$12 Desk





Introduction: $12 Desk

The desk in my apartment isn't exactly what I would call sturdy or nice to sit at. Plus, I can use all the surface space I can find. And there can always be more workshop desk space!!! This is why I set out this weekend to build a desk. I have been wanting one for a while now.

On Friday when I walked into Menards (which auto-correct wants to replace with 'Gaurdsmen') haphazardly (yep, this is what I do with my college weekends ;)  ) I stumbled across the lumber section (how could that happen!?) and saw that a 3/4" thick 2'x4' sheet of MDF cost only $6. Additionally a 2'x4' sheet of pegboard only cost $3.68. I bought a couple 2x4's (10 ft sections) and had them cut them on-site. I then bought a few 19 cent scraps of lumber. Finally, I bought a box of screws and checked out with all the materials I would need to assemble a fine desk for just $12. Brilliant I think!

This whole project should come together in an hour or two, tops. I would say $12 + 2hrs = new awesome desk is a pretty awesome deal!

Step 1: Materials

Bill of Materials!
  • one 2x4's (10 ft long)
  • one 2x4 (or any dimension) that is 4' long (actually 4' - 2*1.5"=45" long)
  • 2ft x 4ft (3/4" thick) for surface of desk (I used nice MDF because I like its feel)
  • [optional] pegboard (to hang stuff on)
  • 4 pieces 2ft scrap wood (for braces, not structurally required, just for stability)
  • 3" or 2.5" screws
  • [optional] shorter 1.5" screws for the pegboard
  • [optional] drill or dremmel (you can hand screw the screw into the wood just fine, it just takes a lot longer)
  • screwdriver (or screw gun if you have one, mine broke)
this project could probably be improved with much more tools or at least a level. But I managed to put it together without such tools, so don't worry if you don't have access to power tools! I started out hand screwing all the screws through the 2x4's until I remembered that I owned a dremmel.

Step 2: Just Build It!

I would first recommend that this project be done in a garage or somewhere not in your bedroom. I started making this desk ON TOP OF MY BED. You would have thought that I would know better. Then again, there isn't much space anywhere else in my room... and I didn't even consider building it elsewhere for fear it wouldn't fit through the door, which it does easily. Also, the entire idea was completely spontaneous, I designed the entire desk in 1 min as I walked through the store buying lumber. The moment I got home I put it straight together. So the whole design process was kinda improvised. To those who know me well, this is no surprise at all... I have a habit of spontaneous engineering (at the expense of not studying at all for my test)... I digress...

These instructions will be crude, but I think the whole process should be fairly self-explanatory. It can be assumed that every attachment is made with 2 or 3 screws.

I started with the pegboard. seems counter-intuitive, but here is why. By mounting the two legs to the pegboard, it gives you a nice 90 degree angle with which to make all other affixments. Each leg is exactly 30" long.

Next, I installed the 45" (4 ft - 3 in) 2x4 between the two legs along the top of the pegboard. This will lay directly underneath the desk top. It will help hold everything rigid and will guarantee no shaking in one direction.

With the pegboard laying on the ground, attach two braces (the scrap 24" boards), one on top, and on on bottom of each of the two legs at 90 degrees. Once they are mounted, stand the desk up on its two legs with these braces just holding over space.

Make sure the legs you are about to add are standing straight up and down (use a level if you need) before screwing them to the braces. You should have four legs and the pegboard and the all the brace-work in place now.

Finally, just lay the surface MDF board right on top of the whole thing (it should be very sturdy right now) and just tack it in with a screw in each corner and maybe one along the back.

See, I told you that was quick!

Step 3: Finishing Touches

To make this awesome desk just that much more awesome you can paint it or make a logo/stencil for the desk!

With that in mind, I made myself a fun octopus stencil.

Also, as a precaution, MDF doesn't take too well to getting wet. I already spilled water on my desk, and it fared just fine. However, if you want, you can add a coating of polyurethane or something if you are worried.

Someday I hope to add a shelf above the desk that I can mount things to.



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    28 Discussions

    I love this! i am going to build an add on to my apartment counter then add a bar to that for eating. hopefully I will have room for my computer, sewing machine and a bar to actually eat at! I am planning on putting two shelves(for extra storage) under the table(add on to counter) with it only being 3 ft tall. I then plan on making doors (like a cabinet) for it any advice?

    Great idea. I suppose both the pegboard and the mdf sheet helped you square things up. Talk about a minimal tools project.

