Standing desk prototype #1

Standing desk3.jpg

I built an elevated platform so I could try working at a standing desk. It's 11.5 inches high, and I built it from .75" x .75" sticks and .5" plywood. I added lots of triangular bracing and then sat on it to make sure it could hold my 27" iMac without collapsing. I just started using it this morning so I can't say how much I like it yet.

I'm standing on a gardener's kneeling pad, which is probably too spongy. I might switch to a yoga mat. Standing desk1.jpg

Standing desk2.jpg

This is a prototype. I am going to use this one for a week, take notes, and make another prototype. (First note for Prototype 2 - a nook under the plywood to hold the external drives and USB hub.)

Here's Donald Rumsfeld at his most charming (which is about as charming as a monitor lizard) defending his standing desk and explaining to the CNN host that Thomas Jefferson had one and that naval officers use them. Go Rummy!

UPDATE: Here is the image I'm using on my desktop.


  1. you need a gel mat, like a commercial kitchen type mat. they are very feet friendly! You can get a more expensive name brand or order from an industrial catalog.

  2. I bought for Christmas/New years a Geek Desk which is one with a motorized lift to go from sitting to standing. Got in in Feb and now it is becoming quite comfortable to stand for a good period (im in my 40s, and XL) That with excersize I can do while at he keyboard I feel it has been a good thing.

    One of the benefits Ive found that I didn’t realize was the ability to do ‘bench work’ on the desk, no sitting uncomfortably or looking for a high desk, just clear off a space and raise/lower to suit.

    Though one thing I realized was positioning computers, wiring varis from short to long depending on the height, especially if you have a floor-standing tower.

    Hope it works for you.

    1. I’d love to have a Geek Desk but flinched a little at $800. But $170 to deliver to the curb in SF? I’ll be figuring out a hack for that price. Maybe one day when I work from home and can write it off.

  3. It is much better for your neck if your monitor is at eye level. You should probably raise it a bit. Elbows should be at about 90 degree bend.

  4. it’s like how they drink espresso in italy – standing in a bar, quick shot and they’re on the go again

  5. I’ve been standing for about 16 months using a kitchen mat. It has been a great change and I’ve experienced no issues even when working (and volunteering) 12 hours a day. My desk solution was to use the Ikea VIKA CURRY table legs which are tubes. Grey plastic electrical conduit fits perfectly inside the curry leg and makes a complete standing table for $50 including a top. Since I already had the tables I just needed the conduit. I don’t remember the exact size conduit used – simply took the leg to the hardware store.

  6. On behalf of monitor lizards everywhere, I take offense at this posting.

    I suppose it’s also worth remembering that Rumsfeld came in to office with a plan to aggressively reduce the size of the military and with it military spending. In retrospect that seems to have been largely a plan to outsource the military to private mercenary companies, but it sounded remarkably reasonable at the time.

  7. I’d think about putting a bar on the sides along the bottom like you did in the back. If those little legs in the front move just a little bit forward that thing is going to come crashing down towards you.

  8. Please keep posting updates on your prototypes (: i’ve actually been talking a lot recently about wanting to switch to a standing desk solution. Great coincidence that you’ve started building one.

    I’d be keen to see if you build a prototype that can be put away easily, or if it could double as something else when not in use.

  9. “Go Rummy”…..really?

    Most of the people who read BB see him as a war criminal.
    Nothing More.
    Nothing Less.

  10. I built my own standing desk at work last year. Because I don’t own the office, the building or even the desk it had to be sort of “temporary” and easily removable. Essentially I took some crates and put a board across them. I’ve been surprisingly pleased and I’ve been using it ever since.

    My month long observations and account of how I built it (with a pic) can be are all here:

  11. According to the transitive property Piers Morgan is despicable. He made Donald Henry Rumsfeld (born July 9, 1932) seem charming in comparison.

  12. I use an antique stand-up oak desk (an auditor’s desk; about 100 years old). The back 14″ of the desktop is flat, and the front 22″ slope downward. There are also two pull-out flat areas, one on either side of the center, above the drawers and filing areas.

