My wife started working from home this year and has been asking for one big office upgrade and I’m going to help make that happen. Along the way, I’ll share the tips, tricks and process I learned with you.
UPLIFT Standing Desk Frame – https://amzn.to/45SIYd3
UJK Drill Guide – https://tsoproducts.com/jigs-fixtures-guides/ujk-drill-guide/?ref=MWAWW
Festool Domnio – https://amzn.to/3EHD6qU
Soft Close Drawer Slides – https://amzn.to/3ZmP3f5
Aluminum Bar – https://amzn.to/3r9YWQW
Straight Edge for curves – https://amzn.to/3sQoEtY
Jig Saw – https://amzn.to/3r8QrFL
2” Forstner Bit – https://amzn.to/48iz7P1
Small Clamps – https://amzn.to/3riIPR0
Countersink Drill Bit – https://amzn.to/3PdIBlW
Mulwark wrench – https://amzn.to/3sUyXNU
Pica Pencil – https://amzn.to/44PytWs
WS2815 LED Strip – https://amzn.to/3sT2Rlv
LED Controller – https://amzn.to/45SJAiR
4 pin connectors – https://amzn.to/3F116pn
Touch on/off switch – https://amzn.to/3PtuFVo
12v 5A power supply – https://amzn.to/3rhFguk
Aluminum track – https://amzn.to/3EFcF5e
*I use affiliate links, please see details on my disclaimer.
Building a Custom Standing Desk
After spending over 15 years in nursing one thing my wife got used to was being on her feet and moving around all day.
Unlike me who’s had a corporate desk job for over 20 years and who’s pale atrophied legs don’t even make my chickens jealous. HA!
A standing desk can make a world of difference but being able to make one custom and add some sweet extra features can make it that much better.
I’m making this desk top out of 8/4 white oak and that leads me into tip #1 which is to save some money by buying the base of the desk by itself and building your own custom top.
After researching standing desks across multiple brands I noticed 2 things.
There’s a wide range in the cost of the mechanical base, anywhere from $150 to $550 depending on how stout and powerful the frame and motors are.
I look at it as you get what you pay for and you have some options to fit your budget.
The other thing I noticed is these companies make a lot of their of money off selling you the rest of the desk and accessories.
Many companies don’t even offer solid wood as an option and the one’s that do charge a hefty premium for them.
Adding a 1.5” thick solid wood top can cost upwards of $700 over the cost of the base.
That’s more than double what I spent on all the white oak for this project.
Once I have my boards cut to size it’s time to make what I think is the most important decision of this build which is how am I going to make this top look as good as I can.
Some people focus solely on making sure the growth rings alternate in different directions to try and prevent warping.
I think this is a bit overblown compared to the difference you can make paying attention to how the boards match up to one another and avoiding any knots, holes or other defects showing on the top of the desk.
Once I’m happy with the look I’m going to glue this up in two halves because I can’t fit the whole desk top through my planer to clean it up.
I thought about skipping the planer all together because I bought these boards already surfaced but they’re a bit thicker than I want my final top to be.
Just know if you buy pre surfaced boards you don’t have to have a planer or jointer to make a top like this.
Custom Standing Desk Glue-up
The next tip is I’m using nothing but wood glue here.
You may wonder why I’m not using dominos or dowels for added strength or alignment.
Both of those are great options in applications where the boards attach at a right angles like breadboards or in cabinets where the additional strength is needed.
But for straight line glue-ups like this the glue provides all the strength needed.
And these boards are pretty flat as-is and a small clamp across the joint will tame any unruly boards and get those seams lined up flush.
There’s lots of reasons to plow $1000 into a Festool domino, this just isn’t one of them.
Once the glue dries, I’m going to run these two halves through my planer jus to get them down to an inch and a half and clean up the surfaces.
This top is already looking so amazing but I still have one last glue-up to get this whole top together.
I’m being really careful this time because this is it, any errors in alignment will have to be take care of when sanding.
So, I’d rather invest the extra time now than spend time sanding the seams flush.
After the glue dries, I can run a saw across the ends of the table to get everything clean and crisp
Then, I’m going to set the top aside for a little while I work on some drawers.
Custom Standing Desk Drawer Boxes
I cut up some ¾” white oak to make the cabinet boxes and I’m going to bang these together with Dominos.
Unlike gluing up desk tops, this is where the Domino really shines.
I thought at first I’d use pocket hole joinery but that would have been an awful lot of pocket holes in a very tight space.
This way I can just add some glue and tap everything together.
Since these are solid wood cases I oriented the grain direction of the back and the bottom to be the same.
That way as the bottom expands and contracts, the back will move along with it in the same direction.
I’m also cleaning up the squeeze-out as I go.
Even though the inside of these drawers will really never be seen, I do have to install some drawer slides and I don’t want any interference from dried glue.
The sides then pop on relatively easily and everything gets clamped up.
Custom Standing Desk Drawers
To make the drawers, I decided to use up some scraps of Baltic birch ply I had from previous projects.
