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Has anyone made their own height adjustable desk? I'm interested in making a computer desk that can easily be adjusted for either standing or sitting.

The lift mechanism could be electric or mechanical, as long as it is not too hard or time-consuming to adjust.

(There are commercial options around, but they start at $700 for the cheapest of the cheap. I'm sure I could make something myself for less that would better suit my needs.)

Update: Just to answer some of the questions in the comments. The desk would be supporting two 22" LCD monitors, a laptop, paper and anything I leave lying around the house long enough for her to throw on my desk. :-)

I do have access to some welding expertise.

Also, I live in Australia so importing from many of the places suggested would be impractical.

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What types of things are going to be on the desk (PC, monitor, printer, just paper)? This could be important information to determine how fluid the transformation has to be. –  Tester101 Sep 24 '10 at 11:35
    
What types of materials do you want to work with? Do you have any welding and fabrication training? do you have access to a metal shop? –  Tester101 Sep 24 '10 at 12:39
    
I looked at getting something like this extensively as I am now working from home. In the end, I decided I didn't have the time to make it myself and I didn't want to spend the money. So I decided to go with a nice solid non-adjustable table. Then I got an adjustable keyboard tray and a nice chair. Not exactly an answer to your question but maybe an alternative. –  JamesG Sep 24 '10 at 13:15
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Just for reference, www.geekdesk.com has motorized adjustable height desks from $750. Weighing in on build vs. buy would be your time, and the overall quality of a professionally manufactured desk vs. a homemade one. (Not knocking your DIY skills, it's just that you probably don't have your own manufacturing facility.) –  Doresoom Sep 24 '10 at 15:32
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Other places you can buy such things: martinandziegler.com leviteq.com conset.us/default.aspx heightadjustabledesks.com ergodepot.com/Adjustable_Desks_s/134.htm Steelcase (the cubical makers) also do height-adjustable stuff, but that's a more custom product). I note that some of the ergodepot and conset products look VERY similar to the stuff geekdesk sells. –  Michael Kohne Sep 24 '10 at 18:17
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18 Answers 18

I've built this desk twice. It costs me ~$100 USD in materials:

<img src="http://www.extremehowto.com/xh/graphics/articles/art_60365_P2060023brighter.jpg"/>

And here is my version of the desk:

You can adjust it, but it is a little difficult. However, you can fit a modified treadmill under it as you can see in this video of me using the desk. I'm able to type comfortably while walking at 2.2 MPH.

If I may presume that the reason you want a height-adjustable desk is so you can sometimes sit and sometimes stand ( or walk!), then take the idea of height-adjustable and flip it on its head. Just buy a tall chair instead. (I only have a stool at the moment):

I have a height adjustable desk at work ( not ghetto'ized, like my home version). The linear actuators for my desk come from LINKAK:

Note: I came to this page because I want to make a new version of my desk electronically height adjustable. If anyone has specific ideas for my design, please be so kind as comment on this post. I'm not particularly mechanical, so I don't know all the pitfalls of different design decisions.

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I would suggest making a new question that links back to this answer (which is very nifty - BTW). You'll likely need some specific questions though - "How do I create an electronic height adjuster for an adjustable desk?" or something similar. –  Steve Jackson Oct 14 '11 at 19:09
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+1 for adding the treadmill! ;) –  DA01 Oct 14 '11 at 19:57
    
@SteveJackson - plus you can do your laundry while you work. –  lqlarry Feb 19 '12 at 4:46
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+1 (wish I could give you +10) for a standing desk coupled with a tall chair. Height-adjustment is over-engineering for such a simple problem. Imagine for a moment: how often do you honestly feel like you'll re-adjust the height if it takes any significant effort? If it was me, the fancy desk would end up staying permanently at one height. –  Curtis Sep 28 '12 at 21:04
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@Curtis I've found working at a standing desk with a tall chair to be quite ergonomically different, and inferior, to working at a regular desk with a regular office chair, FYI. Not every solution will suit every body. –  Evan Oct 9 '12 at 0:22
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This is just my opinion, but I think you might be hard pressed to build one cheaper than you can buy one. If you're just looking for a project, it might be a challenging one. But if you're looking to save money building your own, I don't think you will.