    I would however be worried about the mdf sagging. I'd most likely add a couple 'beams' or cross braces underneath the desk in order to better support the sheet. I mean, it was cheap, but it would also be very cheap to reinforce it so that it lasts longer.

    Now finishing it would be more expensive!

    1 reply

    Very minimal tools :)

    Since it was built, I have spilled water, acetone, HCl, juice, and many other liquids over the surface. Either I have the lucky piece of MDF, or MDF is a lot more resilient than I thought. But not once has the MDF board ever shown signs of starting to sag or even lose its smooth surface or even discolor (slightly in the case of the juice). I have also stood one the desk countless times (in the center even!) and use it as a workbench constantly. I must admit I never expected it to last this long! It has really made me like MDF that much more and is why I now have 3 other similar benches.

    so i thought i show my almost finshed desk the only reason i say almost finshed is i want to add a 2x4 under the front of the desk in front and a brace on the back so it dosent wobble but other from that only 30 dollars well spent in my opinion

    5 replies

    so i added on more to my desk since i use it for my computer and stuff i made a headphone attachment/ xbox controller holder too all with a drill coat hanger and a wrench i love this table so much very useful and easily modable to what you need :D i cant thank you enough for this

    I actually made another one twice as wide so I could separate work and electronics. One of the key features that I am proud of are power strips everywhere. It really makes everything a lot easier. I also added a single shelf using a 2x6. I cut a 10 foot 2x6 to 8 feet and used the leftover 1 foot sections to affix at the ends to make a simple shelf that you can just screw in. I put it along the back against the wall and it works perfectly to hold all my electronics boxes and many of my larger tools.

    thanks! im gonna use it as a computer desk i just have to stabilize the front and back some since im not adding the peg board to the back but otherwise its awesome works well for doing computer repairs on too very happy with my frist wood working job

    awesome design :D im going to be building this in the next couple weeks for my desktop im just doing a couple modifications to it so i can have my desktop underneath and installing a raised area for my screen thanks so much for this idea just stinks my desktop is gonna be about double the price so far :(

    save big money at menards...that song always sticks in my head when I see that word...I so love this idea. I might have to check out my local menards. any possibly find decent size piece of mdf for my craft table idea that I have. Building is fun.

    and yes my auto correct even says guardsmen...

    I have one question! or two.... maybe three...

    How much weight can this desk support?

    I am thinking of building more than one desk, one for my desktop and the other for my laptop p.s. forgot to mention that the monitor is pretty heavy and i also have printer for the desktop Pc d;

    1 reply

    To give you an idea, I can stand on it and hop on it (I havn't tried full jumps or smashes). So it can at least take whatever the dynamic force of my 135 lbs is. All that, with less than an inch of flex too. and that was in the middle of the desk. I stand on it regularly to get to my ceiling. The desk currently holds my computer, a printer, boxes full of tools, and random stuff. That probably weighs in at 50-60 lbs total that rests on it every day, all day. The desk shows no signs of wear. I am pretty proud of that :) Just make sure you buy a solid top piece. That's why I chose the 3/4" MDF.

    Post pictures when you are done!

    I love the design and would love to make one myself. Unfortunately the is no Menards local to here and looking at prices at my local lowes it's looking like 2-3 times the price. I know that's not a lot but part of this projects appeal is the cheapness so any suggestions for something comparable to Menards in price and selection?

    2 replies

    depending on where you live, it is sometimes quite feasible to find all the 2x4's outside for free. Scavenge what you can. Then all you have to buy is one sheet of MDF (or your choice of board). That would significantly reduce the price. I'm sure this has already occured to you though :) I can't think of many stores. Menards has never been my store of choice but they have always conveniently been located nearby, so I am not too familiar with other stores besides menards and home depot. Sorry I can't help more

    Thanks for the response. Any wood around here that's not junk is usually gone pretty fast so that's probably not an option. I may be able to find some scraps for bracing this way though. Ill have to keep an eye out to see what I can find.

    A simple addition that would help with the water issue would be self stick linoleum floor tiles. They can be had for as little as $0.25 a piece, meaning the upgrade would cost $2. I find that slightly softer surface to bevery nice to write on if you don't have a heavy hand.

    1 reply

    Great idea. I considered linoleum but I had no idea where to find it. Would large hardware stores have it?

    Nice desk! I need to build something similar for an electronics workbench, as my main workbench has tools all over it. I'd also like an overhead light and shelves for scope and power supply. Main problem is fitting lumber in my car.