Introduction: Quick Standing Desk Shelf

About: I'm a professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University. I do a lot of hobbies, including amateur astronomy, woodworking, and Lego modeling among many others.

The Global Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 has forced many of us to transition to working from home. There are many challenges associated with this, both social, familial, and practical. One of the inconveniences is that the ergonomics of working all day at my home writing desk is not the same as working in my office. In my office, not only do I have a proper task chair, but I also have an adjustable standing desk that lets me switch back and forth during the day between sitting and standing. After just a week of sitting at home, it became clear my body was not going to tolerate constant sitting.

Unfortunately, the adjustable standing desk units are more money than I would like to spend on a home work environment, so I decided to hack something together. It wouldn't be perfect, but it had to be easy and quick -- I'll think of a more clever, engineering solution as this wears on.

This style should be easy to make at home; I did it in less than 30 minutes. My criteria were:

  • I didn't want to go out for supplies (we're distancing ourselves, remember?) -- everything had to come from my scrap bin and junk drawer
  • It had to hold my laptop, and have a bit of space on the side for other stuff (pen, water bottle, etc)
  • It had to be easy to put on my desk and take off

The solution is just a small, 4 legged shelf.

Step 1: Materials

There are three parts to this:

  • Shelf (I had a recovered shelf from an old cabinet that had broken in a move; it's particle board with woodgrain veneer over it, 9.5 in x 28 in)
  • Flat table leg mounting plates (taken off an old chair or coffee table (they were in my junk stash)
  • Discarded table legs (also in my stash -- likely from the same table the plates came from)

The mounting plates really make this a sturdy shelf, but if you don't have access to any you can certainly just mount a leg directly to the shelf with screws. The mounting plates were convenient.

If you still have access to a hardware store and want to purchase the mounting plates, they cost a few dollars each; they come in a "flat" variety (legs go straight down) and an "angled" variety (legs canted off to the side). Near the mounting plates you can also find the screw in legs, pre-made in various lengths. However if you want to make your own from wood stock or dowels, you will need to put mounting bolts in. You can find those in the bolt aisle; they have a threaded bolt end, and a lag screw end, and are usually called "hanger bolts."

Step 2: Mounting Plates

The mounting plates are all identical, and go at the corners on the bottom of the shelf. I premarked where the holes for the mounting screws were. I drilled pilot holes for the screws, and to make sure I didn't go all the way through the shelf seated my bit deep in my drill chuck (I don't have one of those fancy stops you can put over your bit).

Each plate mounts with 4 screws -- make sure the screws are short enough they don't poke through to the other side!

Step 3: Making Legs

I was using recovered coffee table legs, so they were way too long! I jused my miter box to cut them straight and accurate.

Before I started, I had guessed I needed the shelf to be about 8 inches over my desk to be comfortable, but I didn't want to cut the legs too short, so I started with them long (10-inches), then slowly cut them down in 1/2-inch increments until the height was comfortable. In the end the are about 9-inches long.

Step 4: Mounting Legs

To keep the legs from sliding around on my desk, I used a bit of double-sided tape to put a bit of shelf-grip on the bottom of each leg, and then just screw them into the mounting plate.

Step 5: All Done!

I've been using it for 2 days now. It isn't as easy as my adjustable desk at work, but it is simple enough to lift up and down off my desk. And my back is thanking me!

Be safe, be well, and good luck working at home everyone!

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