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Creating a new Computer/workdesk

Hello everyone,


     First of all, I'd just like to say that I'm a beginner at woodworking.  I've done a dabble some many, many years ago but for the most part, I am an amateur.  My knowledge consists of books and videos I've been looking at the past week from the local library.  I'm also new to these forums.  I live walking distance to Home Depot, probably less than a half mile.  What I'm shooting for is making a desk that'll give me a good space to work and do my art while also doubling as a computer desk.  I often use the computer to look up references as I draw and thus thought of the idea to make a two-in-one desk.  I would very much appreciate any comments that can let me make a better desk.


     Let me first explain the desk that I would love to make.  Starting on the right side, the computer is left on a platform (because my room is carpetted and it's not a good idea to have a computer on a carpet floor) that doubles as brace as there is no back piece so that the desk doesn't topple to the right.  There is no wood on the back for computer ventilation.  Hot air from the computer will exhaust on the top, left side, and back of the computer whereas cold air comes in from the front.  Also under the desk is a place to keep all the wires.  A hole on the top also goes through into the box so wires can get to the monitors.  In the center is plexiglass so that I can see the keyboard and below that a cabinet.  On the left side is an open drawing area.  I had first thought of putting drawers there but decided not to because I need room for my legs to comfortably draw.




     I am trying to make a desk with basically a Circular saw and a drill.  The design above is my design.  After looking through all the information about wood, it seemed to me that the largest piece of wood attainable without special ordering is a 4' x 8' piece of wood.  I plan on using Birch Hardwood as it seems to have all the desirable traits.  Because of this, the top is split into two parts, H2 and H3 as seen below.  Below, the letters indicate which type of piece it is.  H stands for horizontal, V stands for vertical, L stands for Leg, and D stands for Drawer piece.  So if I wanted to adjust the height of the desk, I would have to modify the "L" pieces and the H pieces for the width.  I plan on first cutting all the pieces, combining them through a series of dowel joints, screws, braces, and glue.  I am aware that dowel joints are weak, but I don't have to tools to make a mortise and tenon joint, finger joint, or most fancy joints.  Just a drill and a circular saw.  I may put rabbit joints in, though.

Desk BP LQ - 01.png

Desk BP LQ - 02.png

Desk BP LQ - 03.png

Desk Parts Display 01.jpg

Piece V13 is actually the backboard on the left side adjacent to piece L1 and H3.  V17 seems to be an extra piece I accidentally made when planning out the usage of the 3 Birch Hardwood sheets.

Desk Parts Display 02.jpg

   Now as seen in the picture below, wood pieces H4 and H5 actually sandwich a piece of wood.  The wood sandwiched are pieces H2 and H3 because they were split in two, thus bracing the table top and keeping it from falling appart.  This is done from behind so that it isn't visible in the front.


Desk Parts Display 03.jpg


I plan on veneering all the edges after they are cut.  I don't plan on staining the wood.  I want it white.  I believe I heard that I should use latex paint for painting interior wood.


And so here's my shopping list so far:

3/4 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. C-3 Birch Domestic Plywood
$44.97 /EA-Each

Crown Bolt #8 x 1-1/4 in. Zinc-Plated Steel Flat-Head Phillips Wood Screws (100-Pack)
$5.58 /EA-Each

Crown Bolt Zinc Plated #8 x 1/2 in. Flat Head Phillips Drive Wood Screw
$3.92 /PK-Package

Crown Bolt Zinc Plated #14 x 2-1/2 in. Flat Head Phillips Drive Wood Screw
$5.90 /PK-Package

Everbilt 1-1/2 in. Zinc-Plated Corner Braces (20-Pack)
$8.98 /BG-Bag

Waddell 36 in. x 3/8 in. Diameter Oak Round Dowel
$1.09 /EA-Each

Titebond III 16 oz. Ultimate Wood Glue
$7.97 /EA-Each

3/4 in. x 25 ft. White Birch Real Wood Veneer Edgeband With Hot Melt Adhesive
$6.73 /EA-Each

BEHR 1-Gallon Flat Enamel Premium Plus Interior Paint
$21.46 /EA-Each

LEXAN 12 in. x 24 in. x 093 in. Clear Polycarbonate Sheet
$11.00 /EA-Each


NOT LISTED: Hinges, rails, and door handles

     I have a lot of questions about making this desk still.  Of course, I'd like to have a everything prepared for before I buy the materials as this project would be approximately $250.  I know that if I were to change the wood to plywood, I can save some $40-$50 but I'm willing to add it to my budget if the properties are satisfactory.  I am aware that some of the positioning of wood can be tighter or farther apart.  I am aware of some small things about the design, too, like the need for spacing for doors to open and close.  I do plan on doing a few revisions and a final check after other peoples' inputs.


