A Massive Adjustable Standing Desk From Scratch

Standing at your desk all day is healthier by far than sitting, but the commercial options tend to be expensive. [drivenbyentropy] had to contend with a heater right where the desk would go, but building an adjustable office desk to accommodate it turned out — well — gorgeous.

Two 18″ heavy duty 12 V DC actuators raise and lower the desk with a 600 lbs static load capacity and 200 lbs of  lifting load each. One actuator is actually slightly faster than the other, so instead of working out something fancy, [drivenbyentropy] simply extended the cable length on the faster actuator to disguise the difference.

Framed with some standard 2×4’s and sheathed with plywood, the massive four by eight foot desk has twelve ball-bearing drawer slides in the legs to add stability and smooth out height adjustments. Because of its size and having to build around the heating unit, the desk is stuck in the room since it does not easily come apart. There is, however, easy access to the two electronics compartments for troubleshooting!


[drivenbyentropy] painstakingly planed all the edges flush and stained the legs a mahogany red with polyurethane finish, while also applying seven coats of each with a final sand and smoothing coat to the desktop. After all that effort, [drivenbyentropy] has only sat at the desk a handful of times in the six months since its completion. The rest of the time it’s in standing mode!

Still, with a five week build time and $400 tab, this is an involved project. An even cheaper standing desk can be whipped up using some spare PVC piping, but if raising your desk is not an option, raise your keyboard and monitor instead.

[via /r/DIY]

31 thoughts on “A Massive Adjustable Standing Desk From Scratch

  1. “Standing at your desk all day is healthier by far than sitting”

    Well actually no, a balance of postures, stillness and motion is best with an excess of any one thing, including standing, being bad for your health. Do a web search for “Standing all day is twice as bad as sitting” and you will find the Canadian study that demonstrated that fact.

    1. That one study has enough strange results (the gender gap, in particular) that it makes my statistical spider sense tingle like crazy. When you run big regressions like that on uncontrolled studies, you have to be careful about interpreting the results.

      What they found is that people in standing jobs (line cooks, porters) have more heart attacks than people in sedentary jobs (coders, Hackaday editors). What they cannot control for is the essentially fantastic life of the Hackaday editor that keeps his or her heart ticking with glee.

      So if you’re already at a sitting job, the study doesn’t tell you not to stand up. It just tells you not to swap up to being a line cook.

      1. Yeah, studying people always comes with a built-in handicap. You can’t make them adopt certain lifestyles like you can lab rats. There are always factors that cannot be controlled. The line cooks v. office clerks comparison has a major hitch. A lot of stand-up jobs are also high-stress jobs and that can feed heart attacks.

        In my case, I find that having both allows me to shift between the two and that, in itself, is a benefit. I get variety. I also deliberate interrupt both to walk about. There are health negatives to both sitting and standing.

    2. That was also my impression. People which have to stand all the time in their job have much more occupational health problems than people who have to sit. So I really don’t understand this hype around standing desks.
      But motion and change is obviously good for our muscles and joints, so that would speak for a Vari-Desk, not against.

    1. I guess you can sell them any health/food pseudoscience-backed superstitions the media are full of.

      Every time I hear a health-related absolute thruth like “standing is healthier than sitting” a sceptic inside me dies a little bit. I always remember my grandma who spent decades working behind a mangle and ended up with arthritic knees. All the good and benefits of standing.

      On the positive note, I really like the build. Nice table with huge area and great finish.

  2. If the owner of the house doesn’t mind, there would also be the option of attaching vertical rails to the walls with either geared ratchets or cables and pulleys, to eliminate the telescoping legs.

    1. Is it warm/hot or cold/chilled?

      ” Complete frame. Note the void in the center to account for the air conditioning unit. ”

      It doesn’t mention it is a “heater”.
      May be is cold air?

  3. I had to read it twice. There are no cables in the lift. Wires from a LV power supply power the screw lifts, one was longer than the other and has more resistance than the other. So the motor runs slower on the longer run. Make them the same, OK. This can be raised and lowered by one cable attached to a motor, evenly. That’s the confusion.

  4. I don’t understand why this sort of toys exist. Why not instead make it a static standing table, and then get a high chair on which you sit when you want to sit at the bar, erm, at the desk?

    – It is much less energy wasting, no electricity spent on unnecessary lifting of the desk plank and things it holds,
    – brings you much more exercise (lifting your body weight into the chair using your muscles),
    – your wall-attached shelves are always at the same vertical distance from the desk surface,
    – you get much more space beneath workspace for filing cabinets and crawling for cables set up is less contorting.

    1. I’ve been using a redneck standing desk for a year and a half or so. It’s a regular desk, propped up on 28 cm of bricks. Total cost, something like $10. It was meant to be a quick hack and I’ve just learned to live with it. Extra space is great, but it’s not pretty.

      But to the point: there are no comfortable chairs of the right height. You need something like an old-school barber chair, with a good solid footrest, otherwise your legs kinda dangle. Siitting on a stool or a bar chair just doesn’t cut it.

      1. Drafters, (the paper kind) use taller tables and have suitably taller chairs.

        I find that drafting chairs are quite comfortable, though there are far fewer choices than desk height chairs.

  5. For those who don’t need “massive,” many of the tilting arts-and-crafts tables can be raised high enough they’ll work as a standing desk. You can find them at thrift stores for about $20.

    And if space is tight where your live, the sturdier (metal) collapsible laundry racks will hold a laptop at about the right height for standing. And when you don’t need, them, they can be put away.

  6. If health is the concern, why have a motor do the lifting? Make the desk into a resistance exercise system. (I.e. you do so many reps of raising / lowering the desk as part of your workout). Add suitable resistance adjustments to tailor to your needs.

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