Electric Height Adjustable Desk





Introduction: Electric Height Adjustable Desk

I really wanted a geek desk, but they're like 1,000 dollars. So I built my own for about 200 bucks (not including top). This is simply a regular desk that can rise up with a push of a button and turn into a standing desk. It takes about one minute to raise, speedier linear actuators are expensive. 

Pair of linear actuators (found on eBay for 150)
Premium pine (Home Depot 50 bucks)
12v power supply (found in my electronics junk box)
electrical tape

miter saw
wire cutters

Step 1: Design

I wanted to figure out how this thing would all fit together before I started making any cuts. So I drafted a 3D mock up in Autodesk Maya. I know Maya is usually used for animation, but it’s what I know, and it works. I wanted to take my current IKEA desk and just swap out the static legs for dynamic columns.

Step 2: Gather All the Parts

I found a pair of linear actuators on eBay for only 150 bucks shipped. They came with a wiring harness too which is great because I don’t know anything about electricity. They have a 16 inch stroke and are rated at 220 pounds each, but I wouldn’t put more than two monitors on this desk.

I went to Home Depot to find some wood, I ended up spending about 50 dollars for premium pine. All the cheap pine was warped and I figured a telescoping column should probably have straight edges.

Step 3: Cut and Assemble the Legs

I’m basically going off my 3D mock up here for measurements
I mounted the linear actuator to a small wood base, then built the inner column around it. Then the outer column around the inner.
I tested the first leg built to see if it could lift the table top. It did, so I built another one.

Step 4: Attach Legs to Table Top

This was pretty simple. Just keep in mind that if you plan on using an IKEA table top, most of them are just made of cardboard, so drilling legs into it isn’t strongest hold.

Step 5: Mount the Switch and Route the Wires

I just drilled out a large hole in the side of the table top to mount the switch
I ran some extra wire so the desk could rise without snags.

Step 6: Finished

Takes about 60 seconds to change position, cost about 200 bucks. 

If I spent maybe another 200 on the linear actuators I think they would be a bit faster and stronger. Also I would have rather had 18 or 20 inch stroke, but 16 was the most affordable. 
The legs are definitely version 1.0, I know they don’t have to be this big, it was just really easy to make it this way.
I will eventually add something to program height positions. So I could just press the button once instead of having to hold it down. I have a Raspberry Pi laying around here somewhere.

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75 Discussions

looks like the seller only has a 12 inch stroke pair listed right now. But I bet you can contact them to see if they have 18 inch stroke actuators available. http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-TWO-Heavy-Duty-12-Inch-Linear-Actuator-Wring-Switch-Kit-225lb-12-Volt-DC-/400330190977?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&hash=item5d3589f081&vxp=mtr


8 months ago

very creative and flexible design, but if you want faster raise/lower and more travel (?) you should check out the Jarvis desk...you can buy the frame for well under $500 (I have two of them and love them). $25 extra for 4 position programmable stops. Can't beat it


1 year ago

How is the stability of the desk in the raised position? I am tempted by the simplicity of your design. However it looks like when it is in the raised position, the fit between the inner and outer columns would be the main thing keeping the desk top from rocking side to side. But if I make the fit too tight, I am concerned that seasonal expansion of the wood could make it bind. I imagine the issue would be that much greater if you used the longer linear actuators you suggested. Is this something I should be worried about?

Do these 2 actuators sync at all time?? I would like to make a 4 leg version but i concern about they will out of sync

1 reply

They stay together pretty well, but it's not perfect. They have internal limit switches so when one stops the other stops about 1 sec later. I think you'd be fine with 4 actuators with this application.

Hello, I'm interested in this project. Any ideas or tips to make this quieter? I have roommates, and don't want to disturb them.

How did you synchronize two dc actuators !!?? I don't know how to figure out....

Looks great. I want to make a similar set up for a 6X8 foot table top so it will be heavy. Do you think this will work for 4 legs? Any suggestions?

Great article!

I am interested in doing a similar project.

Please, May you post/publish the project Autodesk Maya mock up file?

It was not clear for me how to mount the desk legs mechanism.

I appreciate any help you can give me

1 reply

Sure thing, I added the Maya file to my site: Check it out here: http://justinwilcott.com/height-adjustable-desk/

Thank you for this very nice instructable, makes the project look easy.

Once I get to round to gather the parts and do it, I ll post my effort.

I was wondering if you could do this as a pedestal table with just one support. I don't need that much clearance. That would take out the synchronization issue. Probably have to use a much more heavy duty actuator though. Great article! Thanks!

Might do this in a few weeks, here is a great option I just found on ebay for actuators, 12" and 14mm/s (or .5 inches per second).


Not to be a Luddite and playing around with limit switches, breadboards and all are way cool, but I think I'd look at setting up a couple of 1:4 cable purchases inside the legs, and snare a couple of $10 hydraulic bottle jacks from Harbor Freight. You could cross-plumb the jacks so they'd always produce identical force, and get "calibrated" every time the table comes all the way down. $25 for 4 double sheaves from Home Depot, $20 for the bottle jacks and $0 for electrical design or troubleshooting. If you wanted to get fancy, order some bare ball-bearing sheaves, use stainless cable (or Spectra!), build the whole thing of Lucite. Watch it work.

Heck, both my Prius and Jetta have "pump-em-up" adjusters on their drivers seats. Who needs electronics?

4 replies

No, but this type of setup is pretty common on sailboats--used for things like raising/lowering centerboards and canting lead keels, raising outboard motors and the like. @MrRedwood; the need for the sheaves/pulleys is in order to increase the throw, using a 1:2 or even 1:3 purchase. The bottle jack's good for 2 tons ($10 cheapie) reducing that by half or even 2/3 isn't going to break the deal. Use high quality/low cost pulleys/sheaves. Like these: https://garhauermarine.com/index.cfm

I'm thinking about building something using these materials over the summer. I'm having trouble visualizing how exactly you are putting these materials together. Can you post a basic draw-up of this jack-cable-sheave system?

As far as I can see from some webpage reviews, the throw of a bottle jack is pretty limited — five to eight inches? To switch from a sitting to a standing desk requires about fifteen inches or so.

I'm thinking about using a dampened gas strut or two repurposed from some minivan for this, instead.