Intro: A Laptop Stand... Out of Plywood!
This is a tutorial to make a laptop stand that benefits both you and your laptop!
To learn all the details watch the video! If you prefer written instructions then continue to the first step below!
- Some Details and the Benefits of this Stand -
PS - You can make this stand for either a 15" or 13" laptop!
The first benefit and feature of this specific laptop stand is that it raises your laptop screen up 7", allowing for a more comfortable experience while using your laptop. This will prevent your neck from getting cramps, and just allow for overall a more comfortable view of the screen.
The second main feature and benefit is that it has an open middle to allow cooling for your laptop. This is a huge feature as the worst thing you can do to your laptop is restrict it's airflow, which will eventually cause it to overheat and burn up the processor and fans. By having this unique open middle, the laptop can draw air in from both sides of the laptop and the back. Allowing it to cool the laptop much faster and more efficiently. This will also significantly lengthen the overall lifetime of your laptop.
This stand is made completely out of cabinet grade plywood but can also be made out of a solid wood.
In the DXF file that you can download you will find designs for both 13" and 15" laptops.
And, you can make this laptop stand with either a CNC router or a scrollsaw.
So let's get started!
Step 1: You Need...
For material, you are going to need a half sheet of 3/4" cabinet grade plywood. (4 feet by 4 feet) You won't use the entire piece but you might want a little extra just in case.
As far as tools go here is a list of what I used, but you can always be creative and improvise if you don't have one of the listed items.
So the main tool that you will need is a CNC router or a Scrollsaw. I highly recommend using a CNC router for accuracy, but not everyone has the privilege of access to a CNC machine. So if you can't get your hands on one you can just as easily use a scrollsaw. (or bandsaw, but you will need to be able to cut out the inside holes)
If you use this method then make sure that you cut out the patterns as accurate as you can so they will fit together with as little sanding as possible.
For the little tools, you will need...
- A brad nailer with 1-inch nails (preferably 18-guage)
- Wood glue (whatever brand you want)
- Clamps (large and small)
- 90 deg square
- At least one electric sander (preferably one orbital sander and one belt sander, a large stationary belt sander also helps)
- If you have a drill press then a spindle/drum sander for it will come in handy (with 120 grit paper)
- Sand paper for the electric sanders (80 and 120 grit)
- Sand paper for hand sanding (120 grit)
- Stain (optional)
- Your choice of finish (I recommend either a Shellac or Lacquer finish)
Step 2: Let's Take a Look at the Designs
The first real step is to download the DXF file. If you haven't already, download it at the bottom of this step.
You'll see a screenshot of the file directly above this paragraph.
Basically, what you're seeing are six different patterns (or designs) for two different stands. So there are three patterns per stand.
On the right, we have the patterns for a 15" laptop stand, and on the left, we have the patterns for a 13" laptop stand.
At the top of the file, you will see two groups of a bunch of lines. These are my attempts at showing you where each pattern belongs in the final stand assembly. Basically, each long little rectangle is the side view of one pattern and they are linked by a line to the pattern number. Now picture all those rectangles pushed together so there are no spaces between them. That's your final stand when all the pieces are glued together.
It's just showing you where each pattern piece goes in the final assembly. If it doesn't make sense, go ahead and watch the video as I explain it a little better.
There's also a "# of pieces" on each pattern. This is telling you how many pieces of that pattern you need to complete the stand. Some you need 4, some you need only 2, and some you need either 11, or 14. So make sure that you cut the correct amount for each pattern.
Step 3: Get Ready to Cut
So now that you know what everything in the DXF file means you can go ahead and get things set up to cut.
If you're using a CNC router then arrange your pieces and create the toolpaths.
I recommend using a 1/4" end mill bit spinning at about 19,000 rpm and moving at about 90 to 100 inches per minute with four passes for the 3/4" plywood. (so about 0.1875 inches per pass) Make sure that you use a nice sharp bit so you get minimal chipping on the plywood.
If you're using a scrollsaw or other means then you will need to print out the patterns. In this case you will probably want to put one of each pattern on one 11"x8.5" sheet of paper. You can just print one of each pattern and then use a copier to get the correct amount of each.
Then use an adhesive spray (available at most craft stores or Lowes or Home Depot) to stick the paper patterns to your plywood.
Step 4: Cut Out Your Patterns
Now that you have your toolpaths generated (or patterns printed) you can go ahead and cut out all your pieces.
If you're making the 13" stand then you will have a total of 17 pieces.
If you're making the 15" stand then you will have a total of 20 pieces.
Step 5: Sand Your Pieces
So you now have all your pieces cut, fresh off your CNC machine or Scrollsaw and they are ready to sand.
