$38 Adjustable Standing Desk Conversion




Introduction: $38 Adjustable Standing Desk Conversion

About: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs founder and manager for Autodesk and just finished building o...

I recently switched to a standing desk at work and used a set of affordable and simple screw jacks to raise my desk to the proper height.  Fully adjustable from 11" to 17 3/4", these jack stands will raise any normal desk to standing desk height for people between 5' 3" and 6' 1" tall, depending on your body geometry.  

Now, let me be clear, while these are adjustable jack stands, they are not really something that you'd want to change on the fly throughout the course of the day, so be sure, this is no substitute for someone who wants both a sitting AND standing desk.  For that, you've got to shell out the big bucks and buy a motorized system.  This diy solution is more for someone who wants to commit to a standing desk, but wants the ability to dial in the perfect height for comfort and ergonomics.

For anyone who is thinking about converting to a standing desk - take a tip from someone who already has, you want to raise your whole desk up, not just your monitor and keyboard.  Sure it's easier to simply raise your monitor on a stand or arm and buy a small platform that your keyboard and mouse can rest on at the proper height, as many diy standing desk conversions online suggest, but then you lose access to all the good stuff on your desk besides your computer.  Where do you put your coffee, paperclips, obscene but thoughtful hand drawn christmas cards from co-workers and the 800 cords for your iPhone, camera, SD card reader and external hard drive?  Having the whole desk at standing desk height sacrifices nothing (except your chair), gives you easier access to all your stuff.

Step 1: Purchase Jack Stands, 4 Nuts and 4 Washers

I'm testing a number of different jack stands to convert a normal sitting desk to a standing one, but thought I'd start with the simplest and cheapest solution first - these Husky aluminum screw jacks from Amazon for $36.

Then, go to the hardware store and pick up (4) 3/4" standard zinc plated nuts, and (4) large zinc plated flange washers.

Step 2: Assemble

The jack stands are pretty darn stable on their own, but since they come with only one nut that just "sits" in the base, I thought it'd be best to eliminate any rocking or shaking and lock the threaded rod onto the base with a second nut and flange washer so that everything is held tightly in place.

To accomplish this, first, slid the threaded rod that comes with the jack stand onto the base.  Then, place the flange washer over the bottom of the threaded rod and follow it with the second nut.

Step 3: Slide Under Desk and Adjust to Proper Ergonomic Height

With some help, lift your sitting desk up around 15" and slide the four jack stands underneath your desk.  Most desks have leveling feet of some kind - that's right where you want to place the jack stands.  If you desk has some other kind of foot system, it's easy to use a small piece of wood to create a platform for the desk leg to rest that simply sits on top of the jack stand.

You can get a vague idea of how high you'll need to jack up your desk by using a simple standing desk height calculator here.  That way, you can adjust the jacks most of the way before you put them under your desk, so you only need to do some fine-tuning once they're in place.  It's a whole lot faster to feed several inches of threaded rod through the nuts before you plop your desk on top of them then once the heavy desk is in place.

Fine tune the height using the leveling feet and then threaded rods.

Even though this is really beyond the scope of this Instructable, my monitors had to be raised to the proper height as well.  I bit the bullet and went to Ikea for some steel feet and a black wooden shelf to accomplish that.  I'll publish something about the adjustable height monitor shelf that I'm working on now soon in a separate Instructable.

Step 4: Level

Level the desk once you've got the proper height adjusted.  It's nice that all four jack stands can be adjusted independently since the floors in our office are actually quite sloped.

I used the original leveling feet on the desk to dial in the level, but it's really six of one or half a dozen of another whether you choose to turn the jack screws or the leveling feet.

Step 5: Secure

If you happen to be living in an earthquake prone area, like San Francisco, it's not a bad idea to affix your desk to the wall if you happen to be located next to one.  This will reduce any minor shake or shimmy on the desk which may occur from simply the vibration of your hands upon the keyboard.  The jack stands do not shake, it's actually the surface of the desk (at least on mine) that is moving.  

Screw an L bracket onto the bottom of the desk and into the wall and it will really help lock everything into place.  Don't want to screw into your wall because it's made of brick and you are scheduled to be moving to a new office soon?  Use a wooden shim slid between the desk and the wall to put some tension on the system and hold everything in place.  I'm not too proud of this solution, but until the move, it works just as well as a screwed in braket to reduce any shaking.  Earthquake proofing...not so much.

With this configuration of jack stands and the wooden wedge, my desk doesn't move at all, can be adjusted to the exact proper height so that my arm forms a right angle at my elbow, and can easily be changed should I come into work wearing high heels one day, but flip flows the next.



