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Hey there! So I've been a lurker on these forums for a while and I decided it's time to contribute! Now I know this would probably fit in better on a woodworking forum, but it is PC related and there's not as much non-case/desk combo building stuff out there. Hopefully I'm at least in the right sub forum, but I figured this would work. So I am building my first custom watercooled PC and I'd like to sit the case on top of my desk, thus my current $75 economy desk from Ikea was not going to cut it. After shopping around for weeks, I decided that I hated everything and the best idea would be to just build my own. I strongly recommend to everyone that is interested, definitely try this, but it was not easy. Not only did it require some solid DIY skills (this is NOT a beginner project), it took a lot of specialized tools and tons of time. I'd say I spent about 50 hours on this from start to finish, not including the time I spent designing it. Also, I'm not a professional carpenter or anything like that. I was fortunate enough to be taught a lot about working with my hands while growing up, but nothing even remotely this involved. My job during the day is a civil engineer, so this is the first time I've tried something like this.

Now I knew I wanted something that was sturdy and simple. After looking around for ideas on the internet, I found all kinds of designs. I love all of the case/desk combos that people do but that's really not what I was looking for here. I finally decided on making something out of a wood top and 1.5" black iron pipe for the legs and frame.

So after taking some measurements of my apartment, I figured a good size would be 30" x 72" for the top. After doing some sketches, this was my first design. Pay no attention to the 4 3/16" pieces at the bottom, I decided to switch those out for close nipples since it made the desk too tall. The 20 1/16" cut is also wrong since I did not account for the length of the union piece. The frame would have to be 26" x 68" to allow for 2" of overhang on every side of the top. The measurements I circled are what I needed to cut my sections of pipe to. These are based on the size of the fittings (tees, elbows) and allowing for a half inch of play in the threads. If anyone decides to try this, I'd recommend doing your own measurements since your fittings might be different than mine.



Here's the list of materials for just the legs and frame with some approximate prices. These may be drastically different depending where you are. Also, since this isn't a residential size, you'll pay a lot more at Home Depot or Lowes. Go to a local plumbing supply store.

• ~ 30 ft of 1.5" black iron pipe @ $2.50 $75
• 10x 1.5" x 1.5" tees @ $9.00 $90
• 4x street elbows @ $8.50 $34
• 6x close nipples @ $2.50 $15
• 3x unions @ $15.00 $45
• 4x floor flanges @ $10.00 $40
Total: $299 (plus tax)

As you can see, this stuff is not cheap. The fittings in particular are laughably expensive for what they are. Keep in mind that it will cost you even more if you have the store do the cutting and threading (probably $2-$3 for each cut/thread). For the top, I spent about $50 for the plywood, sandpaper, bolts, etc. Now on to pipe cutting and threading! I started out using a proper pipe cutter, but that broke so I had to switch to a chop saw.







Chain vice with a pipe securely attached. DON'T USE A REGULAR VICE, YOU WILL CRUSH THE PIPE!!!






After I got everything threaded, here's my pile of shavings (my shoulders were sore for days).


I finished the loops on the legs and started to figure out how I was going to do the top. It was at this point I realized that the union pieces are wider than the rest of the fittings. This will cause problems with attaching the top since the top will see-saw on the wide union piece. So what I decided to do was use a union on the lower brace to close off the back loop, and then cut and weld the top piece on the left side to close off the top loop.







You can see the weld on the short piece at the bottom of the picture. This way the pieces of steel welded across the top and the fittings are all the same height of the pipe, no union pieces in the way.


Finally done building the frame!!!


At this point, I knew the direction I wanted to go with the top. My original idea was to use a section of a bowling alley. The stuff is very thick and is almost perfectly flat. The problem is that it is hard to find since apparently demolishing bowling alleys isn't very common. So after doing some more research, I decided to try to find some old reclaimed barn wood to use. I found some places that sell desk tops using beautiful reclaimed wood, but they're usually around $800 - $1,500!!! So after doing some searching, I found a friend who had some nice proper 2" x 10" (not the 1.5" x 9.25" bull**** you get today) floor joists laying around. Apparently they were 125 year old poplar (softer than I'd like, but can't complain since it was free) that was used in a barn that came with some property he had bought. I forgot to take some pictures, but they basically looked like this.



After running them through a planer and cleaning them up a bit, they looked like this… Beautiful!!!


