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Computer In A Desk – The surface made by the door has enough space for my computer, monitor, speakers and other business needs. Whitson Garden
After spending countless hours putting together a killer workspace, you’ve got a gimmicky desktop computer, multiple monitors, powerful speakers and… a computer desk that’s too small to hold it all. Here’s how to build your own custom, ergonomic computer table that displays all your tech, looks great, and won’t break the bank.
Computer In A Desk
There are an infinite number of ways to build a desk. But for this particular project, I had four criteria that I had to meet with my DIY computer desk.
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After much research, I decided to build my own desk from a door slab and some adjustable legs from Ikea. Clear all four targets out of the park and as a bonus, you’ll be able to easily find parts no matter where you live. Here’s what I used.
For a large piece of furniture like this, you need a wide table. And there are some slabs you can try.
The Ikea KARLBY countertop is extremely popular due to its large size and relative affordability: it costs between $100 and $200, depending on size and color. Although you can use one with this guide, I still prefer to go cheap. So my table has a big door.
Doors are very reasonably priced, selling for $50 to $100 new. If you search Craigslist, you can probably find some that are even cheaper, or if you’re really lucky, get a free one. The door is not as polished on the edges as the KARLBY, and may need some additional stain or paint work, but I appreciate the more industrial look. Look for something with a solid core (not hollow) and a width that matches the ideal depth of your desk — most ports are between 24 and 36 inches wide. If you have a circular saw, you can always cut a large slab to size, but patient buyers don’t need that.
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I chose a door that highlighted the wood grain. Then I sanded and painted and finished it myself. If you end up using a secondhand door, you may have to contend with the hole where the handle used to be, although you can use it for cable management at the back. In my case, I hid the hole under the mouse and keyboard pad.
This is the other half of this table’s special sauce. Depending on whether you want to add a set of drawers to your workspace, you’ll need four or five support legs in total.
While most people recommend standard desk legs or industrial tubes, I went with Ikea’s OLOV legs. At $15 each, they’re a bit more expensive than Ikea’s regular table legs, but they’re adjustable, meaning you can find the perfect height for you. This is crucial for good ergonomics, so it’s worth the extra cost.
Again, hunt Craigslist to see if you can find cheap legs. I bought a used table with five OLOVs from a neighbor. Its total cost is $30, less than the $75 Ikea charges for five new legs.
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No workspace is complete without somewhere to store your flash drives, sticky notes and other miscellaneous items. I recommend meeting this requirement with a filing cabinet or set of drawers that matches the ideal height of your desk (for a guide to calculating that height, see the next section) so you can use it as one of the legs. Since it depends on your size, this component is very personal.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but Craigslist is your friend here, although Wayfair works well even if you don’t have a bustling secondhand market in your area. I used a filing cabinet I already had at home with one of these jury-rigged organizers in the top drawer to hold all my stuff.
Those are the bones of our build, but you might want a few more things to pull it all together. I highly recommend these two anti-sag bolsters, especially for large furniture that sags under its own weight.
I bought an unfinished door and painted it myself, so I also needed some wood stain and semi-gloss polyurethane.
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Other items help keep your gear tidy. If your computer monitors aren’t height adjustable, you might want to prop them up with something like this super cheap DIY stand. To really declutter your workspace, I recommend some form of cable management like a gutter or an Ikea SIGNUM tray. Make sure you also include a mouse pad – this will protect your desk surface from black marks and excessive wear and tear.
Finally, you need two tools: a drill and a screwdriver (or a driver bit for your drill). You’ll need to attach everything to the wood with screws, but you’ll need a drill to create the pilot holes, and a driver bit will make putting the pieces together much easier. If you don’t have one, borrow a drill from a neighbor.
1. Prepare the surface. I started by sanding, staining and refinishing my door. This process is not too difficult, but the instructions are beyond the scope of this article. If you’ve never done this before, enlist the help of a friend or check out these great YouTube guides by Steve Ramsey. It only takes a couple of hours of your time, plus a few days of waiting for everything to dry between coats.
Applying the stain can be relaxing, but make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area – the fumes can be overwhelming. Whitson Garden
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2. Ergonomic planning. While you wait for the door to dry, do a little ergonomic experiment. Grab your desk chair and adjust the seat height and armrests to a comfortable position. Your feet should be flat on the floor, with your elbows and knees at approximately a 90-degree angle. Once you have the correct position, measure the distance from the floor to the top of the armrests, then subtract the thickness of your surface, usually about an inch and a half. The resulting measurement is the setting you want for your OLOV legs, as well as the ideal height for your filing cabinet or drawers. Write this down and buy drawers if you plan to add them.
If you use your desk a lot, you want it to be comfortable. Whitson Garden
3. Place your parts. When your slab is ready, turn it over and plan your construction starting with the legs. I recommend one leg at each of the four corners, with a fifth in the middle of the back edge for support. If you’re going to incorporate that filing cabinet, it’s going to replace one of those front legs.
Next, take your sag braces and find a spot for them in the center of the surface. If they bump into the area where you plan to put your filing cabinet, you may need to center them slightly. If you have cable management trays, stick them in the empty space you left. I’m using an Ikea SIGNUM tray and mounting my surge protector on the bottom. I had to do some work to find a place for everything, so it’s a good idea to plan everything out before you start drilling.
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4. Start editing. Once you’ve found a place for everything, mark and drill pilot holes for the legs, anti-sag braces, and anything else you’ll be attaching to the bottom. This is crucial: if you start screwing the surface, it is likely to split the wood. Attach everything, including the leg brackets, except the legs. This takes some time and elbow grease, so again, I recommend using your drill as a driver to make things much faster.
We recommend using a drill, but it can be done with a screwdriver – it takes more time and requires more training. Whitson Garden
5. Add the legs. Now’s a good time to take your door to the office for the last few steps – you’ll find it a lot less hassle to get around before assembling your legs. Once in its new location, screw the OLOV legs into the brackets. You can then adjust to the height you want by twisting the bottoms, sliding them in, and turning them clockwise to tighten.
6. Check stability and height. Now turn the desk over and slide the filing cabinet under it. Make sure everything is level. (If you don’t have a level, your phone basically has one built-in.)
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When you check the stability of the table, also check its height with the chair. It seems awfully low to the floor, but most desks are designed for writing, not computing. Computer desks are usually at writing height, with a keyboard tray at arm’s height. You can set your home-built desk higher and use a screw-in keyboard tray to enhance it
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