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Building a DIY Home Office? 247

Rednerd asks: "I just moved into a new apartment and I'm almost done painting and running the cat 5. I have been looking at office furniture for a new desk to become the new home for all of my misc. computer gadgetry, but I haven't been able to find anything that really fits. (No one seems to sell a desk with room for two 19" monitors, seven computers, a beer fridge, coffee maker, and a small compartment to serve as a shrine for my little plush penguin - Potelé) I'm leaning toward building a custom desk for my computers. With all the talk on Slashdot about creating an ultra-efficient cubicle, I was wondering what other slashdotters have created in the way of DIY home offices?"
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Building a DIY Home Office?

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  • IKEA? (Score:2, Informative)

    by forgoil ( 104808 )
    Take a peak at IKEA's line of office furniture, they can be extended quite a lot, and then you can just add whatever comes to mind:)
    • Using IKEA stuff as a base is a great idea.

      Grab two full-sized desks to use as the edges (like the sides of the U shape - you'll be in the middle), and convert a large table to use as the main part. The table should be good enough to hold the beer-fridge near the corner where it won't get in the way of your legs. Create shelving under the other corner for the PC bases, and make sure you create some pretty big channels for the cables to run through, as there's bound to be a shitload of cabling.

      One monitor on the top of each corned piece, keyboard, mouse, porn etc. inbetween the monitors, and you've got the side desks for your coffee and everything.
    • Re:IKEA? (Score:3, Informative)

      by swb ( 14022 )
      IKEA furniture sucks because IKEA uses the lowest-budget (hardboard, cardboard, and particle board if you're lucky) materials for the most important structural elements. I'll admit I like the designs and the styling, but my experience with IKEA furniture was bad because the materials were so poor.

      A cheaper, better alternative (if "looks" aren't important) is either plywood sheets or door blanks set on filing cabinets. Buy veneered plywood (oak or cherry) and it'll look as good as anything IKEA ever sold.

      For a sleek modern look, buy some old steel filing cabinets from a used office supply place and strip the paint off of them until they're a nice brushed steel.
      • by Tet ( 2721 )
        IKEA uses the lowest-budget (hardboard, cardboard, and particle board if you're lucky) materials for the most important structural elements.

        Agreed. My solution was to build my own desks using decent wood, and some table legs from Ikea (£9 for four, yet sturdy enough to support all the weight I need). I was lucky with the wood, in that my girlfriend's company were throwing out their old desks, having just bought new ones (her company in turn having acquired them from SCO -- hey, my desk is a piece of Unix history :-) So we took the wood from the desks, screwed on some Ikea legs, and added the pedastals that they also threw out to give us some storage space. Perfect. Now all I need is a bigger house...

      • IKEA furniture sucks because IKEA uses the lowest-budget (hardboard, cardboard, and particle board if you're lucky) materials for the most important structural elements. I'll admit I like the designs and the styling, but my experience with IKEA furniture was bad because the materials were so poor.

        I'll second this. My last employer used IKEA furniture in the office, and it sucked. It was seriously rickety.

        A cheaper, better alternative (if "looks" aren't important) is either plywood sheets or door blanks set on filing cabinets. Buy veneered plywood (oak or cherry) and it'll look as good as anything IKEA ever sold.

        If I were using plywood, I'd want to build bracing. Once, I built a workbench 42" high with a 3/4" plywood surface. 3/4 ply will bend, but I ran a 2x4 all the way around it, and supported it on 4x4s, with 2x4s bracing the legs. I'm over 300 lbs, and I could walk around on this table, which was one of my goals in building it. Don't ask. :)

        For a sleek modern look, buy some old steel filing cabinets from a used office supply place and strip the paint off of them until they're a nice brushed steel.

        Then finish them with some sort of sealer which will stick to metal, or they'll rust, unless that's the look you're going for...

    • The IVAR line is something you should look at. Extremely versatile and adaptive : it is made of wood, it goes around corners and over doors. And more with some imagination.
      One tip : put 30 cm between the wall and the furniture - first you can go behind to setup the wiring, and you have more space for your monitors.
    • I do (its got Ikea legs though) but firedoors from skips are a tad cheaper than the desktops in IKEA, and you don't mind as much when you drop your soldering iron on them.
  • been done (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gascsd ( 316132 )
    why bother with a beer fridge and a coffee maker? don't reinvent the wheel

    jet powered beer cooler [slashdot.org]

    that famous coffee machine [slashdot.org]

    keep a browser window open to check on the coffee, and keep the thing in your kitchen. when you don't hear the jet engine blaring anymore, you know your beer is good and cold. stick a few brats behind the exhaust, and pitch your bbq

    as for the monitors ... have you considered a monitor arm? get a good one that lets you move it around if need be. i keep my kvm'd monitor on one of those, and it can be quite useful, especially when i'm working on some boxen and need the monitor to follow me
  • My dream Home Office (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Xenna ( 37238 )
    I hate computer noise and cable clutter so I envision a home office where the computers (clients as well as servers) are stored in a seperate computerroom and where the kbds, monitors and mouses are all attached thru one of those KVM-over-cat5 type devices. Kinda like the way they do it in stock trading rooms.

    And I would like a laptop that boots from the (wireless) network and has no noisy harddisk. I guess this is doable by running Linux on it...

    Xenna (stuck in a noisy room with cluttered cables)
  • Shelving (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jonnystiph ( 192687 )
    Its all about shelving, no precious desk space wasted. There are also a number of catalogs and such that sell desks for server rooms in almost what you are looking for, the two monitors and more than normal PCs. I would still say shelving though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2001 @07:09AM (#2266723)
    Everybody knows someone who's handy.

    A friend and I designed and built a new desk when I moved to fit the room and my gear perfectly. (Well, my friend did most of the work) It's doable. And it turned out to be a LOT cheaper than the suitable desks I found out there.

    If you DO want to buy a ready-made desk, don't look in furniture stores, they just sell kiddy stuff, and desks for people that need a place for their electric typewriter. Go look at companies that sell to other companies. They're usually more difficult to find, even though they often have a showroom (though just not visible from the outside) and sell to regular people. They're insanely expensive though. But, if you really want ready-made, they'll usually have something that fits.

    The cool thing about making your own desk is not only that your desk gets to be BIG, but you also get to choose the materials and colors.
    The downside about making your own desk is that it's too difficult to make a desk that has adjustable height, so you have to be REALLY sure how high your surface needs to be (mine is 2 cm too high).

    If you are going to make your own desk, make it deep enough. Commercial desks usually are too shallow to place a keyboard in front of your monitor and still be able to rest your elbows in a comfortable manner.
  • Yourself some plans. Of what exactly what you would like. With some graph paper layout out your room. Then decide exacly your space requirement. Think about things like raising your boxes off the floor. Starting making your plans get a couple of buddies for a few weekends buy them some beer and have fun.
  • by darkPHi3er ( 215047 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @07:15AM (#2266731) Homepage
    i have 2-21" monitors, a 16" FP, 1-19" monitor (plus some small speaker cubes and misc) on that chromed wire rack shelving (called bakers'racks), this stuff is from a company called Metro Shelving, but IKEA has its own brand...

    i use the wide shelves, 24" (and 8 or 10 feet long) for the monitors, and use the narrow (around 8-10"wide) to create a keyboard shelf right in front/below the wider "top"....

    you can adjust the height on those legs, with those nylon bushings and i've put a ton of weight on these things (well, about 600-800#'s) and not had much deflection...(though the center of percussion was really high..took about 200# off)

    the downsides include having to put "trays" for your pens, smoking materials, etc...as they would otherwise just drop through the wires and if you are one of those folk who rest their wrists on the desktop edge...WELL, a couple of hours of that will teach you about numbness and pain...if you use a contoured KB or wrist rest..nada problemo...

    it looks kinda HiTek...and you really can find the stuff just about anywhere, its reasonably priced (IKEA's is the cheapest but they don't have a very big selection of sizes) and if you really HATE the chrome...it's available in a semi-dull/shiny BLACL finish...Blood, Bath and Beyond has a really ***nice*** brand of this stuff, but it's kinda pricey

    i equipped an office with about 12-15 of these "desks"...got lots of compliments from customer/visitors and only checked it out for the same reason you mention...all of our employees had at least 3 monitors per desktop and we just couldn't find a nice-looking, cost-effective solution...

    i thinks it's medium cool looking, but, as always, should you or any of your..., i mean, YMMV...
    • Home Despot, er, Home Depot also carries this. Be careful though, there are two grades of shelving. The Cheaper one will never support 600-800 lbs. of weight. To tell the difference look at the cross support wires. if there are a few (like 3) then it is the cheaper stuff. you want the ones with 5 or 8 cross support wires.

