Tuesday 11 October 2016

Standing desk attachment

The desks we have in the office at work are a weird height. Until recently the desks were also incredibly wobbly as they are all joined together along a wall, and they were only attached at the back of the wall. There were no supports at the front of the desks. A few years use by PhD students and post-docs and several computers had weakened the support in the back making the desk slope and be wobbly.

But a few weeks ago we got extra legs put in in the front of the desks. This meant no more wobbling or sloping desks! Since the desks were now stable some of us in the office tried some DIY standing desks.
Plastic box as a standing desk
Just this upside down plastic box worked pretty well to relieve some back strain once or twice a day, but it was annoying that my mouse couldn't fit on there as well. I googled a bit on making a standing desk attachment, but didn't really find any satisfactory designs. So I decided on making my own.

To settle on dimensions I measured the height of the plastic box - around 280 mm. I decided to make my piece 290 mm as it would be easier to make it lower than higher should I wish to change the height. For the depth I measured the depth of my keyboard, added some length and rounded it up to 300 mm. For the width I decided it had to be 600 mm or more. I found a huge mouse pad cheaply on AliExpress with the measurements 300*800 mm. The space under my desk was 850 mm wide, so something 800 mm wide should fit under there if I needed to store it away. And again, easier to make it smaller if necessary than make it larger.

After drawing up a few designs on paper and looking through the materials pile in the workshop, I settled on a plywood top with a frame all around the bottom and wide legs that would screw into the frame. All the wood was leftovers from my father-in-law making a new deck for his pick-up truck.

Tools used:  tape measure, caliper, pen, square, wooden pallet to clamp things to for cutting, 2 speed clamps, circular saw, vice, belt sander, vet-and-dry vacuum cleaner, Power drill*2, impact driver, 3 mm drill bit, square bit, countersinker, wooden stick to stir paint, paint brush

Materials used: Plywood sheet, wood (similar to batten), square head countersink screws, light gray acrylic paint, magazines for paint protection

First I marked and cut the plywood to size.
Scrap plywood piece with drawing on top
Since the desk space in our workshop is filled with lots of things, and the workshop has carpeted floor we try to not do dirty jobs in there, but keep it in the garage or outdoors. I used pallet we had laying around and clamped my wood pieces to it with speed clamps. A battery powered circular saw was used to cut all the wood.
Cutting the plywood.
Then I cut the framing and made sure the pieces were the correct length.
Checking that framing is cut to right length
Finally I cut the legs out of the same wood as the framing. Ideally I would have liked slimmer legs, or possibly metal legs - but this way it was free and easily available.
All pieces together. The stack is the 4 legs.
The framing pieces and legs were quite rough as they were offcuts from a much larger piece of wood (actually they are offcuts from the wooden sides of the pickup truck tray where the vice is fastened). I held all the pieces individually in the vice, clamping them with wooden pieces to avoid making vice marks in the soft wood. I used a belt sander with 120 grit sand paper and a wet-and-dry vacuum cleaner attached to the sander to get rid of most of the sanding dust.
Sanding the framing and legs.
After sanding all the pieces I did a quick test assembly. I used speed clamps to hold the framing pieces to the plywood and I pre-drilled all the holes. I didn't bother countersinking the holes at this point. The legs were then pre-drilled, countersunk and screwed on.
Clamping the pieces in the right spot for drilling and screwing. 
Finally the first version of the standing desk attachment was done. I brought it into the home office and did a quick test - making sure the piece wasn't lopsided and that it would fit a standard size keyboard and mouse comfortably.
Quick test to make sure it wasn't lopsided.
Once I knew that the piece wasn't lopsided I added some more screws, pre-drilling and countersinking the holes. I also unscrewed the first few screws to countersink the holes now. This step was very fast thanks to having two power drills and an impact driver. After adding more screws to the legs to stop the slight wobble the piece became slightly lopsided, so I had to sand the bottom of the legs a bit. After some work the piece was standing properly again.
Adding more screw, countersinking holes.
After this step I brought the piece in to work to test it for a week, making sure the height was suitable and that the size was good. I brought it home again the following weekend to add a few more screws, sand it some more and give it a few coats of paint. We managed to find a bucket of light gray acrylic paint in the clearance shelf of Mitre10. The colour goes really well with the desk colour.
First coat of paint.
After 2-3 coats of paint I brought it into work. I added some silicon non-slip stick-on circles under the legs to keep it from sliding around on the desk. I used it for about one week like this before the large mouse pad arrived. Before I had to use a piece of paper as a mouse pad as the surface wasn't smooth enough for the mouse to work properly and I couldn't find any spare mouse pads.
Finished piece.
Then the mouse pad arrived and the standing desk attachment looks really good and works perfectly.
Standing desk with mouse pad.
Total work time for this project was probably around 6 hours.