The Lab Desk

I am a big fan of having a creative space to work in that keeps my tools close and has a nice flow (even if it does get covered in junk). Thankfully I often get to work at home, especially when developing the electrical side of our projects & products. So when we moved into our house we dedicated an entire room as an electronics lab/office where I could work both by myself and with others as necessary. So naturally one of the most important things about this space is a desk! I can be a bit fussy when it comes to desks, I hate hitting my legs on posts or having them divided up into sections. I like to be able to move to any point of the desk and not belt my knees on something.

So for this desk the key requirement was zero legs along the front. The second challenge was the size of the desk, it is not a massive room by many standards but certainly large enough. However I knew I wanted something that would allow me to install a triple monitor setup in one corner of the room and still have plenty of space. As a result the desk would need to run the length of two walls. Finally I did not want to worry about the weight of things I place on the desk so it needed to be sturdy and handle anything I could conceivably need it for.

The final design was a wood topped desk with a metal support frame, a very thick, very strong support frame. The steel is a mix of 50 x 50 Square hollow section with 3mm and 2mm wall thickness. The desktop needed to be functional more than aesthetic so a mid grade 17mm plywood would be the surface.

To start the project I took measurements of the room, measurements of my knee height in my chair (to make sure i didn’t hit my knees into the frame instead of a leg). Then I poured this information into a CAD model. The benefit of a cad model is you can get a feel for how you want your desk to look and it also makes it very easy to build a cutting list with the angles pre calculated.

Lab Desk Lab Desk

The Final version of the drawing proved to be a great resource. The Green lines are the metal support structure underneath which was designed to distribute as much of the load as possible whilst maximizing the material. The red lines indicate the rooms dimensions whilst the yellow highlights the wooden top section and the associated joints. Finally the blue line, this line is there to aid the installation of the frame which is built as one complete section, the challenge is getting such a large frame through the house without trouble. So the two blue lines are offset from each other by the height of our doorways so the frame can be maneuvered on it’s end without too much trouble.

From this drawing I built a cutting list and set to work, cutting each section of tubing with a cut off saw and a combination square for the angles. Once the pieces were cut the frame was tack welded on a relatively flat surface. Naturally i did this work in the middle of a summer heatwave so as to enhance the sweat to work ratio. finally once all sections were tacked together and checked for squareness with a tape measure and that ever handy cad model. I started to weld all of the joints.

I had not yet decided where to place the legs for the desk so once the frame was welded i ran a few tests. I found that with a single leg in each cornerĀ  (as close to the wall as possible) this frame could easily withstand a 120+ kg Australian bouncing up and down on it whilst laughing maniacally laughing. So i cut some 50 x 100 pieces of plate and drilled clearance for M10 bolts. Then lining them up as a guide on the underside of the frame, drilled and tapped a series of M10 holes so the legs could be bolted on once it was installed in the room, this is a great advantage of the thicker walled pipe, it provides much more surface area for a thread.

The remainder of the work was relatively straight forwards, priming and painting the frame with a gloss white paint before cutting two sheets of plywood with a circular saw and a jigsaw. Finally everything was moved into the lab for assembly.

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