The biggest thing you have to watch out for when using reclaimed wood is nails. I could not believe how many damn nails were in these boards. Most woodworking shops will at the very least charge a premium to use their planer with reclaimed wood, or they'll just say no. They really did build things better back then, but hidden nails tear the blades on a planer to hell. Luckily I have a friend that has a planer so it wasn't a big issue. But we did have to remove a few that were on the surface before running the boards through. I ended up with 4 good boards that we had to trim down to about 8" each. I didn't see a reason to trim one down to 6" to meet the 30" goal, so I left them all at 8" and ended up with a 32" top.

Next I decided to use a piece of 5/8" (19/32" actual) plywood as a nice stable base for my top. I secured it to the pipes and steel bars using sheet metal screws and carriage bolts that I counter-sunk into the plywood.






I used washers to level the plywood across the entire sheet (sorry for the crappy lighting).


Next I had to glue my boards together, which was by far the scariest part of this whole project. Now in order to get them to sit flush with each other, I had to do some work with a hand planer.


I used a biscuit joiner to make sure the boards lined up perfectly and stayed that way. You can see the slits I cut in the board for the biscuits below.


After doing so much prep work, gluing them together was pretty terrifying but came out well. Make sure you alternate your clamps so that the boards don't try to fold up on each other.




After letting everything set up overnight, I used a track saw (AMAZING TOOL!!!) to cut off the ends so they were nice and square. Then I used wood screws to attach the plywood to my top.




Everything came out great and looked as good as I could have possibly imagined. Next came the fun part, sanding. I think I spent at least 10-12 hours just on sanding this damn thing. I started by using a belt sander with 80 grit paper, then went up to 120. Then I switched to a palm sander with 220 grit, then went up to 400. After I was done, the surface was smooth as glass. That 400 grit sandpaper really works miracles.

In order to protect the top, I decided to apply a clear poly. It also does an amazing job of really bringing out the natural brilliance of the wood. If you want to see what it's going to look like, use a damp paper towel to make a wet spot on your board before applying anything. When you apply it, make sure to apply it heavy. If you sanded your boards properly, the poly will spread out and self-level, making the surface as smooth as glass. Then just sand lightly and add as many additional coats as you want (I did 3).




As I was loading it in my truck, I noticed how amazing it looks in the sun. I absolutely love everything about how this old wood turned out. You simply cannot get this kind of look with new wood from a lumberyard. The other thing I noticed when we were loading it is this thing is HEAVY. Now this is exactly what I was going for (over-engineering at its finest), so I'd say this desk is every bit of 200 lbs.


Overall, I was absolutely amazed at how well the desk turned out, and I only spent about $400! If you were to buy something like this at a high-end furniture store, you're looking at $2,000 - $3,000 easily. This is one of the most satisfying projects I've ever done, so I strongly recommend this to anyone that wants to try. This is the first time I've tried something like this, so let me know what you guys think. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll try to help as best I can.

Thanks for reading my post!!!
 

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Overclock Failed...
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Great design.
Fantastic skilz!
 

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That poplar was a fantastic find and you have some excellent woodworking skills. I used to be a cabinet maker a few decades ago.
 

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Wow, I'm looking for ideas to make my own desk when I finally move into my new place, but this sets the bar high! I wish I had woodworking skills
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks everyone for the comments, I really appreciate it!!!

Quote:
SgtMunky: Wow, I'm looking for ideas to make my own desk when I finally move into my new place, but this sets the bar high! I wish I had woodworking skills
You could probably find some kind of woodworking shop to do the big stuff for you. Like planing all the boards and then running them through a table saw to get them nice and straight. Also, you don't necessarily have to use reclaimed wood to end up with a nice desk. It's tricky to work with and not only can it be really hard to find, it can be really expensive. I saw a few places that were selling 2x10's for the insane price of $10 per ft! So getting some common lumberyard wood and applying your favorite stain will still look great. As far as other tools go, A biscuit joiner is a bit of an uncommon tool, but can be very useful if you're interested in buying one. I think they're around $150 new, but you could probably find them for half that much used. The hand planer is also a bit of a specialized tool, but again very useful for a variety of projects.

