I’m building a desk

Because of how badly laid out I found my room is in the last post, I’ve been designing a new desk in SketchUp.  After a million iterations, here’s my design:


Using SketchUp for this has been awesome…it’s really opened up a new world of creativity for me.  For more design and build info, read on.

The desk is large, so it’s designed to separate into multiple pieces for transportation. First, all the leg modules are attached to the desk top with bolts going into tee nuts:

Second, the “side car” (the bit of desk on the right) is attached with latches and supported with steel mending plates:

SketchUp lets you separate components into color-coded layers, so I can show how the pieces separate easily:
3a 3b

It’s mainly made out of 2x4s and a sheet of 3/4″ plywood.  I bought a miter saw and made a little screen-room workshop:
2014-10-31 18.41.22b

Using a SketchUp extension called CutList, I was able to auto-generate a list of cuts. I just had to tweak it to account for my 45 degree supports and a few other things.  In the end, I lettered all the pieces and made myself an Ikea-like build list:

I packed my car with 2x4s, and made my cuts in just an hour or two.
2014-10-31 17.06.52b

I had some friends help me load a 4′ x 8′ sheet of 3/4″ plywood (plus a similarly sized sheet of pegboard) onto the roof of my hatchback, and after an only slightly-disastrous ride home, loaded it up onto my dining room table.  I did the cut with a jigsaw, putting the angle into the piece, while at the same time recovering a chunk to use as the “sidecar”.  SketchUp is really good at letting you design at scale, so I can just dimension stuff and print off a blueprint for whatever step I’m on.
42014-11-08 09.43.14b

I used developed a rendering style for SketchUp that would let me build nice blueprints for easy printing and reference. Using this, I sketched the layout of supports and legs onto the back of the desk.
2014-11-08 09.43.25b

For each set of legs, I clamped two horizontal beams together, marked where the bolts would go, drilled a 5/16″ hole, used a 3/4″ spade bit to countersink a tiny bit, then hammered in 1/4-20 tee nuts on the side that would eventually be flush with the bottom of the tabletop.  The tee nuts let me use bolts to take the legs on and off as often as I need to without having to try to take wood screws in and out.
2014-11-08 09.45.39b 2014-11-08 10.16.56b2014-11-08 10.17.54b

To make sure the tee nuts were sunk in super tight to the beam, I tightened a bolt onto them.
2014-11-08 10.19.44b 2014-11-08 10.19.53b

With that done, the actual legs were just screwed into the other support (the one without tee nuts). Then I verified that I could bolt the legs on, then wood screwed the tee-nutted beam into the tabletop. When I was done, I could pop the legs on and off easily.
2014-11-08 12.37.26b 2014-11-08 13.00.16b

I made some 45 degree angle braces, and bolt-ified them using the same technique.  However, these SUCKED to make, and lining up the long 3″ and 4″ bolts with the tee nut was incredibly finicky.  If I were building it again, I’d use some heavy duty metal shelf brackets instead of angled wood. In the end, it worked, though.
2014-11-08 16.58.10b 2014-11-08 16.58.20b 2014-11-09 22.08.32b 2014-11-09 22.08.40b

I attached the sidecar-mounting hardware, and despite missing a back leg a horizontal support, and legs on the sidecar, it was ready to flip over and check it out!
2014-11-11 19.55.35b 2014-11-11 20.27.37b

The sidecar is stable enough to dangle on just the metal plates without legs, and the main table itself is incredibly stable.  I was rocking it back and forth and trying to get it to flex, and it wouldn’t budge, and that’s before I add the missing leg and additional horizontal support.

That brings us to now.  I’m super excited to finish this up and finally have a desk that can also be a project workbench!  Here is a test of the desk in its current state:

Also, I used an extra scrap of the pegboard to start organizing my little screen-room workshop…

2014-11-11 20.00.50b


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *