How To Build A Home Office – The Desk

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on March 1, 2010 in Freelance Writing Business, Working From Home
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When I first started freelancing, I realised that my productivity decreased if I were working from my laptop in a room where there were distractions of some sort. Whether it was the TV, radio, girlfriend or cats, I found that I was producing more work on a quicker basis when I was alone.

So, mixing my passion for DIY with my need for a separate writing space, I decided to create my own office, starting with the desk.

There are two things to note about this post:

  1. I wanted to build a desk that would fit into the corner of a room (in an 'L' shape) and was 60 inches in length in both directions and 25 inches in depth all the way round. These plans show how to build a desk that size, but they are also easy to change should you need a longer, shorter or deeper desk – just remember to look at ALL measurements if you change one!
  2. It was a basic desk, but it served its purpose. If you decide to build it, it will look relatively plain at first, but there are a lot of additions that can be made to ensure that it is a fully functioning and aesthetically pleasing office desk for regular daily use.

Materials Needed:

  • One piece of 'L' shaped plywood that is 60 inches long on both straights and 25 inches deep all around and 3 inches thick (approximately - this was personal preference)

OR

  • One piece of 60 x 25 inch plywood and one piece of 35 x 25 inch plywood (both approximately 3 inches thick)

AND

  • One piece of timber that is 25 inches long, 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick
  • Two pieces of timber, one that is 60 inches long, 2 inches wide and 1 inch deep and one that is 59 inches long, 2 inches wide and 1 inch deep.
  • Four metal support poles, around 27 inches tall, with fixing brackets
  • Eight plywood off cuts, around four inches square

Equipment Needed:

  • Wood glue
  • Raul plugs
  • Twelve two inch screws
  • Electric drill and drill bits
  • Two clamps
  • Spirit level
  • Pencil
  • Chalk
  • Tape measure

Steps

1. If you couldn’t get one piece of 'L' shaped plywood, lay the two individual pieces next to each other upside down on a table or workbench.

2. Place a strip of wood glue down each side of the join and press the piece of timber that is 25 inches long all across the joint, holding firmly for a few seconds. Attach clamps at both ends and leave to dry for at least an hour.

3. In the space where the desk is to go, measure up the wall 27 inches from the floor and mark with a pencil. Do this in three or four times along the wall and then join the dots together with one straight line (using the spirit level) to form a 60 inch line from the corner. Complete the same process for the adjoining wall.


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NB: I chose 27 inches as when sat at a desk, your arms should be in an 'L' shape with the keyboard and with a desk that is 27 inches tall, it ensures that my arms are at the correct level.

4. On the line that you have drawn, mark five dots – two 2 inches from either end of the line and then three at the 15, 30 and 45 inch points. Complete the same for the adjoining wall.

5. Drill holes where you have just marked and push a Raul plug into each hole, ensuring that it is as flush as possible with the wall.

6. On the two pieces of remaining timber, mark with a pencil the same dots that were on the wall (2 inches from either end and then at 15, 30 and 45 inch intervals).

7. Attach the pieces of timber to the wall with the screws. Start with the longest piece that is going to be right in the corner and then add the second piece after. Remember to only put each screw in place a little and then tighten them all up once the timber is being held freely.

8. On the floor, use the chalk to draw the outline of the desk and then at the front of the desk at either end, mark a four inch square about an inch and a half in from the front. Do the same at the corner of the ‘L’ shape, but make two markings either side of the corner.

9. Place the four plywood cut offs over these markings and use a screw in the centre to the secure them to floor.

10. Attach the metal support poles to these plywood cut offs and then straight into the floorboards using the fixings provided. You may need to pre-drill smaller holes first.

NB: If you do not want to drill into the floor, you could create a direct replica of the actual desk top, place it on the floor, attach it to the wall with brackets and then drill the metal supports to this.

11. Bring the actual desk top to the room and lay it on the frame. If everything fits properly, take it off, place a layer of glue on top of the timber around the wall and lay the desk top back on. Place something heavy around the edge of the desk where the top meets the wall and wipe away any excess glue underneath.

12. Attach the metal supports to a four inch square piece of plywood and then to the bottom of the desk using the fittings, leave everything to set and dry for a few hours and you’ll have yourself a perfectly good office desk!

Comments, questions or suggestions? Let us know!

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Dan is a freelance writer and small business consultant. Dividing his time between writing for both individual clients and national corporations and giving a helping hand to many small startup companies, he has several years experience in both areas, as well as a strong background in Search Engine Optimisation.

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12 Comments

  1. Rebecca March 1, 2010 Reply

    These are very detailed instructions, thanks! Too bad I don’t know a carpenter. I would love to have a custom made desk, book cases, shelves, etc…

  2. Jennifer Mattern March 2, 2010 Reply

    The only thing I would suggest (as a die hard L-desk fan) is not to use a single L-shape piece of plywood for the desktop. I’d also not connect the pieces in any permanent fashion if you use a separate piece for the return.

