Lately the majority of my work is done on my laptop and trying to keep everything together (laptop, printer, scanner, portable drive, and various other needed accessories) I need a workstation that I can roll around the house to work with. I looked at several pre-fabricated workstations with the swivel capability, however most failed to meet every aspect I needed. Having wood scraps left over from my speaker box project and an 8ft L-channel steel I picked up from the dump someone threw away. I decided to try and build a custom workstation.
"Rotating Laptop Mobile Stand "
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Step 1: Tools and Materials
While most of the wood and steel was scrap, there were a few parts and tools that were needed to complete the project.
Drill and/or drill press
Various drill bits
Steel cutting disks that fit a circular saw (Dewalt brand from Lowes)
Various saws (Miter saw, Table saw, Scroll saw)
Measuring tools (tape measure, calipers, ruler)
Small stick welder and rods (picked up off ebay for 30.00 F/S, all it needed was an electrode holder and clamp from Harbor Freight) you could skip this and bolt L-brackets as a substitute.
Bolt kit (from Harbor Freight)
Spring kit (from Harbor Freight)
Left over plastic block from previous project (picked up from local steel company real cheap: Kinmon steel)
3/8's threaded rod (from Tractor Supply company)
3/8's bolts and washers (from Tractor Supply company)
3/8's bushings (from Tractor Supply company)
Screw spacers or bushings
Piece of copper wire
1 ring terminal
4" Wheels (caster's from Harbor Freight, I think they were 2.99 a piece, left over from another project)
3M Super 777 Glue
Felt (left over from Speaker box project)
Step 2: Making the Brackets
Making the brackets is a relatively simple task!
First you'll need to replace your circular saw blade with a metal cutting disc, these discs are from DeWalt I pick them up at Lowe's fairly cheap a few months ago and they last quite awhile.
Once you have it replaced, then it's time to get out your tape measure and start measuring and marking the centers according to your drawings in order to make the first cuts. When making these cuts you need to cut them at roughly a 45° angle so that when your final cut is done you should be left with a triangular shape of metal. This will allow you to bend the metal L. brackets easily.
Now you have made your cuts save the little metal triangles as we will be welding them in later ( if you do not have a welder you can also use wood triangles drilling holes at the bend points and bolt the triangles in).
Next simply bend the L-steel at the points of the triangles you have cut once you have completed each bend you should be left with a U-shaped piece of steel.
If it just so happens you have a welder you can go ahead and weld in the triangles that you cut out earlier to give you a nice sturdy solid corner.
Tip: To make sure you have a nice square frame you can use clamps to hold the shape as you weld, however I have found that it's just as easy to use a piece of rope looped around each end and tied to hold it square.
Step 3: Cutting the Tabletop
As with any project you should plan out how you're going to build your design. As an IT networking and design engineer I often use computer programs to draw out 3-D designs for businesses however when designing personal projects I often like to go back to the days when I would draft out a design with pen and paper and unplug from the computer. Doing it old school can be a little time consuming but it often makes me feel kind of nostalgic to hand draw designs and keeps my mind and skills fresh. Rather than go to the expense of building a full scale pen and paper drafting set I often just use standard grid paper as it uses 1/4" scale size squares that make it easy to scale when drawing ( four example 1/4" equals 1 inch scale in most cases).
To build the tabletop I have mocked up my plans by measuring where the table will set usually the height at which the table needs to be and the length the tabletop should be when it sticks out over my seated position. While I may provide some dimensions for this build I urge you when building anything to take your own measurements and build to what suits your project and equipment, as my dimensions will not be universal in every situation.
For this particular build my tabletop dimensions need to be 12" in width and 45" in length, due to the fact that I am adding a swiveling platform to my tabletop I will need to rip one board 12" x 15" in the remaining board 12" x 30".
Using a straight edge, a square, and a tape measure I transfer my measurements to a piece of plywood ( alternatively you can use just a tape measure and a chalk snap line to transfer your measurements if you have a chalk line handy) then I simply rip my plywood on a table saw cutting out the dimensions making sure to leave the width of the blade to the outside edge of the lines, if you do not have a table saw handy a circular saw will also work.
Step 4: Building the Swivel Laptop Stand
I've been looking at stands that have a swivel action that the laptop sits on. Figuring out how to build a swivel or pivot was a little difficult at first but that's the benefit of drawing out your plans before starting.
