Standing desk

Around October 2010, I gave in to the crazy idea that I should build myself a standing desk. I had been scattering my projects around the house and my previous desk didn’t offer enough working space for anything other than reading or working on my laptop. The design and construction process lasted through January, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

After the first week of use–five to eleven hours per day–I’ve just been a little sore, but I can already tell that I’m more focused on what I’m working on. I’ve been using the drafting chair for about 20 minutes every three hours or so. The five feet of working space that I have to work with now is great, and there’s plenty of room to also set up my laptop and sketch.

Update 07.19.2011: I’ve been missing my desk something fierce this summer, and can’t wait to get back to it. Since I wrote this post, I’ve had a lot of people interested in building this desk. I have done some updates since I built it, and plan to do a few more. Namely, I added a few more coats of poly to the top of the desk, built a stand for the monitor and speakers–which are now both at eye level–and am in the process of adding some cross-bracing to the back thanks to the folks at Tinkering Monkey. I’ll be sure to add pictures come September!

Update: My desk has been featured at! Thanks guys!

Standing desk

The process

It had been about a year since the idea to build a standing desk crossed my mind. There was an article released describing a hand-built standing desk over on Lifehacker that planted the idea in my mind to build something similar. It looked great and looked like something I might actually be able to build. Before actually doing any design on the desk, I tried to figure out if I could handle standing all day. I stacked books on the kitchen bar in my apartment until what felt was a good height to work, then tested it out for a couple weeks while working from home on my laptop. Back on campus, I was also standing at the tall tables in the design studio. So I built it.

The design

The desk was built and assembled in my apartment, and I didn’t run into any major problems along the way. I will have to change some of the structure later on, as all the joints are connected with 1″ L brackets that really aren’t that stable, so there is a slight wobble to it. Despite that and the height, my setup keeps it stable enough. My next project is to use some leftover plywood and the 8″x8″x8″ blocks I have for my speakers to bring the monitor and speakers up to eye level.

Stain test
Applied veneer
Stained wood pieces with polyurethane
Applying polyurethane

As for the building, I applied red oak veneer to the edges of the plywood, which looks great. I also could have left the back of the plywood unfinished and used just one package. The legs and supports each were given one coat of stain and two coats of polyurethane. The plywood was given a coat of stain, then two coats of polyurethane. It may have been my sub-par sanding skills or just the wood, but the plywood wasn’t dark enough. Another coat of stain was applied over the polyurethane then a final coat was applied (in total, two coats stain, three poly).


  • 1 – 60″x32″ Red oak hardwood plywood (top)
  • 1 – 52″x16″ Red oak hardwood plywood (bottom shelf)
  • 2 – 4″x4″x42″ Douglas fir (legs)
  • 3 – 2″x4″x45″ Red cedar (supports)
  • 4 – 2″x4″x17″ Red cedar (supports)
  • 2 – 2″x2″x15″ Pine (bracing for top)
  • 2 – 2″x2″x43″ Pine (bracing for top)
  • 2 – 3/4″x25′ Red oak veneer edging
  • 1″ L bracket hardware packs with screws for supports
  • 10×1″ wood screws for legs
  • 6×1-1/2″ wood screws for attaching pine to top
  • 60 grit sandpaper for rough sanding
  • 120 grit sandpaper for finer sanding
  • 220 and 320 grit sandpaper for sanding between polyurethane coats
  • Minwax clear satin polyurethane (used 3/4 can)
  • Minwax Special Walnut 224 wood finish (used 1/3 can)
  • Drafting chair ($99) (not included in final total)

Total cost: $185.00

Standing desk draft

The sketch I used to build the desk. After changing the width, it was no longer to scale.

Standing desk
Standing desk

20 responses to Standing desk

  1. John Leach responded on

    Great desk – I think I am going to build it. Any further thoughts on eliminating the wobble? Any pictures of the back to see how you dealt with cables? Love it!

  2. John, I’ve considered a few things and tried eliminating it by adding diagonal 8″ supports in each corner under the top and bottom shelves. This took out the side-to-side wobble, but not the front-to-back. If you added another level of support beams halfway between the top and bottom, it would definitely fix it. Unfortunately, my tower is too big to let me do it.

    I’d love to hear back on the approach you took when it’s finished and see some pictures! I’ve got some updates to make to this post when I’m back from a summer away and using it full-time again.

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  5. Jeff,

    What stool do you have? I did an ikea hack with a franklin chair and rose it on wood/wheels. With the Standing Desk (Colin) hack) just to try it out but now I am thinking of building something like yours. I want to ensure a comfortable stool or one that can reach a 36″ seat height. My hack is not that great in terms of looks and comfort.

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  13. Chris responded on

    I’m having some difficulty figuring out what you’re doing with those four sections of 2-by-2 called “top bracing”. Other people online who’ve documented a build of this desk seem to ignore them.

    • I’m actually working on an update to this whole post documenting the desk which should make it more clear. Basically, the four top bracing pieces sit flush inside the frame of the desk (attached to the desk surface) to make the entire top removable.

      • Chris responded on

        Okay. That is what I was guessing; there really wasn’t any other place that they could have be, from the pictures. Thanks, Jeff.

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