I'm looking to make a custom desk. I'm trying to decide on a material for the desk's surface. I have a fair amount of tools and am familiar/experienced in cabinet making (though it's been awhile). I have not, but probably could do laminate.

What gets me confused is the shape of my desired desk. It is roughly 4'x7' with multiple cutouts along the face. Cheaper is better, as long as it's functional and looks good. Laminate is an option, if I could face the edges well/cleanly. Something like carbon fiber or such would also work (the look, not the actual product.)


  • sturdy
  • able to be mounted to wall without legs
  • smooth/clean (writing surface) (will varnish if I have to, but tend to not be happy with varnish as a writing surface...too soft sometimes)
  • either modern-black or rustic-burnt wood grain

enter image description here Done in Google Sketchup. (File available upon request)

Possible options (from answers below):

  • Coloured MDF -- Excellent option that I'm looking into
  • Particle board with laminate -- Backup option
  • Biscuit joined wood planks -- Only if I have to
  • I'm amused that your sketchup screens have the company name Acer in them :) Funny detail to be included in the grand scheme of things
    – Steven
    Feb 14, 2013 at 20:26
  • @Steven Might it have something to do with the fact that Sketchup has been a free Google distribution. Maybe Google has a relationship with Acer?
    – bib
    Feb 14, 2013 at 21:18
  • I wouldn't put it past them @bib! serving you ads even when you don't know it!
    – Steven
    Feb 14, 2013 at 21:34
  • I'd guess that the monitors were downloaded from Google's 3D warehouse where Acer uploaded some that people can use for free and added their logo to it. Feb 14, 2013 at 21:57
  • 1
    @Mike Welcome! Another tip: it's best if you edit that information about your requirements and research into your original post (as if you wrote it from the beginning), so that people don't have to read through this discussion to get the relevant information. Comments should be considered disposable.
    – Kevin Reid
    Feb 15, 2013 at 15:32

4 Answers 4


For an inexpensive and easy to work with material I would consider MDF. In particular there is coloured MDF available. The colour is throughout the board, not just painted on the surface, here's an example:

enter image description here

The benefit of this is that simply scratching the surface will not remove the colour. It also gives the MDF a neat texture as the colour is not 100% solid.


Particle board with laminate.

Cut laminate so it's a little larger, glue it on with contact cement and trim the edges with a router.

Cheap and durable.

Particle Board


Formica trimming




I built a very similar desk using A-grade birch finish ply. It requires some careful jigsaw work for the corner part.

I faced it using hardwood planks, routed and sanded. The entire desk was then urethaned, for a hard and durable finish.


I'd prefer the MDF, like most options you have it would be available to be done in a single sheet/piece. It is relatively cheap and available at most hardware stores (at least around me FL/USA). It is easily to cut and leaves clean edges.

either modern-black or rustic-burnt wood grain

For the modern look in black, what about rounding the front top edge fairly heavy (~3/8-1/2" radius) and using a black epoxy, that would leave you with a clean shine that would be durable. You can buy spray epoxy paint (typically called appliance paint) but I have not had good success with it other touch up, I'd go with a brush on which are typically intended for concrete. Depending on how you like it, you could do the under-shelving in white epoxy or a flat white to accent it.

  • sturdy
  • able to be mounted to wall without legs

Really depends on how much weight you expect to put on it, an alternative that you might hate but I'll at least mention is a few large chrome legs to make the black top really pop.

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