Introduction: L-Shaped Wire Rack Computer Desk

I am a geek.

I'm good with things that can be fixed with a keyboard and mouse. I am in no way delusional about the fact that I am NOT what you would consider a handy guy.

This project really started for two reasons. The first being, money. By money, i mean my lack of it. I am a single dad that currently shares a studio style apartment space with my two boys. I was desperately in need for a quality desk for both myself and my children. The problem, I found, was that it was very hard to find a commercially available desk that fit my requirements. Those that I did find were priced ridiculously out of my price range. The second factor being my space and feature requirements. I needed a desk that would fit a corner of my apartment that was roughly 4' wide by 7' long, and not only that, but would meet my requirement for a triple monitor setup for my late night gaming, while at the same time providing a full field of view of the apartment so that my boys don't get an opportunity to destroy my room without supervision. One night I was laying in bed, and I had a moment of clarity while looking at the cluttered wire rack in my corner...

" OMG, that rack is the skeleton of my dream desk!"

The next day I frantically began sketching and measuring. The following are the trials and tribulations that took place during the build of what my family has lovingly called "The Geek Cage".

Step 1: It Begins....

Here's what you need to get started:

2 qty : 4' wide x 6' tall x 16" deep heavy duty wire racks = 59.99 each

Approx 50 black heavy duty zip ties = 10.00

1 full sheet of MDF board = 36.50

1 full sheet of particle board (optional for bottom and top shelves) = 19.50  

4 qty: Rustoleum leak Seal (optional for durable, water proof desktop) = 9.99 each

3 qty: Rustoleum regular spray paint = 6.99 each

A circular saw with a good plywood blade

A router with a rounding bit

A dremel for sanding and for fine cuts using a plunge base attachment and bit

Some clamps

A sturdy table or saw horse

a hack saw or saws-all for metal cutting.

as you can see in the pictures... I had a lot of crap on my shelf,  but the vision was there.  These racks can be found at any home improvement store or Wal-Mart. 

I chose to get mine at wall mart since they had a version that was "black" instead of chrome.

I placed the existing rack and the new rack in their future L shaped config to get a feel for how it would look in the room.  Once I was happy it was time for assembly.

Step 2: Wire Rack Assembly and Modification.

I began by laying out my racks in their L shape and making sure the were both level with each other.  This is key since your desktop pieces will depend on there being a level surface for them to lay on.

I then determined the levels for the desktop and shelves to meet my needs.  for me, a comfortable level for the desktop part was 29" from the ground. (remember that your desktop top will add an additional 3/4" - 1" once its in place). My bottom rack was set to 5", the rack above the desktop was set at 53" and the top rack was set to the last point at 72".  This gave me two extra wire racks.  In the picture, you see that I make a make shift kids table that would fold way when not in use.  

The configuration of that table is outside the scope of this instructable, but I can add it if enough people would like to see how it was done.

As you can see, in order to get the "Desk" area, A pole had to be removed and cut to length.  This pole was removed and cut to the 29" mark.  This allowed an open space for the desktop while sill providing support for the desk area itself.  I debated on removing the pole all together, but since my electronics were going to be resting on this shelf, I decided that a little extra support wouldn't hurt.  If your worried about your chair bumping the pole, no worries.  The Wood Topper for the desktop will provide enough of a table top where you wont need to get your chair that close up.

Once the pole was cut, we had to join the two shelves together.  I tried starting with metal zip ties I found at Walmart, but I could not get them tight enough to restrict the movement of the top two unsupported shelves.  Thick heavy duty plastic zip ties provided enough flexibility to tighten them down as hard as possible and I was able to restrict the movement of the top two shelves.  If you do it right... there should be no wiggle or play within any of the shelves.

In order to connect the shelves, I zipped them together  with double zip ties ( top and bottom of the shelf) on both ends and alternating zips ( top then bottom then top, etc) for the middle parts.  There's no over doing it,  keep zip tying until your satisfied that the shelves are stable.

Step 3: Time for the Wood Work...

OK, so I have to be honest here...  I was lost when it came to this part.  Lots of YouTube videos on how to use power tools safely and correctly (I love the internet!)

When I went to my local home improvement store, I realized that a full sheet of MDF was not going to fit in my car cleanly, So I had them cut the board into 5 even pieces.  MDF is measured differently the  plywood or particle board ( who knows why) but my pieces were cut into 4 20" and one 17" piece.

There was a reason for the 20 inches and I'll explain.  The wire racks are a mere 16" deep ( actually 15.75" ).  Soooooo not desktop worthy!  So what I did is I added some over hang on the front and rear of the desktops.  for the front of the desktop, I allowed a 2.25" over hang and a 2" over hang on the back side.  This would give me a 20" desktop space on the sides of the L, while giving me a substantial space on the corner of the L.

