What are we building today?Standing computer workstation - photo

This is a Healthy Standing Boy homemade computer desk. It’s made from one 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ high-quality plywood, which costs about $50.

There are of course many other designs online, including the famous one cobbled together from $22 of things from Ikea. One of these others may be right for you.

The reasons this design is right for me (especially as compared to the Ikea design) are:

  • It’s only as big as it needs to be, and goes right up against the wall.
  • It doesn’t awkwardly use up half a desk (like the Ikea design).
  • It’s large enough for two monitors.
  • It’s sturdy, and all one piece so I don’t need to worry about the parts sliding around and falling off each other.
  • The area underneath is open, so I can easily access waste bin and power strip.
  • The monitor and keyboard are exactly the height that works best for me. The Ikea design lets you put the keyboard where you like, but the monitor is at whatever height the desk+table add up to.

This is, however, a fair bit more work and more expensive than the Ikea design (if you don’t count the price of the other desk or table the Ikea design assumes you already have). Neither design is adjustable. Measure carefully first, to get the parts the right height for you. One consideration is that if you get the things the wrong height, the keyboard shelf can easily be moved with the Ikea design, whereas with this one you’d have to cut more wood to adjust anything.

Before you begin

Whatever kind of standing desk you buy or build, you’ll probably want a good high-density foam floor mat.

Figure out the height for the keyboard shelf and monitor shelf. This Wikipedia entry has a good diagram showing ergonomic positioning.

For most people, their forearms should be parallel to the floor when typing. Put your keyboard on something whose height you can adjust, like a board on stacks of books on your kitchen counter, and when you’ve got it right, measure the distance from the top of the shelf to the floor. Call this measurement K.

Height adjuster to put laptop screen even with 2nd monitor.

Height adjuster to put laptop screen even with 2nd monitor.

You have a little more leeway on the monitor shelf, especially with an adjustable-height monitor. Generally, the top of the monitor should be eye level. In the photo above, I have a monitor and a notebook computer, whose screens aren’t the same distance above their bases. So I built a little extra stand for the computer to sit on. It may be less trouble to find a book of the right thickness, but I like to have a little airspace under the computer to dissipate heat.

Figure out how high the top of the shelf needs to be above the floor to get the monitor the right height. Call this M.

Doctor Dead - coverMay I interrupt your DIY projecting to briefly mention my very entertaining novel? Doctor Dead, a steampunk adventure set in 1904 San Francisco, has everything one needs in a story — a mad scientist, an Indian princess, Voodoo potions, a vampire, infernal devices, and other fantastic things I won’t mention to avoid spoiling the surprise. Available from Amazon.com in paper or digital format.

If you find this plan useful and want to say thanks, buying my book would be a great way to do it. Coffee is another way.


  • One 4×8′ sheet of 3/4″ high-grade plywood.
  • 12 2.5″ (or thereabouts) wood screws.
  • 4D finish nails.
  • As much polyurethane varnish as you choose to employ (3 coats or more recommended).
  • shelfmount4 shelf braces (optional — if you want the extra shelf). These are the kind they use in adjustable height bookcase shelves, that you stick into holes in the side. Or, whatever connectors you want to use to attach the shelf — screws or nails work too.
  • Cuphook with opening squeezed narrower, to hold cords.

    Various cuphooks and other doodads to screw into the sides to hang headsets on and keep your cord ends off the floor.

Flat-bottomed cuphooks are nice for headsets.

Flat-bottomed cuphooks are nice for headsets.


  • Circular saw (or table saw that can make wide enough cuts).
  • Jig saw
  • Router with corner-rounding bit (3/8″ radius or less).
  • Electric sander, or willingness to do a lot of manual sanding
  • Drill
  • Hammer, finish nails, wood screws, etc
  • One of those pointy things which I don’t know what it’s called, for knocking heads of finish nails flush with the surface
  • Painter’s tape (the blue stuff)

The cutout diagram appears below. You’ll be making:

  • Top, 9″ x 30″
  • Keyboard shelf, 17″ x 30″
  • Extra shelf (optional), 8″ x 27″
  • Back, 27″ x about 25″
  • Base, 21″x30″
  • 2 sides, max dimensions 22″ deep by M-1.5″ tall. If you’re extra tall, you might need to rearrange the cut map. If you’re really short of material, a 1×8 board will work for the extra shelf.
  • Note: the measurements assume the thing will rest right on the floor or carpet, with maybe just a little felt glued to the bottom. If you prefer to put feet on it, subtract their height from M and K. Likewise if you have a particularly thick pad to stand on, take that into account.
Cut and assembly diagram

Cut and assembly diagram – click to expand


  • Measure multiple times, cut once.
  • Bear in mind that your saw blade has a width.
  • Think about what order you’ll make your cuts.
  • Before cutting across the grain of the top and bottom layers of plywood, lay down painter’s tape on both sides. This prevents the edges from splintering.
  • Clamp straight saw guides to the plywood to make it easy to cut straight. Do a sample cut on scrap wood to make sure how far the guide needs to be from the cut line. Bear in mind, again, that the saw blade has a width, so the distance between guide and cut line is different depending which side of the cut wood you want to keep.
  • You’ll need a jigsaw to cut the front-facing “curve” of the sides. I think it looks nice to round the corners a bit, but it’s up to you. One thing to watch out for; as you go around a curve or corner, jigsaw blades tend to bend inward, giving an angled cut. Set it on high speed for those parts, and cut slowly.
  • Plan which sides will face up/out, based on the locations of any knots or imperfections you want to hide, and make labels on painter’s tape to show the orientation.
  • After the pieces are cut out, use the router to round off corners as appropriate. I like to round off any edge that’s not butting up against another piece of wood, but at least do every edge you’re likely to touch. If you want a more square look, rounding the edges just slightly with a sander is fine, instead. You don’t want splinters.
  • Thoroughly sand outer-facing edges.

Assembly sequence

  1. Screw the sides to the back, 3 screws each side. The exact placement of the back isn’t important, but do make sure it’s the same on both sides so that the sides aren’t slanted or offset from each other. You might want to use a larger bit to make a wider top to the hole, to make the screw head sit flush. Don’t drive the screws quite all the way home yet.
  2. Screw the base to the one of the sides, using 3 screws. The base should extend out 3/4″ from the sides, so the end of the side rests on the base. Because the screw heads face down, it’s especially important to make these flush or a little embedded, so that they don’t scrape whatever surface you rest it on.
  3. The sides probably won’t be exactly parallel and exactly at a right angle to the back — this is your chance to make them so. Before you drill your screw holes for the second side, wrassle it into proper position and alignment with the base, and keep it there while you drill the first screw hole. Put in that screw, to hold the shape, then drill the remaining screw holes. Make sure the heads don’t stick out.
  4. Now, finish tightening the sides to the back.
  5. Use 4D finish nails to attach the keyboard shelf and top. We don’t need these to support the structure, we just want them to not slide around, so these little nails are sufficient. Use the pointy tool whose name I don’t know to bang them down flush with the wood, or a teensy bit below.
  6. My shelf is about 1" below the keyboard shelf

    My shelf is about 1″ below the keyboard shelf

    The extra shelf, if you want it, goes at whatever height is convenient for you. In my case, I based it on the height of the speakers and pens I wanted to keep there. I drilled holes in the side pieces and rested the shelf on four little shelf brackets, illustrated above.

  7. Give all exposed surfaces three or more coats of polyurethane varnish.
  8. If this will sit on a floor of wood or other scratchable material, glue felt or add feet to the base to make it non-scratchy.


Standing Computer Desk — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: New DIY – standing computer desk – Tyler Tork

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