The first thing I needed to do was to create a solid base in which to run a rod through in order to swivel the base effectively. I have found that 2x4's offer the type of strength that I would need and a simple threaded rod should suffice when thinking of enough strength to hold up the laptop and extra wood.
So I cut my 2x4's to lengths that would match my given sizes on my drawing and using a drill bit 3/8 in diameter I drilled through the centers of each of the 2x4's (using my corner to corner cross method to find the absolute center).
Once you have a 3/8 diameter hole drilled in the 2x4's, hammer in 3/8 inside diameter bushings so that the 3/8 diameter rod will slide easily inside the 2x4's allowing for a swiveling motion. Be sure to drive the bushings into the center of the whole leaving enough room to drill each side as to allow a washer and nut to be installed so that it is recessed into the wood on one side..
Next using a 3/4" wood bit or forstner bit to drill out between the two halves of the 2x4's that meet (where the table will swivel). Again make sure that you leave enough room when drilling that a washer and nut can be recessed down inside them.
Time to prep the rod, to do this run one nut all the way to the center of the rod then place to washers onto the rod slide them to the center where you just ran that nut to place another nut on the other side and enclosing the two washers between the two nuts. Then place a washer on each side of the nuts.
Then slide the 2x4's on to each side of the rod till they meet the two washers, and using a washer and lock nut ( or as I commonly do use a double nut method tightening the two against each other to create a lock) on the outside end of the two by fours exposed rod.
Once you have the two center 2x4's in place add washers and nuts to the exposed sides of the rod, locking the double nut just at the edge of the outside washer to allow freedom of movement but restricting the side to side movement of the shelf once its in place.
Now place a nut and washer on the exposed ends of the rod and slide the two smaller two by fours into place and put the final washers and nuts in place
While it is difficult for me to explain once everything is assembled the 2 inner 2x4's should spin freely and the smaller 2 outer 2x4's should be locked in position.
To finish the swivel table simply screw the two by fours in place in the center of the main body of your tabletops panel and screw the other two by fours into the swivel laptop shelf as depicted in the pictures do a test swivel to make sure it's spins freely.
Step 5: Making a Swivel Lock
Probably the most difficult part of this project was designing the swivel lock, on my plans I had drawn up three different designs all of which once I started to build didn't work so being the problem solver I am, I did this design on-the-fly.
Having a piece of plastic left over from my reader stand project, I decided to use that plastic block instead of wood to get more experience working with this type of plastic. I found that working with this plastic cleaned up easier than wood and also had a stronger tensile strength when it came to assembly, or in layman's terms it didn't crack easily.
First I laid out my parts; such as a bolt, washers, nuts, and springs to create the slide lock
Next using my corner to corner cross method to find the absolute center I drilled a 1/4" hole down through the center of the plastic block
Then using a 1/2" bit I drilled 1/3 of the way down into the block following the 1/4" hole
Now I had to flip the block over and drill another 1/3 of the way down the other side
It is important that you leave enough space in the center of the block that's just wide enough for the bolt to slide evenly through the 1/4" hole. This will keep the bolt from flopping around inside the block.
Another problem I encountered was how to slide the bolt back to adjust the swiveling motion. To solve this issue I decided to use a piece of copper wire looped over and cramped into a ring terminal been slipped it over the bolts before inserting it into the block.
Once I inserted the bolt I placed a washer on the other hand then slid the spring on another washer and then a final bolt. Using my finger I tightened it as tight as I could get it until the only thing expose was the threads of the bolt.
To attach the lock to the base I drilled for countersunk holes into the block and screwed it to the laptop base at the bottom making sure that the threads of the bolts end was sticking out far enough to pass over the table base.
Now to create a pivot point for the lock to adjust to different heights I simply cut a 3/4" board roughly 4 inches wide.
Then using a large coffee can I drew a quarter moon on the board.
Using a scroll saw I cut out the arc (alternatively you could use a jigsaw to achieve the same arc).
Using the coffee can again and a ruler I measured and spaced a hole pattern using a sharpie to mark each spot.
Measuring the bolt and finding a bit slightly larger I drilled each of the holes.
Been using a scrap piece of 3/4" board I made a base for the pivot by counter sinking and screwing it to the bottom.
Attaching the bottom to the table base with a couple of screws to keep it steady and in place lining it up with the lock so that each pivot would match the lock position.