    What I do is have two flat metal brackets attached to the bottom of the desktop where the return should meet it — in laymen’s terms, get a flat metal plate with holes in it and screw it into the underside of your desktop, with half of the plate sticking out. Then the plywood for the return’s top simply lays on top of the metal plate you left sticking out, and you screw it in from underneath.

    Very stable, and the real plus side is that if you need to move the desk later, you simply unscrew the return from that metal plate and lift it off. It’s easier to carry two long pieces of furniture than a big L-shaped one. :)

    I adore my desk. It was just a cheap L-desk I found somewhere years ago. I threw out the hutch b/c it took up too much room, and the rest of it gives me an incredible working area. The problem is that I damaged the side panel when moving it back in ’08. I rigged up a temporary solution that’s been stable since then, but if I tried to move it again (like when I paint my walls this month or get new carpeting put in next month — so double move), it’s probably not going to survive as-is. So my mission at the moment is to further stabilize it so I don’t have to get rid of it (I haven’t been able to find a decent replacement desk with the same surface area). I’m going to try reinforcing the side panel with some corner brackets underneath, so we’ll see how that goes. If it doesn’t hold up, I’ll probably end up building my own.

    Rebecca – You shouldn’t need a carpenter. As long as you have the measurements you need, any big hardware chain should be able to cut your pieces for you when you buy them. Then it’s just a matter of painting and assembly — the fun stuff. :) If you want a much simpler solution, you could always just get a plywood desk top panel, paint it, buy some modular storage units to customize the support and side panels, and fasten the desktop to them. It still gives you some room to customize and be creative, plus gives you ready-made storage options that might be too difficult for a beginner to build from scratch.

    • Author
      Dan Smith March 2, 2010 Reply

      Rebecca – like Jenn said, I highly doubt you would need a carpenter. Just head down to your local hardware store, hand them the list of materials mentioned in the post (obviously amended to suit your measurements) and you should be able to assemble it all relatively easily.

      Jenn – if I were creating this desk today, I would probably go for a moveable desk, using a metal plate with screws. When I was creating the desk in this post, however, my DIY skills and knowledge weren’t as good as they are today and wood glue seemed to solve all of my questions of “how do I get this to stick to that?”!!

      I might make another post in the future with a more advanced desk design, inclusive of foot rails, printer docking stations and floating PC tower shelves…nothing like being a little adventurous!

  3. Yo Prinzel
    Yo Prinzel March 2, 2010 Reply

    This article made me cry because I did not understand most of what you said. ;->

  4. Author
    Dan Smith March 2, 2010 Reply

    Well I was looking for a reaction, Yo, but crying wasn’t necessarily the one I was wanting!

    It should go without saying, but if you – or anyone else – is looking to create a desk (whether the one I have mentioned or not) and you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I might not be qualified in any of the building trades, but I’ve done enough DIY work to be able to answer most general questions!

  5. Yo Prinzel
    Yo Prinzel March 2, 2010 Reply

    It’s not your fault, Dan, it’s PTSD. When I was a kid, one of the punishments my parents inflicted on me was to make me plumb with my dad on the weekends. Now, every time I see PVC pipe or tools, I hide under the nearest table. I also start sweating when I flush toilets, but that’s another story ;-P

  6. Allena March 2, 2010 Reply

    Yo is funny! I would like to suggest to the readers who come here and don’t necessarily want to DIY to look into a conference-table-as-desk option. It’s great for editing (spreading out galleys) and client meetings.

  7. Jennifer Mattern March 2, 2010 Reply

    That’s a great idea. And they’re probably high enough that you could still tuck a filing cabinet or something similar under them for some storage. If you really want an L-desk, there’s nothing stopping you from adding another one (maybe a smaller one) as a false return.

  8. Rebecca March 4, 2010 Reply

    At the moment my desk is a folding 6′ table from Office Max. Great $42 solution, although not an L-shape. Behind me is my dining room table which I use as a conference table and for spreading paperwork. Since my office is also the formal dining room, I’m going to be putting in built-ins this summer. I’ll have built-in cabinets along the bottom with drawers and tons of storage for all of my files and teacher junk that lives at home with me.

    The trick is going to be building my own bookcases to stand on the cabinets on either side of and above the open space that will be a desk now or a storage space for an ornate wine rack should I ever feel the need to convert the room back from an office/library to a “real” dining room again.

  9. Catherine L. Tully March 9, 2010 Reply

    I have an L desk and love it! Soooo much room. :)

    Of course I’m lucky…my husband is a carpenter. Color me spoiled!

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