Thursday, April 28, 2011

Height Adjustable Desk Project

I spend a lot of time at my desk using a computer.  For a while I have had a vision of a ergonomic desk that provides various adjustments and provides the ability to stand while I work.  Such a desk would also allow other users to enjoy the custom fit.  Additional criteria were that the desk should look good and come in at a  cost of $700 or less.  I don’t need a monster desk so my search was limited to medium sized desks or bases (3’x5’).

After an arduous search, I concluded there were several well thought out options and many pricey options that exceeded $1,000.  Those ideas and products that exceeded $1,000 were eliminated from contention. One idea used a “Perfect Chair” and a laptop desk in addition to a desktop giving the user the best of both worlds.  The idea has merit but I can’t imagine balancing a 27” iMac on a laptop desk. has an electric base for $615 and a desk with a top for $759 (shipping included). also has a selection of adjustable desks (electric) priced at $640 base only or $800 with a top (shipping included but $47 more is you live in NYC, Chicago or San Fran)

So far it is not looking good and the low cost is probably not going to happen.  However,  I continued my weekly searches and came across a base and desk option on eBay offered by Height Adjustable Worktable  The base on their website was $350 (they often offer $50 off for holidays like Easter) and is priced higher than eBay ($315 although originally it was at $270) shipping adds to the final cost; for me it was $22 (but I was only 100 miles away) through eBay for a total cost of $337.  I was hesitant to purchase this base because it was so much cheaper than the other options, but eventually I pulled the trigger.

The base arrived in 2 days and was well packaged in a small box weighing 44 lbs.  At first glance it appeared to be too small and my skepticism grew.  I opened the package and found parts to be individually packed and all of the hardware, including the necessary tools, were well arranged and securely packaged.  The instruction manual contained little in the way of written instructions but was well done and contained many pictures which clearly diagrammed the necessary steps needed. I took my time ad the base was complete in about 45 minutes.  If you are more mechanically inclined it might take you 15 minutes.  

The specifications indicate the desk can support up to 130 lbs, my guess is my weight will approximate 65 lbs. The base can be extended from 31.5” to 47.2”.  The height adjusts from 27” to 43” with the wheels attached and 3” less without wheels.

I was impressed with the quality and ease of installation.  I opted for the manual base although an electric option is available for $100 more.  The base is very steady and has a commercial feel to it and looks better than depicted in website photos.  I really can’t imagine the other available bases being that much better in quality, but I can’t say for sure.  It comes with feet, wheels or you can use it as it is, which I intend to do.

Although the desktops offered by all of the companies are probably functional and reasonably priced I sought something that would have a little more pop.  I searched multiple websites looking for live edge wood that comes off a tree in the form of a slab.  This option is somewhat eco friendly in that the wood is salvaged from dead trees rather than a generic formica top made from who knows what.

I also started looking at second hand shops for coffee tables where I might be able to use the top as a desktop.  I found one for $100 that might work and made the purchase mainly because it also matched another table I already owned.  Worse case is I could dump it on craigslist for about what I paid for it.  I mounted it on the base and it doesn’t look too bad and may provide a reasonable solution if I am unable to find a better option.
My space is somewhat confined and I could only use a top about 5’ in length by 30” wide.  After visiting several sources in Arizona I determined that most pieces available locally were limited to about 22’ wide and, therefore, slightly below my desired width.  Again, I ended up on eBay with a vendor located in MA that specializes in slabs - Berkshire  My first thought was shipping to AZ is going to kill me.  My second thought was these slabs are huge and way to big for my needs (some are literally 10’ in length and 5 or 6’ wide)  However, they had an English Elm Slab that was the second cheapest item in their inventory at $150 and met my needs (5’x24”x31”).  I was correct about shipping, can you say $137!
So another $287 out of pocket and the suspense of waiting a week while it made its way to AZ from MA.

Total cost to date is $624 ($724 if you count the coffee table top) my hope for a low cost solution is beginning to wain.  

Of course I know nothing about this wood slab headed my direction.  Can I leave the bark on?  What kind of finish goes on this type of piece?  Does it need to be sanded?  I found several tables and desks, that were made from live edge slabs, for sale which looked very nice and I wondered how much work was involved to turn a piece of tree into a $2,000 piece of furniture?  None of these artists were using a height adjustable base and all probably had a real shop, as opposed to a tool chest and a palm sander,to work with.

One of the more informative sites I came across was  I decided I would finish the top with a make-your-own-oil-varnish-blend which seemed to be time tested and the site operator let me know that this blend should work fine for my upcoming project.  I also decided that bark should come off because eventually it will work free on its own.

I  then made a trip to my local Lowe’s and acquired sand paper (60/120/230/400) Boiled Linseed Oil, Naptha, Polyurethane, gloves, wiping cloths and a mixing container. Add another $33, but I did receive a free tree because it was Earth Day. Total cost now $657. ($757 if you count the coffee table top. I’ll need to unload that coffee table to stay under my $700 budget)

I'll update when the top has been completed.

See Part 2 here


puja said...

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Emy Watson said...

I just moved to a new place. I have a secondary computer that I rarely use but would like to keep in the living room and use my stool as a swivel chair. I need a computer desk that can adjust the height for the stool.
height adjustable desk