Why are desks so expensive?

We live in a small one bedroom loft which means we need to make as much as we can out of our limited space (the main room is split into a dinning room, den, office, and study). In 2006, I wanted a new desk, and as usual had a lot of trouble finding one that I liked and that fit the space and budget I had available. I also had the constraint that the desk could not have drawers. If it did I would instantly fill them with crap and they would never open again.

So when all else failed (and maybe just because) I built my own…

Materials

  • MDF 4’x8′ sheet (2)
  • Black counter top laminate (3 sheets)
  • Aluminum L brackets (We actually had these laying around. Way too expensive to buy)
  • Gorilla glue
  • Laminate adhesive (Not the eco friendly kind. That stuff does NOT work)

Tools

  • Router
  • Circular saw
  • Heavy duty straight edge
  • Clamps
  • Special laminate router bits

Design

I iterated on the design in Google SketchUp until I was happy with it. Part of the challenge was getting the tabletop to fit into a single 4’x8′ sheet. SketchUp is a really amazing tool for this kind of stuff. Part of what makes it so great is that its easy to use and I can create design guides. Then later on when its time to make the parts, I can use the tape measure to get the dimension of any edges.

desk2_side

Building

I traced out all the parts onto the sheets of MDF. To get the thickness that I wanted, I had to double each part and glue them together so this really required two sheets. I used wood glue and some good clamps to bond the MDF panels.

desk3

With the basic shapes cut out and glued, I then routed out the groves and cutouts for the aluminum brackets and bolts. The heavy aluminum stock also makes a great straight edge that I used to run the router along:

legs_pre_route

Here are the routed legs:

routed_legs

leg_test_fit

With everything routed, I inserted the bolts into the table top so that they were recessed and gorilla glued them into place. This holds surprisingly well.

Finally, I cut and glued the laminate sheets onto the MDF pieces and routed the edges with a special bit that keeps them from chipping.

desk14

I also painted the aluminum brackets just in case they might be visible to someone on the floor 🙂

desk13

And here is the final product:

desk16

 

Total cost $650. A little over budget, but still $2000 less than some of the other desks I liked. After so many years, the desk still looks like the day I finished it!

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