Introduction: Build a Holey Desk! (a Modular Desk for Makers)
- Build a desk top w/ strong mounting points to tame your stuff
- Optimize the "forever" stuff
- Trick out the desk w/ 3D-printed parts to handle the temporary stuff.
The supply list will largely depend on how you trick out your desk (parts of this are choose-your-own-adventure), so I'll put them in the relevant steps for simplicity/relevancy.
But here are the basics:
- Motorized Desk Base (dual motor!)
- 20mm Brad Point Drill Bit
- Articulating Monitor Stand
- FastCap Fast32 Metric Measuring Tape
*Amazon links are affiliate links throughout this Instructable. Sometimes, the best way to say "thanks" is to buy yourself something nice.
Step 1: Watch the 2.5min Montage
Watch the montage.
Watch the montage.
Please, watch the montage.
Step 2: OPTIONAL: Watch the Full Build Video (15 Mins)
Also, check out the full build video. I designed it to be complementary to this Instructable.
This Instructable is far more detailed and specific, while the video contains tips & tangents such as:
- Metal-buying tips
- Effects of sunlight on Cherry
- Me writing a letter to Santa
And actually helpful explanations of various steps in this Instructable. Check it out.
Step 3: This Is a Remix of the MultiFunction Slab
The WUDD is my in-home extension/interpretation of the MF Slab (MultiFunction Slab) out in the shop.
Check out the MultiFunction Slab website at https://www.multifunctionslab.com/ for more details on how to get one.
Over the past couple years I've found the MF Slab to be handy for far more than woodworking. I'd regularly 3D-print custom "bench dogs" for various tasks - such as the above image where I used it to clamp Kanthal wire for the Easy Hot Wire video.
Then I realized the potential for mounting cameras, lights, and microphones!
I became increasingly frustrated that I didn't have a good way to mount lights & microphones at my desk inside the house. The holes in the MFSlab were just so stinking handy.
When the reality of working from home long-term started to hit, I started to design my dream desk. And of course, it had dog holes.
The steel strip came about when I was brainstorming adjustable book ends. I imagined sliding book ends that just sort of magically stayed in place. I do quite a bit of prototyping with magnets (check out my Restaurant-Style Paper Holder Instructable) so the natural conclusion was to use a thick steel strip and neodymium magnets.
And that is how the WUDD came to be.
Step 4: The Wudd
wudd (noun) - \ˈwəd\ - [wuhd] (rhymes with "thud" and loosely rhymes with "pineapple")
A desktop surface with 20mm dog holes 96mm on-center on the left, right and far perimeters, and a flat steel bar mounted atop the length of the edge farthest away from the user.
A wudd provides mounting points for things that would otherwise clutter the desktop. Examples:
- flexible lighting
- book ends
- desk organizers
- cable management
WUDD is actually an acronym for the Wickedly Usable Dog Desk. But, since I dislike repetitive use of all-caps acronyms, I made a new word.
Step 5: My Wudd
My wudd is a typical wudd with the following features and specifications:
- A motorized desk base
- Black Cherry lumber
- 72" x 30" x 3/4" (width / depth / thickness)
It's designed to be properly usable for me in the following ways:
- Swappable dry erase boards that rise and lower with the desk
- Convenient mounting / positioning of microphones and video gear
- Articulating lights
In this Instructable, I'll show you how to build my interpretation of a wudd that's properly usable for me.
Step 6: Usability Is Fun!
Usability is about you; that's why it starts with U. Unless you're making that thing-a-whatever for somebody else. In that case, it's about them. But thsability is another Instructable entirely.
What's on your desk?
If you could tame it, would you?
I'm a certified Functional Usability Nerd (I'm certified FUN). I'll weave some usability-thinking concepts throughout this Instructable to help you steer you clear of the toxic WASIWIU (what Amazon sells is what I use) mentality.
Step 7: Assemble the Motorized Base
While on-site with a client for my real job, I was spoiled by a desk that goes up and down at the touch of a button.
The. Whole. Desk.
Spoiled? No. . . Enlightened.
Therefore, I mounted my wudd on a dual-motor standing desk.
Fezibo Dual-Motor Motorized Desk Frame. It was about 1/3 the price I expected.
Since the assembly instructions were clear and I have other steps to write, I'm not going to spoon-feed you the details about how to put 8 screws in a thing that has 8 holes.
But I do have a tip!
Adjust the frame to the max width. More leg room, steadier, and less likely to block your dog holes.
Step 8: Make a Wood Top: Dimensions
Moving forward with this Instructable, I'm going to assume you size your desk top like I did:
72" wide x 30" deep. Thickness doesn't really matter...just keep it at least 3/4" thick.
If you do a different size top, you'll need to adjust some future steps accordingly. It won't be too hard, I just wanted to call attention to it so you can be prepared.
Step 9: Make a Wood Top - Easy Option
Don't want to mess with a glue-up? Consider using Baltic Birch plywood. You can get a 4x8 sheet of 3/4" Baltic Birch from Menards for $62. Above photo shows the uniformity of Baltic Birch plywood edges.
Pros of using Baltic Birch:
- Easy, no glue-ups
- Baltic Birch is very stable
- Baltic Birch is socially acceptable
But, it's not Black Cherry. And I like Black Cherry. A lot.
Step 10: Make a Wood Top - Glue-Up Option
OK, I'm not going to explicitly tell you how to glue-up. Reasons:
A) This Instructable is about tricking-out a desk top rather gluing boards together. Therefore, the glue-up process is really outside the scope of this Instructable as long as the reader isn't left helpless. Then, I found:
It's clear and concise, and he touches on all the tips I'd have wanted to, and he has a great video included. If you want to learn how to do a glue-up, check out his Instructable.
STOP AFTER STEP 5! ... We'll be doing something different.
Step 11: Family Business Meeting
We have a couple miscellaneous issues to deal with before proceeding:
A) Back of desk = the long edge of the desk where the steel strip will go. Words are hard sometimes.
B) Drilling isn't as precise as routing from a template, yet I'm telling you to drill anyway. That's because I assume most of you don't yet have a MF Slab to use as a routing template. But if you do, you know how to make the holes without this Instructable anyway, so I'm sticking to my drilling-only approach!
Step 12: Mark & Center-Punch the Hole Locations
MEASURING / MARKING THE BACK EDGE
(tip: use a sharp pencil)
Draw a STRAIGHT line:
- Parallel to the back edge
- 3" from the back edge
This is the center-line for your back edge holes.
Find & mark the center of that line. Tips:
- Measure the length of the table (72" in my case).
- Divide by 2 (36" in my case)
- Mark on the line 36" from 1 end. That should be center, right?? (maybe wrong!)
- Mark on the line 36" from the other end. Do the marks line up?
- If the marks didn't line up, then they were hopefully pretty close. Mark in the middle of your two markings. that's your center point.
We'll determine the remaining hole locations based on that center point.
Now, add marks along that line at 96mm intervals. Using the FastCap Fast32 measuring tape,
- Pull the tape out the length of your line and lock the tape so it doesn't retract.
- See the little tiny dots at 32mm intervals? Align 1 of those dots with your center point.
- Mark 96mm intervals by making 1 mark per 3 dots along the length of that line.
You should end up with your last hole a couple inches from the end of the desktop. Be sure this looks right - you don't want a hole right against the end of the end grain. If your final mark is less than 2" from the end of the board, erase it, as that will increase the chances of the end grain splitting.
Now you should have a line w/ markings every 96mm. If so, move on.
MEASURING / MARKING THE SIDES
Time to draw a line 90 degrees from your last markings parallel to the ends of the table top.
- Align a framing square with the back line - corner at your last marking, and mark a line perpendicular to the previous line, and parallel to the edge.
- Do this for both sides.
- Make some marks at 96mm intervals along the sides, originating from the corner mark you already drew.
Now, you should have markings at 96mm intervals along the back & sides of the desk top.
Step 13: Drill the Holes
Important: Use a 20mm brad-point drill bit. The brad point tip will keep the bit centered on your center-punches. That's why you center-punch and not willy-nilly-punch.
- If you're pretty good at drilling straight down (not at an angle) then move along and keep doing the good work. Or,
- Get a drill guide like this MilesCraft Drillmate. For not much $, this will help you drill straight holes.
Drill the holes. Tip: To avoid tearout, put the Wudd on a sacrificial backer board and drill through the Wudd and into the backer board.
Step 14: Sand the Holes
The holes are probably a bit rough around the edges. Time to sand those suckers.
I have a video all about custom hole sanding attachments. But, it's a 15 minute slow paced deep dive from my early days, and you'd probably be better off spending time on other things...like watching the 4-second GIF above.
Make a simple sanding attachment for your Dremel. (If you don't have a Dremel already, consider buying Dremel's 12V 8220 for a battery powered model that's still a proper Dremel).
- Take one of those pink flat-topped grinder bits, smaller in diameter than your holes
- Cut a small square of smooth leather the same size as the bit
- Glue the leather on the bit using epoxy or CA glue
- Cut & Attach a small strip of 120 grit sticky-back sandpaper to the leather, forming wings like the picture above.
- Poke the holes like the GIF above.
Alternate, less-cool way of doing it: Wrap some 120 grit sandpaper around your index finger, and pretend you're a toddler trying to unclog your ears.
Step 15: Sanding Is (and Should Be) Mega Boring
I've only had a small handful of sanding experiences that were more exciting than I cared for, and random-orbital-sanding had nothing to do with any of them.
Sand the top with a random orbit sander using the grits 80, 120, 150, and end at 180.
Sandpaper Buying Tip:
If you need it quick or are buying only this once, get an assortment from Amazon.
If you're buying a lot of sandpaper at once, buy from Industrial Abrasives. Their 50-pack assortment is 1/2 the price of Amazon's. I buy sandpaper almost exclusively from IA and SuperGrit, but sometimes you can't beat the convenience of Amazon.
Don't worry about hand-sanding with the grain yet. We'll do that after applying finish to the bottom.
Sanding tips I wish somebody told me when I was a kindergartener
A) Keep the sanding pad flat. Don't give in to the temptation to dig with the edge to remove certain marks.
B) Don't melt the backing pad. The plastic hooks melt with heat. Applying too much pressure, or using the edge of the sander in the same spot will both contribute to you melting your hooks.
C) Clean off dust between coats. This will reduce the large sanding debris that causes large swirly marks in your final sanding stages.
If you feel your sanding takes wayyy longer than it needs to, maybe try another model sander. I own 2 random orbit sanders. My Bosch ROS20VSK has excellent dust control, but it slows down quickly with moderate force. Therefore, I use the Bosch for most jobs - but not the table-top sized jobs. My Makita BO5041K, on the other hand, has gobs of power and the disc continues to move even under considerable pressure. I can use moderate pressure and sand faster, yet it's not enough pressure to cause excess heat generation. But, the dust collection bag is terrible so I use a shop vac.
Step 16: Apply Finish
I used a 50/50 mix of Polyurethane and Mineral Spirits to finish my desk top and wiped it on using Scott Rags In A Box (folded up, avoiding the torn edges). It's my go-to.
- 4 very light coats of 50/50 MS + Gloss Poly
- 3 very light coats of 50/50 MS + Satin Poly
This helps maintain clarity while still providing a matte finish.
START WITH THE BOTTOM.
I actually used straight up spray Polyurethane for the bottom to avoid drips getting in the holes and running down to the unfinished top. Whatever you do, make sure drips don't get to the top.
Once 3 coats on the bottom have finished drying, you're done with the bottom!
Final-Sand the Top
I final-sand at 180 w/ a Random Orbit Sander, then hand-sand at 180 with the grain. Then I lightly dampen a rag with mineral spirits and wipe down the table top. This does 2 things:
- Removes sanding dust
- Makes ugly sanding scratches visible. So if you had some tool marks or sanding scratches, they'll show up when the mineral spirits are on there. If you see these, re-sand those areas to address the problems. Then wipe mineral spirits on there again.
Finish the Top
Here's where the 50/50 comes into play if you didn't do it already.
If you're unfamiliar with doing wipe-on poly, check out this Instructable. He uses some pre-mixed wipe-on poly and explains the process very well.
Give your Dog Holes Wet Willies
The goal here is to apply finish to the insides of the dog holes without reducing the diameter of the hole. I opted to allow finish to get in the hole when I wiped finish on the top, then I spread it around with my finger.
Step 17: Let It Dry, Cure & Off-Gas
Polyurethane has a terrible off-gassing smell that lasts for several days. I went too fast and had to deal with open windows in the heat of the summer - which was annoyingly hot. Plan ahead to allow a few days if possible to save yourself some headaches later.
Step 18: Cut, Drill and Mount the Steel
Cut the Steel
Cut a piece of 2" wide by 1/8" thick mild steel to the length of your Wudd minus the reduced edges caused by roundovers. Re-measure. Then cut the steel.
Drill & Mount the Steel
- Pick some 3/4" long wood screws w/ a tapered head.
- Drill holes in the steel about 9" apart from one another. Hole diameter should be the same diameter (or slightly greater) than the threads of your screw.
- Taper those holes for your tapered screws using a counter-sink bit.
- Set your steel on the back edge of the table where you'd like to mount it.
- Pre-drill the wood for the screws using a bit that's equal to the screw's core diameter (smaller than the thread diameter)
- Screw the metal in place.
DISCREPANCY NOTE: In my video, you see I used a rabbet (groove on the edge) to recess the steel flush with the wood. Then I realized a raised steel bar would protect the wood from all the things I'll be dragging across the steel. Like cup magnets, for instance: they're super strong, and cannot be dis-mounted gracefully. During such graceless demounting process, the edges of the cup magnet are likely to lean into the wood and scrape/ding it.
I ended up using faux window blinds as spacers to bring the steel back up above the desktop.
In other words: the rabbet was dumb. Don't do it.
Step 19: Mount Your WUDD to the Base
Several tips here.
Parts / Supplies:
- Truss-head screws. Here are links to 1/2" and 3/4". Pick the size that won't screw up your top.
- Drill stops
- Center top on base
- Verify holes don't conflict (if so, adjust base width)
- Pre-drill (see tips below)
- Screw it in
- Mount desk control unit.
- If you're using hardwood, account for wood expansion (see pic above).
- Wood expands/contracts across the grain from season to season.
- Only screw in the holes along the grain in one line.(this will cause the expansion/contraction midpoint to be on that line.
- Everywhere else, place your screws to the sides of the tabs so the wood can expand/contract along that across-the-grain direction. Look at pics above for visuals.
Step 20: STRATEGIES Forever Vs. Temporary
In the next few steps, I'll run through some important usability concepts.
Objective: Get the "forever" stuff out of the way so it can't interfere with temporary stuff.
Examples of Forever things
- Desk power supply
- Monitor power supply/cable
- Laptop power supply that always stays at the desk
In a later step, we'll address what to do with this stuff. For now, consider your setup and identify what's permanent and what's temporary.
Examples of Temporary things
- USB / charging cables
- Headphones & cables
- Other things that will sometimes be at the desk, and sometimes not.
- Books, notecards, iPad, etc.
I'll cover temporary things as we move along.
Step 21: "Forever" Cable & Power Stuff - Tame & Secure
Do this with those Forever things:
- Zip-tie those suckers tight
- Mount them securely to the desk, out of the way.
- Make sure to leave enough slack for movement where movement applies.
This will help make sure there's near-zero chance those will contribute to a tangled hairball.
Also, be sure to leave an open space for temporary wires & supplies.
Step 22: "Forever" USB Power
We all use USB power. We might as well include it in our strategy since USB wires get tangled too. For starters, I recommend using 2 USB supplies - one on each side of the desk. That'll reduce the number of wires crossing better you might think.
USB Power Power Tips:
- Get 2 USB supplies - 1 on each side of the desk
- Get twice the number of ports you think you need.
- Mount them under the desk top, yet within reach (close to the back edge) so you don't have to crawl under/over the desk to use them
I used these 2 supplies:
- The beefy one has an 87W USB-C port and 4x USB-A ports
- The second one has a 30W USB-C port and 4x USB-A ports
Securely attach those to the desktop....because if they move, they tangle.
Step 23: "Forever" Desktop Stuff Optimization
Other "Forever" things I saved for this step are:
This step contains tips for optimizing these types of forever things - mainly to free up desk space for temporary things you bring to the desk. This will increase usability.
Here's what I recommend based on what I did.
A) Get a proper-sized keyboard
If you don't use your number pad, get one without. Problem is, the minimalistic keyboard market is full of 60% keyboards that lack function/home/end/etc keys. However, a 75% layout has all the buttons in all the right places (IMO). I bought the Keychron K2 w/ Brown PBT switches and absolutely love it. It has a solid bluetooth connection, works with Mac/Windows (all function keys do too) and also works over USB. And it looks sweet with the Cherry.
B) Get a mouse that doesn't need a mousepad.
I like to write on paper, which involves moving the mouse & keyboard away. And there's only one thing more annoying than scooting the mouse and keyboard away: Scooting the mouse, keyboard, and mousepad away. Go ahead, try it. It's like juggling. So you picked up the mouse, now what? Can you pick up the mousepad? No...you've got a mouse in your hand. Other hand? Oh, it's holding a keyboard. Sure, you can put the keyboard down with your left hand, then reach into right-hand-territory to pick up the mousepad, but that's how arms get tangled. Or, put down the mouse in your right hand, perhaps? Then you've gotta pick it back up again.
There's a better way. It's called no-mousepad. Find a mouse that works without a mousepad, and your mouse-moving process will be revolutionized. I have a Logitech G602 which works wonderfully well.
Will no-mousepad add wear & tear to the desktop? Nope. It'll add patina.
C) Get a 4k display
In case you're unaware of this amazingness, a 4k display has the resolution of 4 (four) (FOUR) 1080p displays.
In. One. Display.
Sure, it's not the same as 4 actual displays...but the resolution is. The main argument against a 4k display is that the text is smaller. Solution: get a bigger display. I use this 27" LG at 100% scaling and find it quite proper.
Benefit? You can move ALL "monitors" around at once. Grab it and move it.
D) Get a solid display stand arm
I bought this dual-display arm for the heftiness (and for the option of adding a display later). I like the post design because I can mount other things to the post using these super handy SmallRig clamps.
E) Put your laptop on the floor. (propped against a wall so it can breathe)
If your laptop is always shut and never moves, get it off the desk. Make sure cables are long enough to account for the desk movement. The mouse and keyboard I linked to above have good enough wireless range to work even when the desk is all the way up.
Anyway, I hope these tips at least help get you thinking about optimizing your desk space. Desks are small. The more you can optimize, the more you can use.
Step 24: Lighting & Articulating Boom Arms
I had very, very high expectations for my proper lighting setup. Lights should:
- Consume minimal desk space
- Raise and lower with the desk
- Articulate to shine on the desktop, whiteboard, or me
I managed to check all those boxes with the following setup:
- USB-Powered ring lights (I took the diffuser out because I'd rather directional light)
- Articulating Boom Arms (the inexpensive ones) (I have a video on those!)
- Ball head with 3/8" threaded hole and 1/4" threaded top
- A 3/8" steel rod epoxied in the boom arm
- A 3D printed Combo Dog (see it in the later step) that accepts a 3/8" rod.
Bonus - the articulating arms are actually microphone stands, so they worked for my voiceover mic as well. Win.
Step 25: You Do Own a 3D Printer, Right?
From this point forward, this Instructable is about 3D printed parts. Naturally, I'm assuming you either:
- Own a 3D printer, or
- Know somebody who owns a 3D printer
If not, here's the fast-path:
- Buy an Ender 3 for less than a bottle of Tesla Tequila
- Get a spool of HatchBox PLA filament
- Watch this amazing Ender 3 quick-start video
- Watch the Learn Fusion 360 in 30 Days playlist on YouTube.
- Join the Facebook Ender 3 user group for quick help when you need it.
Let's make some dogs.
Step 26: Prescriptivism Stops Here
Your usage of your workspace should define how you trick out your wudd.
The following steps show what I did to make the desk usable for me...based on how I use the desk. Don't blindly follow what I did. If so, you'll clutter your space with stuff that helps me...which is thoughtful of you but completely misses the point of usability design.
The following steps are intended to describe what I did and provide you with tips and resources (such as STL models for 3D printing) to do the same thing if you find it fitting.
Alright, Now for the cool whiz bang stuff.
Step 27: Uppandownify the Dry Erase Board
An up-and-down desk deserves an up-and-down whiteboard.