    The flat areas are great, but the slope is actually key to the desk being truly functional. It’s hard to write on a flat surface while standing up, especially if you’re a lefty from the “hook” generation. Keyboard usage is much nicer on the wrists too.

  13. Hey Mark, looks great.


    I assume it somehow latches to the original desk somehow (maybe in the back) to prevent it from sliding forward?

    I’d hate for the front legs to slip off the original desk. They are quite close to the edge.

  14. Harbor Freight sells a foam floor mat for cheap, especially if they’re having a sale.

    This has two benefits:
    1) Makes your feet feel better
    2) Prevents you from rolling up a chair without feeling like you’re cheating.

    (I have a friend who assures me that ALL things purchased from Harbor Freight will eventually cause injury. I think, however, a cushion is less likely to do so than, say, a nail gun.)

  15. I have a early 2000’s-era Herman Miller RED desk, which has a modular vertical support that includes the feet, along with a taller printer/file cabinet stand from the same line. Move the desk top over to the taller printer stand back/legs, and it’s a standing desk!

    I’d echo #4’s comment on head/arm alignment…consider an under-desk keyboard tray to keep your elbows at 90 degrees or a little more open than 90 degrees—or keep the desk at keyboarding height and get a monitor stand/arm to raise the iMac up a bit.

  16. “…then sat on it to make sure it could hold my 27″ iMac without collapsing.”

    Which is more important, personal safety or an iMac?

    You have chosen wisely.

  17. Looks like the books are a good idea – I like the idea of a standing desk and would like to set one up myself, but having the monitor on eye level would be a big necessity for me. I have to keep books on my desk just to bring my laptop up to eye level or I get monstrous neck- and head-aches after an hour or two. Having a separate monitor probably helps that a lot, though.

    Good luck with the project; it looks really good! I look forward to updates. :D

  18. Now, I know that this seems like the next hip thing in office ergonomics, but I predict that in a few short years we will all be squatting.

  19. If God had meant us to work upright
    He wouldn’t have given us fully functional buttocks

  20. i love it. i’m definitely a standing desk guy. I built mine from an old speaker stand & copper tubing. It’s worked perfectly for the last few years, but i need a rubber mat for my feet. Thanks for sharing yours!

  21. Hey! good luck with the desk- I set mine up as standing about three years ago, and it took me a good four months to get used to it.

    As a career software development desk jockey, I didn’t go into it in very good shape, and there was a lot of sore leg/lower back stuff to settle into. Eventually I balanced it out with a stand-until-my-legs-get-tired sort of thing, where I spend about 2/3 of the day standing. That seems to work best for me.


  22. Mark, you’ll love it.

    I had a custom work space built with 42″ high work space. To most people, at first it seems like a kitchen counter that was make way too high…but it’s GREAT,–I use it all the time. Perfect for drawing, mounting, framing, laying out presentations, etc. I even keep a roll of seamless paper above it and call unroll it to make an instant photo set up.

    I can work standing up there all day without doing that exceedingly tiring, half-bent over-a-table-top posture!

    But I don’t use a computer on it. Be careful about your ergonomics there. Even just an inch or two of bad human factors/workspace design can really mess up your whole arm/back/neck. Those thousand of mouse rolls and clicks can add up to trip to the sports therapist. Ask me how I know….

  23. First its make your own lightsaber, then make your own chicken coop, now make your own standing desk. You people and your making things, when does it end? (channeling Jackie Chiles)

  24. Can you show a picture with you using it? I’m curious where it ends up on you, if there’s an optimal place for it to be, and also (as someone mentioned above) if you find it better to be at a slight angle.

    I also wonder if it’s something you can lean on.

  25. To anon @4

    “It is much better for your neck if your monitor is at eye level. You should probably raise it a bit. Elbows should be at about 90 degree bend.”

