Looking for Very Sturdy Desk with Few/No Drawers, Under $200
December 31, 2003 6:59 AM   Subscribe

I've got a rather old and decrepit office-surplus Steelcase desk in my "home office" right now, and am looking for something newer that doesn't have drawers for me to fill up with crud.

Needs to be VERY sturdy (as I may have 2 or 3 large monitors on it at any time) and not wobbly or flimsy at all. I've looked at the IKEA "Jerker" desk, but the closest IKEA is in Houston (I'm in Austin) and buying one mail-order would be prohibitive.

Suggestions? Budget is $200 max.
posted by mrbill to Shopping (22 answers total)
If sturdiness is one of your major criteria, I'd steer clear of Ikea. I don't think I've ever seen an item from Ikea that I wouldn't describe as either wobbly or flimsy or both.

With a limited budget like that, you might be best off hitting the surplus and used circuit again.
posted by majick at 7:06 AM on December 31, 2003

Years ago I bought a couple heavy-duty computer tables (no keyboard shelf) about 4' x 4' with steel frames and steel legs for $25 each at a used office furniture store. They made great desks. One sat on the sun porch, and the other in my kitchen.
posted by mischief at 7:35 AM on December 31, 2003

i'm with majick--for heavy monitors Ikea is definitely out. You could go handmade with thick oak or something (an old door?) on cinderblocks or trestles. Or a place that sells dining tables (a place like this, but without the chairs--usually on a service road somewhere) might also have something affordable, and sturdy enough.
posted by amberglow at 7:44 AM on December 31, 2003

An "old and decrepit" Steelcase desk? Nonsense!
Those things may be ugly as hell, but they're tougher than Russian tanks. :-)

Allowing side access to your closet, while staying within your budget,
I'd suggest either the Comfort Zone Workstation or the Intermetro component system.

Anything else in that price range would be too lacking in drawer space,
and would be made of cheap particle board.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:45 AM on December 31, 2003

While I'm inclined to agree about IKEA's flimsiness, I actually am using what I think is their Jerker desk, but in an older version than the ones they have now. It is very sturdy indeed. The way you mount it with steel bars on there is solid.
posted by edlundart at 7:52 AM on December 31, 2003

Response by poster: Dalek: Yeah, the Steelcase desk is built like a tank - but that's one of the problems. Its too difficult/heavy to move (in fact, its sat in that exact same spot for four years now, since the movers put it there). I'm going to be doing painting and some remodeling, and I want to be able to move the desk when I need to. Closet access really isnt important; its just full of computer stuff that I cant bring myself to throw away yet.

Looks like I may go for a cheap dining room table as amberglow suggested. We went looking at Storehouse last night; had some neat stuff, but way WAY overpriced. Today is a visit to the surplus furniture shop to see if they have anything.
posted by mrbill at 8:01 AM on December 31, 2003

Oddly enough, I'm in Austin and have a gigantic steelcase desk (which I quite like). It only has a pencil drawer.

I'd check out one of the used office-furniture shops here in town. Barring that, the idea of getting a workbench trestle and top sounds appealing, if you can get it at 29" height. Checking out the workbench listings at McMaster-Carr, it doesn't seem like you could quite bring this in under $200 without compromising, but for $250-300, you could have a sweet setup with a hardwood top.

Nice Cube, btw!
posted by adamrice at 8:07 AM on December 31, 2003

I use a banquet table. It is 4 ft x 6 ft, and was about $35 at the warehouse club. No drawers, open space down below.
posted by benjh at 8:17 AM on December 31, 2003

Response by poster: adamrice: the Cube is long gone; that picture is about a year and a half old. Its been replaced by a dual G4 tower.

My wife has one of the Steelcase "pencil drawer only" desks; I just don't care for it.

Want this Steelcase desk once I replace it? Show up and haul it off, and its yours. 8-)
posted by mrbill at 8:18 AM on December 31, 2003

I have an adjustable (height) table which I got at Office Depot a while ago for like 100 bucks. The problem with a non-adjustable table is that many of them are just too high for ergonomic typing. I think it'd hold a couple of monitors, but three might be living a little dangerously.
posted by callmejay at 8:26 AM on December 31, 2003

I have this and I've been very happy with it. Very sturdy. I added a shelf to the side for my over-sized CPU.
posted by bondcliff at 8:29 AM on December 31, 2003

Look for going out of business sales for cheap office furniture, or a used office furniture store. Sorting through the crap at antique and thrift stores can be annoying, but very rewarding if you have the time. If you want something super sturdy and roomy enough for three monitors, I think you're going to have to find something old since most of the new office furniture in your price range (which also happens to be my price range) I've researched is pretty cheaply made.

