An Adjustable Sit/Stand Desk For Under $100

[Cornel Masson] is a 46-year-old computer programmer. He’s been working on his computer for the last 30 years. Computer work can be good for the wallet but it can be bad for our health, particularly the neck and back. You can purchase adjustable desks to allow you to change positions from sitting to standing, but unfortunately these desks are often expensive. [Cornel] took matters into his own hands and build his own adjustable riser for under $100.

To start, [Cornel] used a typical computer desk. He didn’t want to build the entire thing from scratch. Instead he focused on building a riser that sits on top of the desk, allowing him to change the height of both the monitor and keyboard. His design used mostly wood, aluminum stock, threaded rods, and drawer slides.

The main component is the monitor stand and riser. The riser is able to slide up and down thanks to four drawer slides mounted vertically. [Cornel] wanted his monitor to move up and down with ease, which meant he needed some kind of counter weight. He ended up using a gas strut from the trunk of a Nissan, which acts as a sort of spring. The way in which it is mounted makes for a very close approximation of his monitor’s weight. The result is a monitor that can be raised or lowered very easily. The stand also includes a locking mechanism to keep it secured in the top position.

The keyboard stand is also mounted to drawer slides, only these are in the horizontal position. When the monitor is lowered for sitting, the keyboard tray is removed from the keyboard stand. The stand can then be pushed backwards, overlapping the monitor stand and taking up much less space. The keyboard stand has small rollers underneath to help with the sliding. The video below contains a slideshow of images that do a great job explaining how it all works.

Of course if replacing the entire desk is an option go nuts.

33 thoughts on “An Adjustable Sit/Stand Desk For Under $100

  1. I find standing desks an overly complex solution to the problem. Why not just use a standing or high desk and a drafting stool. Drafting stools are high enough that you sit when you want and you just get off the chair when you want to stand. Most even offer footrests. I used a set up way back in high school in my drafting class this was way before CAD was on option on anything less than a minicomputer. We had big flat desks with good lights and a tall stool to sit on.
    No moving parts and not all that expensive.

    1. Don’t mind standing desks in general, but this one certainly seems to be overly complicated. Not sure a drafting stool would work as a single solution either though, they get kinda uncomfortable after extended periods of sitting (as a programmer would be doing regularly). Also the stools are surprisingly expensive

    2. I’m the designer, and I agree :) It works great, but it’s overly complicated. The reason for this is simply because I hacked it together in an iterative fashion with limited time, so could often not backtrack out of a dark alley I constructed myself into ;)

  2. I’ve learned that you should have the top edge of the screen at eye level. So to me it seems way too high when sitting, but that maybe a design point; making it hard to sit and work.. :-)

    1. [Cornel, my project]: I prefer the monitor slightly higher than eyes-level-with-top, but it is actually a bit too high at the bottom setting; a function of “explorative design & construction” (if u know what I mean). If there’s a next version, I will CAD it with the knowledge I gained.

  3. Forget the “project site”, go straight for the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF1QiZN5CNs
    However, unless I had back major back problems, I would leave out the balance part and just use the locking levers when the monitor is in up position. Plus, I don’t think the design achieves “Acceptable aesthetics (i.e. doesn’t look like a pile of firewood)”.
    But he’s built one and I haven’t. Instead of the lever mechanism, I’d look into industry tool balancers that probably are more compact.
    On another note, I heard it’s supposed to be better for your eyes to look downwards a bit because they don’t dry out as quickly. The sitting position shown seems to have him almost raise his head.

    1. [Cornel, my project]: I’m a computer programmer, so I had to over-design it ;) It was fun designing and building the overly complex swingarm mech, requiring me to dig up some Physics and Trig I hadn’t used for 20 years :D. It also attracts the girls.

  4. If you’re going for cheap, why does it need to be adjustable?

    The problem with these mechanically complex systems is that once you’ve found the comfortable height, the system becomes redundant because you’re only ever going to use it at that setting from thereon.

    That’s why you could just stack a bunch of books to find out what you like, buy a cheap wooden bench or shelf unit, put it on the table and hacksaw the legs shorter.

  5. Gives me some ideas for the sit/stand desk I’ve been working on. 20+ years in front of the computer, and I’m 6’7″ (just over 2m) and I have regular back pain when I sit for too long. Matter of fact, I can feel the pinch in my lower spine right now…time to stand.

  6. I’m sure it works okay, but trying to understand how it works is hurting my head.

    Simple is good. For at least the monitor part, I’d try something like suspending it from the ceiling using spring tensioners. Similar to what’s seen at the beginning of “The Incredible Mister Limpet”. I have my largest and heaviest aquarium light hanging from those. The weight is nearly cancelled, all you have to do to is push it up or down, and it stays with no locking mechanism or other intervention required. I suppose for a monitor you’d need three, offset like an inverted tripod, to keep it from swinging a while after adjustments.

  7. Or you could just sit at a desk and take a few 15 minutes walk two or three times a day. Same health results, way easier to stay productive, plus the walks “clear the mind” and help you stay more creative and focused.

    First it was a clown ball to sit on, next it’s a stand up desk. Fads come and go but the standard desk and desk chair will be here for many many years to come.

    1. I was considering my options: how much (if at all) my Income Protector would pay out if I simply couldn’t do the work I was qualified for anymore. Up until the point I built this desk, I had tried EVERYTHING, including software that reminded me to get up every 15 mins, stretching, medication, biofeedback, balls, chair 1, chair 2, chair 3, physical therapy, etc. etc.. This works for me, it saved my life and my career. It may be a fad in general, though.

  8. I have two Monitors, two USB Mice, and two USB Keyboards. One is sitting on my desk normally, the other is on my Treadmill (with a simple stationary shelf added.) I can sit, stand at the Treadmill (motor off,) or exercise on Treadmill (motor on.)

  9. Along with the tall desk and architect’s chair- good solution! (ALL good chairs are expensive). How about a wireless keyboard with various fixed places to set it, or simpler fixed keyboards, and multiple monitors at various heights. Do not move anything mechanically- use a KVM switch between the work positions- or however many you like. I would use multiple monitors, if you are going to bother to set up an elaborate work area!

  10. Here are two commercially available risers, the VariDesk and HumanScale QuickStand. If I had to build it again, I think I would try something like the QuickStand. Note the prices: $350 for the base VariDesk, almost $900 for the QuickStand. Very slick solution, though. I quoted mine as “< $100", but I used mostly stuff lying around the garage (save the $4 per drawer slide), so it probably cost me +- $30. The labour cost I'd rather not dicuss…

  11. I agree with your article because height adjustable desk is the main matter for everyone who working on long time in office and home and my opinion you never compromise to health, so when you purchase the height adjustable desk it should be more comfortable and suited to your body and within your budget……………………..

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