      • Right. The good thing about the Metro Shelving is that you can put everything on casters. I have 3 heavy UPS, heavy very old printers, three CPUs etc. on there and rolled everything in a walk-in closet, put a hole through the wall, put a little desk against that wall from the other side and have just one monitor and keybord to manage all three over a KVM switch. No noise, no clutter and all the heavy stuff on casters. I hate to move the equipment around to clean up and I can sublet my place and lock the closet up and have my servers still running.

        If I would redo it again I would play with a wireless network so that I can use a laptop from my balconi.
        • Another option if you don't have a closet or metal frames don't match your decor...

          I got a large pine TV cabinet from IKEA and put all the hardware in it (four PC cases, UPS, hubs and laptop dock). I then have two small pine tables next to it with monitors/mice/keyboards on them and KVM switches to control multiple machines. Heat can be an issue if you don't have air conditioning -- I had to remove the back panel and put it near an outside window, and the machines are decased inside the cabinet.

          Now if only there were a wireless KVM option.... Of course if I had wireless KVM I'd just put all the hardware in the garage where I can't hear the fans.

    • I did a similar thing with metro shelving 4 x
      5 foot poles five wire shelves 14 x 36, one
      of them is mounted only on the front two
      poles creating a work surface, and a kvm
      switch so that while there are two monitors,
      there's only one keyboard and mouse. an older
      picture of it is at:
      http://twin.uoregon.edu/~joelja/pictures%20-%20200 1/04302001%20-%20afnog%20and%20earlier%20pictures/ p0001599.jpg

    • Costco. The heavy duty shelving, not the cheap stuff Ikea carries. I use it for my servers, for my entertainment center, and I even have a fish tank and plants on one set. I've also built a few planters for my parents, with 4 48" natural spectrum flourescent tubes per shelf. About $70 for the shelves, four 48" racks with wheels. I think they are rated at 500 pounds per shelf. Never had a problem with them.

      One thing, though. Don't follow the instructions on putting them together. Take one shelf, put it upside down on the floor. Assemble the tubes, put them into the upside down shelf. Put your first shelf near the bottom, put the next one wherever you like, pick up the whole thing and remove the upside down shelf. I can get a set together in under 10 minutes this way.
    • Note that the Metro Shelving line does include pressboard desktop surfaces. I have a desktop surface with a shelf around 6 inches above it; the monitors rest on the shelf, and that way I can have multiple keyboards etc. and just shove them back under the shelf when not in use. I have one of the prepackaged desk systems I've added parts to; I have four computers, a 19" monitor, and a rackmount UPS that has to weigh a metric pantload on the thing. The UPS is on the top, too, above the monitors. Never a problem. If you're doing this for your own office, take the time to get hold of one of their parts catalogs (w/pix) and design something that will actually hold what you (not they) need it to hold! The beauty of this stuff is that it's like Lego; you can pretty much make whatever you want.
    • The consumer markup on Metro racking is outrageous, and to make it worse, is usualy the light-duty variety.

      Pull out the yellow pages and track down a store fixture or restaurant supply shop- preferably one that sells used. I've been able to find used stuff at 50% of the industrial price, which is already considerably lower than the consumer retail price.

    • Metro also has a Rack Mount solution [metro.com] for their shelving system. Metro's computer shelving products are here. [metro.com] When you see a product you want, be sure the get the spec sheet, they are .pdf docs.

      Personally, I think the Metro brand is the best out there. I can see the reduced quality in the knock-off brands. YMMV.

      All 4 desktop systems and 2 laptops were stored on my Metro shelving next to my desk. I used one KVM switch for all 7 systems. I used a regular desk for my work surface, monitor, keyboard & files. Plus I had another monitor & keyboard for the Sparc. This leaves a clean work surface for me, which is important. I do a lot of document creation and still like working with paper. Also, having a mostly clear desk helps me focus on the tasks at hand.

      The Metro shelving also held my fax, laser printer, power strips and networking devices. The cables were kept clean using black velcro strips. The shelves were black too. Metro's Heavy Duty castors let me easily pull the shelving out to manage the cables when needed.

      Two shelves held 4 rows of books, back-to-back. I also stored my printer paper on the bottom (increased stability). My working file folders and incoming mail were on side-attached accessories.

      All of this stuff used to take up 3 desks, a bookshelf and some floor space. Pretty slick.
  • Changing from a 17" monster-monitor to a flat screen made a hellova difference. Theres's just so much more clutter space now.

    A word on chairs: Don't go cheap. My 100$ IKEA chair was a nuisance and literally a pain. I found 4 used Eames Aluminium Frame chairs (the conference table model, not the highback) and it's an unbelievable difference.

  • Under $125 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g33kb0y ( 413574 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @07:20AM (#2266737) Homepage
    Go to your local home improvement store. You can usually find a pre-cut formica counter top in the clearance bin. Add two filing cabinets or vanitys - one on each end of the countertop. Voila! My workspace is 10' long with a backsplash (to keep all of my pens from finding their normal resting place behind the desk).

    Unsightly? maybe... but functionality is great!
    • I Used a flush door (no door knob whole or hinge cut-outs). a 33 inch by 7 foot desk top was $30.00. Add some quarter round mouldings to fit arround your el-cheapo book cases ( on the underside), and stain and finish. took about a week, mainly to get the luan finished smooth and glossy. It looks great, I used about 6 coats of of sanded ureathane to get a glassy finish. Then I set this top on top of the bookshelves and viola a huge desk that has room to crawl under and reach behind to get to hardware!
      The bookcases are a little hard to get to so they only have books about Windows on them :) I try not to sit or stand on top of it, it flexs a little. the best thing is if necessary, the desk top just lifts off the bookcases. I wouldn't trade it, the only improvement that I would make is to add one of those keyboard drawers on the underside.
    • Great Idea! (Score:3, Funny)

      by wirefarm ( 18470 )
      I'm hoping I can find some of that 'Boomerang' pattern formica. Very Retro.

      If it has a sink cutout, that's where I'm going to put the monitor. (Maybe I can get a 'swirling water' screen saver. That would be cool.)
      A couple of spigots that attach down to the beer and coffee dispensers would be key.

      If I replace the old aeron with a working john, I'd never have to get up, too!

      (Sorry - I've been coding all day - I'm a little punchy...)

      Actually, formica makes a great work surface and as g33kb0y mentioned, that backsplash is really handy.

      • Funny, I have that pattern for my kitchen counter-top. ;)

        Word to the wise, don't open to both drawers in a file cabinet that's filled with stuff, lest you want to ruin many thousands to see it crashing down. Almost happened way back when I used this setup.
    • Two half-height file cabinets and a door. Had a desk like this when I was a kid and it rocked.
      • That's what I'm going to shortly. Used to do it that way, but I bought a corner computer table a couple of years ago.

        The corner table has been making me feel claustrophobic lately.

        I'm getting a 78" X 30" door, and laying it on top of two plastic two-drawer 21" high "rollaway" file cabinets with the casters removed. This will give me a big general purpose surface at the 22" height I prefer for typing or taking hardware apart, plus a rollaway laptop cart with a tiltable, adjustable height work surface for either my or a guest's laptop.