    No it isn’t better. The sweet spot for looking down, based on research, is 15-50 degrees down from horizontal. We’re designed as hunter/gatherers. Nothing magic about 90 degrees for the elbow, less acute is likely more comfy. Eye level and the 90 degree bend were old school ergonomic recommendations based on theoretical basis, not so much reality and research. Same with “Hips must be at 90 degrees while sitting”.

    1. Word.

      When we’re sitting on the floor in yoga class, I tell my students to keep their necks as if they were reading a book on the floor, four feet away. At an average sitting desk, if your head is properly placed, you’re probably staring at the bottom of your monitor frame.

      And all those people who mount their televisions high up on the wall! They’re going to look like turkeys in a rainstorm when they get old.

  26. The brace you have on the back down at the bottom — I’d put those on the sides if I were you. Or at the very least put some rubber feet on it.

    That thing is about one inch of accidental scooting from dumping everything on the floor.

  27. There’s something very comforting about that whole wall plug thing that’s going on in the leftmost part of the photo.

    Makes me feel less uniquely crazy.

  28. Skip the yoga mat and see if you can get a couple of interlocking rubber floor tiles of the sort commonly used in trade show booths. Having worked a number of trade shows, I can vouch for this kind of flooring having a significant improvement in comfort over plain ol’ carpeting. They come in a variety of colors and finishes too, like the classier “carpet topped” sort. The only trouble might be finding a very small quantity of them, since they are generally sold in 10’x10′ sets, though I think sells them in smaller packs for some of their varieties.

  29. I plan to try this myself. I am debating with myself about going lower than “standing” though so I can also practice proper stance for taiko, but since I can’t do that for hours at a time, it may be a bad idea.

  30. my last boss had a hydraulic desk he could move up and down with the push of a button… he loved it

  31. which is about as charming as a monitor lizard

    Is ‘monitor lizard’ a new slang term for ‘internet addict’?

  32. Speaking as someone who´s been standing up at the computer during all of my work days, I’d recommend that you forget the mat completly and just get yourself a pair of comfortable birkenstock sandals for indoor use.
    Also, the ergonomic way is to have the upper edge of the screen at eye level and elbows at a 90 degree bend.

  33. Somebody needs to invent a desk that can easily extend/grow taller and back again to sitting height with ease. I’d love a standing desk but I’m scared off at the idea of doing it on a permanent basis

    1. They have. Not only do drafting tables change height, they change the angle of the work surface.

  34. Folks – got an IKEA Fredrik, narrow, with Sommer keyboard tray, adjustable, heights desk 45″, keyboard 42″ and my height 5’7″ Be careful about drilling instructions for the Sommer, uses too large pilot holes.


  35. As far as floor mat goes you’d probably be good with a industrial rubber kitchen mat. Head to a restaurant supply store and they usually carry them pretty cheap. Look for the red rubber (the black I’ve always found too springy). It’ll be covered with quarter sized holes for drainage and weigh a metric shit ton. Come in a couple of thicknesses from a 1/4 inch up. Most kitchens and bars I’ve worked in use the thicker ones (maybe and inch or more), and I can say from experience that anything thinner doesn’t cut it for an 8-16 hour shift. Also the edges can be easy to trip on as they don’t usually taper.

  36. Hi Mark- I have an old Steelcase desk like that at work. I often thought of trying standing at it by standing it on foot-or-so tall blocks of wood or concrete. Is there a reason you chose to build up from the top?

  37. Éamon de Valera, the Irish nationalist leader, used a stand up desk because he was in the habit of falling asleep when sitting down at a desk.

  38. I just (as in, today) finished my standing desk.

    I got a Linak-actuated frame with no tabletop on it. Linak is the actuator firm that made the components for the motorized Ikea desk that was extant circa 2005 (or so) and appears to be the cadillac of desk actuators … much nicer than the geekdesk components and also has memory functions so you can dial in your heights for multiple chairs and your standing height, and jump to them at a button press. I got my linak frame at, and am happy with it, although if I had to do it over again I probably would have gone with a different integrator since I had to pay an extra $150 or something to get it all through customs from Canada.

