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After a lot of searching, I just couldn't find a desk to fit my needs for less than $300.
Build my own.
It was essential that the design be able to accommodate a number of my daily tasks. I wanted enough space to be
comfortabe checking my emails and playing online games partybets.com, whilst still being able to organise my various files and other bits of equipment.
I did a measurement of everything in my bedroom, and put them into Illustrator to get an idea of how much space I had to work with. I wanted to accomplish a few goals:
+ Hold 3 monitors on a shelf, as big as 21 inches each.
+ Support the weight of three 21 in monitors.
+ Hold a Home Theater Receiver, DVD player, and at least 2 other components (Laserdisc, VCR, PS2, N64 etc) under the shelf.
+ Hold a Mini-Fridge.
+ Hold my printer.
+ Hold at least 3 systems, possibly in rackmount cases.
+ Have enough desk space to rest a book or 3-ring binder.
+ Have enough space to rest my arms when using the keyboard (I HATE keyboard trays).
+ Space to mount 2 UPS units.
+ Fit within the 70 inches available in the corner of my room.
+ Efficiently utilize as much wood as possible while cutting down on waste.
+ Perhaps most important, it has to be easily disassembled since I am moving in a few months.
Ok, here is a list of things you are going to need.
Three 48X96" sheets of wood, 3/4" thick (I used oak plywood @ $50 a sheet).
Two 11X72" pine boards, also 3/4" thick.
Eight 2X19" pine sticks, 1" thick.
Four 2X22" pine sticks, 1" thick
Four 2X16" pine sticks, 1" thick
Simpson Strong Ties (Get em at Home Depot)
Eight Large 90 Degree Ties [P/N L70 - Galvanized Angles] - $1.26 ea
Sixteen Shelf Brackets [P/N A21 - 1-1/2"x1-3/8" Galvanized Angle] - $0.35 ea
Twenty-Four Medium Sized 90 Degree Ties [P/N 23 - 1-1/2"x2-3/4" Galvanized Angle] - $0.57 ea
Six Small Ties [P/N TP15 - 1-13/16"x5" Tie Plate] - $0.37 ea
Four Large Ties [P/N TP35 - 3-1/8"x5" Tie Plate] - $0.42 ea
4 Thick 90 Degree Brackets [P/N A33 - 3"x3" Galvanized Angle] - $1.39 ea ::note:: you can use any 90 deg bracket if you want
500, yes that's right, 500 #6 x 3/4" Sheet Metal Screws
32 #8 x 1 1/2" screws
Two Bags of 5/16" Wooden Dowels ::note:: if you have access to a biscuit joiner, use it.
One or 16 nails (1.5in long).
Large Guides, that can be added up to at least 6'. I used an aluminum kit that Home Depot sells called the Empire Pro Edge for $15.97.
2-4 Clamps, the one I use in the pics are GREAT (but 5 bucks a piece)
Square (must have a 45 Degree angle as well)
3/4" Straight Router Bit
Rounding Router Bit (Only if you want to round the edges)
Doweling Kit or Biscuit Joiner ::note:: Use a biscuit joiner if you can.
And at least one friend/parent/neighbor/assistant to help you hold things down.
|Let the Cutting Begin:|
Now it's very important to measure carefully throughout this whole process. Measure at least two different points along each line, draw your line and then measure again.
Your first cut will be the diagonal cuts for the desk surfaces. Measure the halfway point of the long side of the board and make a mark. Then draw a line from each corner to the center, be sure to check your lines with the square.
When you make the cuts, you should start from the center and work your way to the edge, your cuts should stay very clean that way.
Make the rest of the cuts as the guide instructs. ::note:: when you cut the first board (with the shelves) be sure to have at least 19 inches of width. Have a little extra, if you cut them too small, rackmount cases will not fit inside. Remember that your cuts are destructive, meaning you will slowly lose wood at each cut. The 29 inches is just an estimate to how much wood should be left after you cut the shelves out, and should be followed when making the rear supports.
The TableTop A1 and A2 can be any size you want them to be. I chose to make them bigger to maximize my actual desk depth up front.
- CUT GUIDE -
|Let the Routing Begin (Part 1):|
Now it's time to break that brand new router out. You're going to need a 3/4" wide straight bit, and you're going to aim to route just about width of your pine boards (should be 11-11.25 inches). After you have these grooves in your left and right inner cabinet sides, AND in your 12in x 29in rear supports you're ready to change the bits out.
- The front edge of each cabinet side.
- The bottom of each pine board (the side that will rest in the grooves you just made).