Step 6: Bolting the Wood to the Steel Frame
Now that we've finished the tabletop, we have to attach all the wood to the frame. when deciding whether to simply screw through the steel into the wood or to drill and bolt I decided for strength and sturdiness to bolt the wood to the steel frame.
First start with the tabletop and drill holes in several places at bolts, lock washers, and nuts to attach to the long part of the frame.
Attach the matching length board to the back of the frame using bolts once again.
Then attach the bottom board using the same method
I decided while assembling the frame that I would add a second board on the inside of the frame using screws through the top and bottom boards to create some shelves on the inside of the frame in which to place my scanner.
Then I went back with another piece of scrap board and cut to size a shelf in which to add to the center.
TIP: When you are assembling the table occasionally uses square to check your angles to ensure all of your 90° angles stay square, this will make sure that your table stays even and flat all the way around.
Step 7: Adding Wheels
From the beginning I wanted to add a couple of wheels to this table so that I could drag this from room to room if necessary and also make it easier to clean around.
Harbor freight tools sells wheels or casters with both a screw on base or a bolt on base. The wheels depicted here are a couple I had left over from another project.
To attach these wheels I simply drilled holes in the back of the table and bolted them from the inside.
For the front leg I decided to use a 2 x 4 cut the size and bolted to the bottom of the front. I decided not to add from wheels to this because it had a tendency to tip forward and I wanted it to be more stable due to the fact it will be holding a laptop.
Step 8: Adding an External Keyboard Shelf
For this workstation I wanted to be able to have a place for my external equipment such as a keyboard, external hard drive, and external light scribe burner. My previous attempts at other types of shelves in which to rest my laptop on had led me to previously build this keyboard shelf and storage for my external drives.
Though this was built previously I felt it was necessary to add a step so that nothing was left out, this shelf was built out of 3/4" board that is roughly 10 inches in width and approximately 18" in length and the legs are from 3/4" by 1" board. I attached it to the table top using a single screw into each of the legs from the bottom, though it's not necessary to attach the shelf and being that I'm designing this workstation to be portable I wanted it to not move.
Step 9: Adding Felt to Soften All the Hard Edges and to Get a Finished Look
I considered quite awhile how to finish this project. I considered using wood filler and finishing the project with stain. However I had this rich blue felt left over from my speaker box project and plenty of 3M Super 77 spray contact glue. Also with all of the hard lines and the steel frame I wanted something that looked a little softer to contrast with the roughneck look of it.
To attach felt to any surface using contact spray glue you simply spray on a layer and a lay the felt pulling on the end of the felt keeping it wrinkle free and tight as you smooth out any air bubbles or wrinkles that may get trapped.
Using a brand new razor blade in my knife I trimmed the felt as I was laying each piece.
When laying felt try to look at each corner in a way so that you can trim the corners at angles to give a more finished look as depicted when covering the keyboard shelf.
Tip: One of the nice things about working with felt instead of stains or other covers is that if you make a mistake you can simply pull back the felt re-spray the glue and relay the felt and still get a professional and quality looking finish. Not to mention that felt has a nice soft feel to it.
Step 10: All Finished, So What Went Wrong and What Did I Learn?
Going back and looking at all of the mistakes and learning from them when you're trying to build something for the first time allows you the opportunity to learn so that the next time you don't make those mistakes again.
This particular project offered several learning experiences, most of which dealt with the balance of the table I found through trial and error that four wheels didn't work well and then while typing up this Instructable I continued to have balance issues with the 2 x 4 for the front leg I ended up going back and adding to 2x4's in a wide shaped pattern like feet to give me the stability I was looking for.
The other major problem that I ran into was the bolted caster wheels in the back spun too freely and caused the table to occasionally move independently, so visiting harbor freight I bought two stationary wheels with a screw in base which solved that issue. These wheels were $2.99 as well.
Once I've solved the problems with the balance I needed to go back to mounting the laptop the USB hub and placing the rest of the equipment into the shelf. I use screws, plastic washers, and screw spacers ( or bushings as Tractor Supply Company calls them) to mount the laptop to the shelf in a four point mount. using screw ties and mounting screws I mounted the transformers and power strip to the table as well.
Upcoming changes I'm considering are adding a hook somewhere for my voice dictation headset and possibly some LED lighting over the laptop, And may be I'm going to remake my USB hub holder as the corners are starting to break, perhaps I'll look around Instructables here and see if I can find an interesting way to hack the hub into the table. I may have to move the shelf now that the cat has found it and keeps laying on my scanner.