Monday, August 25

Hooray for my new desk!

I finally decided I work better with my two laptops on a real surface rather than trying to use them a lot of the time literally on my lap. So I started working more at the kitchen table. Well, no offense to me, but Christine didn't like that: she uses the kitchen for her work, including stuff on the table, so I was cramping her. She likes to listen to books on tape while she cooks and cleans and washes dishes, but I don't. Plus, with school starting back, the twins need the table after school and Christine also sits for two other 4th grade friends, so I certainly need to be out of the kitchen by 3.

Besides, typing on a surface that high isn't good for my wrists.

So, I was looking for a table that would adjust down to a good height for typing. I was shooting for 24" (all the way at the bottom of what's recommended).

In addition, this table would go in the front room, which I use for an office, but which also has to double as a guest room. So this table has to fold up and disappear when guests (primarily Christine's parents) come (to allow the hide-a-bed to fold out).

So, I was looking for an adjustable height folding table. And, guess what? They're pretty expensive. I was willing to spend $75 or $100, but I was hanging up on the shipping. Couldn't find any in stock anywhere locally, and the office superboxes (Staples, Home Depot, Office Max) didn't seem to have them available to order for in-store pick-up.

Yesterday I had a brain storm: I'll build one using sawhorses and a door. I've seen doors and filing cabinets advised before, but, again, the desktop would be higher than I wanted. Plus, filing cabinets aren't very mobile (and casters don't roll well on carpet, and add height).

So, I went to Home Depot last night. Found the exact door I wanted: 18" wide (as a door, that's the depth dimension for a desktop), 80" long.

Excellent. Started looking at sawhorses...

and didn't really want to spend $20 each for the cheapest adjustable, foldable ones. So I decided, where angels fear to tread, to make my own from those basic brackets @ $4.99 for two ($9.98 for all 4).

I had some 2x4s at home from my last project, so I just bought one more @ $2.54. If your project's roughly similar to mine and you had no wood at all to start with, you'd need 3 2x4x8s ($7.62).

I already had wood screws, so I didn't need those. Added expense if you don't have any already (but you only need 24 or 32 :-).

To recap my goal and a major value for me: cheap ;-)

I bought a circular saw for my last project (around $50) and borrowed my neighbor's drill for driving screws (I have a little, cordless drill without much oomph).

Next, begin to build (this is a quote from the old Fairytale Theater Three Little Pigs :-)

I got lucky here, and didn't even realize it until the end. Since my desktop would only be 18" deep, I only made the connecting 2x4s for my sawhorses 17" long. See the luck? Purchased sawhorses would have been much 'deeper' and taken up much more space. I lucked into one of the best aspects of my project.

Next, I cut the legs, figuring I needed them 20" long, accounting for the brackets, 2x4s, and desktop thickness.

What I didn't realize until I got almost all of them cut: I didn't account for chair height and leg clearance under the table. (Can you tell I'm not a project stud?)

At which point, I panicked. I thought 'Man, I've got to add height!' So I didn't set the legs all the way up in the brackets; just far enough to catch the first screw hole. Probably added about an inch and I was still worried about clearance.

I worked pretty hard at getting the legs evenly situated at 18 1/4" from frame to ground, but the legs still came out pretty uneven. The biggest part of that was the variable width of the 'bite' on these particular brackets. If I had bought the next more-expensive model (about twice the price, IIRC), I bet my results would have been 100% better.

However, they're sitting on carpet and it doesn't need to be completely stable, so there's no problem. I don't notice any wobble as I type or write.


Time to assemble the desk.


I really like it!

I shouldn't have panicked on the chair and leg clearance. My resultant desktop height was 26 3/4". Still better than standard table tops, but I could have gone 2" lower and I think I would have liked it for typing more (especially on my work Dell Latitude D620 which runs so amazingly hot that I usually sit in on a cooling rack (like for cookies (idea may have come from Lifehacker)) or use a water bottle as heat sink (idea definitely came from Lifehacker) when on my lap).

So, that's pretty much it. Would've made some changes knowing what I know now. Got a little lucky. All in all, I'm satisfied.

Total cost for me (not including stuff I already had): $31.06 and about 3 hours, including the Home Depot trip. Excellent.

Here's the same spot, broken back down. (It really is an 'after' pic and not a 'before' ;-)


The door is easily stowed, behind the couch if I want. The legs go into the garage for the duration of the stay.

Potentially important usage note: I will try to keep 'permanent' items off of the desk and only put stuff on that is easily moved and stowed. We'll see how that goes.
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