Is sitting the new smoking? Studies have shown a sedentary lifestyle increases your chances of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and more. Even getting in your half hour workout after work won't save you if you've been sitting at your computer all day. So with that terrifying information about sitting in mind, I was determined to make a treadmill desk.
I didn't want to just slap half a treadmill underneath a standing desk, either (though there's nothing wrong with that). I wanted a desk seamlessly integrated into a treadmill, with the controls built into one unified package. I also wanted to spend as little money as possible.
Let me show you what I've done. I'll share the lessons I learned along the way. Hopefully, I can help you skip some of the mistakes I made.
Step 1: Get a Treadmill
When I was looking for a treadmill, I was looking for the following things:
- $150 or less.
- Small instrument cluster that won't take up too much desk space.
- Simple construction for (hopefully) easy breakdown. Nothing too fancy.
- A belt at least 18" wide.
Craigslist is a fantastic resource for this. A lot of people are desperate to get rid of their neglected, space-hogging treadmills and will negotiate on price. This guy was asking $150, but I got it for $100 and he delivered it for free.
Step 2: Disassemble Treadmill, See What You've Got
The top of the treadmill was already broken from the previous owner and just fell off. Then I flipped it over and unscrewed the controls from the plastic body. I could now see that the controls were one big board, so no splitting the controls or removing parts that I don't want. Also just one wire plug connecting it to the base of the treadmill. It'll have to go in as-is, which still isn't too big, 16" x 6".
Looking at the instrument cluster, I see that the on/off switch and the emergency shut off are the same thing. The red card thing slides into the slot and turns on the machine, and that red card connects to you via a clip and cord. So if you fall off it pulls the card out and shuts off the machine. Clever? Nah, kinda hokey. I'll need a proper on/off switch.
I remove the handrails which are secured with a screw at the top and bottom of each one. On the bottom, they screwed into a tab. I'll try and reuse these tabs to screw into two new table legs.
The main support structure for the upper part is made up of rectangular tubing. A 1" x 4" is a nearly perfect fit inside these tubes. From there I will build the main support for the desktop.
Step 3: Mock Up Desktop
First you must know how tall your desktop should be and we'll be using a standing desk height as a reference. The easiest and safest way to do this is to use this Standing Desk Height Calculator: http://www.beyondtheofficedoor.com/standing-height...
Trust me, I just kinda guessed and only later did I realize I hated my guess and had to make some last minute repairs/changes. If I used this in the first place it would have saved me a lot of time and money.
Measure from where you stand on the treadmill. I hung a couple of pieces of 1" x 4" wood in the rectangular tubing by threading long screws through it to catch the sides. Then I placed some scrap plywood on the supports for a desktop. I adjusted the height of the supports by drilling several holes and remeasuring until I reached my desired height.
Now I measure from the top of the desktop to the where my front legs will attach to the tab. This measurement, minus the final desktop's thickness, is how long I want my front legs. I keep the temporary supports in the rectangular tubing for reference later.
Step 4: Time to Go Shopping
The first thing is to choose your tabletop. I made mine out of an Ikea Tornliden tabletop for $40.
It's hollow through most of it and I don't know where I'm going to be mounting it yet, so I'll need to beef up the bottom so I'm not just screwing into cardboard. I'm going to glue a sheet of 1/4 MDF to the bottom, it's cheap ($5), takes paint well, and it's strong enough for this job. Also, Home Depot will cut it to size if you for free if needed.
Next are the legs. I can either go with 1 1/4" wooden dowels or 1 1/2" galvanized pipe. In retrospect, the wooden dowels would've saved me a lot of time and money, but I went with the galvanized pipe. Oh well. Throw in two floor flanges for the pipe:
Galvanized Pipe ($42):
Floor Flange ($15 x 2):
OR... 1 1/4 wooden dowels ($5 x 2):
Plus, I'll need some 1x4's ($8 x 3):
I got the pipe cut to size at Home Depot for free, taking into account my tabletop's thickness. Throw in some miscellaneous hardware, such as screws and hole grommets ($25ish).
I'll need some cork board to pad where the pipe legs will mount to the steel frame ($12):
For the control panel, I'll need a new on/off switch ($5):
(Later I added cupholders $15 x 2)
Step 5: Build Your Legs
So I drilled out a hole in the pipe legs for the tabs. I also made cork pads to surround the tabs to help with any metal-on-metal noise and help the pipes stand straight. I secured the cork pads with carpet tape. Next I cut a two 16" lengths of 1x4. I also cut to size the 1/4 MDF for the desktop bottom, just a little smaller.
Glue the MDF to the tabletop bottom with wood glue. I pin nailed in place to hold it tight against it while the glue dried.
I turned my attention to securing the 1x4's. I measured how tall I want them to stick out of the tubing using the temporaries as reference, taking into account the thickness of the desktop. Then using a template for a uniform hole pattern, I drilled out four holes on each side of the central support. I placed the 1x4's into position, held them in place with wood clamps, predrilled holes, and screwed in the screws. Then I added a cross member 1x4 between the two to increase rigidity and have a place to secure it to the desktop.
Installing the front pipe legs was a problem. The tabs are not strong enough to hold the weight of the heavy pipe legs, so that's why you see such extensive bracing in the pics. The bracing is the only thing that stopped these heavy legs from falling and destroying everything. Did I mention you can just use wooden dowels instead?
(Later I added power supply rail in between the two supports. You see it here uninstalled and more in the final picks)
Step 6: Fix Up the Electronics
Next I wired up the SPST push on/push off button that will be my new power button. Tested, good. I mounted the button to the red card tray that sits below the control panel so it wouldn't stick up so high. I also drilled out a hole in the control panel up top and installed a bushing on the hole to clean up the look.
I also had to reroute the wire connector for the control panel from the right to the left side. I pulled the wires through the bottom of the support tubing on the right. Then I ran the wires through an existing hole in the treadmill's bottom frame. My first thought was to run the wires up the left side with wire ties, but I would later drill into the left tube and run the wires internally, which looked nicer.
Step 7: Destroy Perfectly Fine Ikea Tabletop
If you ever wanted to see what's inside an Ikea table, now's your chance!
Now I'm cutting a hole in the tabletop for the control panel. The control panel has a 1/8" lip overhang around it, meaning it will hang in a hole if it's just the right size. Too small, and it won't fit. Too big, and it'll fall right through! The margin of error was TIGHT, so I measured and drew the hole to cut very carefully. I then cut with a plunge cutter. Removing the top veneer revealed 4" on each side to be solid (particle board) wood. Cutting through it wasn't fun, but doable. I could've avoided it and installed the control panel 4+ inches from the side but I wanted it over as far as possible.
From underneath, I installed drilled holes for the control panel mounting posts and added screws to pull it in tight. It now sits nice and flush.
Later, I added some cupholders using a hole saw and some hot glue.
Step 8: Add Tabletop. Done!
Position your tabletop how you like. I offset mine to the left, but you can install it anywhere because we have that 1/4 MDF to screw into. Simply add the screws for the floor flanges on the pipes and screw a few screws through the main support's crossmember into the tabletop. Touch up the paint where necessary and that it.
I just delivered this beaut to my office yesterday and I love it. It's very stable, almost no table sway, and it's just... good.
- Total cost: $330 (that includes $40 on extra pipe hardware to fix a height measurement error)
- Total cost if made with dowels instead of pipe (estimated): $214
- Total cost if made with dowels and no cupholders: $184