Home Lab 2.0 – Desk

Before I get stuck into racking everything into my LackRack I decided I needed somewhere I can work on the kit, which means I first had to find a desk. My monitors are mounted on bolt-through poles, and I didn’t fancy sitting on the floor with them propped up around me!

I’ve been building desks with my Father for many years, usually using cheap legs from Ikea with an edge-lipped MDF top, however I’m now 6000 miles and half the voltage from his power tools and assistance (not to mention his outstanding AutoCAD skills), so I wanted something I could bolt together quickly and wouldn’t need to put a finish on. Having moved from the UK with all the associated expense, I needed it to be reasonably cheap and not need much in the way of tools.

desk_empty_space

I have a nice alcove in the spare room that is pretty much the depth of a full size desk (800mm) and rather handily just over the width of two full size desks (1600mm a piece) so it was off to (where else!) Ikea for some of their Galant desks to fill the space. These are their standard office desks and for the 150 dollars ish you can’t really complain. I’ve outfitted an office with these before and they held up about as well as the 600 quid desks they were next to.

Fueled by tasty meatballs I soon had two white (cheapest!) desks nestled in there. To stop them shifting about and leaving an unsightly gap I also picked up one of their cheapest end table frames and poached the connecting bars which allowed me to bolt the desks together. It’s a shame they don’t do those separately, but at 20 dollars it was hardly bank breaking!desk_joining_kit

These are the bits you need from a frame, I used part number 900.568.89 which seemed to be the cheapest way to get them.

And this is the result:

desk_ikea

Exciting indeed, but if that was it you’d be wondering why I bothered to write this. Of course this is where the fun began. There is just enough space to squeeze an Ikea Ivar upright at each end. (Excuse the lighting, for some reason this room doesn’t have a central light fitting and we’ve not found a suitable table lamp yet).

desk_left_upright

This allows me to start doing this:

desk_first_shelves

I’ve done this before, but that time we screwed through the underside of the desk to bold the Ivar uprights down. This time they are freestanding as I added a bracket under the back edge of the desk to the tall uprights to stop them falling forward if they were pulled. Don’t forget to add cross bracing to at least one pair of uprights, I have one set each end on pairs with the longest shelves.

desk_upright_bracket

50c in Ikea well spent!

Of course nothing in life is ever easy, and we faced one critical issue. There is no combination of Ivar units that is the same as the length as my two desks, so we were going to need a fill in. I could have just made up some shelves the right length, but fortuitously we spotted these MDF boxes in Ikea which just happened to be the right size, and on sale for about 7 bucks a piece! About the same cost as buying some wood to make the shelves and no need for a saw, sander and so on.

desk_making_blue_boxes

A couple of holes in each side (clamp a piece of wood under where you’re drilling to help protect the finish when the drill comes out the other side) and then we can get them fitted.

I started with the top box clamped to a piece of wood running across the top shelf to make it line through, then worked my way down. One of the wooden drawers from these old Ikea drawer units was a good size, so I pressed them into use as spacers.

desk_clamping_blue_boxes

desk_blue_boxes_detail

I marked out the holes for each box, drilled a pilot hole then bolted them to one side of the uprights. This allowed me to pull one side of the shelves forward so I could get the drill in to make the holes as I went down. To neaten up the gap between the box and the uprights so you couldn’t see the bolt, I slipped an O-ring in the gap.

I used lag bolts for two reasons, firstly they only had countersunk screws in Home Depot and I didn’t want to countersink the holes, the other was it meant I could do them up quickly with a ratchet rather than awkwardly with a screwdriver!

The gaps between the boxes form little shelves, so there’s a decent amount of space there. I was going to put a plywood plate across the gap at the back, but it seems solid enough not to need it.

desk_blue_boxes_done

The shelves finished it was time to look at the cable management. First I drilled out holes for the monitor poles and some cable access grommets, one for each pole.

desk_r_pole_and_hole

If you are going to do this, take my advice and run a small pilot hole first, then drill up from the bottom through the finish, then down from the top. If you don’t the veneer on the desk is quite prone to cracking and the drill can tear it up on the way out! I’d use a bi-metal hole saw if you can for the grommets. Either way take it slow and watch the bits don’t get too hot, they’ll blunt quickly and it’s surprising how quickly they do going through the desk.

Under the desk I added two Galant cable trays and some power bars from Fry’s Electronics for power, each one plugged into a single socket surge protector They are just zip tied around the frame, I could have done something more permanent but there’s not a lot of point. I fitted the baskets back to front as it made cabling through the holes easier. You can slide two of the tabs that hold them on between the table frame and top to make life easier.

desk_power

Under my last desk I had three sectional trunking with phone, network and power. By wiring switches on the top of the desk I could turn off everything but the PCs themselves when you left the desk to save power. Sadly cost constraints stopped me from doing this right now, but it wouldn’t be hard to add it later. Besides, wiring up that many 13A sockets in a ring configuration under a desk was not exactly a job I’d choose to do again although the result was very nice.

I always try and keep the cables up out the way and not trailing on the ground, this not only looks neat and tidy it makes vacuuming a lot easier as you don’t have to move a mat of cables out the way and they’re less likely to get damaged.

Now all that is left to is bolt the monitors on. This is what it looked like before I began cabling, which takes longer than making the desk, and I’m still doing:

desk_mounted

I use four monitors and they are a rather motley assortment as I have gained them over the years. With an SLI rig I can either use all four when I’m working on something, or one at full pelt for games. It really does come in handy when you have a web page open, a couple of remote sessions and some monitoring stuff up to see it all at once. Ideal for setting up and using a lab.

At the other end is my wife’s monitor, she uses it with her laptop via a Toshiba Dynadock and is happy as it is, apart from when I cover the desk in my stuff. Once I’ve got the monitor heights fixed I might add another shelf above the two single monitors, but for now, I just have to finish up and put all the stuff in boxes on the floor on the desk!

It took about a weekend from a Friday night plan to this state, including buying the stuff, grocery shopping and various other errands. If you didn’t want a lie in you could knock it out in a day.

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