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┬áL 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 ­čÖé

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!

REKEA: storage + coffee table makes a better bench

After spending forever looking for the perfect sized bench/storage unit to fit the space next to our Tendo Mokko, we finally gave up and decided to just buy something “cheap” from Ikea. And as luck would have it, we actually found something we liked a lot. Here is how we hacked together some Ikea furniture to create something new that fits the space and has a little style.

IMG_4050

Parts Needed:

  • LACK coffee table (white)
  • MALM storage unit (orange)
  • small flat washers (12)
  • 3/4″ wood screws (8)
  • plumbers tape

Tools Needed:

  • electric drill
  • ruler
  • screw driver
  • hand drill (or just a small drill bit and some tape)
  • sharpie

Almost A Perfect Match

The MALM storage unit and LACK coffee table are almost a perfect match. The MALM is 85cm wide, and the space between the legs of the LACK is 84.4cm. So close, but what to do about the 6mm difference? Its just enough that I couldn’t just wedge it in. So here is how I solved the problem…

Widening The LACK Table

I first assembled the LACK coffee table following the ikea instructions.

IMG_4028

Then I assembled just the drawer of the MALM storage unit:

IMG_4035

This let me measure exactly how much space I needed to create. Each unit will likely be different by some small amount.

My unit was too narrow by 6mm, which isn’t too bad given the tolerances of how the pieces join. To fix this, I took the LACK table apart and widened the mounting holes in the legs so that I could slide them to the end of the table top (normally they are inset by a couple of mm).

IMG_4037 IMG_4034

By adjusting each side just right, the legs can be widened enough so that they don’t stick out from the table top, but still leave enough room for the MALM storage unit.

Reconfiguring The MALM Storage Unit

The MALM storage unit has a lid that normally slides open, but I wanted it to be a pull out drawer, so I put the lid on the bottom and mounted the storage compartment on top. This was generally pretty easy. I mounted the slide rails to the storage lid as per the ikea instructions. And instead of mounting the rails to the top of the base, I mirrored the holes to the bottom of the cabinet.

IMG_4046

IMG_4047

One adjustment I had to make, was to use flat washers to space the rails off of the wood by a few mm so that the cabinet would slide on the lid.

With the lid now on the bottom, and the cabinet on the top, I had to secure the MALM to the LACK so that they would stay together. I just used some plumbers tape and wood screws to attach the two together. Note: make sure to screw into the edges of the furniture so that you grip into the particle board and not the hollow center.

IMG_4041

With the straps in place, I covered them with felt pads so they wouldn’t scratch the floor. Then I turned the whole thing over and was done!

IMG_4051

Next step is to make a nice cushion for the top…