These drawers are so small, they don’t require much material at all and buying a full sheet just for this is not justified.
I’m using pocket holes for assembly.
This is the same method I use for all the drawers I make.
I think this is one of the best uses of pocket hole joinery.
I like how quick it is to get drawers together and there’s no mess because there’s no glue.
These tiny drawers won’t ever hold a lot of weight, but even for full size cabinets this method is plenty strong.
Custom Standing Desk Drawer Install
Drawer slides for these are simple too.
I like aligning the slides to the bottom edge of the drawer, that way I can use the slide itself to figure out exactly where to attach it.
Then I use a scrap of half inch ply to locate where the other side of the slide should go on the case.
A pro tip is to install slides using a positive reference point like a scrap of ply, vs measuring and marking.
This way you know the slides are exactly parallel on each side no matter what and you don’t have to think or risk messing up a measurement.
And the drawer just slides right in. Pun intended.
Custom Standing Desk Final Assembly
I wanted to find a very low profile way to attach the drawers to the underside of the desk and to do that I came up with the idea using aluminum flat bar.
Aluminum is nice because you can cut it with your woodworking saws and drills without damaging them.
So I cut mine to length and then drilled a pair of holes in each end.
The outer holes will be used to fasten the bar to the drawer box and the inner holes will be used to fasten the drawer box to the table.
I just need to widen those holes into slots to account for wood movement and then drop them right into those mortices.
This way they sit below the surface and the drawer will fasten flush to the bottom of the table.
To cut those shallow mortices I just used a straight bit in my router table.
The only other way to safely do this is to use a chisels, so if you don’t have a router table you can still get this job done.
The drawer fronts get cut a little narrower than the sides.
This will allow for a small gap at the top to prevent any interference or binding against the table top.
Attaching these is easy and requires just a couple screws.
Right now I haven’t decided on drawer pulls or if I even need them.
I know I like the look of the drawers being clean and flush to the edge of the table top, just don’t know if that will work long term.
With the case together I can sand all the joints flush.
Custom Standing Desk Monitor Stand Template
Another accessory that I regret not building for my desk is a monitor stand.
My design has a nice curved profile in it to match the curve I’m going to make in the front of the desk and to make this happen I’m going to share one of my favorite tips.
Any time you build furniture that has sweeping curves or complicated angles, it pays to make a template.
It could be made from paper you print out or something more substantial like plywood.
Making a template means you have a chance to experiment and play around with your design before you commit to cutting up any of your project material.
And once you’re happy with it, you can repeat this design in the future if you ever want to make a similar piece.
Template design is fluid but it helps to add some guide marks like where you want the beginning and end of a curve and how deep do you want the curve to be.
A flexible straight edge is a good tool to use to make even curves.
To cut away the waste use a jigsaw and stay about a 16th inch away from the line.
Then you can use a sander to sand back to the line.
Sanders are great for rounding the corners as well.
And holes are easy, just use a drill bit that matches the size hole you want.
I like using 2-sided tape to attach my templates.
The holding power is really strong and it doesn’t require a fancy jig with toggle clamps to make the cuts.
Custom Standing Desk Monitor Stand
I could immediately begin using a router with a flush trim bit, but I find it easier to cut away the bulk of the waste with a band saw.
If you don’t have a band saw you can still use your jigsaw, just draw a reference line and remove the template then reattach the template when you’re done cutting.
Finally, we can use a router with a flush trim bit to remove the remainder of the waste.
This can be done with a handheld router as well the procedure is the same but upside down, or right side up. Whatever.
Whichever way you do it don’t mess up and forget about grain direction like I just did.
Whenever you cut a curve there’s going to be a change in the direction of the grain which can cause tear out like this.
We can fix this though.
I just need to realign my template moving it back about a 1/16th of an inch.
Now I’m only going to cut halfway down the curve.
Then change directions and make a climb cut.
Making this cut can be, well surprising if you don’t have a good grip on the work piece because. the bit is spinning in the same direction as you are moving the work.
Now I’ve removed enough of that gouge that I can clean the rest up during finish sanding.
Portable Drill Guild
To make the hole for cable management I need to use a forstner drill bit.
And to help make the cut I’m going to use a portable drill guide.
Its basically a portable drill press.
It connects to your cordless drill and then you can position that over your target area.
With these big forstner bits It’s a good idea to clamp the guide to the work piece so it doesn’t shift around during such an aggressive cut.
Now I can hog out all this material and not have to worry if the drill bit it staying at a perfect 90 degrees.
As you can see I left a little material by drilling with a slightly smaller bit.
That way, if the work piece gets chewed up by a dull bit or there’s some blowout, I can use the router bit to cut the waste flush to the template and clean that all up.
Adding Finish to the Desk
I used the same method to cut the profile in the desk top to match the monitor stand.
I’m using a hard wax oil. This one is from Rubio Monocoat, its’s their 5% smoke color which I tested on a sample piece and really like how the white pigment adds some pop to the grain of this white oak.
