Building the Desk

Monitors in Situ ©2020

So I have been on holidays for a few days, and my holiday project this break has been to build a desk for my study. Previously I used an old school table and a big chest full of LEGO. Neither of these were exactly comfortable or practical. Furthermore, a LOT of the desk was taken up by monitors. Finally there was a “dead” space that would fill up with cr@p at one end behind the guest bed.
(I find working on a project during my holidays helps my mental health. It gets me thinking about “not work” so it puts me in the right headspace)

Soon there will be desk here. ©2020

On Sunday afternoon me and the eldest child drove down to the local hardware warehouse and spend A LOT of money on wood. So much wood! I also grabbed extra screws (Just in case), some extruded aluminium designed for the edge of blinds and a piece of aluminium sheet.
(The exact total was more like 25 pieces of 1200 x 40mm x 20mm, 4 pieces of 1800mm x 40mm x 20mm, a giant sheet of 2400mm x 1200 x 18mm Marine ply that I couldn’t even move by myself and a sheet of 2400 x 1200 x 12mm construction ply. Also some cup hooks)

This won’t be my last trip to the hardware store.

Monday I started cutting up wood.
In the morning I had to do a quick run to the hardware store again as I needed a set square. Mine had gone missing and it had been pretty cruddy to begin with. The new one was so much better than the old one.
I quickly ran up the basic frame, consisting of 3 identical frames. and prepped the rest of the straight sections, ready for final assembly. Unfortunately I literally could not lift the big slab of ply by myself.
I used this as an opportunity to make the Aluminium sheet into a frame for holding monitors. I folded the edges over, then folded the top over, then bent the rest of it over into a hook. I then drilled VESA compliant holes to attach to the back of monitors.
I took a break until the kids got home from school and got them to help me get the big slabs on the sawhorses. Using a circ saw and some bits to brace the saw, I broke down the big slab into the right size for the desk top. With that cut down I could then get to cut the other slab of ply down as well.

One of three frames. Later I will realise an issue here. ©2020
A monitor hook, waiting to be drilled. ©2020
Frames complete leaning against a slab of wood too huge for me to move unaided. ©2020

Tuesday I started by finishing off the desk top. I cut a rounded corner in one corner, and cut an angle in the other corner, to give some clearance for the guest bed. The latter proved troublesome as I was trying to use my jig saw, and the blade I was using kept slipping and gouging the wood. Ended up going back to the circ saw and cleaning it up. Next came the router with a T moulding cutter inserted. This thing scares the bajeesus out of me. It’s an old fashioned unit with an on / off switch. With the T moulding cutter blade locked open, if you dropped it, there’s no safety “finger off the trigger”. It would just keep spinning with an exposed blade. I took this section very slowly and carefully. Still can count to ten. Happy with that result.
Next I cut some cable management holes at the back. Finally I dug out the sheet of antistatic mat that I had stashed away and cut it to fit the benchtop. It was too short, but I was able to recycle the piece I’d had on my old desk and join them together.
I used some offcut pieces of ply to make kickboards. these stop me kicking the wall and give a LOT of strength to stop everything trying to fold sideways.
This was now ready to assemble so I moved this benchtop and the other piece of pine into the study, ready to start assembling.
This is when I realised my first mistake. I’d made three identical sections. My actual space needed 2 long section and one short section. If I left it “as is”, the storage on the guest bed couldn’t open and the last leg would poke out from under the desk. Well cr@p! OK. Out to the garage and after carefully measuring, I cut one of the sections in half with my mitre saw. This was one of those cases where a hand saw was both easier, and more accurate. I remounted new legs to the two truncated sections. I used one to support the table section behind the guest bed.
(I also cut the top piece for this section from an offcut of the main bench at this point)
OK, pushing on, I added the kickboards to get the frame rigid., then added the cross bracing. I then put the benchtop on top and marked where the cross bracing was, remembering to also mark on the frame where the bench went. This would allow me to screw the benchtop to the frame later. I then pulled the whole assembly away from the wall, and with some assistance from the kids, marked where the back panel (The second piece of plywood) would need to be attached. I then removed both the pieces and drilled holes through for screws to be added later. I also did this for the bench piece behind the bed.
Now was assembly time. As these pieces weren’t going to be glued, I used quite a lot of screws. I then drilled two holes through the back panel and anchored it to the wall. (Drilling an oversized hole through the wood, then using a masonry bit into the brickwork, followed by a plug hammered in. Then finally a long screw, with a wide washer gets screwed into the plug)
Finally I carefully hammered in the T moulding to give a nice edge to the desk.
I now had a desk with the gross physical shell finished. Day two was now complete.

Back Panel and Desk Top. ©2020
Frame work in progress. This is after i’d fixed the third frame.
Desk assembled. ©2020
Another view. ©2020

Wednesday was mostly spent getting the desk from the shell to the final stages.
Firstly I got my extruded aluminium and cut it it to slightly shorter than the length of the desk. I proceeded to drill about a million holes into the extrusion and then bolted it to the back panel of the desk. A quick test showed it worked as intended. I could hang my monitors off the rail, remove them and move them around with ease.
Next I clambered under the desk and started adding cuphooks to the underside along the back. These work as very effective cable management, and once done, I then started running power leads around.
I had purchased a powerboard with switched outputs and 2 USB charging ports. I’d made sure it supported enough juice to run a Raspberry Pi 3 if needed. I also had an existing powerboard with simple switched outputs. Using a piece of paper to make a template, I bolted these to the front of the back panel, making sure I had clearance for my monitors.
After a bit of mucking around I had all the power routed around the desk as needed.
I also, at this point, added press stud points for antistatic connections (Two) so that I could attach my wrist strap from either side. Both of these are connected by a discrete conductor run under the desk, and then out to the earth point in the room. (There’s resistors in various places to stop dangerous conditions if there’s ever an earth leak in the house)
Now I began putting my tools up. I drilled holes and inserted nails, added the tool then traced the outline. For some tools (Screwdrivers and similar) I simply drilled through a block of wood and screwed that to the board. I also added a strip of thin tin, allowing me to clip tools with clips directly to the board. Eyelets were useful for holding things like Sharpie markers, which precipitated yet another trip to the hardware store after I ran out on the second marker. I added some small containers left over from a previous project and by Thursday morning all the tools were in!
This includes a toothbrush (Used for cleaning cases. I use ESD safe brushes for PCBs), a hard plastic straw (Great for blowing dust out. I can’t quite justify canned air), a bulldog clip (Used to help crack open the Mac SE/30), a haemostat (Holds things tight. Too many uses. Can even be used as a heatsink) and a purple laser (It is shiney and will enhance my nest).

Test fit of the monitor on the rail. Note a bazillion screws. ©2020
The back of one of the monitors, showing the mounting hook thingy. ©2020
Both monitors in on a test fit. ©2020
Some tools in place. ©2020
All tools in place. ©2020
Close up of some of the tools. ©2020
the blue curly wire is an antistatic wrist strap connected to the antistatic mat via a press stud under the black earth conductor. ©2020

All in all, while a LOT of work (My legs hate ne now) I personally think it will make my project work a LOT easier. I have two discrete workspaces so while working on one I can either refer to notes on the other or even play games on one retro system while working on another.

Heh. for a blog about retro computers, I get to use the “woodworking” tag a lot!





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