If you were in North Carolina, I'd come get that steel case beast off your hands in a heart beat. I've been looking for an affordable, solid desk with a big workspace and lots of drawers to replace the folding conference table I use now forever, it feels like.
posted by jennyb at 8:41 AM on December 31, 2003

Response by poster: I actually got the existing desk at my favorite used-office-furniture place for $55 in '99. They just haven't had anything that caught my fancy lately.
posted by mrbill at 8:48 AM on December 31, 2003

If the 'favorite used-office-furniture place' you refer to above isn't Tops on E. 5th Street, you should check them out. It can be a bit of a crapshoot finding what you want, depending on what they have in stock, but they rotate stuff through really quickly, the salespeople are usually willing to haggle a little, and I've found some real treasures there (including my own pencil-drawer-only steeltop desk).
posted by varmint at 9:06 AM on December 31, 2003

I've recently discovered that a Jerker desk doesn't seem to be all that good at shock absorption. With my flat-panel iMac, I can make the screen shake if I type hard enough, and the Pro Speakers reverb through the desk.
posted by mcwetboy at 9:47 AM on December 31, 2003

Response by poster: varmint: of course its TOPS. 8-) Mike Hudkins is a great guy. I've gotten tons of great deals there over the past seven years; all of the desks in my house were purchased there.
posted by mrbill at 9:55 AM on December 31, 2003

I'd recommend the door-and-struts method -- I picked up a huge oak 5-panel door for $35 at the local salvage company, stripped it and set it on some old wood crates (you could use saw horses, milk crates, etc., or build your own shelving unit/cabinet supports). It was long enough for two people to work next to each other comfortably, with plenty of CPU space below. We later added some nice turned legs and use it as a dining room table.
posted by me3dia at 1:05 PM on December 31, 2003

Some fancy steel trashcans and a polished oak door across the top. I'd recommend a solid core door if you're looking for something sturdy.

Alternatively if you want drawers substitute one of the trash cans for a filing cabinet.
posted by rudyfink at 3:19 PM on December 31, 2003

Stick with the steelcase. I won't use anything else, myself. I've got two of them working well for me right now, and when the finish rubs off, I'll be repairing them.

How many of you can say you have desks made 10 years before you were born? These things won't die. Oh, and they will support a 265 lb person if you need to read the ceiling.

Worth every penny.
posted by shepd at 4:57 PM on December 31, 2003

Response by poster: shepd: from experience, they'll hold quite a bit more than that 8-)
posted by mrbill at 6:20 PM on December 31, 2003

mrbill, I lucked into a perfect set up precisely because I didn't have any money to spend; we rescued and refinished an antique desk (something like this) and an old student desk (almost exactly like this), both found on the street. For the price of the time that it took us to strip about 30 coats of horrible white paint from the desk we got a very lovely, strong piece of furniture that will be forever useful. I put the two together in an "L" shape so that the student desk holds my mouse and tablet and provides a support for my mousing arm, as well as providing space for writing materials, books etc. The main desktop offers spacious accommodation for two 17" monitors, keyboard and desk lamp. (I have my printer and scanner on a separate table.)

Here's the funny thing, though; the big desk seemed at first oddly low; in fact it was the same height as the student desk, which is lower than regular office desks, and though it was great for making a seamless "L", I felt that the height was a drawback at first. But I spend a lot of time at my computer, and have never suffered any sort of repetitive motion stress injury or discomfort. Then I read this Webmaster World article in which several people specifically recommend a lower desk height (see the third comment, especially; if you can't access the page, search google for "webmasterworld surface height keyboard" without the quotes. The main entry should click through.)

So it turns out my freebie set up is actually good for me. Plus it's really warm and attractive - much better than most of the computer work station monstrosities I see. So I have to go along with those who recommend spending some time to see what you can find at thrift shops and yard sales - you might be able to come up with something that represents a much better value for your investment. If you're not good at bargain shopping, enlist the aid of a friend with thriftshop-fu; people with this talent love solving just these sorts of problems!
posted by taz at 3:29 AM on January 2, 2004

Also, there's this place in Austin that sells used office furniture; something along the lines of this might do the trick for you...
posted by taz at 4:12 AM on January 2, 2004

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