        I'm getting an "Aeron knockoff" chair from Office Depot; my wife has one of these and loves it.

        I already have a bunch of wall shelving but am adding more. I am also moving to a wireless home network to reduce wiring/clutter and so we have the option of working anywhere in the house or yard. We already have Cat-5 outlets in most rooms, but more and more I find I would rather work outdoors as much as possible.

        The laptop cart is becoming my "real office" anyway. It has room for my laptop, a coffee mug, my rolodex, and a stack of paper, with a small "hanging file" basket attached for other files and books I need to have handy as I write.

        Essentially, my 8X10 office is becoming workroom where the printer, wireless point, cable modem, and fax machine live, someplace I can work in private if I choose and use as book/paperwork storage. It is still my refuge, but is no longer the only place I can work.

        The furniture cost for my office has been about $400 total, and wireless gear has set me back about $600, including the access point and 2 pcmcia cards.

        - Robin

    • I'm now typing at my second 'sinktop desk'. I built the first at my previous home, designed as a knockdown, and it's out in the garage. It's collapsed against a wall, and gets set up whenever we need extra space, like for a garage sale.

      The current desk is between two vanities, as you mention. But one other thing... Two pieces of angle iron between the vanities to keep the sinktop from warping in the span. The monitor sits up on a platform on one side, and the keyboard can store under the platform when the extra space is needed.

      One of these days I want a new monitor platform, and it will be designed to be just taller than the splashguard, so I can push the monitor further back to accomodate middle-aged eyeballs. (One of these days those eyeballs may be an excuse for a flat panel.)
  • by YKnot ( 181580 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @07:26AM (#2266743)
    When it comes to office furniture, one's got to mention these:
    Slashdot: The Ultimate Chair [slashdot.org]
    Poetic Tech: Working environments for high tech professionals [poetictech.com]
    They don't come with beer fridges but can serve as inspiration, that's for sure...
  • Ahem, yes, are we talking about Bat Caves here, Robin? You don't need no super-glorious Batmobile exit pathway through a retractable mountainside. Forget the Art Deco super-modern doodad gadgetry. What ya need, son, fer GOFAI is Good Old-Fashioned Steppenwolf accoutrements and comfort for the long haul on the way to Technological Singularity [caltech.edu].

    Here at the Vaierre psychotope of the Mentifex AI project, the essential sine qua non of artificial mind-makery is an immersive environment of books, files, computers and organizers. Pick a friend early in life with whom thou shalt have a year-in-year-out ongoing contest to see which of you is the more organized and the more retentive of instant access to any piece of information or physical object. Do your work in a wrap-around surround-ground with all the most needed paraphernalia only an arm's length or at most a few steps away. Put posters or photographs of your heroes (e.g. to wit twit: Beethoven; Jimmy Carter; the DEC Alpha 64-bit IC; Alexander Dubcek; Lech Walesa; George Smiley a.k.a. Sir Alec Guiness -- all enshrined on the mentifical walls) up around you, because "Tell me who your heroes are, and I'll tell you how much of a nutcase you are." Then steal the password of a really famous Slashdot d00d, Dude, and post all about it so as to grant the poor Harry Haller wannabe a good case of plausible deniability.

  • AnthroCart (Score:5, Informative)

    by basking shark ( 78988 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @07:41AM (#2266759)
    Actually, I have found a company that makes modular desks to hold that many computers and monitors: Anthro [anthro.com]. I stumbled across them and their AnthroCart line about 5 years ago when I was setting up my own home office. They aren't cheap but the stuff is nearly indestructible and as cool-looking as it gets. Since it is modular, you can add cup-holders, CPU caddies, and even a special shelf for the penguin. Looks like they now have rack sections too. The staff I have spoken to are so friendly it makes you wonder what's in the coffee.

    Oh, and it is almost worth buying something just to see their packaging: 2 inch thick corrugated cardboard!

    For the record, I don't work for Anthro and have no relatives or friends who do, I just own one of their desks and like it very much.

    • absolutely agree. ANTHRO is your answer, if you have the money. I have two of their "carts". they are infinitely adjustable/customizable, you can add on levels, side carts, undertables, etc. These tables are the "Aeron" of computer tables. gets you ultra organized in as small a space as you wish, and portable to boot (wheels, different sizes depending on flooring material!) highly recommended. built like a tank, good looking, well thought out and engineered.
    • I designed my own desk setup on paper, then found the Anthro catalog. I was amazed that I could actually configure an Anthro desk to pretty much my exact specs, because they have so many variations.

      I've got a two-tier setup that has space for my monitor, printer, USB hub, Visor dock, external CD burner, external HD, external Zip drive, flatbed scanner, my laptop, keyboard, and still enough space for the phone and two spots for putting all my paperwork and associated crap.

      I've had other home desk setups before, usually cheap, one-shot arrangements. But as others have mentioned, the Anthro products are very high-quality, sturdy, and attractive. Think of it this way - if you use your home office for hours on end, day after day, wouldn't you rather invest a bit more money for something that will actually keep you happy?

  • The Ultimate Desk (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Keck ( 7446 )
    I use a 72" door layed across two 30" high 2-drawer filing cabinets. This is, IMHO, the ultimate desk. It comfortably fits 2x21" + 1x17" monitor, a load of CD's and anything else you want. This has been the most stable way for me to build a functional desk, with room for the towers underneath. (although the 7 that you mention may need more room..)
    • nod...I gotta agree...I have two of these that form an L in my office. Under the L goes the switch, server, printer, scanner...works GREAT. I odn't have it on filing cabinets though...my father built them for me and he found a folding table leg kit (for like 15 bucks). I screwed some of those metal things that rappelers use for holding ropes on the bottom and they make AWESOME cable routers. Gives me tons of space and you can even drop some shelves on top for 'modularity'
  • by sainsworth ( 24812 ) <scott&ainsworth,us> on Saturday September 08, 2001 @07:54AM (#2266779)
    I had exactly the same problem--I solved it with creativity, a 4x8 sheet of plywood, and a scroll saw.

    My construction was simple. I cut a single 4'x8', 0.75" sheet of oak plywood to the correct shape. To support the weight of my monitors, I ran bracing the length and width of the table directly under the monitors. The bracing strips are 2" wide, made from the same sheet of plywood, and mounted perpendicular to the bottom of the table. For added stability, I fastened two edges the table to the wall using 2"x2"s, but if your installation is temporary this may not work for you. Because of the bracing and wall fastening, the table requires just one leg, which leaves plenty of space for my legs and four computers under the table.

    I cut the table to shape using a scroll saw, which I already owned. I rounded the edges using a router, which I now had an excuse to buy :). I finished it with Verithane, because the stuff doesn't stink and cleans up with water.

    Total cost, $90. Satisfaction, at least 10 times anything I found in stores at a reasonable price.


    1. Explicitly define your requirements. Mine were lots of table space, enough depth for 21" monitor, keyboard tray that also has room for the mouse, and plenty of room under the table for multiple computers. Also, where are you going to put it? In particular, consider the location's lighting.

    2. Create a prototype. Use string or masking tape to create a virtual table ;) on the floor. Place your computer equipment, books, etc. in place. Does it feel right? Try again in a couple of days. Does it still feel right?

    3. Double check that the design is stable and robust. In particular, is it strong enough to hold that pair of 21" monitors. Consider bracing to MHz or RAM, more is better.

    5. Buy the wood, tools, screws and wood glue. Try and find "void free" plywood. Most plywood has hidden holes in the interior layers.

    6. Even thought I took my time, used guides to ensure my straight edges were straight and curves consistent, rounded the edges, and put on three finishing coats, the entire project only took four hours. It is well worth it!
    • I rounded the edges using a router,

      ... but how do you pronounce router? And how would you pronounce it if you were on the other side of the big pond?