If you own your own fabrication shop and have lots of scrap to use then this might be an interesting build, but for the average DIYer I would say it's cheaper to buy then to build in this case.

If I was going to build one I would probably use a Scissor Jack for inspiration.

Another idea would be to use electric Linear Actuators and a telescoping tube system in the legs to lift the top.

You could potentially use the pistons from some old office chairs, but you would have to make sure the desk top had enough weight to compress them (otherwise you would have to lean on the desk to make it go down). You would also have to physically lift the top to the desired height, which depending on the weight could potentially be a problem. You may also run into trouble engaging the lift/lower mechanism of all the pistons simultaneously.

I came across this product which in itself would not be a solution, but the mechanism for lifting it could potentially be adapted to suit your needs.

alt text

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+1: I think you might be hard pressed to build one cheaper than you can buy one. - I agree, and that is why I will likely buy one on geekdesk.com. –  Jim G. May 27 '11 at 1:47
    
@Tester101 , I can't find the product you posted a picture of. What is that product called? I see you got it from china-rack.en.alibaba.com –  Ross Rogers Oct 14 '11 at 17:18
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@RossRogers Couldn't find the exact one, but I did find a hydraulic version Hydraulic Lift Table –  Tester101 Oct 14 '11 at 17:51
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Along this same line, you could use an automotive scissor jack to make the adjustable part of your table. –  RSMoser Jan 11 '12 at 21:36
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enter image description here

I recommend Kim Stanley Robinson's Bibliography, fleshed out with some Frank Herbert, and a large solid hardback for the top; I'm using 'The Pythons' in the case, but gardening and DIY manuals are equally good candidates.

Fine tuning can be done with Asimov, Van Vogt, Niven, or Simak. You may be tempted to use Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, but they're not very good for this purpose as there is too little variation in size.

My setup is particularly quirky; due to my number pad I use the left of my keyboard more. With this in mind I've bolstered the left stack with Simon's Cat, The Bunny Suicides, and similar comedic hardbacks.

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What happens if I want to read one of my computer supports? :) –  Martha Jan 18 '12 at 19:11
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@Martha: Hmmm... Good point. I've read most of mine to death (as you can see from the spines and colour), so that's probably a good prerequisite when choosing them. :) –  Stuart Pegg Jan 18 '12 at 21:25
    
If I was only worried about moving a laptop around, I would be working down the local coffee shop more than at home. :-) For two monitors, keyboard, mouse and phone, plus a laptop off to the side I'm not sure I have enough books. :-) –  Evan Oct 9 '12 at 0:26
    
@StuartPegg - now that is an answer worth reading ! +100 –  mike Sep 30 '13 at 23:47
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If you want to make a non-traditional desk you could have four posts fashioned together into a frame that goes high in the air. You could then "hang" the desk using an easily adjustable pulley system to raise or lower the desk. The surface could then be on a track system to keep it secure. There would be plenty of caveats but something like this could work if you put enough thought into the design.

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This would have an added advantage in that you'd have nothing under the desk to get in your way. Interesting! –  Michael Kohne Sep 29 '10 at 20:39
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I really like this idea. –  davemackey Jun 27 '12 at 2:21
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Pricing it up it seemed cheaper to get a second pair of monitors and a video switch - then build a separate low and high desk with regular IKEA parts - and simply stand / sit in front of each

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This is a really good point. At work this is essentially what I've done. –  Eric Nguyen May 1 '11 at 0:50
    
If I had the room for two desks in my study this could well be an option, but alas... –  Evan Oct 9 '12 at 0:24
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I bet you could eliminate a lot of the engineering and fabrication work in making something like this by making a desk that has only two positions, standing and sitting, vs. trying to make one that's continuously adjustable anywhere between its highest and lowest setting.

I'm thinking of something using a four-bar linkage on each end of the desk to keep the work surface flat while you move it from one position to the other, with pins to keep it secured in either position. You'd also want to incorporate some form of torque member to make sure the two linkages rotate together, to eliminate the need to always lift in the left-to-right center of the desk. Something like a closet rod might work for this. If you wanted, you could adjust your linkage geometry so that in the standing position the surface had a slight tilt, but was flat in the sitting position.

