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how to build a great computer desk for $50 in under an hour

Discussion in 'Cases, Modding & Electronics' started by keakar, Sep 21, 2007.

  1. keakar

    keakar

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    How to Build a Great Computer Desk for $50 in Under an Hour

    i just recently built a great computer desk for under $50 and it only took a skill saw and 1 hour

    use my notes to build it as described or use it as a rough guide to tweak it to fit your own needs


    Materials you have to buy:

    1 - 1"x 2"x 8 ft board (this board not needed unless your making the top shelf)
    2 - sheets of 3/4" plywood (this is what it will look like so get something that looks good)
    10 - sturdy corner brackets (1/2" or 3/4" size) depending on how you build it you may want more
    but you need 2 for each side panel so thats 4 and then 6 more for the support brace under the top

    Material sizes as i built it:

    desk
    2 - 28 1/2" deep x 30" high side leg panels
    1 - 48" x 30" desk top
    1 - 16" high x 45" wide support brace

    top shelf
    1 - 46" wide x 16" deep top shelf
    2 - 1"x 2" top shelf support braces 45" long
    2 - 8" high x 13" deep top shelf side panels

    computer or storage cabinet
    1 - 24" high x 20" deep side panel
    2 - 12" wide x 20" deep shelves (one is the bottom and one is the center shelf)
    1 - 24" high x 12 3/4" wide door with 2 hinges and a magnetic latch
    1 - scrap piece to fill in the back opening if its a storage shelf

    (to use this as a computer shelf be sure to cut air holes in the back top corner area and in the support brace for good computer exhaust airflow)

    i added a 8"wide x 20" long board and screwed it onto the end of my top shelf (very securely) to get my computer up high and away from any dust and cable tangles and since i sized the top the full width of the desk i also had enough room for my 22" monitor and printer up there which left my entire top empty but for keyboard and mouse.


    Note - read all of the instructions before you start cutting things so you dont waste materials


    These are the directions to build a 30" deep x 48" wide computer desk with computer or storage cabinet area and top shelf


    Cutting Directions:

    step 1 - cut both sheets of the plywood longways so it is 30"wide x 8ft long and put the leftover shorter pieces off to the side for later.
    (make a straight cut here because it shows)

    if you want the desk to be deeper front to back then you can make make the size as deep as 36" but this will limit the size of the shelf and support brace to 12" deep. (only whats left after the cut)

    step 2 - now and cut both of the big pieces to the 28 1/2" deep size you want for your side panels (legs) so they are 30" high x 28 1/2" deep.

    At this point you can think about cutting out some fancy designs if you want but the more cuts you make the weaker the legs get and more likely it may be to develope a curvature to the legs over time so i just left mine solid.


    step 3 - now use one of the leftovers from step 2 for your desktop and put the other one off to the side for later. (i made my desktop 4 ft wide but whatevers left limits how big you can go)

    step 4 - now you still need a cross support for the desk so take one of the 8 ft long shorter pieces from step 1 that you put to the side and cut that one to fit under the top and between the two side panel legs.

    step 5 - now take the long piece you trimmed off the first plywood sheet and it should be enough to build the storage box and make your top shelf. (optional)

    step 6 - If you are building the top shelf for the desk then cut a 1"x2"x8ft board so that it goes roughly just short of the length of the top (depends on the overhang you want)
    these two boards will be as a support beam for the top to hold some weight and also adds strength to hold the shelfs side panels from being wobbly.
    (you need to calculate the measurements based on what size you build)

    step 7 - the leftover piece from the shelf you cut will go under the desks top located about 24" from the front of the desks edges for proper support AND legroom.