    • "I cut the table to shape using a scroll saw..."

      Sounds as though you were creating a non-rectangular table top. In a case like that, it's a good idea to do a mock-up with pink or blue foam insulation board. It's a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet (just like plywood but a lot cheaper), cuts a lot easier, is thick enough (half to three-quarters of an inch) that it won't "flop". You can put it where the table top is going to go, sit down at it and try it on for size (but don't expect it to hold your monitor up!!!), modify its shape with a utility knife (use duct tape to "cut it bigger"), and then when you have it the way you want it, use it as a template by which to cut the plywood.

  • Cabinets (Score:2, Informative)

    by scuzzie ( 520036 )
    You can try a local kitchen and bath remodeler.
    Most cabinet suppliers now carry a home office line. The possibilites are unlimited and you can find things in almost any price range.
  • $50 desk (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    i agree... this topic is sorta lame...
    but here is my thirteen cents worth.

    Go to Home Depot (or your local lumberyard), along the way grab/steal/obtain one of those hard to find lumber carts...then:

    Select a Solid Core Oak Door. SOLID. not hollow.
    usually about $45-$50
    Take it home, polyurethane or paint it to your hearts delight...(satin black was my choice)
    grab two of your file cabinets...one on each end
    throw the door on top and voila!
    one helluva strong computer desk.

    If you are as motivated a good friend of mine...cut a 4" drop shelf out of the back-center of the door as wide as (2) 19" monitors, and drop supports, and voila, a nice cozy place for them expensive monitors, but wait there's more...add a few pieces of plywood and some dowels and glue and voila, now you have a shelf over those 19" monitors. If you have a router handy, give the edges of the door/desk a rounded top and sand to smooth.

    this is HEAVY solution but cheap and effective.
    HON file cabinets work great as supports.
    • Re:$50 desk (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You don't even need the solid core doors. My desk consists of a hollow-core door over two two-drawer filing cabinets. Lots of room underneath the desk for two or three PCs, lots of room on the desk for a big monitor, printer, telephone, plus plenty of other junk. Weight is not an issue, the desk doesn't even bend the slightest bit, and if you're concerned you can put the heavy items directly over the filing cabinets. Nor do you really have to treat the desk, untreated wood works fine. This is a cheap solution, and it provides more deskspace than anyone except CEO's normally gets...
      • You don't even need the solid core doors

        As long as you don't get one of the *interior* hollowcore doors, yeah. Some of them, you can put a fingertip through if you push hard enough.

        Nor do you really have to treat the desk, untreated wood works fine.

        What kind of geek are you, that you don't have liquids near your computer desk? Liquids that periodically get spilled on the desk?

        (My computer desk is a billion-year-old O'Sullivan or Sauder or one of those. And I never use a mousemat, so the pseudo-woodgrain has comletely worn off where the mouse is, and there are ripply spots where drinks have spilled and soaked into the particleboard, and the drawer bottom has been replaced because my cat, about the same age as the desk, slept in it from kittenhood up to his sixteen-plus-pound adult weight and fell through it, and...

        The computers, though, live on one of those spiffy wire racks with particleboard shelving.
  • two short Ikea cabinets and a full size commercial door works for me. Even painted the door white to match the Ikea :-)
  • Suggestions.. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    First of all, you should get, for $200, SMC's Wireless Broadband Router. Then you wouldn't have to use Category Five all over the place, and you would have network printing.

    Next, for a desk, consider using an interior door for a desktop. You can put it on top of some file cabinets (which have foam rubber on top to cushion the vibrations). Put some kind of nice, hard finish on it - Varathane, Minwax or such.

    Finally, Give up that Coffee. It will raise your cholesterol, make your glands swell, and make your desk sticky.

  • I've got four computers set up in a relatively small (about 9' x 13') office, and after a number of different attempts (I've been working at this home-office-with-multiple-computers thing for close to 20 years), I've settled on a solution that seems to work.

    Everything is modular, no bigger than it needs to be, and on wheels.

    Every computer gets its own desk. As small as possible, with as few gimmicks as possible - no CD towers, no printer shelves, no cubbyholes; the only thing I'll accept, if the desk isn't low enough already, is a keyboard shelf, and that has to be wide and deep. It has to be on wheels. The ones I've come to like are the very simple little rolling workstation platforms that you can find at most computer or office superstores for about $60 - basically a flat desktop with a keyboard drawer and a bottom shelf to stash the tower.

    Then I have one adjustable height folding table - Sam's for about $40 - about 30" deep x 72" wide; I've set that at a convenient keyboard height, and I usually have a laptop or two set up there. But it's easy to take the laptops off and set up a tower/monitor/keyboard at a convenient height for setup, modification, debugging. I've also got my DSL router, network switch, and a couple of power blocks velcro'd to that table at one end toward the back.

    Then I've picked up a couple of sets of lovely maple folding tv tables - four tables, plus a stand, for typically $20-30 bucks. I've got a scanner more or less permanently set on one, and a printer on another. The others come and go as my need for horizontal space grows and shrinks.

    Add one of those plastic 4-drawer cabinets (any office superstore, about $20-30) and a couple of file crates with wheels that live under the laptop table when I'm not actively working with them, and a bookshelf on one wall, and I've got a very efficient and flexible workspace!

    Remember the three M's of home office furniture - Modular, Minimal, and Mobile.

    Good luck.

  • by k4 ( 267349 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @08:05AM (#2266800)
    I've been working in my home office full-time (with 7 computers) for almost a year. I wouldn't want to be working at the same desk where the computers are because of all the heat they produce. So I have four of my computers stacked together on an anti-static mat. It's a lot cheaper than buying furniture for them, it works well, and they're directing their heat out of my office.

    I use a desk from Office Depot (about $60) for my workstation - it's wider than normal computer desks, so you can fit your mouse, keyboard and a frosty beverage on the main desk surface. A shelf in the back comfortably holds 2 monitors, and the space under the shelf gives me plenty of room to hold all those little odds and ends. I have two of the desks together at about a 90 degree angle, and they make a great work area.

    The other trick was to get a decent chair with height-adjustable arms (about $100) and set them so that the top of the arms is roughly even with the desk. I've had tendinitis and carpal tunnel in the past, but I haven't had any trouble at all working in my home office.
  • Multiple desks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ascholl ( 225398 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @08:08AM (#2266804)
    One option I'm surprised I haven't seen voiced -- get a bunch of desks at thrift stores, arrange them in a semi-circle. Not necessarily the slickest option, but definitely the cheapest. At least if yr willing to place the machines & fridge on the floor. I use two desks & the top of a filing cabinet; add desks according to need.
  • SEVEN Computers? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alan Partridge ( 516639 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @08:10AM (#2266808) Journal
    man, if you've got SEVEN computers, you really ought to rack them and use some KVM switching. You can also cool them more efficiently that way as well as providing better security and power supply. Keep your desk nice with your screens, kbd, mse and whatever cradle-like peripherals you need. Two's a couple, three's a crowd but SEVEN's a FARM.
  • I searched for ages for a computer desk big enough and solid enough and affordable enough. No luck. So, I went to an unfinished furniture store and bought a dining room table. Long enough for all my computer stuff PLUS a TV/VCR. Deep enough so that I can stick papers I'm dealing with in front of my keyboard. $100 for the table. $10 to polyurethane it (why stain it? -- natural wood colors look great).
  • by under_score ( 65824 ) <{moc.gietreb} {ta} {nikhsim}> on Saturday September 08, 2001 @08:28AM (#2266840) Homepage
    I ended up building a relatively large desk. It is 8' by 3' and about 3" higher than standard. It holds my 22" monitor nicely (1920x1440 res!!!) as well as my 88 key music keyboard. The great thing about it is that I spent next to nothing: about $90 Canadian (60 US) for materials and only about three hours to build it. I designed it myself to be very simple. I have shelving on it created out of milk crates and the remenants of the materials for the desk proper. All that said, its kinda ugly! I didn't finish it in any way (used MDF for the surface so that it is smooth). If anyone knows of a company that sells _big_ desks, I would love to hear about it! Problem is I don't want to spend a fortune on some massive executive desk.

