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How to Make a Standing Desk
December 4, 2012 11:45 AM   Subscribe

[Crafty woodworker filter] Help me convert an old armoire into a sturdy new standing desk.

So, after much Mefi propaganda, I've decided to give my butt a break and go the way of the standing desk. I thought about getting one of the newfangled ones that I see modeled on websites, but I already have what seems to be a proper station--an old armoire!

I've read a number of articles online, but I'm scared as hell of messing up the project and making something cheap and flimsy, and writing off standing desks forever.

So, bearing in mind that changing a light bulb is considered crafty for me, can you help me convert this piece of furniture into a standing desk?

Here are a couple of photos of the armoire in question.

A few more notes/requests:

- I work with a MacBook now. I'm willing to shell out for a new or used flat-screen monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc -- basically whatever I need.

- The top of the armoire comes up to the middle of my chest, about nipple-level.

- When I bend my arms, as if typing at a keyboard, my hands rest about four inches above the top interior shelf (where the books are).

- When I envision the finished product in my head, I always imagine a wobbly keyboard for some reason. How can I make sure it's sturdy?

- The more specific the advice the better. What do I need to buy? Can I buy it online cheap? Will I need any tools? I'll probably have to buy/borrow those.

- I'd love to be able to disguise it as an armoire -- so a slide-out keyboard would be best, though not essential. (Actually, a whole slide out surface would be amazing, but this seems ambitious, yeah?)

- I'd love the keep the project under $100, but that's negotiable.

- Generally speaking, the easier the project the better, though I'm open to changing the thing any other way. Your vision is my vision.

Thanks all! I seriously appreciate the help!
posted by vecchio to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
 
I'd strongly suggest first spending some time using a cardboard box and duct tape (or whatever old crap you have laying around) temporary standing desk. Theoretically the ergonomics are simple (arms bent 90 degrees, etc) but of course everyone is different and unless you are building your armoire/desk to be adjustable, you want to make your mistakes for free. Stacked boxes work fine; so do stacked furniture (eg a coffee table on top of a side table, or a mini step ladder on top of a coffee table, etc); you just want something that works ok for a few weeks while you make small adjustments.

That said, you can buy sliding keyboard trays anywhere, or cannibalize them off of an old desk. Remember you need space for your mouse also, and you probably want flat space either at the keyboard level or a bit above for papers and books that you will look at while typing.

Laptops and standing don't work for me, but YMMV. I need the screen up at about eye level and the keyboard down lower, so that means either propping a laptop up high and using a second keyboard, or adding a monitor and leaving the laptop below, or both.
posted by Forktine at 12:22 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would highly recommend having some sort of shelf for a keyboard. This is the posture you want; some nice, 90˚ angles. Doesn’t that look insanely ergonomic?
posted by oceanjesse at 1:04 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you get a bluetooth keyboard such as the gorgeous one Apple makes, you won’t have to worry as much about wires, either. So that counts as an elegant touch, right?
posted by oceanjesse at 1:06 PM on December 4, 2012


It would be more expensive, but a super adjustable keyboard/ mouse tray & adjustable monitor would allow you to easily adjust the fit.
posted by oceano at 1:09 PM on December 4, 2012


First, I am not crafty or particularly carpentry wizard-y. If it were me, I would first take forktine's advice about trying this out for free on boxes or cobbled together other furniture. Second, once I established that it could work for me, I would go to a kitchen hardware type place and find a sliding mechanism for the top shelf and would attach it so my arms were at right angles when typing. Then I would drill a hole either through the top or in the back near the keyboard shelf (unless you have a wireless keyboard!) to be able to hook keyboard to computer unit. I would pick the way that was least intrusive when I wanted to switch it back to an armoire one day. Then I would figure out the correct height for the monitior and build a shelf using a piece of wood and some bricks to lower or raise the level.

I went the way of a standing desk about 6 months ago. I built one based on Ikea units put together. THe only problem was that it was for someone about 5 inches taller than me. So I built a platform to stand on and added a gel pad for comfort.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:39 PM on December 4, 2012


I, too, agree that spending some time with an extremely makeshift standing desk would be a good idea. I made a "standing desk" at work by piling a lot of my old textbooks (and boxes) to appropriate heights for my iMac and keyboard/mouse. You'll learn a couple things from playing around--both what is comfortable to you, and whether always working at a standing desk works for you. I found it harder to work on tasks that take a great deal of concentration (like writing new computer code), but perfect for less intense tasks (I am more alert than sitting). I have multiple computers, so I just leave my laptop at regular desk level, but I can also sit, and move the keyboard down to a tray and the monitor down to the keyboard level.
posted by ...tm... at 2:25 PM on December 4, 2012


Here's a reason to experiment before building and why your armoire might or might not work well -- you need to get the height right, but you also need to get the horizontal distances correct. Eye to monitor and elbow to keyboard are separate issues; if the armoire doesn't let you put your toes underneath (like a regular desk or table would) you may have to make the keyboard come out further or move the monitor around. It's a bunch of moving parts, and shifting any one means the others have to move also.
posted by Forktine at 4:37 PM on December 4, 2012


Thanks for all the advice everyone. If you have specific recommendations about sliders or shelves, I'd love to hear them. Meanwhile I'll think I'll cobble together a makeshift model out of a coffee table.
posted by vecchio at 7:26 PM on December 4, 2012


As Forktine suggest, you should not forget being able to put your feet under the space. Being able to shift your feet forward, or put one up/forward on a rest is a nice option to help relieve potential back/muscle stress. That and for the occasions where you might use a stool to sit you'll have a place for your knees to fit.
posted by wkearney99 at 6:35 AM on December 5, 2012


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