    Note - The support brace gives support to both the top and side panels so i wanted to use something no less then 12" x whatever the space between the two side panels and attach it with two corner hinges on all three sides making contact. (any design modifications such as using legs instead of side panels should keep this cross panel in the design somehow to prevent wobbly legs)


    The way i did my assembly -

    step 1 - lay what you choose to be the top surface facing down to protect it while you assemble the side panels and support brace to it.

    step 2 - take the side panels and attatch one corner bracket at about 4" in from the front and back edges of the side panels making sure to put them on whats going to be the upper inside edge where your feet go and for the support brace as well. (you dont want the ugly side showing lol)

    step 3 - for the support brace i place my corner brackets about 1/3 of the way in from the edges so it would be about 4" in from the short side edges and about 12-16" in from whats going to be the long side edge.

    step 4 - screwing it all together (here is where you might need an extra set of hands or get creative)

    first screw the support brace to each side panel flush with the top edges and offset from the center so it is 20" away from the front edge of each side panel to keep you from hitting it with your legs.

    now you can position and screw the side panel and support brace as one unit to the desks top so everything lines up ok in case you made a wrong measurement somewhere, for a better looking edge it should be at least 3/4" shorter in width than the top is from each side or 1 1/2" shorter so i try to line it up evenly.

    now its finished so turn the desk over and paint or stain or leave as is. i recommend you dont polyurethane the top or add any "shine" to it unless you use a mouse pad because shiny surfaces really interfere with optical mouses. (optical mouse = non reflective surfaces) i have to use a newspaper for my mouse to work good (as seen in pics).


    i didnt re-invent the wheel here and yes you can just go buy a flimsy crappy desk for the same $50 and save all the effort but when i looked around they never have a big roomy desk with a top shelf the size of this desk so for me it was the best solution as i wasnt going to buy a professional office type desk.

    i used the leftover pieces of wood to build a 2 shelf side cabinet box for storing stuff with a magnet latch and small door but it is just as easy to leave it without it or make that a box to slide your computer into or make your top shelf short so the computer fits off to one side of the desk. you can also get storage with a small file cabinet slid under the desk on one side or both but that limits leg room and i hate banging into stuff with my knees.
    (dont forget, since it all screws together taking it apart and moving it around is easy)

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Options for an added top shelf and storage for your desk


    on mine i went all out and built it 8" high so my cd file cases fit under it and i made it a 4 ft long shelf so i added 1x2 runners under it for added strength. it holds my printer, monitor, speakers, and the computer case. the computer case was supported by adding a seperate 8"x24" board screwed securely to one end of the shelf and allowed to hang over in the front. this way i could remove it if i decided to put my computer in another spot. i also screwed the top shelf in place with some extra corner brackets so it cant move around or tip over from the weight of the computer if it gets bumped. the only thing on my desk now is the keyboard and mouse.



    Options for simple monitor shelf

    If you dont need a full shelf and just want a little monitor shelf to slide your keyboard and mouse under get a 12" wide shelf board or some scrap 3/4" wood and on each side cut something to use as end panels (1x4, or 1x6, or scrap wood) to raise your monitor to the height you want it. Now the keyboard and mouse can slide under the monitor shelf completely out of the way when not in use giving you more needed desk space.

    when building small shelves that need to hold some weight, remember to use wood glue and screws at the joints to hold it together for added strength because nails can pull out too easy over time when under weight. (dont underestimate how strong gluing things makes it, use the glue)


    i would make it at least 24" wide to have room to fit and the 18" keyboard and mouse easily underneath it.



    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Warning - if you are unsure about wiring and dont really know what you are doing with electricity then DO NOT TRY THIS NEXT STEP and just screw one of those trip fused outlet banks under the desk to plug everything into.

    To add optional light and power outlet:


    As seen in the pics below, i wired the desk to fit my needs. i added a spare electrical outlet and a 24" floresent under cabinet light with built in switch i got from from walmart for $10 so now i have a keyboard and desk light that doesnt shine in my face but i did find the light too bright at night so i covered the clear plastic cover with 3 layers of masking tape to tone down the brightness for working at night but it still gives plenty of light for reading.

    the main power cord i used is 20-30 amp heavy duty appliance cord (don't skimp on this power cord, you can damage your whole system due to insufficient voltage and amperages)

    seen under the desk on the left side is a light switch i hooked up as a master off switch.
    (make sure that this switch is wired with 12-2 wire only so it can safely handle the amperages)

    the white box seen on the monitor shelf is a spare outlet. i used a heavy duty 14 guage wire extension cord wire to wire it. this outlet provides power for anything on the desk i need to plug in like phone chargers and plug this cord and the under cabinet light power cord into "two gang" outlet that has power all of the time.

