Jan 26 2012
If you follow the blog, you may remember several months ago that I built myself a standing desk out of some cheap lumber and plywood I had in the garage. It took an afternoon to build and was a proof of concept as to whether or not I’d actually like working at a standing desk. The funny part of the project was that it took me longer to draw it up in Google SketchUp than it did to actually put the desk together itself. After several weeks of working on the desk I decided I really liked it and wanted a more permanent version of the desk that I could feel was an actual piece of furniture and not just something that looked like an escapee from the lumber pile.
The first week or two that I had the desk, there was some definite back and foot pain as I transitioned from sitting 12-14 hours a day to standing for the same amount of time. But it was very apparent after I’d made the adjustment that a standing desk was the right decision for me. I felt better at the end of the day and there’s a certain mental energy that comes from standing and walking around the office that I never had while sitting. It’s hard to describe, but standing seems to put me in a slightly different state of mind than sitting does. And, along with walking 2-3 miles a day, I’ve lost nearly 10 pounds since the beginning of the year, though I attribute that more to the walking than the desk. Oh, and there was one problem which was created by playing MineCraft for about 6 hours straight over the Thanksgiving weekend, but I don’t blame the desk for that.
There were a few things about the desk I wanted to change after working on it for two months. The first was the top shelf; the original shelf was six inches shorter than the desktop on each side and while it fit two monitors fine, I wanted to add a third so I can put my work laptop on it as well. Making it the same width as the desktop was the perfect solution, all three monitors fit perfectly on the shelf. I can check work email, personal email and twitter with just a glance. I also wanted the bottom shelf to be lower, since the space underneath it was wasted and I hoped to add another shelf. Finally, I wanted it edged, sanded and finished so it actually looks like a piece of furniture.
All of this is why I asked my father in law to help me build version 2.0 when he came down for Christmas week. He’s not a professional carpenter, but he does woodworking for fun like I do computers and security for fun. Except he’s been doing the woodworking since before I was born and experience counts for a lot. We went shopping for wood, picked up some decent 2×4’s and 4×4’s, cabinet grade plywood and a really big can of stain/polyurethane mix for me to put a finish on with. At which point I gave him my plans from the original, the changes I wanted to the design and got out of his way. He came back with an offer to add a pair of drawers to the design, something I wanted, but didn’t have the skills to make myself.
When I made version 1.0, it took a Saturday afternoon; when my FiL made version 2.0, it took five days to complete the desk and another week for me to put two coats of stain/poly on the supports and 4+ coats on all the other parts of the desk. I got slightly carried away and put six thin coast on the front of the drawers. And because the desktop is two pieces of 3/4″ plywood together, it took calling my younger brother in order to manhandle the desk into the office. But once everything was in place, it was worth every bit of the effort we’d put into it!
So there you have it, my experience in building a standing desk. I’d say it was worth it, but maybe I’ll write more on it in a year or so. I have a lab stool to sit in when my feet start to hurt, but I only use that about 15 minutes a day, maybe a little more if I decide to play any games on my PC at the end of the day. I get a little confused once in a while when the mouse doesn’t work, until I realize I’m using the wrong mouse and have to take a step to left or right. I also had to put a piece of stained wood under one of my monitors, since they’re not the same height. And version 1.0 wasn’t dismantled, it was moved into the garage where it will spend the rest of it’s life as a workstation for playing with arduinos, Lego Mindstorm and occasional light soldering. And maybe a little locksport as well.