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How to Build Your Own Desk

by Chris Lambton

A desk can be a hugely important furniture piece in a home. It can serve as a study space, a reading nook or a creating area to craft and sew. It can also get cluttered very quickly. I wanted a desk that also featured lots of compartments to hold and store items. When I couldn't find anything on the market, I decide to make it myself!

How to Build Your Own Desk

In this article, we'll discuss how to build a DIY desk with a built-in storage unit. We'll start by going over the materials and tools needed, then we'll list out the step-by-step instructions and finish it up by discussing some styling options. You'll see it is easy to create your own DIY desk with these simple plans.

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For this project, you'll need the following:

Materials Needed for your DIY Desk:

  • 1½" finishing nails
  • 1½" screws
  • One sheet of ¾" high-grade plywood* pre-cut at store to the following dimensions:
  • One piece cut to 16" x 46" – this will be the top of your shelving unit and span long enough to also be the top of the desk.
  • Two pieces cut to 16" x 35" – these will be the sides of your shelving unit.
  • Three pieces cut to 16" x 14" – these will be the shelves of your shelving unit.
  • One piece cut to 12" x 16" – this will be the divider for the middle shelf, sectioning it into two compartments.
  • Two pieces cut at 8 3/4x16" – these will be dividers for the top shelf, sectioning it into three compartments.

* I used walnut for my DIY desk because that wood is featured in other areas of my space and I wanted this piece to match. That being said, you can choose any type of wood that best matches your aesthetic. If you are using walnut like me, I recommend using Tung oil to seal it and protect from the elements. It's food safe, kid-friendly, water resistant and non-toxic.

  • One 1" x 2" measuring 8' long:
  • We will cut two pieces of 1" x 2" to be 10" – these will create the leg for your desk.
  • We will cut two pieces of 1" x 2" to be 35" – these will create the leg for your desk.

Fiskars® DIY Precision Tools Needed for your DIY Desk:

  • Fiskars® Precision Hand Saw – this tool features a thin, yet powerful, triple-ground blade that enables it to glide through materials like the wood needed for your DIY desk giving you controlled, precise cuts.
  • Fiskars® Precision Hand Drill – I love that this tool is cordless and quiet, so I don't have to deal with positioning my workstation next to an outlet or worry about waking up the neighbors when I want to start assembling!
  • Fiskars® Precision Screwdriver – this tool features a free-rotating handle that allows you to leverage your strength to drive in screws with maximum downward force.
  • Fiskars® PowerCut™ Shears (9") – Optimized for size, power and precision, these shears feature innovative, patent-pending, strength-enhancing curved blades for up to 2X more cutting power. These shears power through challenging materials, making it just the right tool for our DIY desk project.
  • Fiskars® Tape Measure

How to Build Your Own Desk

Step 1. Build a box for your shelving unit. Build a box with the two 16" x 35" pieces of wood as the sides and one of the 14" x 16" pieces of wood as the bottom. Attach by drilling holes with the Precision Hand Drill and use your Precision Screwdriver to secure. Place a second 14" x 16" piece of wood 12" above that bottom shelf and a third going 12" above that middle shelf. You will now have a shelving unit with three compartments.

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Step 2. Construct your shelf dividers. Next, we will construct our shelf dividers within the shelving unit we just built in Step 1. All wood pieces should be drilled and screwed together using the hand drill to first pre-drill the holes and screwdriver to insert the screws at the following dimensions:

  • The bottom shelf should be 12" tall by 14" long by 16" deep. This will give you one large compartment at the bottom of your shelving unit. We are not adding a divider to this compartment.
  • The middle shelf should be the same dimensions, but it will contain two compartments by adding a 12" tall by 16" deep dividing wood piece right in the middle. The two resulting compartments will each be 12" x 7" x 16".
  • The top shelf should be the same dimensions as the bottom and middle shelves, but it will contain three compartments after you insert two pieces of wood with dimensions that are 10" tall by 16" deep. The three compartments in my top shelf of the unit had the following dimensions – the first compartment is 10" x 4" x 16", the middle compartment is 10" x 6" x 16" and the last compartment is the same as the first at 10" x 6" x 16". You can vary these compartment sizes to fit your needs by simply placing the dividing wood pieces in different spots within the shelving unit.
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Step 3. Build the top of your desk.Attach the 16" x 46" piece of plywood to the top of the shelving unit. Adding this piece of wood will finish building your shelving unit and begin building your desk as this piece will extend beyond the shelving unit to create your desk top. To attach the top to the shelving unit, pre-drill holes using your Fiskars® Precision Hand Drill. Make sure you use a bit slightly smaller than the 1 ½" screws you will be putting in. Pre-drilling these holes helps to prevent the wood from splitting and screwing at an angle provides more stability. Once your shelving unit is attached to the top of the DIY desk, it's time to make the legs for the other side.

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Step 4. Construct the remaining desk leg. In this step, we'll be using the pieces from your 1" x 2" that you need to cut at home. Cut two pieces that measure 10" and two pieces that measure 35". Sandwich the two 10" pieces between the 35" pieces to form a rectangle and screw together, pre-drilling first to prevent splitting. You just constructed the end leg for the DIY desk.

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On the top 10" piece, pre-drill holes so you can attach the leg to the underside of the desk. The legs should be set in 2" from the edges on all three sides. Attach the legs with the screwdriver. You will want to screw at an angle to secure the leg to the table top like we did in Step 3.

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Step 5. Add veneer to finish desk. Because we used plywood to construct our desk, you will want to cover the edges with a wood veneer. This helps to hide the rough edges and give the appearance of a finished, solid piece.

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How Much Does It Cost to Build Your Own Desk?

Construing this DIY desk cost me around $375. While this can be a hefty price tag, I think it's worth it knowing I can completely customize the shelving unit compartments to the sizes I need and using a high-quality wood like walnut – while it increases the cost – gives me peace of mind knowing it will last.

How to Finish Your Desk

You could sand and stain your DIY desk once it is completely assembled. I would suggest this if substituting in a more cost-efficient wood base, like poplar. If you are selecting a high-quality wood grain to begin with, like I did with walnut, then I would suggest using Tung oil to seal your DIY coffee table to better protect it from water marks or liquid spills.

Finishing your DIY desk is the fun part! After you've constructed the piece, you can add in anything that you want into the compartments. I added storage baskets to my bottom shelf to help keep all loose odds and ends in one area. I store my phone cords, note pads and pencils among other small items in these baskets. For the next shelves, I added both functional items as well as things I like to keep around for inspiration, like candles and vases.

The options are endless – since we made this a backless shelving unit, you can access your items from either side which makes this desk even more functional. Feel free to place in your home wherever you need a new space to get creative!

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