Have desk, will blog . . . ?

In my previous post An update on balls, I mentioned that I was working on a standing desk. I started out by setting my notebook and mouse at varying heights on an orange box, and a stack of books — actually, let’s go back a little further, shall we? No creation comes without a concept seeded in the mind of the creator, and as a creator who is a creation of a creator I feel compelled to tell the origin story of . . .

The Standing Desk!!

In my May 12, 2011 post Get up, lazy-bones! I posted an infographic about how sitting for long periods of time can contribute to the decline of a person’s health; that has been the one of the most popular posts on this blog, due to someone posting it to Reddit. The infographic is an eye-opener; if you haven’t heard of it before, you really should follow the link above and check it out.

It’s cool, I’ll wait while you do.

This concept of the deadly seated position has been talked about here and there, on Podcast, in news reports, and in articles; and the big solution for desk workers is called the standing desk. It can be seen as a fad or trend by some, but really it’s a smart and healthy idea for those who can pull it off.

I was taken in by the idea, but implementing it has been a matter of pulling the trigger. Aside from buying an expensive piece of specialty furniture online or modifying something into a Franken-desk — which is not a task I take lightly anymore — the options are pretty bare. I considered buying a lectern, but I couldn’t seem to find something I liked that would be the right height. I looked at hundreds of DIY standing desks that involved obtaining about thirty dollars’ worth of parts from IKEA, but their closest store is six hours away and they don’t offer everything online. Plus, I thought I could do better if I just had the time and materials.

When we bought this new home in January and I saw the garage, I was excited to get my hands on it and start some woodworking projects; the only problem was, we had to wait for the previous owner’s family to move all of her stuff out of it. Until then, they paid us rent for the garage.

Fast-forward to late May, when things began to happen. In a weekend, the garage was mostly cleared, and soon we had what we hoped were all of the keys and the garage door opener in hand. I soon changed the locks on the house and garage, and the frequency of the opener. I then began to plan my standing desk.

I decided to go the very common DIY route of making an add-on to my existing desk, since it would allow me to continue utilizing the real estate thereof and also afford me the ability to add a third dimension to its surface where my computer was concerned. To find the right heights, however, I started with an orange box and a stack of books:

(The trial height setup as it was some time ago)


This height setup actually wasn’t optimal, since I had to lean the screen all the way back; and then more often than not I found myself bending over for long periods of time while balancing my ledger or blogging. The typing height, however, was just about right.

I had to hold up my laptop to a few degrees below eye level — call it my personal preference — and measure the height of the future display surface. Then I started a series of concept sketches:

(The surviving concept sketches: one of them actually looks pretty close to the result.)


I began right before the Summer Surf Adventure by first cutting out squares of, then tracing the shape of the desk’s sides onto one square of, the particle board I had decided to use for the body of the desk. When it came to clamping it to the bench for cutting out the shape with my jigsaw, I ran into a little problem: my favorite yellow and blue Quick-grip clamps were nowhere to be found.

I still haven’t found them, blast it all. I can’t verify having seen them since moving!

After we came back from our sally to the coast and back, I did the right thing and bought a set of six clamps in different sizes from Menards. I love them almost as much as I love the Quick-grips.

For the display and typing surfaces of the desk, I used plank wood for that vintage, richly-stained wood aesthetic.

Dad always said that anything worth doing is worth doing right, after all.

I wanted character, simplicity of design, versatility of use, and synergy with my existing desk. I think I got my wish. After much time spent cutting, drilling, screwing (oddly not the most satisfying part of the process,) filling, and hours of tedious sanding by hand; after applying stain and two light coats of spray-on satin lacquer a day for three straight days, my project is complete and in place:

(The finished standing desk: a marvelous work of furniture.)

Honestly, the picture doesn’t do it justice, but the lighting in my office is what it is. I wish you could see it with your own eyes.

With the addition of a dozen stick-on cork disks applied to the bottoms of the feet (a premeditated purchase,) the standing desk not only stays as though  it’s glued down, but it’s downright stable; I didn’t have the guts to step on it, but I bet it could bear moderate human weight!

Just having this standing desk replace the orange box and the stack of books on my desk is probably the most satisfying part of the experience — not the fact that the result was more beautiful and perfect than I had anticipated, nor the knowledge of having done this job quite well; there will be other projects in the future, but as a start I’d say this is a nice one.

The cost of the project, considering I’d gotten the wood for free, and the screws were from previous projects — I purchased the wood filler, the stain, the lacquer, the cork disks, the clamps, the keyboard and a USB hub (since adding a keyboard would have taken my last port) for roughly seventy dollars; thus it was well spent.

Still, clearing that flotsam from the surface of my desk and getting it back on the shelf was the best feeling ever!

FYI, if you’re interested in learning some more about standing desks, including a very cogent argument against their use, check out the links below; I vetted them all for you.

. . . and the mason jar one is just really cool.



  1. This is an old photo, but here’s mine:
    Computer desk with the new shelf

    I didn’t build it– my father-in-law did, but I did most of the stain work. I can’t really stand at it much anymore, but, the option is there.

  2. Wow Rob —-totally awesome — and it looks wonderful. Absolutely brilliant craftsmanship — amazing what some forethought, re-planning, and planning, tweaking and time and effort will produce!

    May you use it in great health! 🙂

  3. Very nice GBD!
    By the way…hello old friend…you have been missed…LP and I have thought of you often…we are back …finally.

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