Introduction: Wall Mounted Plywood Desk

About: Father, husband, engineer. Love to tinker, repair and improve things around the house

With my sons using chromebooks for nearly everything at school, and the pandemic causing most of their school work to be done at home, I decided they need desks in their rooms. Their rooms aren't huge, and free space is at a minimum.

I started looking on Pinterest for some inspiration. I gave them a choice of 3 different styles ranging from traditional school desk, to standing desk to wall mount /fold down desk. They chose the fold down version.

Step 1: Design

First things first, I needed a design. So off to a CAD program like Fusion 360 or Sketchup to layout the idea's. I wanted the desk to last a while (they are in 4th and 6th grades) and accommodate a decent size second monitor for them to work on, as well as hold their laptop/ Chromebook, a keyboard, and a docking station to connect everything by a single USB connection.

First design was very basic. A spot for a monitor to be mounted, shelf to place keyboard / power strip and docking station, and a place to hold the laptop. After looking at it for a bit, my son and I decided to change things up a little.

Less shelf, more flexibility. So I cut the shelf space in 1/2 and added 3 sections of t-track to the back of the open area. This way we can add shelfs, or pen/pencil bin / laptop stand, all attached to the t-track. See Image on Previous page.

Step 2: Materials

After Drawing the design up, I lay out the pieces on a sheet of plywood. This allows me to plan the best way to not waste the material. I allow for about 1/8th inch between pieces for the width (kerf) of the saw blade. I picked a higher end Plywood ( Red Oak) at the local big box store, incase we decided to stain, but my sons want it colored, so I will end up painting. I also picked it up as it was a true 3/4 inch thickness. All my measurements above are based on 3/4 inch thickness. If you use something else, you may have to adjust the length slightly.

I made the sides, top and bottom, 7 inches deep so that most keyboards would fit inside for storage.

I chose to use Dowels to connect all the wood joints, but if you don't mind the screw caps, you can also just screw these together. This gave me an excuse to buy a doweling jig. This kit was inexpensive, and worked great. If you search for the how to videos on YouTube, it's very easy to learn to use.

I tried several different struts/ toybox hinges, and nothing really worked well. So for simplicity for now I am just using chains and eye bolts to hold the desktop level when down.

Magnets are used to hold it closed when the desktop is in the up position. When closed it's only 8.5 inches deep. so keeping the footprint small for their rooms was accomplished.

Other materials

  1. Piano hinge - I found a 3 foot black one
  2. Black t-track -
  3. Chains -
  4. Magnets -
  5. Monitor mount - - Make sure you get a monitor that is VESA mount compatible.
  6. Power strip and USB charging - - Added one of these just under the shelf is where my son wanted it. Power cord goes out the side.

Step 3: Tools Used

Other items I used in this project include

  1. Dowels -
  2. Circular saw, or Table saw
  3. Router with 3/4 inch straight bit for t-track channels, and an 1/8th inch round over bit to smooth the edges on the desk
  4. Wood glue - any brand will do.
  5. Wood putty - again any brand will do, but this is what I used.
  6. Putty knifes
  7. Orbital Sander to
  8. Clamps - Strap clamps are nice, but you can use any square corner clamping method, also used some Irwin bar clamps.
  9. 1/2 inch forstner bit to counter sink the magnets, 3/4 inch forstner bit to counter sink the t-nuts
  10. Powered hand drill
  11. t-nuts - these are the ones I used, any will work as long as the eye bolts fit into them.

Step 4: Cut Out Your Wood Pieces

First, I had the big blue box store cut down the plywood to pieces that would fit in my car. The sheet was cut down to 3 pieces, the desktop and top piece ( about 31 inches) , the bottom, the back and the shelf (about 33 inches, and then the remainder (32 inches). Unfortunately, the cuts they did on the saw there were pretty rough, straight but lots of tear out. So I had to sand and use wood filler more than I had hoped.

Once home I cut the pieces to size on my table saw. I don't like handling big pieces on my table saw, and next time I will probably use a straight edge of 4 feet and a circular saw. If you have a track saw that would be the best option.

