Introduction: Iron Pipe Standing Desk

I’ve been a user of standing desks for years. Working from home, I fell into a habit of sitting for upwards of 12 hours every day while I worked. I had done some reading on standing desks, so I went out and and gathered some random parts from IKEA and made an adjustable/convertible standing desk. The bottom half of the desk was adjustable, but the top half could simply be lifted off to make it a standard desk.

The problem was, this desk was extremely bulky, sort of rickety, and noisy. I also wasn't a huge fan of the way it looked. So I recently built a new desk, this time out of iron pipe and a stain wood slab.

It's a breeze to build, though I probably didn't go about it the most cost-effective way. Total, it cost around $180 to make, which isn't terrible. But if I had a pipe threader, I could have probably saved close to $100.

This desk is much sturdier than the original I made, which is already falling apart. This one will last for ages, and if the top ever begins to wear out, I can simply replace it for $30 or less. And if I ever need to raise or lower the height, that can also be done quickly and easily.

In other words, this desk is modular, looks great, and will last a lifetime.

Step 1: Gather Materials

The wood I chose for the project is a pre-made 2’ by 4’ by 1” thick piece of stain grade timber. It’s thick, heavy, and sturdy. You can find these at either Lowe’s or Home Depot, but it would be pretty simple to make this yourself with a single 12' piece 2" x 6" piece of lumber.

For the legs, I bought an array of 3/4” diameter iron pipe. You’ll need four 30”, two 18”, two 12”, four 6", and three 3 1/2” pipes. You will also need four caps, six tees, and two couplings, and four floor flanges, which I actually had to get in black steel instead of iron, but no biggie. You may want to swap out the 3 1/2" pieces, depending on your height. I'm 5' 10" and these actually make the desk about 1-2" too tall for me, and I plan on swapping these out in the future.

If you have a band saw and pipe threader, you could dramatically bring the cost of this desk down by buying a few 10’ pipes for around $10 each and cutting to size.

To attach the legs to the table top, you need 16 #10 1-inch wood screws. And you’ll want to pick a finish. I went with a single coat of Jacobean stain with a couple coats of clear satin polyurethane.

Here's the cost breakdown:

  • 30” x 3/4" (x4) = $37.12
  • 18” x 3/4" (x2) = $11.94
  • 12” x 3/4" (x2) = $13.46
  • 6” x 3/4" (x4) = $11.32
  • 3.5” x 3/4" (x3) = $5.94
  • 3/4" Tee (x6) = $20.88
  • 3/4" Coupling (x2) = $4.34
  • 3/4" Cap (x4) = $7.92
  • 3/4" Flange (x4) = $21.88
  • 2' x 4' Stain Grade Board = $29.96
  • Stain = $5
  • Polyurethane = $6.48
  • Screws = $5.24

Total = $181.48

Step 2: Clean the Pipe

Most, if not all, lead pipe you buy from a local hardware store like Lowe's or Home Depot comes with a tar-like protective coating. You can leave this on if you want, but it's tacky to the touch and, I imagine, at some point it will get on your clothes. Plus, a lot of it comes with white lettering on it.

Removing it isn't exactly fun, but it isn't difficult. It's just time consuming.

For this, I used Greased Lightning cleaner and Goo Gone with some scouring sponges. Greased Lightning seemed to work much better.

Step 3: Begin Assembling the Legs

Start by screwing a floor flange to one end of each of the 30” pipes and a cap on each of the 6” pieces. Next, assemble the two cross-pieces by attaching the 12” and 3 1/2” pipes with a tee fixture. Then screw one more tee fixture onto each end of the cross-pieces.

Assemble the middle stabilizer by attaching the remaining 3 1/2” pipe to the two 18” sections with two couplers. Screw the ends of this stabilizer into the middle tee fixtures of the two cross pieces. Then add the tops and bottoms of each leg to the end tees on the cross-pieces. Use the added leverage from the longer pipes to tighten down all of the joints.

Once you’ve assembled the frame, flip it upside down on the wood panel, square it up, and mark where all of the holes for the floor flanges should go. Use a 3/16 drill bit to pre-drill the holes.

Step 4: Sand, Stain, and Finish the Wood Top

Flip the frame back upright and use it to as a stand to sand the wood panel. While these stain-grade panels don’t really need to be sanded, I used a palm sander to smooth over all the edges and corners. Remove all the sanding dust and begin staining the bottom of the wood panel – the side where you pre-drilled all the holes.

Once this is stained, let it dry for a few hours. You can apply another coat of stain or flip it upside down and screw on the frame.

Flip the table upright and stain the top of the table. Once this has dried for at least 4 hours, apply a thin coat of polyurethane to the top, bottom, and sides of the table. Let sit for another four hours, lightly sand with 220 grit sandpaper, and apply another thin coat of polyurethane.

Step 5: Attach Legs

Once the finishing is done, line the legs up over the pre-drilled holes and use the screws to secure them in place. Flip the desk back upright and let it dry for at least 24 hours before using.

So far, it hasn't been any trouble on carpet, but if you plan on using it on a hard surface, like wood or laminate, you might want to attach felt pads to the bottom of each leg, as iron isn't too forgiving.

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