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Standing Desks from Frame kit and Plywood

About a year ago while working from home, I decided it was time to invest a little bit in my setup and get myself a standing desk. This page goes through a few of the decisions I made along the way and the general process I followed to build one.


When I started looking it to getting a standing desk, I broke it down into 3 solutions:

1 – Buy a Complete Desk Frame and Top: this is fast but more expensive

2 – Buy a Desk Frame and Build a Desk Top: fairly quick and less expensive, you only need to cut down a finish a desk

3 – DIY Everything: more time to design and build and might be cheaper in the end

I went for option 2 – I bought a desk frame since I found one fairly cheap and wanted to have a standing desk in a reasonable timeframe (within 2-3 weeks). I built the desktop since I wanted to still be able to call the desk my own and I wanted to make it as big as possible to fit in my space at home – so I wanted a custom size.

Being someone that likes having a lot of desk space, I decided to make 2 desks and configure them in an L-shape. This gives enough desk space for multiple monitors, notebooks, and some electrical equipment. As I’m still in university and moving around a bit, having 2 desks made it easier to reconfigure for different living arrangements. In the 3 different locations I’ve had them set up since building them, they’ve been able to fit without issue.

Once built, I got the desks setup in my basement with dual monitors and some electrical equipment.

I should mention – I would not describe myself as an woodworker by any means, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

Making the Desk Tops

In my opinion, the cheap IKEA desktops are not worth it – they’re just veneer on chipboard, and are not very sturdy. Building your own gives you a much sturdier, solid piece of wood.

I bought a 3/4in thick piece of 4’x8′ maple-finished plywood from Home Depot for about $75, cut it down to the sizes I wanted for my 2 desk pieces, rounded the edges with a belt sander with 50 grit sandpaper, then sanded the edges with 120, then the whole thing with 220 and 400 grits. 400 grits at this point was likely not worth it, just got

I also made a cutout with a hole saw and a jigsaw in the middle of the desk at the back as an easy passthrough for cables.

Sealing the Desk Tops

For the protective coating, I used a Varathane water-based polyurethane sealer and stain in one, and did 4 coats of it with a light sand with 400 grit sandpaper in between coats. I picked the water based sealer since from what I read, it was pretty easy to work with – doesn’t stink, and dries quickly. From the quick research I did, oil-based stains and finished are generally harder to work with, and not worth the time for beginner woodworkers.

I did all that sanding/staining in my backyard over the course of 10 hours or so (with 2 hours between coats). Overall, the process was fairly easy, just required a bunch manual labor when sanding – which I was happy to get some exercise from.

Choosing A Desk Frame

I purchased the cheapest electric sit-stand desk frame that I could find. I figured they were all pretty much the same and likely come out of the same manufacturing plants anyways. At the time I made these, this was a $240 frame from, which I  bought 2 of for my 2 desks. These are pretty sturdy (they do wobble a bit if they are at the standing height and you’re doing some heavy erasing) and have a huge range of adjustment. Super easy to assemble, and easy operation with simple up and down buttons.

Assembling the frame and the desks was fairly straightforward, and screws to the desk top with with 8 wood screws. I just screwed them directly into the plywood as I’m not expecting to need to disassemble it much, but using screw-in threaded inserts is also a good option to get slightly more permanent threads.

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