How to Build a Standing Desk

31 Comments

A standing desk (also called a stand-up desk) is just what it sounds like: a desk that allows you to stand up while working. Taller than a sitting desk, a standing desk is between waist and chest height. Google and Wikipedia will tell you that this type of desk was used by Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Woolf, Marilyn Monroe and Donald Rumsfeld. (OK, I made up one of those.) There can be health benefits to using a standing desk, particularly for certain back problems. Using a standing desk should even burn a few extra calories, compared to slouching in a plush designer chair.

A few years ago, I decided to build two new desks for my office. One is a conventional height and the other is a standing desk. I wanted the option to move between desks for a little extra activity throughout the day. I have computers at both desks. I often stand while browsing the web and reading email, but usually sit to type or for long periods of concentration. Moving back and forth helps keep me fresh, as well as organized, with different tasks at each location. Here’s how I built my standing desk.

My standing desk

My standing desk

One benefit of building your own standing desk is that you can get the height just right. Measure from the floor to your elbow for a starting measurement. My standing desk is just above my belly button at 43 inches tall.

I wanted my two desks to share one feature: easy disassembly. I rearrange my office a couple of times a year — writers crave distraction — and I want to be able to move things easily. So, each of my desktops lifts off a base made up of two L-shaped supports. The hard part is clearing everything off the desks, after which I can easily lift the top and move the supports. I can also switch the desktops, which have different shapes.

Originally, I constructed the supports using wood that was 2 inches by 2 inches. The result was rather wobbly. I reconstructed the supports using 2x4s, which resulted in a much more solid structure. As you can see in the next photo, which shows the sit-down desk, each L-shaped support consists of four horizontal pieces and three vertical pieces. Join the support pieces with wood screws or even nuts and bolts. Nails will not hold it tightly enough.

Constructing the desk

Constructing the desk

Wedged into a corner, each desk is rock steady. If your desk will be away from the walls, you may need metal brackets in the corners to stabilize the desk further.

For the desktop, I chose a high-quality plywood sheet 4 feet by 8 feet, cut in half at the store. When I cut off one corner to create the front of the desk, my old saw mangled the edge of the wood. (I used those cut corners for the shelves that you can see in the first photo.) The rough edge of the wood led me to buy a couple of yards of soft vinyl at a fabric store to cover the wood. The result is a very nice work surface.

If you don’t wish to build your own desk, you’ll find standing desks or stand-up desks for sale online and in some stores. You should also look at drafting tables, which have an adjustable work surface. While my desk is flat, some people prefer a sloping surface.

Mark Justice Hinton is founder of PC Training & Consulting and has written books includingPC Magazine Windows Vista Solutions” and “Digital Photography for Dummies“.

31 Comments

Mike

Very nice, Mark. Ignore the harsh comment about your lack of skill … You actually DID BUILD IT!

You might improve the looks very easily, should you find the need to procrastinate a bit. Just buy some course and fine sanding paper … course knock off the splinters and sharp edges. Then perhaps, if needed, some wood filler for any voids you might want to fill. Then two or three coats of either clear or colored finish … it is found at any hardware store or WalMart, comes in many wood shades (and even colors) and it just brushes on and dries in a few hours. Fine sand between coats. It will improve the looks greatly.

Should you feel exceptionally creative, borrow a router and round over all of the (outside) edges before you finish the desk. I like your fabric idea. Nicely done.

mark Lazen

Also, I can see you really love the “for dummies” series of books. Which I think shows good sense.

Don

I like very much the design and construction with common materials.
So what exactly is the fan cooling?
Is there a kilt involved : ) ?

Digital LCD Frame

I think that you accomplished it, but it could look a bit more pleasing to the eye? Anyway, don’t stand up too much, because it will be bad for your feet and joints if you do it too much.

Ted Gable

Another brand to consider is GeekDesk — VERY cost-effective. I’ve had one about a year now, and love it. The make complete desks now too (not just frames). http://www.GeekDesk.com

Wes

The geek desk is just an old drafting table that I used to use 30 years ago

Natalie

Along the same lines of the GeekDesk is this one by Jaymil… http://www.jaymil.com/Products/DetailView.php?p=431. It’s as cost effective as the GeekDesk but with a better height range (for those of us who don’t fall into the middle 95 percentile) and more options for frame sizes and top colors. I’ve been using one for a while and love it!

Bill

I think it’s good for fun but if you really want to make full use of it (height adjustable, quality, design, etc.) I think I would just buy it. Get a good brand name, one example is biomorph http://www.biomorphdesk.com
Ciao!

Bill

I think it’s good for fun but if you really want to make full use of it (height adjustable, quality, design, etc.) I think I would just buy it. Get a good brand name, one example is biomorph (http://www.biomorphdesk.com/). Ciaoo…

Simon Mackie

@antony, if you read the post you’ll see that Mark has two desks – one for sitting, one for standing. he moves between the two. Seems like a great arrangement to me.

antony

standing up all day will cause you to develop varicose veins, painful and ugly. Not clever.

David

Rather than a full-time standing desk, I ended up going with an electric adjustable height desk — I couldn’t imagine working ALL the time standing, but I sure wanted to be able to work standing a good portion of the time.

I ended up buying a GeekDesk frame about a year ago, and use a hollow core door for the top (though they say IKEA makes tops that fit it as well). It has been a huge, huge improvement over working sitting all day, and I also use a few different chairs to mix things up a bit even when I’m sitting.

Overall, I can’t recommend the “adjustable height” approach strongly enough.

Corey

I’ve been using a standing desk at work and at home for a couple of years now. I was having lower back problems, and it really helps my posture. The tradeoff is that now my shoulders get pretty tight — I can’t rest my elbows on anything while standing, so I have to keep the arms engaged while typing.

Both places I have an adjustable height desk from IKEA. At work I use the Fredrik, and at home I have a Jerker (which I think is discontinued now, unfortunately).

I set the desk height at a level where I can comfortably type while standing. My monitor sits on the accompanying shelf at a level above the desk surface, so I don’t have to bend my neck to look at the screen. I have a drafting chair so that when my legs get tired or I’m having a low-energy day I can sit and still be the right level for the keyboard.

Besides the health advantages of standing desks, they have a smaller footprint and allow for more vertical storage space.

Anelly

It’s a little bit strange this concept of standing desk and it’s for the first time when i hear about it, here on your blog.

Jim

What I’m looking for is a recumbent stationary bike desk/workstation. Any recommendations?

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