Step 5: Assembly- Inserting Dowels & Dry Fitting Pieces

Next I began doweling the pieces together. I chose dowels because I could fit it together as I went, and adapt my design as I went. I made a few mistakes, but using dowels I was able to put piece of a dowel in, and glue it, filling the mistaken hole and allowing a "do over". This didn't happen a lot thankfully. But I really do like the ability to dry fit everything together to see the progress as I go.

First I assembled the top/ sides and bottom. Basically creating a big box that was 48"x 22.5"x7"

Next, I put in the shelf. As noted earlier, I decided to only make the shelf half the width of the desk, so I cut the shelf piece to Length and then cut another small piece off it to act as the shelf support. I made the shelf 1/2 inch narrower in width than the rest of the box, to allow for cords to run in the back of the shelf up to the monitor.

Once the shelf was in, I added the back to the box, this added a lot of stability to the structure.

Next, I added the top piece of the French cleat to the top edge of the box, to allow easy hanging of this on the wall. When I mount the mating piece of the cleat on the wall, I only need to slide the rest of the desk onto the cleat, and it's set.

Step 6: Optional - Route the T-track Slots and Test Fit

Putting the t-track in is obviously an optional step and adds a little cost, but I think we will use it alot moving forward. Using the 3/4 inch straight bit in the router, route a channel 1/2 the width of back of the desk. After routing the first channel, test fit the t-track in it and make sure it fits with the bit used on the router. If everything fits snuggly, finish the other slots. These slots can be used for things like shelves, a laptop stand, or a bin for pens, pencils, etc.

Step 7: Install Piano Hinge,desktop & Magnets As Latches

Installing the piano hinge was pretty straight forward, simply use the screws that come with the hinge, and screw it in. I did center the hinge in the 4 foot space, leaving 6 inches at each end. I tested it out and it worked well, but the desk needs a latch of sometype to hold it closed in the up position. This is where I used the forstner bit to drill a hole in the center edge of the top piece, and in the desk. I screwed a magnet into each of the holes, and while it held it in place it didn't feel secure, so I added 2 more sets, on each corner. This made the hold much more aggressive, but still easy to pull down.

Step 8: Adding Chains & Eye Bolts and Monitor Mount.

Used t-nuts to secure the eye bolts, Drilled a 3/4 inch recess using a forstner bit on the outside piece, and then a 3/8 inch bit to finish the hole from the inside to keep the hole clean. Glue super glue in the recess and tap the t-nut into the outside recess using a hammer. Put the eyebolt in and then attach the chain to the top of the desk. Level the desk piece in the down position, and get the location of the second eyebolt on the desk end. Make the chain tight with the eyebolt attach, and mark the location on the desk to drill the t-nut recess and eye bolt hole as before. Repeat on the other side.

Attach the monitor to the mount, and then find the position for the mount to be positioned. Drill and use bolts and nuts to attach the monitor mount.

Step 9: Disassemble Finish Edges With Woodfiller and Paint

Use the wood putty to fill in and smooth out the edges of the plywood. Plywood tends to have small voids in between the layers. Sand where you apply the putty, and make it as smooth as you can. This will make the painting much easier, and look better when you paint it.

I didn't get images of the taping of the pieces. Basically any joint you want to use wood glue on, tape both mating pieces. Remove the dowels, to tape up the joints.

My son and I spray painted the pieces, and he chose the color scheme. Initially he wanted it all black, but we decided to add the color to it, to brighten it up. He chose the cobalt blue, to accent the black. This gave me a chance to teach him how to spray paint wood. We worked on his technique, and he got really adept at the motion. See the painted pieces above

Step 10: Final Glue Up and Assembly

Remove the tape and begin glueing up the box part with the sides, top and bottom. If you can, use some strap clamps. I borrowed these from my Dad and they really work great to hold it all tight and square.

While the sides / top / bottom glue dries, install the t-track to the back piece. Screws and super glue will secure them nicely.

Step 11: The Final Product

Once everything was glued and dry, I added the hardware, and a sample small shelf that will give an idea of what the t-track can do.

I would have liked to leave it unpainted and put a finish on it, along with some edge banding. But the customer (My son) wanted color.

Overall it was a fun project to plan and build and really liked to get my son involved in the project some. Now he and his mother need to decide where in the room it should go. Please let me know what you think, and if you have suggestions, I have to make another now for my other son. =).

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