    On top of the table I put a slab of old bowling alley that I got from – very reasonably priced and a beautiful tabletop.

    Frame was ~1600 and the tabletop was ~850. Very happy with it. Not happy with freight logistics and costs, but whatever.

  39. Also…

    It’s very frustrating that computer screens have so very little height adjustment – it makes these kind of tasks very difficult.

    Even the best monitors I have seen are such that when you raise them all the way up, you have to look down slightly just to see the top bezel, let alone any of the screen itself. The dell monitors I have now need at least another 7″ of vertical movement to enable one to focus on the vertical center of the screen.

    I have, in the past, tried the ergotron monitor arms, and they are a workable solution, but it’s quite a task and a fair amount of complication to attach and maintain three big moving monitor arms, etc. Not to mention cost…

  40. I actually have a set of cinder blocks that after getting familiar with a new job/position I bring them in to put my desk up on. I’ve only had one position complain about it, and that was because I shared an office with 2 matching desks and they ended up uneven. :)

  41. I did mine using a 80X40cm black-melamine would be shelf and 4 adjustable height 15cm would be table legs. It’s enough for a 15,6″ laptop and my big-ass mouse with wrist supporter (10$ NGS 3D High command).

    The height adjusters are just M10 screws whose hex-head gets dressed in plastic feet, and I swapped the original 40mm length for 80mm. Still it’s not enough to work from a standard 80cm desk… that’s a v2 feature. I mostly work on top of 1m furniture, so it’s OK as is.

    I work on a laptop, so no screen-raising for me (bummer).

  42. Try a sheepskin under your feet. That’s what I use- it’s cushy without being springy and feels lovely on bare feet.

  43. It seems that putting two cinder blocks under each corner and raising the entire desk to the appropriate height would only cost $8, be considerably less complicated, and keep the entire desk at the same height, instead of making the middle portion raised. You could fine-tune the height with 2x4s and 1x4s for final height.

  44. Indoor air quality alert: (petroleum-based)gel mats or foam floor mats, slowly offgassing hardware plastics, plywood… ouch. If your office space doesn’t open its windows daily, and you’re not changing out indoor air, you’re not doing your body any favors here on the breathing situation. Asthmatic? Got allergies? Fatigue? Your respiratory system is already sending you a message. Children tend to be affected more by poor IAQ than adults, btw.

    Natural latex rubber could work on the floor. There are places on the web to get latex carpet pads or area rug nonslip pads. Gang up a few layers of that, top it with a small washable rug (cotton dhurrie, plain uncoated bath rug, etc.) and you’re covered on the foot fatigue thing. I strongly second previous comment on simply getting a pair of Birkenstocks to stand in, if you’d amenable. Saved me from foot surgery many a time, having worked on my feet for decades.

    Next, the plywood. Odds are strong there’s formaldehyde in the glue. You could bake out the worst of it for a while in the California sun. Or you could seal it with something from AFM, or even use white glue–but that coffee cup there makes me wonder whether a spill could make that glue sticky again. Use a coaster or put coffee on glass desktop? Speaking of white glue, consider gluing on some bullnose (half-round) edging, mitered, on the plywood perimeter. Maybe a scrap of real sheetgood linoleum (made of cork powder, jute and linseed oil, now called “Marmoleum”) on the top of that platform for padless mousing pleasure and a nice drawing/writing surface.

    Or, skip the IAQ part of the rant here and just keep that window there cracked open for some decent air exchange, esp. if you’re in a low-crime neighborhood.

    Having seen Thomas Jefferson’s workspace at Monticello live and in situ, I remain amazed at his productivity and mental clarity for the duration of his life. His standing desk(s) strikes me as crucial to his body of work. Looks like I’ll be raising the height of my desk soon–thank goodness it’s configurable since I made if of Metro wire shelving and wood planks.