  • What you need to do mate, is get your newspaper paper, check the classifieds for auctions.

    There are tonnes of auction company's that auction off old office furniture collected by finance companies from bumbed out companies and so on..
    They generally go pretty cheap, at work we got a $800 corner desk for about $100, pretty much top quality..

    So check them out, youll be able to find something that suites, or maybe 5 desks :)
  • You really need to get a 19" equipment rack to go in the office...it makes for a nice touch.

    My office is less than elegant, I must add...making total use of folding tables and such simply because it's cost effective. The place is a dump.

    http://www.agentgreen.org/content/homeoffice.html [agentgreen.org]
  • Rule 1) No matter how useful a table is, it is never enough. As a result my table are a series of pieces of wood (IKEA table tops) held up using legs (IKEA). Important that the table top height can be adjusted so that you will be comfortable.

    Rule 2) Always put plastic / carpet between your chair wheels and floor. If you do not do this then the floor will look like hell after one year. Or worse you will loosen the tiles

    Rule 3) Get a REALLY good chair. Your butt is going to be in it for a while and you want to be comfortable. And I do not go for the ergonomic chairs. Often I sit diagonally in my chair or something wierd and a "boss" style chair is great. I find ergonomic chair makes my butt fall asleep.

    Rule 4) Get wireless or multi-device boxes. Otherwise you will have wire spaghetti...

  • My friend, who has loads of cash,
    designed his own, and contracted the guy who custom did cabinets for his kitchen to build it.

    The towers are on platforms that slide on aircraft-grade drawer tracks, so that the towers under the desks can be pulled out easily for access. the monitors sit at 45 degrees in recesses in the top of the desk (yes, he uses 19" screens. I encouraged him to get 17" LCDs and have then on articulated arms from the wall, but noooo!)

    His scanner is on a shelf that slides forward and down. There's a full complement of cubbies in the hutch above the desktop.

    Now, remember, the kitchen cabinet guy did all this, so the desk is a slick black granite formica, and everything else- best quality you can get. It's pretty damn sharp.
  • Ultra Low Tech (Score:2, Interesting)

    by squaretorus ( 459130 )
    My new desk is about as low tech as it gets. As with the rest, I had 3 machines, 4 monitors and preferably a space for my laptop to fit into a reasonably big room - but be pretty snug and 'presentable' when not in use.

    Not being tooled up, I went down to B&Q and bought a drill, jigsaw, sander, saw, and one of those 'every tool you'll ever need' boxes for about £60. I then drove over to my mates work and took about 6 of the cleanest pallets I could find in their warehouse.

    Two weekends of sanding, cutting, hammering and the like later I have a spanky 'slightly rustic' desk for absolutely free! Apart from having to buy the tools. which will last.

    The timber would have cost about £100 - so even then its a HUGE desk about 14 feet long, and between 3 and 5 feet deep, with shelving beneath and some neat monitor stands for under 160 quids!
  • I have 6 machines, and my friend has 5. Here's what each of us did.

    He built a a custom "horseshoe" desk that fits around three sides of his small room. He used IKEA parts, which I believe ran him somewhere in the neighborhood of $400, and he went to the IKEA store and picked up the parts to save on shipping. It looks nice, and the parts are re-configurable and replaceable. It's not as sturday as what I did, however.

    What I did was get a couple of pieces of 4x8 foor, 3/4s inch AC-grade plywoord ($60) and probably about 20, 8-foot long pine "wall stud" 2x4s ($2.25 each at Home Depot). When I cut these up and bolted them together, what resulted was a desk 12 feet long with a 32" high desktop, 28" high keyboard/mouse "drop downs," if you will, for four workstations; and sets of shelves at 5.5 feet and 7 feet high.

    What results is a 12 foot long, 7 foot tall, 2 foot deep "Command Center," made of soft wood and deck screws that can be finished in any color or finish you would like, and is able to be assembled and disassembled in a few hours if you're moving.

    I know it's hard to imagine, but I don't have any pictures online at this point. Email me privately and I would be happy to email you a couple .jpgs.

    Good luck!
  • Yeah, I went the route of two 1 x 12 by 10 foot boards across two heavy black file cabinets, with a hung keyboard and a handy A/B box to switch monitors with. I used Remote Viewing to switch between the different Linux/Mac/Windows computers on my monitors.

    The eight foot distance between my file cabinets was plenty of room for my icebox and my woofers, and a large black trashcan with a shredder.

    The major difference was that I put this along one wall with a narrow walkway between the wall and my desk, for getting to those pesky spaghetti piles of wires. I even got some of that split plastic corrogated tubing to keep the wiring in, which helps.

    I added another thinner shelf behind my computers, standing it upright to hide all the wiring mess from view.

    The first time I put it together, it was flush to the wall, and impossible to wire up. Therefore, I moved it out to make the narrow walking space behind it all.

    After a while, I tried to cover it with a semidull black formica. It worked! That was easier than I thought it would be, and now it all looks pretty cool.

    Once you add some tiny studio post lights for the keyboard and writing spaces, some big speakers hooked to an AV amplifier, nail all your powerstrips and routers to the back of the upright shelf, and add a cable box with a small television, you have a place to work that you would never have to leave.

    Oh, and get a comfortable black leather chair to match. Also get a hard flat floor mat under your chair so you can navigate the distance from one end to the other on wheels.

    The whole thing was gotten for less than $300, a bit at a time. I got some hot posters framed in narrow black frames on the wall behind, and some indirect lighting for them hung behind that back board, and I am set.

    Lets see? Humm? What if I exchanged that leather chair for a portapotty? . . . (grin)
  • I found myself in a similar situation recently, and have found the sort of tables that you want. Unfortunately they don't seem to have been made since the fifties. I found mine at a sale before the remodeling of Maine's only state office building, which was filled with furniature dating back to when it was new in 1956. These tables run to big and steel-framed. I got two, the larger of which is holding a pair of big monitors with room to spare (one of these is an ancient 19 inch grayscale of spectacular weight). These things do tend to run to bulky and gray, but the metal parts are easy enough to paint. I would be careful not to overload them, though, as I expect that their legs will go through the floor before they break, alarming the folks downstairs. Look for an office that is selling off old furniature. Mine were a remarkable buy, and in good condition.
  • I had already purchased (and used) all of my office furniture before I moved to my current place.

    I have two desks with built-in adjustable-height keyboard shelves. The desks are considerably wider at one end than the other, designed specifically for a fairly large monitor, and I have them in opposing orientations - so you have two positions almost back-to-back, but facing into the corners of the room. There are matching rolling filing cabinets which are able to fit under the desks (although they actually aren't under the desks) and matching bookshelves.

    When we moved to the new place we happened to have an alcove off the lounge room which was a perfect fit - literally, 5cm either end of a desk. The filing cabinets are placed between the desks at the end where we sit, and have the two printers (laser and inkjet) on top of them - again, there is about 10cm total clearance from one wall to the other with this setup, and it provides plenty of space so that we don't run into each other.

    The monitors sit on stands with a couple of small drawers in them (for holding things such as monitor wipes, pens, rechargable batteries, etc). There is plenty of space for the cats to sit between myself and the monitor ... one of the few disadvantages ;)

    The 3rd and 4th computers are at the other ends of the desks - using them is slightly uncomfortable, but since they are used a lot less this is a non-issue.

    The shelves form a very good separator between the lounge room and the office. I have one of my lounges backing onto the two sets of shelves, and have ended up with an almost-separate room from which you can happily watch the TV while something is going on.

