A Place for Things

March 8, 2016 · Posted in Engineering 

My desk is somewhat of a sacred place to me. It’s where I spend a lot of my waking hours. It’s where I do work, play, write these posts, and so much more. I tend to wear out office chairs pretty quickly — not because of my weight or anything, but because I spend so much time at my desk.

For quite a few years, I’ve wanted to design (and eventually, build) what I would consider my ultimate desk. Most importantly, it needs to be functional: I need to be able to put things on it, sit at it, and it needs to give me places to keep the things that I use on a frequent basis close by, in an organized manner. But of course, it’d also be great if it didn’t look too terrible — I look at it quite a bit, after all.

So, how would I go about doing this?

First of all, the desk is going to be modular in design. It’ll consist of a few different modules that can act as free-standing units. This makes it easier to build, move, and gives me the freedom to arrange the modules how I see fit (and also depending on the space that the desk is in).

I know that I want to go for an L-shaped desk, because it gives the greatest amount of access to drawers and such. But I don’t want to go with a straight, boring, 90° corner. It’ll be more like a nice, curved section that makes about a 60° turn.

My desk will be a bit taller than your average desk. I’m a pretty tall guy, and I like to have enough room for my legs. It’ll also be a bit deeper than average, because I hate not having enough space to put things.

It’ll also be a fairly integrated package. There will be a built-in stand holding my monitors and speakers, my computer will be built into the desk instead of being a seperate tower, and wiring will be built in as much as possible too. I like a nice, clean, wire-free appearance.

Even though I have a pretty good idea of what the desk will look like in terms of its shape, I don’t know yet what the finish is going to be. The structure itself will be built using plywood (in a variety of thicknesses, and even a fair amount of the flexible kind) for strength, dimensional stability, and cost, but the visible surfaces will most likely be topped with a dark toned wood veneer as well as accents in brushed stainless steel. (Keep that in mind with the images I’ve posted below — they show only the plywood structure, none of the finished surfaces.)

The first module I’ve been working on is the drawer module. Every desk needs a good set of drawers to store and organize the plethora of items that I like to keep close. In my case, I’ve decided to go with a five-drawer system.


The two topmost drawers are fairly shallow, and are intended for tools. I like to tinker with things, and it’s handy to have an assortment of screwdrivers, pliers, and other hand tools at hand. These two drawers are similar in height to drawers of tool chests, and in the long term I intend to fit them with two-color foam that holds the actual tools.

Drawers three and four are a moderate 6 inches tall, making them well suited for the assortment of pens, notepads, and all of the other general items that I keep in my desk. Closing out the list is the bottom drawer, which is sized to hold hanging file folders, to organize papers of all kinds.

All drawers are 22 inches deep, except for the bottom drawer (which has a depth of 26 inches), and are fitted with 100 lbs capacity, full extension, ball-bearing drawer slides.


I intend to make my own drawer handles. They will be fairly simple turned pieces (consisting of a few components) in stainless steel with a brushed finish.

The front of the unit is not just straight like most drawer cabinets are — it has a curve to it, to make the desk more visually interesting. (This curve is also the reason why not all drawers are the same depth; the drawers at the top don’t have the same amount of space available.) The curve does complicate the construction of the desk, but I think it’s worth it.


The bottom of the cabinet is raised up off the ground. The supports are placed back far enough that when sitting at the desk, or standing in the same room, they won’t be visible. I intend to work LED lighting strips into the space under the cabinets to create a cool effect that (hopefully) creates the illusion of the desk floating somewhat above the ground, rather than sitting on it.

On top of the module will rest the top working surface, which will protrude forward again. This, however, will be designed as a separate piece that can come off independently.


Overall, I’m pretty happy with how the design is progressing. I will post more as things continue.


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