Standing Tree Desk





Introduction: Standing Tree Desk

About: I want computers to be wilder.

My PhD research is about using computation in the wild, but usually my projects are not as straightforward as this....

Here's the idea: Strap a laptop stand to a tree. Blammo! That's it!

Well everyone (especially around instructables) always talks about how bad sitting is for you, so everyone makes standing desks. But, you know what else seriously lowers your quality of life? Being trapped indoors all the time! Now you can go do your work, stand up, and enjoy the amazing world around you!

Personal Motivations
Dissertation Writing: This idea originally came up because I am now starting to write my dissertation. I figured that I would feel like a pretty big phony if, while writing a book about how great it is to be outdoors with nature, I was sitting inside my sterile house for the whole semester. This gives me a way to write down my ideas situated in the gorgeous world which I am describing (psst. the second image is a GIF, look how beautiful fall is in Atlanta!). Hopefully doing this will prevent me from including some erroneous assumptions about the world in my manuscript.

Jungle Re-programming: I also started having this idea during my field research in Panama. Sometimes it became necessary to reprogram some of our equipment, but jungles are that great for sitting down indian style, and laptops need a lap (or something else). The best we found was the hood of a truck, but that isn't always there. Being able to toss up a little station anywhere could be really awesome! I can't wait to test it out next summer!

As with everything I do it goes right into the public domain. The laptop holder was generously provided by Mathew Owen from Fablab: and is under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Everything else, especially the concept of tie-tree-to-laptop, is open-hardware and free for anyone to do anything with. Importantly, I want the hardware to be open so that no trolls can come around and sit on a patent, and try to stop other people from making cool tree desks. Also, this is the earliest design, and it has some flaws, so it'd be great to see what people come up with.

Also, this isn't the craziest new idea, I'm sure there's a bunch already out there, hopefully they can point me to those and I can see the even better ideas that may be lurking!

Step 1: Gather Materials

The project is pretty straightforward and cheap if you have access to a laser cutter.

Total = $20
  1. 1-inch ratcheting Straps from Lowes ($11 for a bag of 4)
  2. Plywood (2 - $4 2x4 1/4 inch cut in half)

Make sure not to buy warped pieces, or pieces that are slightly different thickness; this will bite you later :)

Step 2: Laser Chop and Put Together

Use my modified version of Owen's vector design. I added little slip on clips for connecting to the 1-inch ratcheting straps that go around the tree. I chose Matthew Owen's laptop design above the others because it had a nice curve to the back which I felt would go nicely onto a tree.

Don't get too antsy about not doing an extra pass or two with your laser cutter. Even on the big laser cutter at Gatech, it took 3 passes to cut through the wood all the way. You don't want to mess with cutting out partial cuts.

Also my wood had slightly thicker thicknesses, which meant that to get the parts together I used my dremel to open up all the gaps a little bit. Annoying.

Step 3: Test It Out in the Wild

Originally I added the little belt-clips onto the laser cut design, figuring that it would hold everything. They look a little scary, but are actually really sturdy! The best solution I found was to first get a base strap through the big main hole. This provides a lot of support while letting you still adjust it. Then, fit the top strap around the tree at the height where you want the laptop, and then slip on the clip. Then ratchet it all tight! The stability of the thing kinda freaked me out. My first demo session was for an hour, and I had a great time!

Step 4: Alternate Uses

We were so eager to test it out that we didn't even wait until we were outside and had a tree. Instead we used me as a tree just to see how sturdy it was. Little did we know that this would lead to some great alternative uses for it too!

You can strap it to your chest, back, or belly, and have it serve as a standing desk for others, portable desk for yourself, or mobile bookholder. You could probably store little bags of popcorn in it and sell them at ballgames.

Step 5: Future Designs

The biggest problem with this design is lack of portability. I originally wanted to laser cut a laptop stand with the idea that it would be a quick assembly/reassembly in the field, and otherwise it would flat-pack. After I press-fit this guy together though, it is not coming apart without breaking. But I have new designs in the works! I was thinking going simpler. Two planks and a hinge. What ideas do all you have?



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    20 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I love the tree cutting on this. Was that freehand and then imported into Inkscape?

    Wait until you see the newest one! standing tree worktable!

    excellent idea! could also be strapped to light and power poles, road signs etc.

    I think you need some way of making it collapsible/pop-up, so it can stay folded in a side pocket of your rucksack, then whipped out as needed.


    2 replies

    Just a rough sketch, snapped on my phone, but I hope you get the idea.

    It's hinged half-way down the sides, and at each corner. When not in use, the middle of the sides folds inwards, the whole thing stores flat. For lightness, the hinges could be as simple as a row of holes on each piece, threaded with elastic.

    In use, fasten the straps through the cut-outs, and the tension holds the whole stand in shape. You may need a length of paracord between the two hinges so that the sides do not open too far.

    If you may be using it for smaller laptops, or tablets, you could cut holes all along the top edges, then weave a net of paracord across the stand.


    Yeah! I think that would be the ultimate! Cool idea! thanks for the design sketch! I'll def try something like it out for version 2 in the spring!

    A longer strap around tree, slightly above hip level could provide a brace for hips to allow more body shifting options for longer periods...something to lean against to relieve joint stress in legs, back, shoulders

    1 reply

    Cool thought! My bag came with 4 straps and I have been wondering what to do with the other 2. I'll have to try it out!

    Hahaha great alternate uses LOL Congratulations, loved the idea

    1 reply

    4 years ago

    good idea

    Awesome idea! With the alternative uses this takes walking and texting to a whole new level!

    I specially like the alternate uses!
    What a great tool to hold your plate at BBQ's.