Motorizing An IKEA SKARSTA Table

We’ve been told that standing at a desk is good for you, but unless you’re some kind of highly advanced automaton you’re going to have to sit down eventually no matter what all those lifestyle magazines say. That’s where desks like the IKEA SKARSTA come in; they use a crank on the front to raise and lower the desk to whatever height your rapidly aging corporeal form is still capable of maintaining. All the health benefits of a standing desk, without that stinging sense of defeat when you later discover you hate it.

But who wants to turn a crank with their hand in 2019? Certainly not [iLLiac4], who’s spent the last few months working in conjunction with [Martin Mihálek] to add some very impressive features to IKEA’s adjustable table. Replacing the hand crank with a motorized system which can do the raising and lifting was only part of it, the project also includes a slick control panel with a digital display that shows the current table height and even allows the user to set and recall specific positions. The project is still in active development and has a few kinks to work out, but it looks exceptionally promising if you’re looking to get a very capable adjustable desk without breaking the bank.

The heart of the project is a 3D printable device which uses a low-RPM DC gear motor to turn the hex shaft where the crank would normally go. A rotary encoder is linked to the shaft of the motor by way of printed GT2 pulleys and a short length of belt, which gives the system positional information and avoids the complexity of adding limit switches to the table itself.

For controlling the motor the user is given the option between using relays or an H-Bridge PWM driver board, but in either event an Arduino Nano will be running the show. In addition to controlling the motor and reading the output of the rotary encoder, the Arduino also handles the front panel controls. This consists of a TM1637 four digit LED display originally intended for clocks, as well as six momentary contact tactile switches complete with 3D printed caps. The front panel’s simple user interface not only allows for setting and recalling three preset desk heights, but can even be used to perform the calibration routine without having to go in and hack the source code to change minimum and maximum positions.

We’ve seen all manner of hacks and modifications dealing with IKEA products, from a shelving unit converted into a vivarium to a table doing double duty as a cheap plate reverb. Whether you’re looking for meatballs or some hacking inspiration, IKEA seems to be the place to go.

38 thoughts on “Motorizing An IKEA SKARSTA Table

  1. My workplace has motorized desks that convert to standing or any height in between and they have two major drawbacks:
    1) when you hit the up button by accident and it picks up your tower by the cables that run between it and the monitors.
    2) (no technical fix) those in standing mode protrude above cube walls and stare down into the rest of our cubes and their chatter is no longer muffled even by the minimal amount the cube walls provide.

    Let’s hope the submitter solves 1 and is classy enough to avoid 2.

    1. Against 1: Use longer cables. You could even tie them to rubber straps, if it’s a problem having them lying partially on the floor.
      Against 2: Work in an office with proper rooms and walls.

  2. I stood up over nine years ago and eliminated my chair completely.

    It took a few weeks to learn how to stand right (ask someone who has spent time in the armed services. They know how to stand. ) and then everything has been great.

    I have not wanted to sit at all for years.

    People do get a bit wierded out when I stand in meetings, but that’s life.

  3. Going to check out that Ikea desk now.

    I have been looking for something like this for a while because I’m a watchmaker,
    And watchmakers benches, there are some made that have both a crank and electronic switch with motor that raise them up. They start around $5,000, but they are an enormous benefit for people who sit at their desk all day and need an exact height to do the work easily.

    I was going to use a spare ball screw I had laying around to make a ball screw controlled watchmakers desk, until I remembered ball screws are self-driven without a brake, which would mean the desk could possibly drop if it lost power.

    Not everybody needs a height adjustable desk, but when you need one nothing else works.

    1. For me watches are made highly automated – chip bonding, SMD pick and place machine – and do not need moving parts. Mechanical watches are a niche-product, tremendously expensive, for people which do not know how to spend their excess money. So it’s no surprise that tools for this are also heavily overpriced.

      1. I don’t wear a watch usually.

        People who buy mechanical watches or own old ones realize they don’t need one. Some things are done for the sake of beauty and appreciation, like art. To most people who like them including me, they are just mechanical art you can take with you and admire.

        That being said, the price for tools to fix something that needs to be that mechanically accurate to function is high because Precision is high in their construction. The desk I mentioned is expensive but it is solid oak made to last several lifetimes and is far more robust then any of these flimsy sit-stand desks.

        I am a tool and die machinist for my living, with watchmakers training, and I am still finding new reasons why the tools are so expensive but it is almost always justified. If you have never had the opportunity to talk with a watchmaker about the quality of their tools and why they need to be made so precisely to actually function correctly you don’t understand.

  4. “calibration of MIN and MAX table position to avoid destroying mechanism and limiting travel range of table”
    I would suggest adding limit switches so it could auto calibrate and not destroy the mechanism.
    An under table mount for the PC and maybe use an ESP8266 or an ESP32 to add wife/bt remote control to it… Because you might need to adjust it from across the room.
    Another option would be to add a pi or pi like controller with a camera and open cv so it could recognize the user and auto adjust to their defaults.

    1. You certainly could (and arguably, should), but the idea here was just one unit you could bolt on to automate the existing mechanism.

      Wiring/mounting limit switches adds a decent amount of complexity for something you can do in software with the encoder. But of course you do run the risk of a software bug running it up against the limits and what sort of thing.

      1. The encoder only gives you a relative position and not an absolute one though. If you want to keep it down to being easy to bolt on, one of those ultrasonic range finders would probably work fine. You don’t need to keep it precise, just say within 5-10cm of the lowest and highest height you can go to.

  5. “… The project also includes a slick control panel with a digital display that shows the current table height and even allows the user to set and recall specific positions.”


    If I were interested in the whole standing desk thing, I’d absolutely write something to connect it to emacs. Emacs is the ultimate desk automation suite, from hardware to software. And if you’re so inclined, bed…

  6. Will an electric drill have the torque necessary? You know one of those we have so many with broken battery packs lying around at our homes.
    230 EUR is still quite much for the Skarsta table though.

  7. Standing for long periods gives me backaches. Walking in a mall following my wife while she does her shopping gives me serious backaches, though that doesn’t bother her in the least (man’s bane, woman’s joy, go figure). And yet I’m not overweight and have never had a back problem that required a visit to a doctor. So, it seems to me that standing desks aren’t what they are cracked up to be. Give me a lab stool or an office chair with adjustable height and I’m fine.

  8. just for canada/quebec…
    ikea SKARSTA table manual 300 $can – sit-to-stand-adjustable-desk-riser-frame already motorized (bring your own table top ) 240 $can… a bit pricey to use an Ikea table in our corner of the world ( the same manual frame without table top on primecables 169 $can)

  9. I am all for the people who thought this up because it just seems cool but I must say (while sitting at my ikea-skarsta-table) that after a long day of being stuck in place because of meetings, emails and other requirements of the office – I don’t mind be required to do 10-30 seconds of movement to raise/lower my desk.

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