    Computers are placed under the desks at the ends away from where we sit - the monitor cables are just long enough for this to work perfectly. I have my scanner just off to to the side where I sit (easy to get at, doesn't interfere with anything) and my switch and hub on the other desk in the same position.

    However, I would advise that if you can, use a separate room for the office (we didn't have the option, and the alcove was a perfect fit - if we hadn't used it for an office I don't know what we would have done, because the space was way too large for a lounge room).

    Now I'm going back to play Arcanum [sierrastudios.com] - without a doubt CRPG of the year ...
  • No one on here suggested checking out http://www.anthro.com for all the DIY furniture?
  • by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @09:04AM (#2266914)
    There are some really nice alternatives out there if you have the budget. Do a google search on the following keywords computer furniture home office and you'll get plenty of alternatives.

    Sligh [sligh.com] furniture carries a line of home office furniture that looks like conventional furniture (hutches, desks, cabinets, etc). It's modular, of very high furniture quality, and really functional. Best of all, it looks like it belongs in a home and not an office or spacecraft or sterile.

    But, it is pricey. We're in the process of finishing our basement which now includes a home office with 16 network jacks, 25 dedicated ground outlets and, I think, 8 phone jacks. We've got a built-in storage cabinet that will house my networking gear and UPS to help keep the office uncluttered. Additionally, we're looking at a printer cabinet that will house my laser printer, and a dedicated print server and probably our fax machine.

    The kids play area also has a builtin dedicated computer desk (networked, of course) and place for an ink-jet printer and phone. Having one's own home with an unfinished area is a bonus as I have the luxury to do it right and not have to retrofit.

    Yeah..I had to take a loan out for this...but when people say there are no decent computer furniture, that applies to people who are:

    1) either not willing to really look or

    2) don't have a budget for the more expensive stuff or

    3) need a temporary arrangement (like a student moving into a dorm). In this case, rule #2 (or #1) usually applies.

    I do however, applaud all the people who have responded with solutions that are truly functional for them and on a relatively low budget. It shows ingenuity and that necessity truly is the mother of invention.

    And, I have to admit that sometimes I wish my wife would let me splurge and get some really off the wall stuff. Personally, I prefer the high tech look. But, for a home that I may have to resell someday, that isn't the most practical solution.



    • The Sligh stuff looks nice. I think the Ikea-style of furniture is a bit over-designed. Real nice if you are ready to replace everything in your space with similarly designed furniture, lamps, and everything else... but in the real world, where you buy things piece by piece the highly designed stuff looks out of place.

      The Sligh stuff probably would look a bit out of place next to my plastic drawer set, but obviously plastic drawers means they are out of my range anyway. But if they were in my range, I could imagine fitting them together with other things. And wood is always attractive in a very natural way -- unassuming and undemanding.

      OTOH, I'm not a big fan of moulding and , which covers most of Sligh's stuff. But I suppose there's lots of other places with that style too, if you look for it.

  • Bear in mind that in a couple of years a lot of us will (hopefully) switching to flat-panel screens and ditching those gargantuan high-voltage space-heating CRT monitors. I'm suprised they don't have bakelite knife switches on the sides!

    I'm figuring that in a year or two when my current CRT dies I'll get a similar-sized flat panel, and then I'll be able to use my nice little antique oak letter desk as my computer station.

    Anyway, I'm currently using a $50 8-foot table from Office Max, with a cheapo shelf up on a couple of blocks to hold the monitor and another cheapo shelf attached to the front edge for a lowered keyboard tray. At home I've got a kickass height-adjustable computer table, which instead is the electronics bench. The computer sits in a roll-around stand from Office Max, and I keep drilling more holes to move the shelves around as equipment changes.
  • my desk consists of two of those long, folding-leg bamquet tables in a corner of an extra bedroom. on one I have enough room for my linux box and my mac, plus phone, ham radio gear, and small stuff. the other is my analog desk, with plenty of room to spread papers and books out.

    those fancy 'computer workstations' are a waste of money, imo. two tables full of equipment and books looks way cooler than any 'ol woodwork.

  • Poetictech [poetictech.com] has always had really cool stuff... it's not DIY... but it's very slick.
  • I used to use 2 display tables from OfficeMax, but I finally nagged my dad enough, and he built me a really nice desk setup.
    Its two Oak verneer table tops, with wide legs made of the same material. Very nice and extremely heavy. IT took 2 guys to lift the table top.
  • Glass (Score:5, Informative)

    by saberwolf ( 221050 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @09:39AM (#2267004) Homepage
    I couldn't find a suitable desk either, but I had slightly different goals. I wanted something to fit in a very specific place and that looked good. Functionality was a secondary design goal.

    Anyway, my desk is in an alcove about 1.5m wide by 1m deep. It's constructed of a single sheet of tempered glass 6mm thick supported on three sides by 1" square blocks of wood bolted to the walls.

    There are gaps in the support blocks at the back for the wires to go through and the glass is pulled slightly forward for them to fit. There's a piece of conduit bolted to the back wall that hides all the cables away.

    It holds a 19" monitor, printer and a scanner (plus the inevitable pile of CDs, manuals etc that end up on it).

    The effect is amazing, it looks like everything is just hanging there, the supports are painted the same coulour as the walls so they're not very obvious when you first see it. I intend to get a wireless mouse and keyboard to complete the effect at some point.

    If you're thinking of doing this, get some professional advice on the glass and supports. I had the glass cut and polished by a specialist company (cost about £60) who worked out how thick it would need to be to support the weight.
  • Not pretty, but ultra-portable and functional.
    Did I mention cheap? $50US for an 8' table you
    can pickup and carry out when you get evicted.
  • I have the luxury of using an entire room in my house (third bedroom) as a home office. Space is still a consideration as I do share the room with my two (large) birds and their cages.

    I removed the closet doors and put one of my desks in the closet. Mom passed along this tip from a magazine she'd read, and I am amazed at how much space it saves (plus I get a whole extra usable wall).

    My other desk is a big piece of lam pine from Home Depot on top of a couple of drawer units from IKEA with home-built spacers on top to put the desktop at the right height. The lam pine hasn't shown any signs of warping after 5+ years of big monitors on top.

    My hardware setup is less than ideal -- just utility shelving (vertical supports screwed into the wall with slots for shelf brackets) and pine boards for shelves. I wouldn't really recommend this stuff as it's turning out not to be sturdy enough for heavy stuff. I plan to replace it with something similar, though -- the overall arrangement works well. The extra heat near my desk is actually a bonus in my case, because my husband likes the house temperature kept somewhere around the "meat locker" setting. Other storage and a drop-leaf table (more horizontal space when I need it, out of the way when I don't) is provided by an IKEA &quotIVAR" wall unit. May not be the best quality in the world, but it definitely wins for ease of customization.

  • by ErikZ ( 55491 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @09:57AM (#2267039)
    I had the same trouble after my fancy computer desk got destroyed in a move. After looking around and seeing the cost for substandard desks, I just went to the office supply store. I bought an 8' folding table, like the kind you use in school or government functions. TONS of room underneath it also. When I move again, I won't have to disassemble anything, just fold up the legs and I'm good to go.

    I bought a second one for a workbench. The office stores deliver for free also.
    • i couldn't agree more. i did the exact same thing. plenty of enough room for anything.

      compared to the little desks that they try to pass off as quality, i was almost ready to just put a full sized dining-room table into my office, but then i walked into office max and found the nicest 8' folding table for 60 bucks. seconds later, it was in the back of the truck.