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18 Discussions

Your desk is balancing precariously on four 2" flat discs, independent from each other and from the desk. I am surprised that you consider it safe.
A better way would be to fix the supports to the floor with a suitable fixing anchors or bracing bars interconnecting them together. Forget that in fact put the jacks on the desktop and securely fix a board on top....Nah, Put two milk crates atop the desk one with your monitor on and the other for your mouse mat , writing etc. I am not trying to be rude, but it would be better than what you have built, no sorry, arranged, It aint safe mate, someone will get hurt.
I just noticed that you have removed the bottom cross member from the desk also, which should mount on the four fixing holes in your photos.
I think this is a fake instructable, as there is no way you can possibly work on that surface without the whole thing shaking about al over the place.
Do not attempt this one. Serious injury very probable.

1 reply

Yes, I agree. It does look very unsafe. In fact, when I looked at it, the only question that I had was how it is able to secure the desk sitting on top of it. If someone is still feeling adventurous, instead of these jack stands, use these Camco stabilizers:


Thanks for sharing this idea. I have not too much money for buying standing desk & my job is sitting in front of laptop or PC around 6
to 8 hours( i am a freelancer & worked from home). Now i am planning
to try this experiment with my desk so i can switch to standing desk
without paying more.

Ideally use a piece of all thread that will fit in place of the adjustable feet on the desk and still pass through the jacks with adjustment taking place there.

btw Great 'ible. I've been planning to build or convert to a standing desk for a long time but funds are limited so this is a perfect solution. And I love phireant's version, too. Good job!!

Amazon no longer carries the Husky screw jacks - they now carry this model which is only rated for 6000 lb but has about the same adjustment height http://www.amazon.com/Camco-44560-Olympian-Aluminum-Stack/dp/B000760FWU/ref=pd_sim_auto_1

Just got the jacks in the mail. I still need to get the nuts, but it is very stable. I've shook the desk rather hard to simulate many earthquakes I've been in and as you mention it's very stable. I think I'll probably tie the legs to the jacks just in case someone falls into the desk and a leg slips, but even kicking a leg doesn't make it move.

Since posting my earlier comment, I quite accidentally ran across something that reminded me of this Instructable: the design for protecting the San Francisco airport terminal from earthquakes.

If you're interested, see http://science.howstuffworks.com/transport/engines-equipment/bearing4.htm

(Was hoping to post just the image of the "pillars on giant ball bearings," but I haven't figured out the I'bles image-posting system yet.)

I'd actually pay to see someone 'accidentally' kick one of those jacks out from one corner.

Thanks for the idea! I'm am going to try this, however I think I'll get some advice on making it safer since I'm a bit on the clumsy side.
Fortunately though, in my area, the earthquakes rattle us around every ten years or so!

This thing is very unsafe if you really are in SF, or anywhere really. You need to attach those with a clamp or something. Even just take some strong wire and go around the feet and the stands a couple of times. A minor tumbler will send that desk flying, and probably into a box full of kittens or something. Do it before you regret it!

Oh Man, Where were you six months ago!?! I've been wanting to making a standing desk forever, (instead of plunking down the cash for one) but tried just raising up my computer...and you are right, you need the whole desk raised. Went ahead and bought the desk, so it's too late for me, but kuddos to you for this simple and cost effective way to stand up at work!

I like the approach. Safety is my concern. Extended screw rods can be held to the existing feet via an elongated nut (say 2 inches/ 5 cm)...... Maybe a fold down leg attachment............ have fun!

Interesting, inexpensive idea, and nice photos. At first I thought the feet of the desk would be in danger of just sliding right off the discs of the jack stands, which looked flat. But one of the photos showed that the discs are actually cupped or dished, and your desk's feet seem to nestle into them quite nicely. So that potential problem appears to be a non-issue.

A question: Are you suggesting this setup would also be stable if it were completely free-standing instead of tucked into a corner? (I don't think you are.) If you were, I'd be worried that it'd be a bit top-heavy and potentially unstable. But if it's in a corner, as yours is, I can see how those additional two walls might make it pretty stable. Nice execution.

What I did for the sitting AND standing desk was to buy a tall drafting stool type chair. Mine was adjustable to the height I needed for my standing desk. So, I can sit or stand with the same desk height.

Nice...Thanks for sharing.

Aside from the obvious answer ("watch where you walk"), how do you prevent yourself or anyone else from kicking the outside leg out from under you? Is there any way to fasten the stands to the desk feet?

It's a great idea. Thanks again.

I'd like to see the jacks mechanically attached to the desk feet. Gravity will prevail.