You can use the diagram i've provided to give you a rough outline of how to cut your pieces, remember that you will need to cut out the relief cuts for the poles.  On my project it ended up being 1.25" deep to allow the poles to slide in.  Make sure you check your measurements and make sure your math adds up for the type of rack your using.

The large desktop portion, I decided to make out of one large sheet.  For the sake of simplicity and mobility, I decided to not join the wood desktops together but to allow them to lay on the rack freely and hope that the snug fitting cuts would keep the pieces from moving.

I did have a small problem with the large piece.  Since I cut one of the poles to allow for the desktop, I did not take into account that the corner peg of the shelf actual is higher then the shelf itself which does not allow for the desktop to lay down flat.  This actually worked out in my favor.

What I did was lay out all my pieces and make sure everything lined up right.  then, with a pencil, i simply went under the desk and marked around the peg.  I then took a small hole bit that matched the diameter of the hole i marked and drilled a shallow .25" hole.  This now acts as a pivot point for the large desktop corner and once the desktop is in place, I can adjust the side pieces around it without it moving.

You will notice that the top piece is cut oddly.  I tried to cut the wood to mold the posts but it looked horrible.  so what i did was cut the top point to match the distance from the pole to the desktop and the same for the right side.  Although you would think this would look bad.. the cut out on the right ended up being perfect for wire management since you can run the wire through the exposed wire rack.

 Once all the pieces were fit and snug it was time to round the edges and prep for paint.

Step 4: Prep and Paint

Once you know your pieces are cut correctly, its time to prep them for comfort and paint.

The first picture will show two things.

First is that I have rounded all the external edges.  there's nothing worse then catching a sharp corner of a desk while walking by.  I also like the feel of a rounded edge on my forearms when i'm gaming or typing.  The second is the relief cut for the poles.  I suggest you take your time with these to insure they are as accurate as possible and snug.  Don't sand that inside too much or you may eat away too much material which will cause some play in your desktops.  the least you can sand, the better.  I used a dremel with a sanding drum to clean up the insides of these cuts, and although not shown, I also rounded off the edges of these cuts to make them more aesthetically pleasing.

Sand any rough edges and wipe the pieces down to get as much of the dust off as possible.

Now when it comes to painting, you have some options.  

you can go straight to paint or you can use the Leak Seal (also known as flex seal) first.

I can say that this stuff is awesome!  I have a layer of it on my night stands and coffee table.  This stuff is rubber in a can,  you spray a layer on and it creates a rubberized coating that is waterproof and best of all, its paintable!

One down side to this stuff... the smell after painting is crazy strong.  if your going to do this step,  your going to need to give your toppers about a week to cure and defunk before you bring them indoors.  

If your constantly at your desk with drinks and such, I highly recommend this step.

I took the pieces outdoors and gave them 2 coats of Leak Seal each.  waiting about 1 hours between coats.  I then let them sit for 5 days in the garage.  Once they had cured,  I then have each piece 2 coats of Krylon Satin Black.  This gave them a great semi gloss look and gave them a durable coat to protect the leak seal coat.  I then let them sit for 3 more days and then brought them in!

I will say this, the leak seal is great for cold drinks... but if your doing coffee or tea,  I would recommend a coaster and very hot drinks will sometimes cause the leak seal to melt a bit.  Although I have only seen this happen with leak seal with not upper paint coat.  I will report back if I determine that the paint coat will provide that extra layer of protection.

Step 5: Final Outcome and Other Options...

So here she is! In all her glory.  I have to say that for a first time project, I am very pleased with the outcome.  I have a desk that I can fully customize to my liking at a moments notice.  I can add clip on lights, hide power strips, really anything I can come up with.

Now in some of my pictures you may notice a kids desk and what looks like a extra wire shelf that is attached to the face of the top shelf.  I have been tinkering with the Idea of a top shelf door that can hide books, and or the rest of my clutter. I have been thinking of cutting a sheet of shower board, which has a surface very similar to a whiteboard, and mounting it to this make shift door.

I also was tinkering with a kids desk that would hang off the front of the left side of the desk.  I took the left over portion of the pole that was cut away to allow for the desktop area and cut it into two equal pieces.  I then purchased some rubber feet that can be found in the hardware area of walmart or any home improvement store and attached the legs to one side of the table and suspended the other side from the left side of my desktop.  This allows me to pull out the desk and allow the children to do homework or play and still be able to store the desk way when not in use.

I am also debating on adding particle board shelves to the remaining lower and upper shelves.  These would be straight forward cuts to match the length and width of the wire shelf itself.  No over hang needed.

For now,  The main work of this project is done!

This is my first instructable and I would welcome any comments, suggestions, or criticism openly!

This has been so much fun and I cant wait for the next one!   Hope to have a new guide up soon!  Good luck and happy building!

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