  • This desk was built by Blake who runs Blakespot (used to run a Nino fan page until Philips killed it(the Nino that is...)). He built his own and I have been contemplating doing the same. Sauder and folks that make the home desks don't really make them good enough for people who actually need to work at them. Mine has stuff littered all over it because my wife uses it too. I don't have enough space for everything. It's also too deap. I would like to have one go floor to ceiling (well, almost) and have it L shaped with a long L shaped section that goes below my Window with a cut out in it for my 35 in TV. Why? I eventually will have a ATI or some other card with TV out and I feel whiy have two DVD players in the same room when I have one in my computer? Also this design would allow my TV to be seen without having to look through a person using the computer. Anyway, check out Blake's design at Blakespot [blakespot.com].
  • I have two folding tables, one 6' and one 5', lining two adjacent walls in what is supposed to be my dining room (heh). Sturdy, cheap ($30 each), lots of room under the desks for the computers, just enough room on top for my 21" monitor, easy to spread stuff out... no shelves, though, but you could mount shelves on the wall above a desk if you wanted. I use a bookcase instead.
  • When I set up my home office, I sat down and designed the desk/work area, with the intention of having a guy in my hometown build it. I was a bit shocked when our new office furniture from Bush [bushfurniture.com] came in at work, and it was essentially my design. I checked the cost, and found that the savings was over 50%. Got it and it works great.

    For my computers, I changed from cases to rack mount units, and bought a 22U rack from Greybar. I have one desktop system running Windows, as my Quicken and games system. Everything fits, and runs great.
  • nbd = solid_core_door + 2 * saw_horse

    solid_core_door: laminated in birch or some nice looking wood, without knob hole, they make fairly wide ones at least 3'. It can be painted with oil finish for protection from the elements.

    saw_horse: pick the one that fits the height you want.

    pros of this desk:
    -very sturdy (you can stand on it).
    -can be easily disasambled/assambled.
    -cheap for what you get.

    -top is kind of heavy.
    -painting is needed if you want it to keep a nice look.

  • My parents were the kind of people who thought their son didn't deserve anything better than lumber and bricks for furniture. As a result, they threw together a desk for me when I was in highschool It was a door and two filing cabinets. It turned out remarkably well. I still use this arrangement today. I have two of the short filing cabinets with an interior door on top. I also made some saw horses from 2x4s and put another door on top. this is easily enough space to hold my two 19" monitors, color laser, component stereo, 17" monitor, two towers, scanner, fax/copier, and assorded hubs and other goodies. I'm getting ready to make a third set of saw horses for the other door in the garage.

    So you can go to your local home center and buy a door ($40), metal saw horse brackets ($2 * 2), and a couple 2x4s ($3 * 2). So for 50 you can get a huge (if unattrctive) desk.

    I also recycled a friend's old kithen counter. I screwed some plywood into the sides to act as legs. Now I can put that on top of the file cabinets and door for a more floor space efficient arrangement.

  • I've made multi-tier computer desks, counterweighted end tables, and other bachelor furniture by going to HomeDepot and buying .75" MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard -- something like particle board, but more attractive, cleaner edge cuts, very smooth, more rigid, and not stinky). You might be able to use .50" stuff, but I say splurge for more weight and rigidity. Do your measurements at home, and as long as you're dealing with rectangular pieces, they'll cut it up for you out of the 4'x8' sheets. (They charge a small, fair fee for cutting on the radial arm saw.) This way you don't have to drag a full sheet home or clean up the sawdust yourself. While you're there, grab a bunch of masonry blocks. (They're dirt cheap and look like this [johnsoncmu.com]) Two legs of stacked blocks with the wide side down will be enough for a shallow desk. If you do four legs, you can go as deep as you want for tons of monitor space, etc. I generally get out a brush or spray can or whatever is hanging around and paint the MDF before assembling. Instant decor match or personal statement. You can do a multi-tier tables with four legs on the bottom (offset back a bit in the front for more leg room) and two legs on the top tier(s), shoved to the back of the main surface. I've built tables 7' long like this. If your monitors are extremely heavy and you need to place them in the center of a long span, just add another "leg" of masonry blocks in the center at the back.

    And it breaks down for easy moving or reconfiguration. The only drag I've found is the masonry blocks will shed a little dust when you move them.
  • I've got several computers running either windows or linux. Since I rarely need access to them, I put them and the noisy A/C to keep them cool in another room and use a Belkin 2x8 KVM switch (2 kybd/monnitors/mice). One kvm setup is with the equipment for when I need ready access to the hardware, the other is at my desk. I also went to a real office funiture store and bought a very good high end chair. Its the first chair I've had that has lasted more then a year or so. I've had it for over 5 years and its comfortable sitting even on those long 16+ hour days. I've even slept in it a couple times, though not intentionally ;)
  • ... are my requirements, and I've used the same solution for almost 10 years now: folding tables. For $50 at any office store you can buy large, strong folding tables that are three feet wide, which gives me plenty of depth for a 21" monitor and keyboard. They're surprisingly strong, too, although I find that if I put two large monitors on one, I'm better off separating them a little -- putting both monitors right next to each other in the center of the table tends to produce a little sag. I'm currently using two tables, one is 6' long and the other 9', set in a corner configuration. I've been toying with getting another 9' table to put behind me. I don't find I have much need for drawers, etc.; just lots of table space, one small filing cabinet and, of course, the inevitable bookshelves that cover every spare inch of wall space.

    • by cr0sh ( 43134 )
      I have one of the six foot tables I bought, and they are great for everything I got, though a second one would be nice. One thing I did:

      I got some dual sided terminal strips, with about six connectors - about 4 or 5 should do. Then, I got some heavy gauge automotive wire, and a Sun power supply. I mounted the power supply on the bottom of the table, hooked an LED to one of the 5v leads, and ran it to the front metal lip, drilled the hole and mounted it. Then, I ran the wires from the 12 and 5 volt lines along different paths on the terminal strips, so I have this "ladder" arrangement of take off points for 12, 7, and 5 volts, to power most devices, like my Zip drive, my phone (office style phone with power), scanner, and a couple of cooling fans. Eliminates the need for all of those wall warts!!!

      And for shelves, I have used several el-cheapo steel shelving units. They were 4 foot tall units, so I bolted two atop one another, to make 8 foot units, bolted them to the wall, and next to each other, and bolted them all together, for a wall of bookshelf space, and other things. Impressive as hell.

      Oh yeah, my desk is in the center of the room, chair facing door (hey, I am paranoid). I routed power with extension cords from plugs on the wall, across the ceiling and down to the table, and covered them with plastic cable wrap. By having everything out in the middle of the floor, it makes it super, ultra easy to pull a box out, pop the top, and fiddle with it, which I tend to be very prone to doing...
  • While they are rather expensive, Techline's offerings are really nice. I bought myself a wrap-around desk for about $1,300 (I spend 8 hours a day here... it is worth it). Everything is so strong that you can walk on any part of it without a second thought, and I have a 17" flatscreen (very worth it) and a !9" monitor in two of the corners, and there is a lot of open space left over. You can customize the design to your heart's (and pocketbook's) content. And best of all, you can take it all apart and set it up somewhere else! It is not like the cheap Sauder-esk stuff that you build once, and then throw away. I will be able to take this desk with me when I move, even overseas if I want to. Here is the url: http://www.techlineusa.com/ [techlineusa.com]
  • Personally, I think that trying to put all that equipment into a single piece of furniture is silly, never mind expensive.

    I have a pretty big corner desk I got at Office Depot, with a short bookshelf in matching color sitting on top of the back of one side. Two APC UPSes (one for my dual monitors, one for the computer and some net equipment) act as a stand for a heavy wood platform for both monitors. A second wood platform is supported by a simple pedestal of two 1x6 boards nailed in a "T", standing between the back ends of the monitors, and a 13" TV sits atop that.

    Nearby are two shelving units; one is plastic with a cabinet in the bottom, and holds my printer and various supplies. I picked that up at Target. The second is a heavy wire shelving unit on casters that I picked up at Sam's Club. That shelf holds my other CPUs, as well as open workspace and an extra monitor and keyboard for diagnostic purposes. The power and network wires are routed so I can pull the unit away from the wall for easy cabling access.