::note:: you need to make sure the pine boards slide into the grooves easily and are flush with the top of the cabinet side tops. This is where the majority of the load will be dissipated, and you want it to spread along all of the cabinet and rear supports.
|Let the Construction Begin:|
Now you should have all the pieces to your new desk puzzle. The first things I started to build where the frames for the cabinets. Home Depot cut them for me for free, which was great, and they were identical to the sizes I requested. You need the front frames to be equal to the size of your shelves (19in + ~.125 if desired)). The side frames need to allow the rear ones to allow the pine boards to clear them. I used nails to attach the frames together, but I suggest you use 1 nail and then drill 2 screws per joint for stability, then remove the nail (or leave it).
Now that you have the four frames ready, you can assemble the cabinets. You want to start by clamping down the frames to one side of the cabinet. Clamp them down hard, and use more than two if you can.
Then you want to drive five #8 1.5" screws equally spread apart from the inside of the lower frame into the cabinet edge. This will hide the screws existence from the outside, providing a much cleaner appearance. Repeat this process with the upper frames, except use 3 screws instead of five. ::note:: you should start driving the screws in the middle and work your way outward to avoid the wood bowing between the frame and the edge. After you are done they should look something like this:
Next you want to put together the rear corner support. According to the spec, the routed groove should be offset by 3/4" so you can mount them together and have both groove line up 6 inches from the rear. Line it up and drive the #6 screws into three thick 90 degree brackets spread equally along the inside.
When I set my lower frames, I left a 1/4" gap from the front edges of the cabinet sides. This provides me with a space to put molding to hide the edges of the first shelve and the pine frame.
You also have to put the lower "floor" of the cabinets on, which is accomplished using the small brackets. In hindsight, I should have drilled them on from underneath the cabinets, to conceal the screws again. But the way I've done it has somewhat of an industrial look to it.
Now you're ready to start putting the pieces together. Go into the room of choice and line up the cabinets and rear corner support, then insert the pine boards.
Now I can't stress enough that a biscuit cutter would be easier to use than dowels, but if you don't have access to one you can use your handy doweling kit. The concept behind doweling is simple, and I didn't take any pictures, which I apologize for. Basically you're going to use dowels to join the table tops together and keep them flush together. You're going to drill 5/16" holes in the edges of each table top at identical places along each table top just a bit deeper than half the depth of the dowel, then drop a bit of wood glue inside all the holes on one side of the table top and insert the dowels inside to dry. After a few hours, you can drop glue into the other holes and run a thin layer of glue along the edge. Then slide the first piece into the second, and hammer it down so it flush with a rubber mallet. Since you don't have any clamps big enough to hold these things together, I use the large ties and small ties while the glue was still wet, and then let them dry over night. ::note:: the pictures don't show it, but I used as many screws as possible when attaching them to the table tops, around 150 total I think for both tablet tops. The more screws you use, the stronger the joint will be.
Another thing you're going to need to be careful with is the placement of the ties. Plan them out beforehand so they don't block the contact with the table tops in any way, that's why mine are so close together on the upper table top.
|Routing (Part 2):|
After your desktops are assembled and ready to go, you have to round the edges. I rounded every edge, it makes it easier to carry with the table tops joined, you can run the router across the edges and not have a problem. I also rounded the corner edge of the rear support.
At this point you're ready to attach the table top to the cabinets and pine board supports. After that you need to place your 8 inch stands where you'd like them. I spec'ed mine for two 14 inch spaces and two 18 inch spaces. When using the medium brackets, you have to place them on both sides of the stands, to prevent them from failing in one direction and collapsing:
Notice the way the brackets are offset to prevent the mounting screws from colliding. ::note:: Be sure to attach them to the stands first, then the table top!
The remaining small brackets (there should be 8 of them) are for the 2 extra shelves you have, at what height you use them is up to you.
|Sanding and Finishing:|
Still has to be done. Leave me alone already. I'll update it when it's been done.
|Lessons Learned and Advice for Future:|
=+ Use a biscuit joiner!
=+ Use a high quality blade on your circular saw.
=+ Variable speed drills are better.
=+ Measure everything at least twice.
=+ Leave enough room between the desk and the wall to get your hands in.
=+ If I could do it all again, I'd move the cabinets about 4 inches away from the wall, but keep my table top where it is.
=+ Wait until you have very nice weather to start.
=+ Buy good wood, but at a good price. I passed up on some great maple for $26 a sheet, which would have cut my costs in half! I missed out on that stuff and had to pay $50 a sheet for oak plywood. That hurt.
=+ When cutting plywood, there is a good side and bad side on the sheet of wood itself. One side looks like it has a seamless finish, the other side has something that looks more like sections of finish. I recommend making all cuts with the bad side up. This should ensure that the good side has nothing but very clean smooth cuts in it.
I'd also like to give a shout-out and thank my buddy, TheJesus. He helped me from start to finish, held things down, helped carry things back and forth and didn't wear any eye protection throughout the whole process. I couldn't have done it without his help.
More thanks go out to Veonik, for hosting this tutorial.