Is the wood I'm using good for the application?

Do I have to account for wood expansion even though hardwood has a veneer core or even if I were to use plywood?

If I use Hardwood, Grade A plywood, or even BC plywood, would I have to do any sanding other than the edges that I cut?

Is the wood I'm using hard enough that it won't have any marks from pencils or pens?

Is the paint I'm using hard enough that it won't have any marks from pencils or pens?

Would I have to use primer before painting with this?

Is this paint glossy or matte?

Is there a better suited paint?

Is a single .093 in Clear Polycarbonate Sheet strong enough to hold my arm weight as I lean on it (while sitting down), papers, and the occasional snack?

Is it necessary to veneer the edges when I'm going to paint over it?

Are there Corner braces at 135 degrees?

Would my Home Depot be likely to have railings for my keyboard tray and drawers? Hinges? Handles?


     I would truly like to thank anyone who read through everything.  Sorry if the post is in the wrong place or if the pictures aren't suitable.

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Posted 2011-03-06T07:30:49+0000  by truth2belief truth2belief

Hey truth2belief welcome to the community! This is one great looking project you've come up with here. I remember being a kid and my dad helped me build a drafting/light-table for doing cell animation so I know how fun this can be.


To address some of your questions:


  • Birch should be more than suitable for drawing, keep in mind though that if you draw with a heavy hand (like me :robotsad:) that over time you will start to leave impressions in any wood. Now depending on what kind of paint you use this may or may not be an issue.
  • The polycarbonate sheet at .093 does give me a bit of concern. I ran over to the store and checked and think that it probably has a bit too much flex in it at that thickness. I would suggest instead using the .220 acrylic sheet. It well make for a much better arm rest and impromptu snack tray :robotwink:. I can't tell from the plan but you may want to also consider adding rear support across the back edge of the acrylic.
  • As far as cutting goes I really recommend using a jigsaw instead of a circular saw. The jigsaw will allow for smoother cuts as well as finer control. Renting a jigsaw for a day or purchasing one outright can be as affordable as around $30 or so. I can't stress this enough as it will leave you with a much cleaner project.
Once again this is a phenomenal looking project and I sure other members of the community will have some other helpful tips for you. Be sure to keep us updated as you progress we love stuff like this!


Posted 2011-03-06T17:47:46+0000  by Chris_HD_ATL

Hi Truth2belief. I want to welcome you to the community.


Wow! With a well thought out master plan like that, you should not encounter any surprises along the way while tackling this project. I am very impressed with how thorough your ideas are.


Might I add to the suggestions that Chrisfixit gave?  


   In addition to the TIGHT BOND wood glue, you might want to consider one of my favorites – GORRILA GLUE wood glue. I find that the formulation allow the product to grab hold of raw wood surfaces extremely well.

If you are planning on painting the desk, then I recommend you prime the raw wood with a top quality primer like GRIPPER or COVER STAIN.


  • GRIPPER is one of the best latex bonding primers on the market.


  • COVER STAIN is a superior oil based primer that allows for sanding of the surface to a smooth finish.


As far as the final coat goes; may I suggest using the new BEHR ULTRA product? When it has completely dried and cured, it will be one of the hardest surfaces available in a latex product.  It’s “Nano Technology” provides a tighter surface film that will be extremely resistant to any stains. Try the Satin finish instead of the Flat Enamel - it will hold up better.



ultra satin.jpg


Always sand between coats. I suggest a #200 grit or higher for the smoothest finish.

Posted 2011-03-06T17:49:04+0000  by Kevin_HD_ATL

Hello truth2belief and congratulations on designing such an exciting project.  You are diligent to do your homework – and we are glad that The Home Depot is a great place for you to study! 


You asked about sources for the railings, hinges, and handles for your keyboard tray and drawers.  We do carry some items in stock at the store, but you may need to check out our Special Order Programs.  Amerock has a special order program for hardware – a hardware associate can help you find the parts that you need.  Another source for parts is through your local store’s kitchen designer.  These folks not only can design kitchens and bathrooms, but entertainment and workspaces.  They may be able to order select parts for you through one of our kitchen cabinet sources. 


One last note: many years ago I had my computer station (we called it a “command center”) on a carpeted surface.  I frequently battled static electricity.  Even with an anti-static mat, I had to keep ahead of the static and dust.   


Best wishes and PLEASE send us photos of your project.  We are all looking forward to seeing you through your workdesk and wish you great success!

Posted 2011-03-08T14:34:22+0000  by Eileen_HD_ATL
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