I had always wanted an Argosy-Like desk with angled racks right at the desktop level. I resisted because the dimensions and layout weren’t quite exactly what I wanted and well… the price. Then I would consider doing a DIY desk, begin the design and get too busy to follow through. So I just stuck with my lame “office furniture” desk and external racks. After seeing others doing fantastic looking DIY desks, I decided to go for it. One design decision that made things simpler, and cheaper for me was to construct it out of MDF instead of plywood. I would have never considered that until I saw some amazing results that other builders have gotten with MDF. In the end, I had a desk that I love. It has 16u of rack space above the desk and another 16u below. Clicking any of the photos in here should open them to a full size.
So here we go…
Let’s start with the design
The basic idea was to have two side wings and a table top between them. One uniqueness to my design which I’m really happy about is that the computer monitors sit on a separate bridge that is 2 inches (52mm) lower than the desk surface. This gives me a much more comfortable viewing angle and gets them more out of the sound field. That monitor bridge is the thing that actually sets the orientation of the side wings. It sits on angle iron on the side wings and is held in place with some pins that go through the bridge into the metal angle pieces.
I decided to fully draw the whole thing in CAD. I used LibreCad which is a free open-source package. This let me tweak things and determine very accurate measurements for cutting the pieces. A link to the DFX file is here and free for anyone.
I don’t own a table saw and that was always one reason that I thought this might be out of my league. But for this project, you can do just fine with a straight edge and clamps and a good sharp blade on your circular saw. Working from my CAD drawing, I cut out the various pieces of MDF. I had them rough cut into manageable chunks at Home Depot (I also don’t own a truck and so that made getting them home a little easier)
The cutting and sanding of the side wing pieces went pretty quick and easy. Next were the cross pieces, supports, bracketry, leveling pads and other hardware. This is where progress got pretty slow. In hindsight, I wish I would have spent more time at the computer up front designing the bracketry and leveling pad placement. It would have saved a lot of experimental time (and some ruined pieces) later on.
The plan from the start was for the desktop to be plywood or maybe even laminated hardwood. To prototype and test the layout and shape, I decided to make one out of MDF as a temp stand-in. Well, once I primed and painted it, I couldn’t see any good reason to replace it. My MDF tabletop surface is working perfectly. It is supported well enough that there are no sags or wobbles at all.
…I’ve had a few. But then again… not too few to mention here. Number one is as mentioned above, I should have spent more time in design phase of the low level details that went into attaching all the pieces together. The photos above showing the construction of the side wings is where things got very slow and frustrating. A few more hours on the computer would have made that all very simple. The only other thing I might have done different is with the shape of the side wing sides. They slope back at the top and I thought that would be clever for the rack space that is down there. But what I wish I would have done is actually make them slope forward at the top instead and make the rack rails perfectly vertical. It’s a minor thing, but something I would do differently if I was starting over.