Stand Up Desk Build

DIY Standing Desk

DIY Standing Desk

I can’t say standing up at your day job all day is going to be for everyone, but why not give it a shot? There are plenty of options out there for standing desks commercially and some employers will purchase them for their employees. However, most don’t see the benefits(here and here, among many others) of a standing desk, so you are on your own to either purchase one or make one like we did.

We chose and designed a standing desk with readily available wood, that is easy to construct in a day. One of the biggest negatives to so many other designs we have seen is the amount of material needed, the complex nature of the design and the excess scrap lumber you are left with, there is no scrap lumber here.

Here’s what you’ll need:

You’ll also need to make sure you have these tools available:

Step 1: Cut the top pieces

Grab your 1” x 12″ x 6’, Edge-glued pine board and cut it in two 36” pieces.  You’ll need to mark 36” from one end and draw a straight guideline across the board to guide your cut. Note: This may not be exactly in the middle, if not, find the middle and cut that length so both your top and bottom shelves are equal length. Keep in mind most saws have a ~1/8” cut, so mark 1/16” on either side of where you want to cut and cut the area out between those lines.

Step 2: Cut the smaller keyboard platform

The lower shelf where the keyboard/mouse is placed is smaller in width than the top and requires us to shorten it by 3”. This is where a table saw comes in handy cutting a long straight line, alternatively see the bottom of this post for suggestions using a circular saw. Save the piece you cut off we will use this later.

This was an after thought as we noticed that once the desk was finished it was almost perfectly balance and any little weight on the keyboard area would tip the desk.

Step 3: Cut the desk legs

Take all three of the 1.5” x 1.5” x 3’ posts and find the middle of them(should be close to 18”).  We want to cut these pieces into six equal length pieces, this is very important to do as if they are not equal your desk will wobble.  First find the center, then make two lines either side of that mark 1/16”.  Cut all three pieces between those two lines. Set two of the pieces aside for Step 4, these two pieces will become braces below.

Take all four pieces after cutting and stack them together to make sure they are all even(ours were not).  If they are not even, take a measurement of the shortest one and cut all other pieces down to that length.  It is more important here to make the lengths all equal and 18” is only a guide, ours were a little shorter.


Step 4: Cut braces

Grab those two cut 1.5” x 1.5” x 18” pieces. We’re going to cut them into 4 pieces that are a little more complex.  The first piece simply needs to be cut in half leaving you two 9”(or very close) pieces. The other 18” piece will become our braces for the keyboard shelf.

To cut the braces out you will need to make 45 degree cuts. First find the middle of the length and width on one side and make a mark.  Then using your carpenters square and the 45 degree angle mark a line straight through your mark. Then at each side a distance of 1/16” to account for the 1/8” blade of the saw.

Lastly, take your carpenters square and mark 45 degree lines that oppose the center mark (they should not be parallel, see image below).  Then cut the pieces using your lines as guides and remember to save the scraps!

Note: Making angled cuts is very difficult to get right by hand, it wont hurt but you really need to be careful here or the angles will look pretty bad when the desk is put together.


Step 5: Start the Assembling!

Attach the four 18” legs to your larger board (12” x36” piece), lining them up to the outer edges.  Use some wood glue here and pre-drill your holes and insert one 1-5/8” screw through the top into the legs. (Note: Pre-drill and countersink all holes for screws, the wood will split if not.)


Step 6: Assemble the keyboard shelf

The height of this shelf will vary per your height, desk height and where a comfortable position for your hands to be in is. Ours was 10” from the bottom of the legs. Mark those points on the front of two legs. We chose to go a little more advanced here and recess the shelf back some, completely optional, but requires 1.5” squares out of each corner of the board.

Next, you should have 2 small pieces of scrap 1.5” x1.5” cut at 45 degree angle and 2 longer 45 degree ~9” pieces. These pieces go under the shelf as support.  Take the keyboard shelf piece and line it up on the legs, then take your 9” pieces and line those up under the shelf. Drill pilot and countersink holes through the bracket piece into the legs. Remove, glue and screw together with 2-1/2″ screws, making sure everything is lined up on the keyboard shelf.

Now put some glue on the legs where the shelf rested and on top of the bracket piece, then reinstall the board, Do not screw together yet.  Finally, take the little 45 degree pieces glue those up and place them underneath the shelf as additional support.

Note: Come back later to screw the board to the brackets with 1-5/8″ screws from the top once glue is dry.

Step 7: Install bracing

The remaining pieces (3/4”x3”x36” and two 1.5”x1.5”x9”) are installed on the sides and back legs as support. These can go at any height, we installed at a height of 1.5” to let cords go under the desk. Use 1-5/8″ screws for the 1″ thick piece and 2-1/2″ screws for the 1.5″ square pieces.

Step 8: Finish

Sand and place a finish on the desk. We recommend something natural like a beeswax/olive oil finish you can make yourself.

Beeswax/Olive Oil Finish:

1 part beeswax to 4 parts olive oil, Heat thoroughly and apply finish still warm to the project.



Cutting straight lines with a circular saw:

This method of cutting takes a bit more time to setup but allows you to cut very straight lines. You’ll need two clamps(c-clamps work) and to have something perfectly straight(framing squares are good for this) and longer than the cut you are going to make.

Grab your circular saw and measure the distance from the side opposite the motor staring on the bottom plate to the edge of the blade(ours was 1.5”). This measurement is how much you will have to offset your lines later to cut where you intend too.

Lets say you want to cut 3” off a 12” board.  Measure 3” at both ends of the board and make a small line in pencil about 1” from the end parallel with the cut. Now take and measure from the same side your offset that you previously found for your saw(ours was 1.5”). Add 1.5” to the 3” intended cut and measure 4.5” and mark in pencil at two points.

Next, take your straight object set it on top of the 12” board so that it is on your 4.5” marks.  Make sure that it is on the side opposite the piece being cut off.  Secure the object with clamps.

All that is left now is to make the cut.  Make sure when you make the cut that the bottom plant rides along the edge of the straight object and you will have a straight cut without a table saw!

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