I’m not crazy about much of anything we can buy in today’s furniture market, at least in my price range. I believe that even a practical piece of furniture such as a computer desk can be well designed and interesting to look at. And it’s really not all that difficult or expensive to make it yourself!
I bought a length of 1-1/2″ square metal tubing (wall thickness roughly 1/16″) and enough steel angle to build a nice, sturdy structure that could hold up a heavy wood slab desktop.
- 10 foot length of 1-1/2” square metal tubing roughly 1/16” thick
- 10 foot lengths of roughly 1/16” thick steel angle
- Wood for feet
- 2” thick wood slab
- Metal screws
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Step 1: Cut the Legs
I used a grinder to cut the four legs from the square tube, all the same length - 30”. The grinder was also used to cut off any burrs and smooth the edges.
Step 2: Carve the Feet
I made wooden feet from some ipe scraps that I had around. I cut out blocks, then carved a little off the four sides of each block so that they fit snugly inside the metal tubing, leaving about 1/2″ for a foot. I thought it was a nice look and a good way to protect the floor.
Step 3: Cut and Bend the Top Rail
The top rail is all one piece. It is laid out to wrap from one front leg, over top, then around the two back legs, then back to the other front leg. There's a photo showing it and the bottom bracing in the next step.
At the back corners the angle metal is cut so that 90° degrees is cut away (180°-90°= 90°) leaving 45° at each side so when bent, the 45° close to make a 90° angle corner. This is cut on the top (“flat”) of the angle metal.
Leave/add an additional 1/16” for the metal thickness. The “down” side of the angle metal is attached to the leg with screws.
Step 4: Cut and Bend the Bottom Bracing
When doing the bottom bracing, the same system of wrapping around the posts (at backs) is used. First, the angle metal is notched so that the “down side” can be fastened to the desk leg. Now there is a difference; the level portion is notched out so that it can wrap around the desk leg. Again, keep in mind that the angle metal has a thickness (1/16”). So when notching it out, add that to the overall dimension of the 2x the leg width (1-1/2” + 1-1/2” + 1/16” ± a little slack will not be noticed).
Carefully cut out the piece. Then bend around legs, returning to the front leg. The total of the two legs dimensions plus the distance outside of post to outside posts should equal the dimensions used to make the top piece.
Fasten to legs with screws, at the desired height. I used 4” up from the bottom.
Step 5: Time to Top It Off!
For the top, I had several 2″ thick slabs of rough-sawn wood that I got from a local sawmill last summer. I knew the seller well and got a great price on some beautiful big leaf maple as well as Lebanon cedar he’d cut down in someone’s yard. The slabs had been drying for about ten months and looked good. I decided to use the cedar for this project.
Step 6: Decisions...decisions...
The tricky part was picking out the part of the cedar slab I wanted to use! The slab was not wide enough to make the table top, so I had to cut it and spline two pieces together.
Step 7: Cut and Finish the Slab Top
A lot of cutting and sanding later, I had two pieces that worked. I splined and glued them together, removed the bark, then finished with clear Sitkens stain, one of my favorite finish products. I fastened the top to the stand with screws from the bottom and also added holes for the computer cords, etc.
Step 8: Set It Up!
I added more angle steel to hold a shelf for the keyboard, and my new computer desk was ready to use. A piece of 3/4” plywood was slotted at each side edge to slide on the angle.
You won’t find this desk at Ikea, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s not a design everyone will love, but suits me. That’s the beauty of building your own stuff!
This project originally appeared on my blog, wildcatman.wordpress.com.
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