Anyone who spends a decent amount of time on the computer knows the importance of a proper workstation. What proper means to each person often differs, and it can be hard to find that perfect workstation you have in mind.
This is where building your own, or having one built for you, can be the perfect way to get exactly what you want. Today, I’ll walk you through my latest personal project – a cedar, single slab top, with a sliding tray to hold the keyboard and mouse.
To check before beginning
– You should own the house you plan to make this addition to, or have the permission of the owner. Built-in furniture is generally fastened to walls and floors, and will leave holes when removed.
Standard desk height is 700 millimeters, give or take 20 millimeters. Unless you’re extremely short or tall, veering too far from this standard will result in an awkward and uncomfortable height. This problem is compounded if you spend long hours on it – which is often the case with workstations.
Depending on what kind of framing your home has behind the drywall, you may need to add your own. Horizontal ribbing over studs is generally at 1 shaku (12 inch; 303 mm) intervals, which means you’re plumb out of luck for 700 mm – as was I.
In cases where there is no horizontal ribbing, but only vertical studs, the latter is sufficient provided there are studs at the crucial points – such as the ends and corners of your desk.
Selecting the Top Slab
I have a site from which I’ve bought high quality pieces in the past, and have had overall pleasant and satisfactory transactions. Obviously, I’ve gone with them this time as well. I input my parameters (such as length, width, wood species, and upper price limit) into the site’s search bar and browse through the results until I find the piece I believe to be the winner. See Kondo Kougei.
In most cases, you won’t find a piece that’s ideal in ALL respects, especially when considering price, so you just have to settle for the one that’s best taking everything into account. Unless cost is of no concern, there will always be a compromise – you just have to decide where you’ll make it.
Besides the dimensional parameters I mentioned above, there are features of the wood itself that heavily determine its cost.
Features that are generally considered defects: knots, cracks, worm holes, and discoloration/stains.
Features that are generally considered to add value: natural grain patterns such as bird’s eye, fiddleback, and flame. These figure patterns are in most species produced through quarter sawing, which by definition produces smaller boards with more waste resulting in higher cost. Thus, rather than length, the width of the slab will have more bearing on cost.
Deciding on the specific place you’ll mount the desk
Once you’ve decided on where you’ll mount your desk, you can more easily picture the final shape, size, and overall finished look.
Cut, Sand, Varnish
You now cut, sand, and varnish the individual pieces. Remember, all cutting, shaping, and drilling of holes etc, must be done at this stage, before varnishing.
As you can see, I’ve drilled a 50 millimeter hole to pass cables through. It just so happened that the knot lined up with the area I wanted the hole, which I thought adds a nice touch. Depending on your particular setup, the hole can be in the corner or center. You can also have a hole at both corners if the desk is between walls.
When wood gets to this class, in my opinion it really doesn’t need varnish to enhance its appearance. The purpose of the varnish in this case is to protect its surface. An oil finish is actually all it really needs to bring out the grain and figure, and its low gloss and absence of a film serve to accentuate the wood and its natural surface.
However, oil finishes alone don’t possess the hard, water proof coat that varnish has. So unless you never eat or drink anything at your desk, it’s advisable to go with the varnish. Low gloss varnishes are also available.
Assembly and Installation
After everything is cut and varnished (and dry, of course), you can assemble and install as you have planned. In my case, I’ve mounted it to a corner of my office, at 700 millimeters slab top surface. The back and right end are supported horizontally by 35 by 45 mm sticks of wood, and the front, left corner is supported by a 70 by 70 mm vertical column.
You can see that I’ve installed a sliding tray on which I have my keyboard and mouse. It’s wide enough to accommodate other things as well, and tucks neatly underneath the desk top. I’ve also intentionally made all the supporting components a cheaper, generic, engineered wood so as to not inadvertently steal attention from the Cedar slab.