Step by step instructions, with pictures, on how to build your own computer or reading desk.
As part of our commitment to bring you fresh and dynamic content, we have something special to share with this fabulous “Do It Yourself” Desk project.
One of our readers has provided this step by step tutorial on crafting your very own home office desk!
The results of this budget friendly project will speak for themselves. This desk is versatile enough to function in a variety of capacities, and unassuming enough to blend into a variety of decors.
Upon completion of this project, you’ll be rewarded with a solid, beautiful desk that will last for years to come.
You may opt for a variety of wood types and stains. Although this tutorial walks you through the staining process, you could easily customize the process and opt instead for a vivid paint, or even skip the varnish and staining process entirely!
The best part is described by the builder himself: “All it takes is a paint brush and a screwdriver and it can be built in one day.” Even the most novice Do it Yourself-er will find this project fun, easy, and rewarding.
We have included pictures detailing every step of the process, along with detailed instruction.
We begin with a set of materials you’ll need to get moving.
What you will need:
- Set of 1 1/4” self tapping wood screws
- 3 – 6’ 2X10 boards
- 1 – 3” wide furring strip board (have a Home Depot guy cut it into 3 equal lengths)
- Wood stain (we used Sherwin Williams “Fruitwood” oil stain)
- Varnish (we used Sherwin Williams waterborne gloss varnish)
And the following in 3/4 inch pipe components:
- 6 – 18 inch pipes
- 4 – 6 inch pipes
- 2 – 2 inch pipes
- 1 – 48 inch pipe
- 4 – floor flanges
- 4 – couplings
- 6 – Tees
Here are images of a few key components:
Here is a tee.
This is what the couplings look like.
Step 1: Obtaining and cutting the boards
Buy 3 2×10 boards. The shortest 2×10 boards you can buy are 6 feet long. This project is meant to be a standard 5 foot wide desk, so we had a Home Depot associate cut 1 foot off of each board.
As you can see in the above close-up image, the boards were not perfect. They were a little rough and wavy, but that is okay. Our reader wanted the desk to look like it had been salvaged from a factory, so he actually added a few dents to the boards with a hammer and screwdriver before finishing them.
Step 2: Staining
You can stain these boards according to the look you prefer. Our project aimed for a darker colored wood, so Sherwin Williams “Fruitwood” interior oil stain was used. This particular stain was chosen because it was a “stock” color that didn’t require tinting.
This is applied by dipping a rag in the stain then rubbing it into the boards. This method is nearly impossible to mess up. If you are afraid of mistakes, you can practice by staining what will become the “bottom” of the desk. Determine the “bottom” side of the boards simply by looking at each piece and deciding which side looks better. The boards will most likely have letters and numbers printed on one side, so that side might end up being the bottom by default.
Take comfort in knowing that the 2×10 boards are not designed for “finish work.” No matter how experienced you are (our reader used to be a professional painter), the stain likely won’t apply perfectly. This is where the “salvaged from a factory” look is easily appreciated.
Note from the reader: “My final word on stain is that I don’t think it was even necessary. I applied some varnish to an unstained board, and it darkened up nicely. If I were to build this desk over again, I wouldn’t stain it. Not because I don’t like the look, but just to remove that extra step because as a father and business owner, I don’t have time for unnecessary extra steps.”
Step 3: Varnish
After the stain, apply 3 coats of varnish. Varnish is a protective coating that seals the wood and also gives it the final sheen. We prefer the wet look of high gloss varnish, but some folks appreciate the muted look of satin varnish. Waterborne varnish is easy to clean up (just use water), less smelly, and less toxic around kids and pets.
This image reveals the fine balance achieved with a proper varnish application.
Apply the varnish in thin coats using a brush or roller. Be careful not to lay it on too thick, as the varnish can end up milky looking. Lightly sand the boards between each coat of varnish with 120-220 grit sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots. Don’t worry about thoroughly cleaning the dust before the next coat; simply dust it off or blow it away.
Step 4: Assembling the desktop
Once the last coat of varnish has dried, lay the 2×10 boards finish-side-down and screw the furring strips to the bottom of the desk to hold it together. See below picture.
This does not need to be extremely precise. No one will see the furring strips, and because 3 boards are probably overkill, you are guaranteed structural integrity.
Step 5: Putting the frame together
All pipes can be purchased from a big box hardware store, such as Lowes or Home Depot. This project used 3/4 inch pipes, but you may consider using 1/2 inch pipes to save a little money while sacrificing little stability.
Combine 4 18” pipes, 4 tees, and 4 6” pipes to form the legs of the desk. The 2 remaining tees go on the ends of the 48” pipe.
The flanges and couplings can go on the ends of the legs, depending on where you want the cross brace to be. Our reader wanted the cross brace to be closer to the ground, to be used as a foot rest. Thus, he put the flanges on the ends of the 18” pipes and the couplings on the end of the 6’ pipes. The couplings aren’t entirely necessary, but can boost the desk height for tall folks and finish the legs nicely.
Step 6: Completing the desk
You’ve got your wood stained and fashioned into a solid desk surface. You’ve got your pipes assembled. You are now ready to turn this collection of parts into a fantastic desk.
This is where you screw the legs into the bottom of the desk. You can use any screwdriver, but a power drill will make the job go far more quickly.
Related: 55 Types of Tools
In this image you can see the pipes fully assembled and attached to the desk surface. We should mention that the pipes were quite greasy. Our reader cleaned them using baby wipes because, as a dad, baby wipes are always close at hand. Just about any cleaning product found under your kitchen sink will be more potent than baby wipes and will work just as well or better.
Congratulations! If you’ve followed along, you now have a completed, hearty and beautiful homemade desk! Here are a couple images of the finished project.
The staining and varnish have left us with a rich desktop that will be utilized and enjoyed for years to come.
This beautifully simple construction is perfect as a computer or writing desk, with classic proportions and a timeless, factory-floor style.
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