Introduction: Interlocking Plywood Laptop Riser - With Plans

About: Architect, Urban Designer, all-round tinkerer of odds and ends. Small solutions for big city living. Dreaming of lands faraway where garages are big enough to build a workshop in, or lakes are there for taking…

How do you clear up space on a limited desk? Build a laptop stand, also known as a riser.

This'll keep your laptop at a nice ergonomic height for ideal posture - no need to hunch over as you work. It also gives you space to store your laptop beneath, out of the way when you want to do some old fashioned writing with that antique technique of pen and paper.

Step 1: Version 1

After measuring the dimensions of my laptop base and keyboard, I realised that the top of the stand could be narrower than the bottom. So I designed it in AutoCAD as a splayed stand with angled legs.

These pieces nest into each other to save material.

I cut the pieces on a laser cutter out of 9mm plywood, with half lap slots. Note that the half laps are exactly half of the depth of the pieces, i.e. 12.5mm out of 25mm.

When laser cutting, you have to account for the kerf, or width of the laser beam, as you design. This is to make sure pieces fit tightly.

However I overcompensated, and the pieces needed some heavy hammering with a mallet to fit!

Step 2: Version 1 Destroyed

Eventually, the hammering did it in, and version 1 broke in several places.

So I decided to test the strength of this to destruction. It was pretty hardy, and didn't break under any household weights. Eventually I just stepped on it to break it in half.

Lesson learnt: the half lap joints effectively reduce the load-bearing members to just a paltry 12.5mm depth. Will change that!

Step 3: Design Version 2 - With Full Plans

So I hopped back on AutoCAD and amended the depth of the half-lap joints. You can see that the slots are now much shallower in the long 'leg' pieces, compared to the short 'cross' pieces. This is because the long leg pieces have to do all the hard work of spanning 480mm from end to end, whereas the short cross pieces only have to span 20mm (under an inch) between legs.

I also adjusted the width of the slots, to give a little more wiggle room.

I cut this out on the laser cutter again, although you could certainly print out plans and cut this on a band saw or scroll saw.

If anyone wants the plans, leave me a note. I'll need to clean up the AutoCAD to a presentable state before publishing.

UPDATE: I've added plans in DXF and PDF formats. The plans are at A1 size, with dimensions marked in mm. The slots are designed at 8.2mm, which fit perfectly for my 9mm plywood (the laser cut ends up closer to 9mm because of the kerf of the cut.) You may need to play with your own laser cutter offset settings to work for your particular machine's tolerances.

Step 4: Assemble and Finish

This time the assembly came together much easier, without too much abuse from the mallet.

I then left it outside (under shade) for a few days to let the charred smell wear off. The smell of laser cut plywood can be pretty acrid at first. Something about the burnt glue and wood soot that'll give you a bad trip.

Then I finished it with mineral oil, just wiped on with a rag.

Step 5: Plywood Waffle

Here's how the project looks with the oil finish. I like the contrast between the charred edges and the lighter wood faces.

The waffle top detail is also pretty interesting, but it's hidden beneath my laptop most of the time.

I'll have to apply this technique to a laser cut waffle stool or chair sometime!

Step 6: Works Great!

I think using this is pretty self explanatory. You can either use it just with a laptop, or with a laptop dock. The keyboard goes under the riser, and all the cords are out of the way at the back.

That's how it looks with my 17" laptop. Works perfectly!

I know some will say this isn't exactly woodworking... but I'll enter it in the woodworking contest anyway. I think the principles are the same, in designing for lap joints, etc. It's just the tools that are different!

Please vote if you liked it!

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