    unseen and behind the cross support panel i have two seperate "two gang" (two gang = 2 outlets which is 4 plugs) or double outlet box i screwed under the top behind the support brace. it is feed power from a heavy duty 20-30 amp appliance cord i bought at home depot along with the rest of the stuff you see.

    one "two gang" outlet box has power all of the time and powers the printer, the outlet on the top shelf and under cabinet light. the other "two gang" outlet box i have the power to it first running through the main kill switch (light switch) to easily shut off power to the computer, monitor, and speakers with just one flip of the switch. (i trimed a 1" triangle off of the top left corner of the support brace to run the wire through and over it)

    Remember everything is supposed to be set up so it will be easy to take down and move anywhere so keep that in mind in the way you run your wires to things.

    Note - it is better if you use two seperate "two gang" boxes so it is easy to remember which outlets are powered all of the time and which outlets run through the switch, plus four gang boxes are hard as hell to find covers for lol.

    if i had to rewire everything again i would install all the outlet boxes over to the left side panel so when disassembled all wiring was attatched to just this one piece. the way it is now i would have to take apart and disconnect the wires to the light switch to completely disassemble the desk.
     

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    Last edited: Feb 5, 2011
    techsmith, JacKz5o and tkpenalty say thanks.
  2. DaMulta

    DaMulta My stars went supernova

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    Any pics of the work?


    I have a new desk that's to big to bring home at work.....I really want it here.
     
  3. 3991vhtes

    3991vhtes New Member

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    cool...


    I was thinking of buying a new desk (mine's falling apart, literally)...$50 ain't too bad, either :)

    Thanks!
     
  4. Vinc3nt_Steele

    Vinc3nt_Steele New Member

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    Or if you have an extra kitchen table like I did, you can go to IKEA and spend 10 bucks for 4 legs and about half an hour to make 2 tables.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. panchoman

    panchoman Sold my stars!

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    argh, this makes me want to build my own desk now, i love like the L shaped or U shaped workstation type desks lol, but oh well lol, some day..
     
  6. kwchang007

    kwchang007 New Member

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    Hate to semi-jack your thread, but what about taking your desk then creating a L desk out of it. I love my L desk, it's just so great for working and putting stuff. Basically just take another 30 or 36 inch wide x about 5 or 6 feet long take a couple of metal connectors (don't know what else to call them, like a piece of metal with like 3 screws on both sides, so you have 6 screws) and connect the L part to the other part. Well you'd have to put a leg below the extension first. Then if you want you could put a bookshelf under the L part. Now this is all based off of my desk from wal mart...so yeah.
     
  7. keakar

    keakar

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    easy enough to do, remember that you are starting with a sheet of plywood that is 4ft x 8 ft so you could simply lay the sheets overlapping each other in an L shape and screw the L part onto the top of the desk on whatever side you prefer and then add the side panel and cross board for support.

    figure out the measurements for the new pieces to fit and double the amout of corner brackets is all you have to do.
     
  8. kwchang007

    kwchang007 New Member

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    Well you don't even have to lay it on top, plus that makes it uneven, goes against my slight OCD. That's why I'd use the two brackets on the bottom. Oh yeah....side panels and cross boards, forgot about those, but if you wanted it to look cool and not like others, take a nice looking leg then use some 2x2's (take a 2x4 and split it down that middle) and brace it on the bottom using a the 2x2's. Then use another leg at the intersection, and one at the other end. Wait...two legs at each end, not at the junctions. It'd give it a very different look because of the way you can see straight through it, not into any supports. Maybe this summer I will try and build a desk from my bro. Show my parents I can actually build things (they don't seem to think so). Oh and the bookcase could be build straight into the desk, get some L's on the legs and use the same 2x2 bracing system on a two shelf system. Then hell go all out with a keyboard place, a place for the computer (little hide away). Then a shelf on top of it...hmm I think that's what I'm doing this summer, maybe winter break.
     