    Does it sound crowded? Well, yes, it is. But it's a hell of a lot less crowded than if I'd attempted to shoehorn the lot into one desk.
  • shaggy dog story (Score:3, Informative)

    by rneches ( 160120 ) on Saturday September 08, 2001 @05:57PM (#2268964) Homepage
    Among other things, my mother is a video editor. She uses the Media 100 [media100.com] system and several Power Macs. Her workbench includes three 20" computer monitors, two 30" NTSC monitors, a couple of breakout boards, two editing decks, a Nacamichi receiver and a four NHT studio monitor speaker. This does not include the rat's nest of wires that festoons the place.

    She also has a yen for antique furniture, and insisted on using a 120 year old partner's desk with its matching chair. The desk was a about eight inches too high to comfortably type, and was almost a foot think (so you couldn't solve the problem by jacking up the chair). It was aslo shaped as a square, with the origional idea being that two peopl would work from either side. My mother's solution was to place the desk in the center of the room, and walk around the thing whenever she needed to get to one of the systems on the other side. Needless to say, after every project, she had horrible back pain and aching wrists (bad enough that she couldn't hold a cup of coffee). And yet, she utterly refused to buy a real desk - "I just can't stand modern furniture!" was her reasoning.

    In any event, I decided that the only way I was going to get her to use a real desk was if I built the thing myself, thus guilting her into an ergonimic solution. So, I took measurements of her height, the length of her legs to the knees and to the hip, and the length of her arms, and built a desk to her exact measurements. Fortunatly, my high school offered and woodworking evening activity. I spent about seven months building the thing (it had to hold up nearly a 1000 Kg of equipment, not to mention live up to her tasts for good furniture). In the end, it was four feet deep, fourteen feet long, with two sets of drawers and two vented computer cabinets. If anyone's ever built furniture before, you know what a pain in the ass it is to build drawers, especially big ones! Wood expands and contracts by as much as 5% with humidity and temperature, so big drawers are next to impossible to get right without doing all sorts of strange things to compensate for the changes in geometry. I also had the pleasure (?!!) to have had access to a seasoned trunk of red oak, so I milled the desk surface, leggs and other main parts myself. Since the desk had to be so large and hold up so much weight, I actually found all the available plans and project guides to be utterly useless. The main span of the desk is nine feet, and had to be able to support up to two tons (in case, for instance, someone dropped one of those 20" monitors on it from a few feet in the air, the desk wouldn't collapse and destroy the rest of her equipment).

    I ended up turning to bridge design for a workable solution. It had to take into account the high loads, vibration and shock, and expansion and contraction of the material. Basically, I went with a box-girder construction, but with suspension cables inside the box. The suspension cables were nessesary becasuse the joints of the box girder could not simply be fixed to one another, or the surface of the desk would split. Each of the joints is made using lateral rails with ballbearings, like the sliders for a drawer, only much larger. Unfortunatly, this leads to a rather unpleasant amount of gear lash since the bearings require a small amount of play. The suspension cables keep the desk arched slightly upward, instead of bowed downward. This insures that the bearings are aways biased in the same direction so there is no gear lash. Also, the suspension cables are mounted to shock absorbers. Any vibration on the surface is transmitted into the shock absorbers. The result is that the desk surface is only four inches thick at the center, but is strong enough to hold up a small car (or withstand the shock of a 150 Kg object droped from two meters), sturdy enough that you can pound a nail into a block of wood and not skip a CD player a foot away, and flexible enough that it expands an contracts lengthwise by about an inch and a half.

    In the end, it cost me about $300 to build the desk, if you assume my time was worthless (I was a high school student, so that was pretty much the case) and you don't count the electricity and heating oil I used up. After graduation, my mother shiped it from Vermont to California - all 400 kilograms of it. I'll leave it as an exersize to the reader to figure out how much more it cost to ship than to build.

    She is now happily using a desk built to her exact ergonimic requirements, and has not suffered from back or wrist pain in the four years since she's been using it. It's not quite as pretty as the aincent antiques she's got - but hey, it was my first (and thusfar only) attempt at woodworking.

  • http://www.tema-usa.com [tema-usa.com] has some really sweet SOHO office furniture. I bought a desk from their Wall street line, and I love it. I have 2 21" Monitors side by side on it, keyboard tray which is large enough for my ergo keyboard and MS optical trackball, and a side thingy that I have my scanner and printer on. Everything is modular and you can configure it just about any way you like. It's heavy, high quality stuff too. The price isn't bad either, about $350-$400 for what I have, much cheaper than alot of other solutions out there, but more expensive than a sheet of plywood on top of 2 filing cabinets.

    I bought mine at a store called Elements, so I didn't have to pay shipping, but you can order the stuff right off their site. Although, the pricing at Elements was actually a little less than the website pricing, go figure. They also have tons of matching furniture, like filing cabinets (I have one, it's built like a brick shithouse), bookcases, etc.

  • Automotive carpet is an ideal way to cover up plywood creations. At work, there is a bunch of deep (24") benches running around the shop, with 2x4's on the edge for support, and angled 2x4's that run diagonally towards the wall for additional bracing. It has been covered in off-gray automotive carpeting. Looks wonderful. The automotive carpet isn't plush, and static hasn't been a problem at all (I've built many computers on one of the benches). The only thing I might mention is that if you tend to spill things, this might not be the ideal solution.

    PS - File cabinets are wonderful to reduce clutter. As well as shelves that are a higher height then normal, and runs around the room. A bookshelf is often useful. Also, try to arrange the work area in a U-shape, its more efficient. And throw ethernet connections EVERYWHERE. If you have a lot of computers, consider investing in a rack, its worth it.

  • I've seen a lot of great ideas for DIY'ers and this topic has gotten me motivated to do something with my mess of a home office. But I'm amazed at the lack of pictures! You'd think geeks would be proud enough of the solutions they've come up with to snap a few digital pics or at least scan a photograph. I'd like to see some of these self-built setups, words can only describe the details to a point.
  • I recently (about 2 years ago) had the opportunity to rebuild one of my spare bedrooms into my office/geekroom. It started bare - small bedroom, double panel closet, and a shared electrical circuit. Changes include:
    • 26-odd feet of floor-to-ceiling adjustable bookshelves (2 sides of the room, basically, less a doorway). 4 feet of that is in extra-wide, extra-deep shelves suitable for a small fax machine/etc.
    • a built-in lateral file cabinet and drawers underneath 10 feet of benchtop (gotta have someplace to run the extra machines.
    • wraparound desk with island for my "primary" workspace.
    • built-in storage space for a case of paper and other office supplies
    • new shelving for the closet, to hold DSL/router/hub.
    • dedicated 20 amp electrical circuit _just_ for the geek stuff - doesn't even hit the light switch. Drops to a total of 18 outlets - 3 4x's and a 2x, including some under the desk for printers/etc., and one in the closet for the DSL/router/hub/etc.
    • new task lighting (TBD) for the whole room.
    • Oh yeah - and the whole thing done in oak.

    About the same time, I got to tinker with my mom's house, where I stash most of my servers. Her "sewing room" added:
    • a double-width closet, with wiring ducts and 2x 20 amp circuits of it's own
    • a third 20-amp circuit in the exterior wall
    • 18000BTU of air conditioner (enough to cool the whole house if needed).
    • A 19" floor-to-ceiling server rack. Currently stuffed with about $30K in server/router/etc. gear.
    • Equipment shelves, for my geek stuff

    While we were at it, we redid the rest of the house. Every room now has at least one cat5e drop and a coax cable feed (yes, including her desk). The whole house runs switched 100TX. Oh yes, and we threw 4200w of solar cells on the roof and about 24 KwH of battery storage in the garage, to help with those wonderful brownouts. Even with everything running full blast (inc. 12 servers + switch + 2 routers) we pretty much balance out.

    Another person mentioned IKEA furniture. If you're in an apartment, their office stuff seems like it offers some pretty good possibilities and options - I was quite impressed, esp. with value-for-money.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost