My Original Sawhorse Desk
The following blog post was written and posted to TheCheapGeek.org three years ago. This was easily my most successful blog post ever and my foray into woodworking. Since that time I have developed a little more skill and started building my own workshop that I will detail in a future post. If I were to build the desk again I would only make one change. I would not use a door as a top. High quality plywood is available at very reasonable prices and is much easier to work with. I plan to post much more woodworking content to this site so be sure and let me know what types of items you would like to see me build.
I have always been a fan of well designed things. Many very useful and completely competent applications have been deleted from my iPhone simple due to poor UI design. My obsession with Apple products is also a great example of this. The iMacs minimal design of a thin widescreen monitor floating in mid air is wonderful and significantly better than any other desktop currently available. Apples use of thin sleek lines in most of their products got me thinking
"How can I slim down or minimize my home office?"
My main issue was storage. Not physical storage for pins and papers but digital storage. I have three hard drives that contain my media and backups for everything on my network. Up until recently these were local drives connected via USB and FireWire that were stuffed in a semi well ventilated desk drawer. Not only did I have to store the drives themselves but I also had to contend with their power adapters and other connectors. To get on to my point I had a lot of crap zip tied and crammed under my desk that I wasn’t crazy about and I was out of space.
To solve this issue I bought an Airport extreme and put all of my hard drives on my network. This freed up so much space that it allowed me to look for a sleeker desk without drawers that didn’t break the bank. After an extensive search, the desks I found were either too expensive or too ornate.
This lead me down a path of designing and building my own desk while tying to keep it under 150$. I initially drew up a design in Google sketchup, a great free 3D modeling application, and slowly began tweaking it. My initial design requirements consisted of a very thin top somewhere between 1”-2” supported by two sawhorses. I also needed the ability to get power and Ethernet to the machine without seeing any cabling. I settled on the following design.
Then I had to decide how to build it. I wanted to use solid wood for each component but a solid wood top would encroach on my budget. Instead I bought a solid wood door at a surplus building supply warehouse for 10$. It was in rough shape but for the price I couldn’t pass it up. I made each sawhorse leg out of three pieces of pine glued together.
Two of the legs have a hollow center so I could run a power cord in one and an Ethernet cable in the other. I made these by splitting the center piece of pine and leaving a gap when glueing them together. After all the legs had dried they needed to be trimmed down to the final dimension of 2” x 2”.
I then cut a 15 degree angle at the top and bottom of each leg. I then cut a 75 degree angle in each leg so it could be mounted to the oak runner connecting each pair of legs.
I decided on a single ¾” runner rather than two pieces because I really wanted the sawhorses to be very slim. The legs were attached to the runners with two 2.5” screws that were covered with oak wood plugs and a healthy amount of glue.
After both sawhorses were assembled holes were drilled in the two legs where wires would be run and each was sanded to 150 grit.
The table top that began it’s life as a door was first cut down to its final size of 28” x 62” then sanded. I then decided that I wanted to put some additional solid wood edging for added looks and durability. These were attached with glue and a few brad nails and then sanded smooth. The next hurdle was to align the sawhorses with the top of the desk. I decided that I didn’t want to permanently mount the top the the legs so I opted to use dowels to align them. I measured the correct location and drilled half inch corresponding holes in the sawhorses and the top of the desk.
I then glued two 3” half inch dowels in each sawhorse and let them dry.
Now I reached the issue of cables. Even though I moved a huge percentage of my cabling into my network closet I had to figure out a way to hide the power and Ethernet cables in the top of the desk. I decided to route a small channel from the top hole in the legs to a hole drilled into the back center of the top. This would allow me to hide the few cables I need.
Here is the completed desk.
The last step was finishing the desk. I decided that I wanted to paint it black just like my previous desk. Being that the desk was made out of hardwoods I wanted a little of the texture/grain to be visible. I opted to use a cabot opaque black stain that is more similar to paint than a stain, but it does leave some of the wood texture visible. The stain went on in two coats and was then topped with some polyurethane for some added protection. I couldn’t be happier with the way the desk turned out. It achieves my initial goals to build something functional and very minimal. Take a look at the gallery of the completed desk below and the video walkthrough of the new desk with my old iMac on it below.