the schematic I made, you'll see all the individual parts that you'll be making for the bottom stand and the top of the desk.

On the back of the schematic, I made a list of the parts that I needed to go buy to complete the desk. There were some things I did not have to buy because I already had them from other projects. Things like: sand paper, screws, and assorted tools were already in my toolbox...or uhh, many toolboxes. There are some other ways to make this project wayyyy cheaper too by the way, but we'll talk about that later.

Step 2: Building the Top (Step 1a)

Before we begin, here is something you might not know. Did you know that for many wood sizes, manufacturers and retailers use rounded up numbers for the dimensions of wood. For instance, a 1x6 board is really not 1 inches tall by 6 inches wide. I'm serious! Take a measuring tape with you next time you go to Home Depot or Lowes and measure the boards out. Odds are...they are not accurate at all. That "1x6" board is probably more like a 13/16" board by 5 3/8" board.

Why would they do that you ask? It's not really the lumber yard's fault. They do try to make them accurate but the name of the game is, "process as much wood, as quickly as possible, so we can get paid." And retailers certainly don't want to name a board a 13/16x5 3/8. Fractions...the thing that gives the population the most anxiety other than taxes and deciding what to wear in the morning.

My advice here, "measure once, measure twice, mark the wood, measure again." It takes a few extra seconds but it's worth it to get a perfect, hand-made desk.

Step 3: Building the Top (Step 1b)

For this part you will need:

1) One 2'x4'x3/4" Sanded Plywood

2) Two 1"x4"x6' Common Board

3) 1 1/2" Wood Screws

4) Fine Grit Sand Paper

5) Measuring Tape

6) Right Angle Square

7) Hammer

8) Saw

9) Pencil

10) Drill Bits

11) Cup of coffee ;)

To begin, you will want to create a line 10 millimeters from the end of the board on each side, and on one side of the board running the full length (See photo 1 above). These lines are going to help with your screw placement.

We are putting on the end pieces first so that our front pieces will go over the edges and give it a nicer look. Remember from before that most of the time, the wood is not marked with the correct dimensions, so it would be a gamble to assume you need to cut your common board to 2' exactly to go on the end of the plywood.

One way to get it the perfect length on the first try is to take one of your common boards and lay it flat at the end of the plywood. Then mark the common board the exact width of the plywood. Go ahead and mark the common board in the correct spot and make your first cut. Now repeat the process for the other side with the same board.

Step 4: Building the Top (Step 1c)

As you make cuts to the wood, make sure to go back and create that line 10 millimeters from each edge. Again, this is to make screw placement way easier.

Now, in the corners where the lines intersect, you will see exactly where you need to put a screw on each side. This part is easier if you have someone help you hold the pieces in line but it is doable by standing up the plywood and holding the board to it. It's really important to pre-drill your holes before inserting your screws. If you don't then the wood might split when you go to put a screw in. Use a drill bit slightly smaller than your screws width.

A word of warning here, if you use different length screws, you might need to consider how far from the edge you place the screws. Put them too close and they'll interfere with the screws coming from the other angle later on.

Feel free to place as many screw as you would like along the line to keep the board flush and in place. Three screws worked for me. Yours should look similar to mine above.

Step 5: Building the Top (Step 1d)

Now for the piece that will go up front. You'll use the same technique as before, lining the other 1x4x6 board up next to the front edge to get a perfect measurement. Don't forget to add your lines 10 millimeters from each edge.

Once you have that piece cut, go ahead and pre-drill the holes for your screws. A really handy trick to get the alignment right is to go ahead and drive the screws into the board just enough for the ends to be sticking out. Then you will line the board up with the other edge of the desk and give the screws a gentle smack with a hammer. This will create little indentations that tell you where to continue pre-drilling.

You'll need two screws on each end like I have in the picture above. Feel free to use as many screws as you need down the line on the front of the desk. I ended up putting three more in the board. One dead center and two more equidistant from the middle and edges.

