How to make a stand-up desk

Because staring into a computer screen for too long has a certain effect on me-Think: Tranquilizer dart and clinical depressant-I’m what you’d call a stand-up desk fan.

A stand-up desk truly does help me fight off the urge to go nighty-night at midday. And I also feel it’s helping me do my part to keep us from becoming a chair-shaped species.

While many stand-up desks I’ve seen are adjustable, they’re just glorified tables. And I mean table. Like if you have a printer, a coffee cup, or anything you plug in…well…store them somewhere else. Design-wise, there’s often a certain Death Star-ness to them as well. So our answer: DIY your own stand-up desk. We made this one for about $100. And, we made it mobile. Ideal for a part time home office or a home under constructions as ours is. Unplug a single plug and roll this command center to the next outpost.

Step 1: Materials you will need

(8) 5/4 x 8 x 8 pine boards*

(2) sheets ½-inch sanded plywood

(4) 4-inch rolling/locking casters

(1) power strip

2 ½-inch cabinet screws

1 5/8-inch drywall screws

2 1/2-inch cabinet screws


Step 2: The How To

How to make a stand-up desk

How to

I start with the stool. This is the driver for the height.

My stool is adjustable up to a height of 32-inches and that works for me. It’s as comfortable as a chair, but comfort is relative. For your desk, try sitting at a table and measuring from your lap to the desk top. Then use this measurement to reverse engineer a stand-up desk height that works for you and the stool you buy-or make. Another guide: I like my elbows to be at right angles when I type, standing or sitting, so the combination of 32-inch stool and desktop at 41 1/2-inches works.

*The legs and frame of this stand-up desk are 3 ½-inches wide (a typical 5/4 x 4 board). However, we bought 5/4 x 8 pine boards because they were significantly cheaper. We ran them through the table saw to get a uniform 3 ½-inch width and saved money.

Each leg is (2) pieces 36-inches long. To get all the cuts the same, we measured and cut one piece, then marked the MyFixitUpLife work bench instead of measuring all the pieces individually.

Faster. Easier. More accurate.

Step 3: Measure and mark the legs

How to make a stand-up desk

Assemble each leg into an ‘L’. We used 2 ½-inch cabinet screws. Awesome sauce. We also used the miter saw fence and bench as a support during assembly.

*Mark the bench for accurate repeat cuts.

Step 4: A stable work surface with a stop on the back is ideal for this part of the job.

How to make a stand-up desk

On a flat surface, assemble two rectangular frames. To create a desktop 32 x 60-inches with a generous overhang, we made our frames 24 x 54-inches.

Step 5: Assemble the frames as square and flat as possible.

How to make a stand-up desk

Attach legs to frame. Pre-drill and countersink to minimize splitting. I drive 1 15/8-inch drywall screws from the inside

Step 6: Keep pressure on the legs

How to make a stand-up desk

Use a clamp to help the screws grab tight.

Step 7: Square is good.

How to make a stand-up desk

Super-precision appreciated but not required.

While assembling the legs to the frame, check for square as best you can. Also, for the floor work, I layed out my Stanley Utility Mat. Love that thing.

Step 8: Fasten frame #2

How to make a stand-up desk

With frame #1 in place at the base of the legs, fasten frame #2 at the top.

To help keep frame #2 from slipping, I set screws 3 5/8-inches down the inside of the leg to hold it.

Step 9: Casters make this stand up desk a mobile office monster.

How to make a stand-up desk

I like 4-inch casters for this.

Switch back to the cabinet screws. They’re perfect for the casters. You can only catch three of the four holes, but that’s fine.

Step 10: Cut the top to size.

How to make a stand-up desk

We place the good side down and use a straight edge guide to get a clean, straight cut.

You could free-hand this, but if you route the edge the imperfections will really show up. And full sheets are typically not table saw country.

Step 11: Cut smaller sheets on the table saw.

How to make a stand-up desk

We used the leftover plywood to make the bottom shelf. Note: It took 2-pieces and that might drive you crazy. Or, if you like, make the desktop smaller. Or get a second sheet of ply to make a 1-piece bottom shelf with the grain direction going the same was as the top. And use it for the printer/storage shelf.

Step 12: Staple the top and bottom shelves.

How to make a stand-up desk

Loooove the stapler. We cantilevered the front 5-inches past the legs.

Make sure the ‘reveals’-how far the top sticks past all four sides-are even before fastening. Sometimes it helps to get it close, then fasten one corner.

Step 13: Use a chamfer

How to make a stand-up desk

The difference between chamfer and no chamfer: Big. Just a slight easing of the edge here make for happy woodworking.

Step 14: Add shelves, a power strip, and ‘cord ditch’ as you like.

How to make a stand-up desk

I ran a 16-inch deep shelf flush to the back of the stand-up desk to house the printer, paper, and other stuff.

Use a 1 1/2-inch bit and make sure not to drill the frame. This hole, I did two, I call a cord ditch because I fold long cords and slip them inside to help manage the tangle.

Step 15: Place the power strip

How to make a stand-up desk

Mine is lonely without one of my favorite office tools, my Accell power station.

A power strip screwed to the frame collects cords and also helps manage the tangle.

Step 16: Make it yours!

How to make a stand-up desk

Make a place for your cup of pens and cup of coffee. And Vader mask.

The universe is now yours to command. On wheels.


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