A Beautiful Mess

abeautifulmess.com · Mar 9, 2017

Tabletop Standing Desk DIY!

Oh man, I am super excited to share this project with you today! So, if you work in any type of office or computer desk situation, you've probably heard about the benefits of having standing desk space to combat all the sedentary sitting that we tend to do when shackled to a computer desk all day (and then we go sit in our cars or on the couch at home afterwards—it's a lot of sitting!). Even with me working from home, I'm either spending too much time on my laptop while I'm crunched into a couch (not great for your back or neck posture), or I'm sitting at a makeshift birth ball desk, but that gets tiring after a while too. I really wanted to make some workspace changes to sit less throughout the day so I could go between sitting and standing options throughout the day. I almost bought a standing desk attachment a few months back that sits on top of your desk and raises and lowers with hydraulic arms when you want to stand, but even the smaller ones I could find were still big enough to hang over my desktop area and about $300 too—yikes! Lately I've found several models of much sleeker stands that take up way less room and are even collapsible when not in use but still are around $200 for the model I thought would work best. I pretty quickly realized that with a little planning and template experimenting I could turn a $13 board of plywood into my own sleek stand!

-1/2" thick 2x4' plywood board
-rubber non-slip feet
-drill and drill bits
-medium sandpaper (around 120 grit)
-scrap cardboard
-wood stain (if desired)
-standing desk templates (right click to download and assemble by matching up the numbers after printing)

OK, so first I had to decide where I was going to use my desk and how high I wanted the keyboard and monitor levels to be. I do have a "computer desk" area in my office, but while it works for sitting to type, if I stand, the windows are right behind my monitor which would be kind of annoying (especially when it's really sunny outside). So I decided I'd like using it better on my work table on the adjacent wall. Based on what I read online, the best placement for the keyboard shelf is right below your elbows and your monitor should be 20-30" away from your face and almost eye level (it seems like looking slightly downward is most comfortable). With that info in mind, I got out some cardboard scraps, measured the height of the desk, and then cut out a few prototypes so I could get a good shape that would stand on its own as well as meet those requirements based on my height and desk. For reference, my desk is 30" high, the keyboard shelf sits about 7" above the desk, and the bottom of the laptop holding arms are 13.25" above the desk.

I would say since you are probably not the exact height as me (I'm 5'4"), you'll want to adjust your stand a bit to fit your needs. So I would use the templates to make a cardboard cutout version first. Make the notches on the standing side pieces much thinner for your cardboard mockup so they will fit together snugly since the 1/2" wide notches are meant for 1/2" plywood to fit together snugly in your second model. Once you make the template, mark where you would adjust the keyboard shelf placement notches, and if you need to make the laptop holder higher or lower, simply elongate or shorten the two side standing pieces to adjust how high the laptop holder sits at the top. Unless you are doing some major adjustments, the back "kickstand" piece will probably still be in a good spot to keep your stand stable, but if you think that needs to be adjusted as well, then relocate the notch and lengthen or shorten the kickstand piece as needed. Recut the template in the exact dimensions that are good for you, and that will be your template you'll use when you cut your wood. Make sure the notches are back to 1/2" wide on your final template since that's how wide your plywood will be.

Place your templates on top of your plywood board and use a jigsaw to cut out your boards. To make the notches, use a drill and 1/2" drill bit to make a hole at the end of each of your 4 notch locations on your 2 side pieces. Since a jigsaw doesn't have the cornering ability to get in a space that tight and turn around, if you make the end circle with a drill bit, then you only have to use the jigsaw to cut two straight lines to complete the notch shape.

You really want to make the two side pieces as close to the same as possible so your shelves are even. So once I cut the first side, I placed it on top of the other, tracing and drilling and cutting the notches using the first cut piece as a template for where they should go. You can even stack two pieces of wood on top of each other, trace a side template on top of the two, and drill and cut through them both at once for consistency (kind of like you would if you folded a piece of paper and cut two exact shapes with one cut). Either way should work!

Keep in mind when cutting your notches that you really want the notch to be juuust big enough for your other plywood pieces to fit snugly into the notch. So after you drill and cut one side of your notch, check the width with a piece of scrap plywood to see if you need to adjust your line on the other side before cutting that one as well.

If you ever need to start a cut with a jigsaw where it's annoying to have to come all the way in from the side or end, you can just drill a hole the size of your jigsaw bit next to the spot you want to start at (see photo above), and that will make it a lot faster too.

Once all your pieces are cut, use your sandpaper to sand down any rough edges (especially where your hands may sit on the keyboard shelf!), and use your stain and then polyurethane to seal your board. I was going to stain my stand, but the plywood was actually this light, whitish shade, so I left it unstained instead.

I also added little non-slip stoppers to the bottom feet of the stand as well as the arms where the laptop sits for extra grip protection. Once those were in place, the stand was ready to be put together and used!

If you have issues with your notches being cut too wide to feel secure when put together, you can either recut that piece if you have extra wood or cut a sliver of balsa wood in the right thickness and glue that into the notch area to make the notch a tighter fit (a really thin non-slip mat cut to size might be a good choice as well). You can even wood glue the whole thing together for extra stability if you like, it just won't be a collapsible stand later if you want to store it as small as possible.

It totally works! In fact, I typed this whole post while standing at it as a test, and it works great! I wouldn't store my laptop on the stand when not using it for safety (not with two curious kitties around that like to climb things), but I wouldn't suggest that with any higher stand, so that's just a general safety precaution. It's also helpful to have an anti-fatigue mat at your standing desk to give your feet and legs a bit of a cushion as well as a separate keyboard and mouse of course (mousepad on the wood is optional, mine works fine without it). I can already tell this is going to be a big help to sit less during the day, and I can already tell that Todd is eyeing my setup and will want one of his own now too. I would say this project gets a standing ovation from me for sure! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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