These Whiteboard Dogs: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646759
- Prevent slippage of whiteboard
- Jam-fit a marker lid (so the lid stays stuck in the dog when you pull the marker out)
Make Lego trolleys:
- Prototype 2 trollies for the top of your whiteboard.
- Once you've got the right combo, super-glue the bricks together (but NOT to the dry erase board)
Step 28: Cable Management Parts
After designing about a dozen cable-management parts, I found these 3 to be the clear winners.
S-Locking Dog: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646771
- Locks the cable into place - preventing it from falling through the dog hole.
- Has 2 separate sized slots in the S shape.
- Works with PLA, ABS, PET-G, and TPU.
Flexi-Nubs Magnet: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646819
- Uses these 15mm x 3mm neodymium magnets
- Requires TPU or equally flexible filament. I used Priline 95A for the prototypes.
- Uses these 15mm x 3mm neodymium magnets
Blue Cable Dog & Cable Magnet: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646821
- Printing in TPU is ideal, but I've printed in ABS & PLA and have had zero breaks so far. (though I imagine you could break a wing by trying to jam a jumper cable in there)
- Uses these 15mm x 3mm neodymium magnets
Step 29: Magnetic Book (& Stuff) Ends
These book ends mount firmly to the steel strip.
Magnetic Bookends: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646813
- Each side has 4x 15mm x 3mm neodymium magnets
- Book ends don't fall over if they are filled with top-heavy items.
- Book ends don't fall off the desk
- Book ends don't budge if a book leans over on one.
Use CA Glue to hold the magnets in the holes.
Step 30: Copper Pipe
Copper Pipe can be easily soldered to make many custom fixtures. So I made a simple cup-style dog adapter to fit 1/2" copper pipe. I used this to make a headphone holder.
Copper Pipe Dog: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646751
Step 31: Lego Dogs & Magnets
Legos use the 8mm system. The WUDD (or Festool or MFSlab) dog holes use the 96mm system, which happens to be a multiple of 8. Therefore, you can make Lego creations that span multiple dog holes.
2x2 Lego Dog Adapter: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646708
2x4 Lego Magnet: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646826
Step 32: Clipboard / Combo Dogs
These are fantastic multi-purpose dogs for both the home office and the workshop. They have a 3/8" thru-hole for 3/8" rods (naturally) and a slot that leans back a bit for holding a clipboard.
Clipboard Combo Dog: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646764
Seriously, this is very nice in the workshop to hold a clipboard on the work bench and freeing up space.
Step 33: Other Parts
Here are a few miscellaneous parts that didn't justify their own steps. For mild inspiration only.
Quarter Dog w/ 0.26" hole for 1/4" bolts: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4646767
Step 34: Handy Part Showcase: the Handy Cup Magnet
These super-handy 2.4" cup magnets are super strong. I use it to hold a GoPro and webcam. You may need to file out the hole slightly to fit a 1/4" bolt through. But a 1/4" x 20TPI is a very handy bolt for custom contraptions!
Buy the magnet: https://amzn.to/2Ug1Orr
Step 35: The WUDD: Review, Future & Highlight Gallery
The WUDD is a real-life figment of my imagination.
After I built the desk, I Googled the following search terms and more:
- "modular office desk" - complex, proprietary, and not-very-modular results
- "desk with 20mm holes" - nothing about actual desks - only work benches.
- "desk with dog holes" - work benches.
- "modular desk" - store-bought furniture with proprietary desk-specific modularity, as well as some cool DIY modular organizers for holding pens, scissors, etc.
As I've been using the desk for the past couple months, I keep thinking that there's gotta be an opportunity right in front of us.
In the workshop, we have standards for mounting things - such as 3/4" or 20mm dog holes. Therefore, companies (and makers) make parts compatible with that standard.
But for the office desk, we have no such standards. And without a standard, solutions are flippant. The presence of adopted standards is a key factor in determining what products actually get designed.
Perhaps if we adopted a standard (say, 20mm holes and a 2" steel strip), we'd see innovative solutions start brewing on Thingiverse and beyond.
But, would there be demand for those things?
Look through the gallery above. See how much is technically on my desk, visible, easily accessible, yet completely out of the way?
This desk is unthinkably usable.
Step 36: Name Change: Holey Desk
Step 37: The Montage, One Last Time
Participated in the