All of the other tools are pretty common. Everyone should have a good 7 1/4" circular saw with several different blades for whatever you're cutting. I used mine with a finishing blade to cut the plywood, but I borrowed the track saw in the pictures from a friend who does a lot of home remodeling. A good Makita circular saw (my personal favorite) is $120 new, that Festool saw in the picture is $650 so it's a bit much for 99.999% percent of people. I also recommend a good belt and palm sander, they're invaluable to have for when you need them.
 

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Looks amazing, I can definitely hear you on the look of the old wood, hard to beat that look.
 

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Heavy duty for sure, sweetness! It will basically never wear out and if you ever get bored of it inside, can be used as a shop bench for sure....

This reminds me of my Steelcase desk. I think its a 1950s era desk, got it for $50, weighs easily over 100lbs and built seriously like a tank. I love it, except when you have to move it
tongue.gif
 

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Not gonna lie thats the sexiest desk ive seen in a long time. Loving the old school pipe and wood combo that thing must have some nice weight to it. Can't wait to see it with all the pc equipment on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Will be a while before there's any equipment since I'm waiting for Broadwell E and the new x99 boards to come out. But I think the SMA8 will suit the desk nicely
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Love the reclaimed poplar, sometimes it even has a green hue to the old stuff. The black pipe base sure gives it a "retro industrial" vibe, it's at home as a computer desk or work bench in a nice shop.

For you guys who want something similar, but don't have poplar joists or planers, Grizzly makes a wide assortment of maple butcher block work bench tops. I used a 60" x 30" x 1.75" and it worked fine, there would be no problem mounting it up on a nice black pipe frame like this. But it's a lot more of a "counter top" look instead of this awesome "work bench" look. I'd trade it in a heartbeat for a poplar top like this one
thumb.gif


Well done, that thing is just killer.
 

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Awesome desk build! I love the reclaimed poplar look! I'm thinking of building a desk here pretty soon with 2" pipe for legs and was thinking of maybe trying a monitor mount with another floor flange and short piece of pipe on top of the desk, it would look killer I think.

Jake
 

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Nice desk but dat excavator. I'm digging that track saw and the correct usage of it.

Like you mentioned, planing reclaimed boards can be a gamble. There is really no other way to do it other than hand planing or a router sled, I think those are a proper hack of a router.

Just curious, what was the make/model of the thickness planer?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kingcrispy View Post

Nice desk but dat excavator. I'm digging that track saw and the correct usage of it.

Like you mentioned, planing reclaimed boards can be a gamble. There is really no other way to do it other than hand planing or a router sled, I think those are a proper hack of a router.

Just curious, what was the make/model of the thickness planer?
That Festool track saw is slick as snot on a broom handle-I've seen Tommy Silva using one on This Old Mansion House-but the price is a little too rich for my blood.

Wand type metal detectors can be used to find embedded nails, staples, bullets, etc. in reclaimed wood.

Thanks for sharing the video of the track saw! Besides being slick for extra wide boards (or to use when one doesn't have a jointer or a planer), a router bit is cheaper to replace than planer knives if a nail suddenly jumps into the wood.
 

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What kind of poly did you use? Oil, Water? I have MDF countertops coming for my basement workbench project. It's no reclaimed wood masterpiece but I want to protect it the best I can. Very nice work BTW.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jayjr1105 View Post

What kind of poly did you use? Oil, Water? I have MDF countertops coming for my basement workbench project. It's no reclaimed wood masterpiece but I want to protect it the best I can. Very nice work BTW.
Don't use water based poly on MDF for at least the first coat or two. The water in the poly will cause the MDF to swell (one reason I do not like MDF, the others being the dust is ferocious and it is hard on tool blades). Once the MDF has been completely sealed (shellac is a good sealer if you don't mind the orange color).

The last time did a project with MDF, I used a brushable clear lacquer called Deft. The fumes are pretty ferocious (probably one reason why the stuff is hard to find anymore) so you must use plenty of ventilation, preferably working in a paint booth, outdoors, or in a garage with the big doors open until the fumes dissipate (which takes a while). Also, wear a respirator. Deft goes on perfectly clear-no yellowish of the surface-and eventually dries hard. It goes on thin enough to flow well giving a smooth surface but you have to use a lot of coats to get any build on it (I built a cabinet to go over the washer and dryer in a house I once had to match the existing cabinetry with six coats and the Deft finish looked so better on the new cabinet, I wound up applying it to the other cabinets as well). Still, the finish you get from it is beautiful.
 
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