But you don't want to sand everything. I mean you can but it would be a waste of time as you will just need to sand it later.
So the few parts that you do need to sand are all the corner/edges. (see the second photo to know what I mean) You want to get all those burrs off that were created when the piece was cut, but you don't want to round over the edge at all. Just barely sand it enough to get the burrs off and have a nice clean edge.
The reason you don't want to round the edges at all is so that when you glue the pieces together you won't have any noticeable seams.
After you sand those edges, you will need to then sand all the inside triangles. As those are going to be hard to reach after gluing the pieces together. This will be easiest to do with a drill press and sanding spindle/drum. (see the fourth picture)
Finally, you're going to want to sand the bottom side of each piece. (see the last picture)
The reason for this is so that when you glue the pieces together they will sit nice and flat on the surface you're working on. You'll know what I mean by this when you proceed to the next step.
We'll sand all the other surfaces after we have the pieces glued together and in one piece.
Step 6: Glue and Nail the #2 Pieces
Now that you have your pieces sanded, we're ready to start assembling your laptop stand.
So first we're going to put the center (#2) pieces together. There will either be 11 pieces or 14 pieces depending on which stand you're making.
Before you start gluing and nailing though you'll want to setup a little jig to make sure you get everything square. This is a very simple jig. Basically, it's just creating a perfect 90-degree angle with your table. And then drawing a line 90-degrees to that. (see the first picture to understand what I mean)
This way, when your nailing you can push your pieces up against that jig and the table and know that you're creating a perfect square edge.
You can now nail and glue all the middle pieces together. Make sure the nails go straight in when nailing so that none of them come out the sides. Put one nail every 2-3 inches or so.
In the next step we'll nail the next set of pieces on.
Step 7: Glue and Nail the #1 Pieces
Next we need to glue and nail a #1 piece on each side of the stand. These are the pieces without the legs. So make sure that you don't accidentally grab those.
This is a simple step, so once you nail those two pieces on you can proceed to the next step.
Step 8: Glue and Nail the #3 Pieces
Now we need to glue and nail the #3 pieces, which are the pieces that have the legs for your laptop stand.
So you'll need to lift the part that's already nailed together up onto something so that the legs won't get in the way.
You'll be putting one of each of these pieces (there's only two) on either side of the stand.
The last picture shows what the bottom of the stand will look like after this step is complete.
Step 9: Clamp and Glue Your Final #1 Pieces
So we are now ready for the last pieces which are two more of the #1 pieces.
Yes, you read the title correctly, we are only gluing and clamping these pieces on. We don't want to ruin the outside appearance of the stand by putting nail holes in it. So we're going to just glue it.
I would also recommend that you put wood shims under the clamps so you don't dent the surface of the plywood. You'll notice that I didn't, and mine came out fine. But there's a good chance that most will have some dents in the surface. So you can eliminate this by putting shims under each clamp.
Now let the stand dry overnight and then proceed to the next step... sanding.
Step 10: It's Now Time for Sanding!
The best part is now upon you... sanding!
This really isn't that bad if you just have a few power sanders. I used an orbital sander for the middle open spot and the bottom of the stand.
I then used a hand belt sander for the top surface, and finally a large 40" stationary belt sander for the front and back surfaces.
You want to spend most of your time on the outside surfaces that you will be able to feel the most.
Get it as smooth as if you were feeling one solid board. It will be hard to get the inside triangles that smooth. But because you won't feel those surfaces very often, then it's not that big of a deal.
Getting the outside surfaces to feel like one piece is entirely possible though. Especially with a belt sander.
You'll also want to do some hand sanding to get places that the power sanders didn't get and to also round over all the edges slightly.
If you spend a diligent 40 minutes on sanding you will be able to get some very satisfactory results.
Step 11: Finish Your Laptop Stand!
Now that you have all the sanding behind you and your stand is nice and smooth. We're ready to put a finish on it!
If you want to stain your stand, you'll need to do that now before finishing it.
(see the pictures of what it looks like plain or with a Dark Walnut stain)
You can either put a Shellac or a Lacquer finish on your stand. I put two coats of a Shellac finish on mine, using steel wool between and after coats.
You don't want to put too many layers on as you don't want any residue from the stand getting on your laptop. This is very possible as your laptop will be sitting on the stand for long periods.
I recommend using a spray finish.
One heavy coat to allow the Plywood to soak it up, rub the entire thing down in steel wool, and then another light coat followed by some more steel wool and you will have an almost perfect finish!
Step 12: And Your Finished!
Well, that's it!
You have made your very own Laptop Stand out of plywood.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and had loads of fun making it!
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