Of course you'd be limited in how much stuff you could put on the desk because you'd be moving it by hand and not by electricity. You could use a counterweight in your linkage to offset some of the weight.

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I'm a programmer and I currently use a drafting table as an adjustable standing desk. I wanted something that I could use in both sitting and standing position. The table I'm using is similar to the model shown here:

enter image description here

I can adjust the height by loosening the knobs and sliding the upper section upwards. The tabletop can be adjusted to be horizontal. This is working reasonably well and is a fairly cheap solution (actually, I found the table in a store room of our offices, but I have seen similar ones on the net selling for around $150)

There are some negatives, as it's obviously not designed for these purposes:

  • The top end of the range of adjustability is slightly lower than I would like. I'm fairly short so it works out OK but it would not be high enough for a tall person. I have to use monitor risers on top of it to bring my monitor up to eye level, but the keyboard height is about right.

  • It has a bit of a bounce to it when you are typing, if it is fully extended. I place a tripod under one of the front corners to stiffen it up when using it standing.

  • It's somewhat cumbersome to raise and lower with monitors on top, though I have still been doing this an average of once a day. My co-workers usually look at me with a look of concern and imply that I'm going to injure myself. I get underneath and hold the tabletop up with my back to control the ascent/descent while holding both knobs with my hands.

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This is the finished project for my adjustable height live edge computer worktable: Finished Live Edge adjustable table

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Great-looking desk, and the cost (<$700) is better than most options here. –  Eric Nguyen May 17 '11 at 21:05
    
$479 for a non-electric sit/stand base... the margin on these things must be awesome. –  Ross Rogers Oct 14 '11 at 17:53
    
-1 Link only answers become useless when the link goes bad and are frequently confused with spam. Be sure to provide context around the link and quote relevant content in case the link goes bad. See how to answer for more details. –  BMitch Dec 3 '13 at 21:00
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Been thinking about this all day and I came up with two ideas, both less than desk-like to keep the costs down.

  1. Simple tabletop mounted to rails on the wall. Lots of options for mechanical lift (scissor jack was my first idea, but I'd probably play with something hydraulic for fun). The rails would work like they do on a shelving system. You'd have to keep all the weight on the back edge though, probably not safe-enough for my house.

  2. If you're mostly doing computer stuff, mount a monitor to the wall on an arm and use an adjustable keyboard tray on a normal desk. I'm also thinking you could DIY the keyboard tray as a small-scale project before moving up.

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A keyboard tray on a normal desk isn't going to allow for standing (the OP was looking for a sit-to-stand range). Wall mounted rails might work, if you do the bracketing right. –  Michael Kohne Sep 29 '10 at 20:41
    
Assuming any reasonable minimum height, there should be lots of room for angle bracing back to the wall rails. –  Chris Cudmore Feb 28 '11 at 19:29
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I finally got around to actually building a real stand-up desk.

I ended up using metal stainless steel wire kitchen shelving...the kind you can get at Costco and the like. I didn't place any shelves between keyboard height and the top and used the keyboard height shelf as my actual desktop, then rigged a 'half shelf' above that to place my monitors on. I've since found that the wire shelf systems also have half-width shelves available for that type of task as well.

It's not adjustable in the sense that it raises and lowers whenever I want, but it's a really affordable stand up desk. As a bonus, it has wheels (easy to move) is steel (so can put notes everywhere with magnets) and is wire mesh (so it's easy to run all my cabling and zip-tie it all up).

My next goal is to find a height-adjustable stool that I can use on occasion when I do want a break from sitting.

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I've always been interested in this and always thought the easiest way would be to use a cantilever design and a weight on one end that would allow easy adjustment up and down. Then you'd only need a friction knob to hold it in place. If the weight on top of the desk changed, you would just adjust the weights on the lever.