I know what you're thinking..."what about the back?!?!?!" It's the same procedure as before, only now you have two leftover pieces of 1x4x6. These two pieces need to be the same size so line them up and cut one of them so they are equal in length. You are going to use these on the back of the desk and they will create a perfect gap in the back for power cables to slide down through. Take a gander at the last photo to see what I'm talking about :)

Step 6: Prepping the Base

For this part you will need:

1) Drill with screwdriver bit

2) 3/4" screws

3) 4x - 2" PVC end caps

4) Theme music!...nothing says, "let's get this desk built!" like listening to Titanic soundtrack...hahahaha

This part is really easy and super quick. You are going to flip the desk over and in each corner, add a 2" PVC end cap. Make sure the caps are flush up against each side of the desk so they are straight. I drilled in 3 screws to hold the cap firmly in place but you might need less. I had the screws laying around in my toolbox and they happened to be the perfect length. Go ahead, go dig in that junk drawer in your house, I bet you find some too.

Step 7: Staining

For this part you will need:

1) Fine grit sand paper

2) A dry sponge or brush for staining

3) Newspaper, plastic bags, cardboard....something to catch falling stain

All the wood purchased was already sanded but it doesn't hurt to go over one more time with sand paper. Clean the wood off well before staining. I used Espresso wood stain and it only took two coatings to get the result I wanted. This is going to take a little while to dry so let's knock it out and we can build the base in the meantime. I prefer to use a cut up sponge to stain as I think it provides a more even coating but feel free to use a brush...who knows you might have an extra one in that one junk drawer next to the screws ;)

Step 8: The Base (Step 4a)

Ok...ok,ok. I wanted to make this part as easy as possible for the next person. It seems daunting but it is super easy if you follow my schematic from before. I'll post it here again.

I am six feet tall and I built this desk to fit that height. If you need to make modifications to the desk height for your needs, I included that in the blueprint notes.

You will be building four legs using the different components I have drawn out. It takes some time to cut everything but after that it's as simple and putting on some glue and sticking the pieces together.

Step 9: The Base (Step 4b)

With the pieces cut, go ahead and place some rubber cement on the pieces and fit them together. Push down hard on each piece to ensure they are seated properly and nice and snug. Make absolutely sure you are using the correct pieces, because I assure you that you will not get them apart once they have been glued.

Once you have the legs built you can set them to the side while you construct the middle pipe. The last picture shows the middle section pipe with two T-joints on each side. The important part here is that once you have put one T-joint on one end, you need to lay the long piece down on a flat surface to be sure that both t-joints are aligned the same way. DO NOT stick the other one on thinking you'll twist it into place. That rubber cement is strong stuff and once it makes contact with the PVC pipe, STUCK!

Step 10: The Base (Step 4c)

Now that the legs have dried and you have the cross section piece built, it's time to give your desk some legs. This part is much much much easier with someone to help you. Place all four legs on the desk with the short section on the bottom and tall section on top. Check out the first picture. It does help to have a wall to lean the desk on because at this point it will be rather wobbly. This is your first test to see if you like the desk height. If you need to make adjustments, you can easily take the legs off and trim a little off the end.

Once you are satisfied with the desk height, you are going to put some rubber cement on the inside couplings of the legs and fit the pieces marked "B" into the holes.

What's next you ask??? Oh just the final piece to the base of your awesome standing desk. Repeat the same process with the rubber cement and fit the large middle section into place. IMPORTANT!!! I would have someone help and do this simultaneously on the other end. If one end droops and gets glued at and Ange, it will be a sad day. The last two photos should show what you are left with!!!

The very last thing you need to do is spray paint the base. Use whatever color and type you likes but I wanted the bottom to look like actual metal pipes so I used Hammered Matte Black Rustoleum Spray Paint. One can was just enough to get everything painted with two coats. I chose not to put on a clear coat because I like the raw wood look.

Step 11: The Finished Product

First off, congratulations! I hope you have a desk that you are proud to use. You can see my finished desk above and and addition I made to the underside of it.

I left a lot of wiggle room in this project for you to get creative and tweak a few things here and there. Feel free to add onto the desk, change it in some way, or make it even better! You can see what I spent in the last picture above.

I really, truly hope this Instructable has helped you or at the very least inspired you to build your own desk. I had a ton of fun building mine and I get compliments on it from every guest that comes over. I am by no means a professional wood worker or designer, or even IKEA Senior Furniture Desk Developer...but I do enjoy a good project and the feeling of accomplishment you get from making something on your own.

So to all the hobbyists out there that might attempt this project, good luck and happy building!

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