  9. keakar

    keakar

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    thats easy enough to do but i kept it simple to keep cost to a minimum but it can be made to look more furniture like for a few more $. it all depends on just how nice you want it to look. i decided against trim molding on mine.

    well IMHO it would be better and more secure if you just screwed and also glued a 6"x 30" piece of that 3/4" ply sticking out 3" along its edge from under the L parts top so it would attatch with screws and not rely on the brackets so it would be solid as a rock but still easy to remove.
     
  10. kwchang007

    kwchang007 New Member

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    Yeah, that'd work to. Probably would be better than brackets. But the again I want to do 2x2's to support it, so those would probably run all the way through the L anyways.
     
  11. keakar

    keakar

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    if you do that then i think your L part will still have to have the plywood support underneath for extra support for the end panel or it would be wobbly.

    if you decide on using legs instead of the end panels it takes away all the tie in support that gives it all its strength. this means rethinking how it will be braced and supported. (maybe you could make the legs for it from those 2x2's?)

    also dont forget this is 3/4" plywood im talking about so it really doesnt need any support or strength if its screwed together in the manner i suggested. but the bottom line is take the idea and make it your own.

    remember everybody the idea is only the beginning, where you take it is up to you.

    after building sveral simple desks i learned that the more you keep it simple the stronger and sturdier it is. the prettier i made em the more they got wobbly lol. :toast:
     
  12. keakar

    keakar

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    please post some pics for us kwchang007 when your done, we would love to see it :rockout: :toast:
     
  13. kwchang007

    kwchang007 New Member

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    Heh....you might have to wait till summer depending on my hw load.
     
  14. MrPr3f3ct New Member

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    Hey keakar, what's in the plastic baggie in the storage compartment? Do you have some papers or a bowl stashed in there too??
     
  15. panchoman

    panchoman Sold my stars!

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    whats the switch in pic 2 do?
     
  16. kakazza New Member

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    seconded
     
  17. keakar

    keakar

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    its a light switch i hooked up as a master off switch.

    the white box seen on the monitor shelf is a spare outlet. i used a 16 guage lamp cord to wire it but i recommend using a 14 guage extension cord wire to wire it instead so it is properly grounded for safety. this outlet provides power for anything on the desk and also to supply power for it the 18" under cabinet florescent light wires are run inside this outlet box.

    unseen and behind the cross support panel i have a "four gang" outlet box screwed under the top. it is feed power by a heavy duty 20-30 amp appliance cord i bought at home depot along with the rest of the stuff you see. two of the outlets (4 plugs) have power all of the time and power the printer, the outlet on the monitor shelf and the under cabinet light. the other two outlets (4 plugs) i have running through the main switch (light switch) to easily shut off power to the computer, monitor, and speakers with one switch. everything is set up to be easy to take down and move anywhere. (it is better if you use seperate "gang" boxes so it is easy to remember which outlets are on the switch lol.

    here are some pics:
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 30, 2007
  18. 3991vhtes

    3991vhtes New Member

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    OFF TOPIC!

    I think this should be stickied
     
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  19. keakar

    keakar

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    well thank you, please send a pm and let the moderator know about it
     
  20. 3991vhtes

    3991vhtes New Member

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    PM'd zek:)
     
  21. zekrahminator

    zekrahminator McLovin

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    Well worth the sticky :).


    But in the future, here's an idea. Why don't you talk to W1zzard about perhaps turning these things into articles? We need more articles anyways (and article-writing is a great way to get on staff) :).
     
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  22. keakar

    keakar

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    thanks zek.

    i never even thought about it, good point. maybe he could still do it as an article?
     
  23. WarEagleAU

    WarEagleAU Bird of Prey

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    I agree. Sticky all his work and make them articles. You truly are a wonderful person Keakar.
     
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  24. keakar

    keakar

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    :p thanks
     
  25. Flamingsupernova

    Flamingsupernova New Member

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    nice
     

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