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Exactly what I would try to build, if I were so inclined. –  Edwin Buck Sep 28 '12 at 17:32
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Found this link to a build it yourself in wood article which might satisfy your needs... its more of a laptop table rather than taking your suggested two monitor config but might give you some ideas for a larger one...

http://woodgears.ca/laptop_table/build.html

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-1 Link only answers become useless when the link goes bad and are frequently confused with spam. Be sure to provide context around the link and quote relevant content in case the link goes bad. See how to answer for more details. –  BMitch Dec 3 '13 at 21:01
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So, this thing isn't "adjustable" per se (at least, not after it's all put together), but I designed and built a standing desk a while ago that has been serving me well. I documented the build process here:

http://chris-allen-lane.com/2012/09/building-a-diy-standing-desk/

Here's a picture:

Standing Desk

I made it entirely out of pre-existing products, so it took no carpentry expertise at all to build this thing. (I don't have any such skill, so that was kind of a prerequisite.) It also only cost about $100 to build, which is pretty cheap as far as desks go - and beats the hell out of $700.

This is better suited to be a computer workstation rather than a true "desk", but if that's what you're going for anyway, I think this is a pretty good option. I've been using it for a few months now, and I'm generally a big fan. It's helped me out with some knee and hip/lower-back pain that I was having previously (from sitting too long), and generally makes me feel less lethargic when I use it.

I will say, though, that I also tend to have a harder time concentrating (when working on something really cerebral) when standing rather than sitting, so there is a bit off a trade-off to be made.

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You could purchase or copy the design of the 2-height desk at 1:12 in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nljmEUeLbY

It is made by ResourceFurniture.com

This page has a short video demonstrating it's operation:

http://www.resourcefurniture.com/space-savers/twin-space-saving-wall-beds/cabrio-in

Here it is shown integrated with a wall-bed:

enter image description here

enter image description here

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I think the biggest thing with the "push button" legs would be the ease of the ability to raise/lower the legs evenly when there's a load on them. The "push button" legs might be a bit tough, I.E. you push the button in and the leg shoots down because it's now free and there's a load on it and it pinches your finger or snaps down to the next level, not to mention you'd be raising one leg at a time and you'd have the added trouble of the load on the desk potentially being on a slope for a bit while you adjust the other legs.

Hydraulics with a locking mechanism (similar to a car hoist) would be a nice choice but you'll probably pay through the teeth for something like that and I'm not sure if they make something like that in a smaller size.

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-1 answer depends on a link that is now dead. –  BMitch Oct 29 '13 at 1:08
    
wasn't aware that the link was now dead. I've removed it from the answer. –  Scott Vercuski Oct 30 '13 at 11:28
    
"The "push button" legs in the link above..." What link? Above where? –  Tester101 Oct 30 '13 at 12:17
    
meta.diy.stackexchange.com/questions/226 <--- Guidelines for linking to external sites –  mike Oct 30 '13 at 20:55
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My home office is an ex-cupboard, 1m wide. My desk is a piece of wood 99cm wide which rests on pairs of battens on the walls. I have one set of battens at the right height for sitting down on a chair, and another set higher up for when I'm using my stepper machine or standing.

Since all that sits on my desk (plank) is a laptop and one piece of paper, it is not difficult to lift the plank out and up/down to a new position. I do have to adjust the laptop screen angle.

When sitting I prefer to use a separate USB mouse/keyboard, and these sit on a retractable tray (a plank on drawer sliders) just below the lower battens. I have shelves for all the other junk.

Bet this is the cheapest option you can find, especially as the stepper machine was 99p on (local pickup) ebay!

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There are commercial options around, and they go for a lot cheaper than $700. Look into the used office furniture business, where most items are offered for less than half their retail price. If the price is low enough it extends the range items can be shipped to you.

School / government / institutional auctions are possible too, but the desired items are much less certain to be present.

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Geekdesk.com does sell just the frame of their desk, which knocks a good bit off the price AND the shipping, possibly making that a good starting point for such a project. ergodepot.com does the same (with many more frame styles), but they are more expensive.

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When I enquired with Geekdesk in Sep 2011, the cost for a v2 small frame (no desktop) was US$525 plus shipping to Australia of US$300 for US$825 total. That was the cheapest option available from them at the time. –  Evan Oct 9 '12 at 0:18
    
-1 suggestions on "where to buy" rather than "how to build" are easily confused with spam. –  BMitch Dec 3 '13 at 21:03
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protected by BMitch Nov 3 '12 at 2:35

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