If you’re not familiar with a hard wax oil finish It’s a very close to the wood feel and dead simple to apply.
Just pour it on and use a scraper or a credit card to cover the work surface.
I then use a white scotch bright pad to work the color into the grain and after it sits for 10 or 15 minutes just wipe off all the excess with a cotton rag, old pair of tighty whities, whatever you have laying around and that’s it, see I told you it was dead simple.
Just make sure to clear out any pin holes or other imperfections so you don’t have a white blob of finish staring you in the face.
And while I wait for the finish to cure I can make good use of my time and build the base of the standing desk.
Installing the Standing Desk Base
I need to use the base as a reference to know exactly where to place them.
According to my design these drawers should nestle right into where the cross brace meets the leg assembly and from the looks of it the manufacturer’s measurement’s online were accurate.
Now that I’m positive everything fits together I can fasten the base to the top.
I need to pre drill these pilot holes and I’m using a tape flag as a depth stop so I don’t blow through the top.
And drive the screws home.
Then I can do the same thing for each of the drawers using the aluminum bars I installed.
The only challenging bit here is getting inside the small drawers to drive 4 screws but luckily there’s a tool for everything.
Installing the Drawers
This little bike wrench works perfectly for this job.
Then in go the drawers and on goes the brains of this operation.
Now I can get my first glimpse of the finished top.
I love the low profile drawers and the curve in the top and that finish really makes the white oak pop.
OK enough oogling I need to finish the monitor stand.
Custom Standing Desk Center Console
One thing I really like about my standing desk is that I integrated a hidden wireless phone charger.
It’s nice when you’re sitting at your desk for hours to have your phone laying there staying charged up without having wires laying around.
But adding it to the monitor stand makes more sense to me than in the desk top so that’s what I’m doing this time.
I’m going to build a small center console using dominoes and then adding a piece of plywood at the top.
The main purpose of the plywood is to provide a place for the charger to attach to since my monitor stand is just a little too thin implant the charger fully.
Once that hole has been cut I can add a small wire access hole to the back.
I’m going to use dominos to attach the console but this is kinda tricky.
I decided the best approach was to line it up as best I could and mark reference lines where the domino needed to cut.
I’m only adding one domino per side and these wont be glued into the monitor stand.
Friction will be enough to hold it in place and that gives the option of changing it out for something else down the road.
Then I can mark out where I need to drill into the stand to leave only about an 1/8” of wood at the top.
Custom Standing Desk Wireless Charger
This will ensure the charger makes contact with the phone.
Then I can use the tiniest drill bit ever to make a pin hole through the top.
This is for an LED light to mark where the charger is from above.
Then the center console goes back in place and the charger which is from Mockett.com goes into its new home.
A couple screws cinch it down so it stays in contact with the top and that’s it.
When I plug in the charger a little LED shines through that tiny pinhole I made so you always know where your target is when you need to charge your phone.
And the last little surprise feature I want to add to this desk are some LEDs to light up the area under the monitor stand.
Custom Standing Desk LED Lights
To make that happen I cut a shallow recess under the stand using my palm router which is going to house the track that the LEDs sit in.
Because the router bit leaves rounded corners I need to square those up with a chisel.
Now I can cut this aluminum track at 45 degrees and tap it into the recess.
The aluminum track with act as a heat sink for the LEDs and also protect them.
I follow the path of the recess making 45 degree cuts and fitting them together like this.
These LEDs have an adhesive backing to stick them to the track which makes installation easy.
These LEDs can be cut at the copper terminals like this so you can create custom lengths to fit your project.
And connecting the strips back together is easy using these connectors that crimp onto the copper terminals.
This way you have one continuous circuit of LEDs even though they all run in different directions. Pretty cool.
With all my wires tucked in nice and neat I can add a diffusor strip. This not only softens the LED light but also protects the LEDs from getting damaged.
Now it’s time to test this job out.
The controller plugs into the LEDs and then my power supply goes here and…
Woo Hoo! I’m so relieved that worked!
The controller I’m using has Bluetooth and these LEDs can be controlled using an app on your phone.
Pretty dang cool.
The only minor inconvenience is you need the app to turn the lights on and off and OI wanted something more convenient so I bought a little touch on/off switch.
Adding LED Light Button
This plugs in between the power supply and the controller and now I can turn the lights on and off and still control them with the app.
I want to put this button on the front of the center console which means drilling a hole big enough for the switch to fit.
However as I was installing it I realized the threads on the button weren’t long enough that I could fasten it from the back side.
So, plan B will be to epoxy the button in place. Not ideal but it will get the job done.
Next time I’ll know to countersink the back side to allow the nut to engage the threads on the switch.
With everything connected I can tuck all the wires in safely before popping some rubber feat on the bottom of the stand.
WOW! This desk turned out amazing. I love the design and I like the Rubio finish on this white oak.
Custom Standing Desk
And the extra features it has will make it that much more enjoyable for my wife to work in her home office.
TBH I’m a little jealous I think my wife’s desk is way more awesome than mine.