    1. “Having seen Thomas Jefferson’s workspace at Monticello live and in situ, I remain amazed at his productivity and mental clarity for the duration of his life.”

      Awesome, I am jealous, I have yet to make the Jefferson historical circuit.

      j9c makes some cogent points that I meant to get at. Non-toxic flooring is important. Fresh air is good. And proper foot wear; I would like to run with that: Birkenstocks are great, and so are wooden clogs, Crocs, Chacos and/or your very own bare feet.

      So often we look only upon the tech specs for solutions to our work station dilemmas whilst rarely looking for holistical possibilities.

  45. I have jumped into the standing while working “fad” six months ago and love it.

    My up-standing station is home made and is perfect for me. As it is stationary; my partner, who is bit shorter, is not comfortable using it.

    My down-sitting desk station has an adjustable chair and moniter. Very multi-user-friendly.

    As for the floor while using the standing desk station, do what smart chefs have been using for years: clogs. This assumes one has nicely sanded wooden floors.

    Adjustable parts are a must for multi user households; that is why the manufactured work stations are more expensive. Plus it is nice to have the option: sit or stand.

    Oh yeah, if you are going to sit, use one of them big colourful yoga balls.

    Can some kind BoingBoinger post a link to a nice site where at people can share work/desk/computer/craft station set ups. It seems I have to google through a lot of murky puddles before I can find a lovely kernal of brown rice for this sort of thing. And please, no Flickery crap.

  46. We have modular rolling lab benches that let us adjust everything. The back of the bench is essentially a pair of uprights with slots that the bench top hooks into. Very much like the shelving systems that you screw to the wall then add brackets.

    The desktop (3 feet to 6 feet wide) can be 18 to 72 inches off the ground. A monitor arm with keyboard can be attached with or without a desktop. With a battery backup, I’ve even wheeled benches around the lab without powering down the desktop. But a less mobile version could certainly be made with shelving parts.

  47. I used a standing desk at work for 9 months and loved it. Like another poster, it was in cubicle-land. I used milk crates and boards in a step pattern–so, 2 milk crates on the bottom, on one top:


    The Z milkcrate was for keyboard and mouse. I put a 20″ wood plank on it, and used a long elastic/velcro strap to hold it to the milk crate. The “Y” crate held the accessories. A power strip, a Toshiba Dynadock U, a docking station for my Seagate drive, etc. I cut a few of the crate ‘slats’ to fit plug heads through. The “X” milk crate held my laptop (and its docking station). On top of it, another wooden plank (secured to crate) with 2 monitors on top–a 20″ and 23″ monitor. This setup worked very well.

    After I started freelancing and working from home 90% of the time, I started sitting down again at our home office setup. The end result is my joints and muscles are significantly stiffer, and I’m just achy all the time. I plan on building a new standing desk for home working, this thread is good timing for me.

    A lot of standing desks focus on their ability to change heights. If you plan and measure well in advance, your standing desk can be static and work just fine (and be much cheaper). Unless you have multiple users or need to lower it for sitting, this is an unnecessary addition. Also make sure to plan for cord management/hiding. For mine, I hope to mount casters on the bottom so I can move it from office to kitchen or family room or whatever.

    I used ‘workbench’ floor mats purchased at Home Depot–it was a pack of 6 for like $12. Two of those stacked on top of each other worked fine for standing. Though the sheepskin sounds better!

  48. For those who want to switch back and forth from a standing desk to sitting, just get a tall drafting stool. I use a Safco SitStar with my Jerker Ikea desk (now the Fredrik) set to a standing position. I got the desk used so total cost for me was $200. All new maybe about $300 – $325. Way cheaper than any desk that moves for you.

  49. I’ve been standing at my office desk for about a year and a half now and will never go back to sitting. I found the transition to a desk job after 25 years of restaurant work brutal – I put on over 25 pounds in the first year and was crazy stiff all the time. One day, I just yanked my cubicle shelf unit off the wall and stacked my monitor and keyboard on top – the keyboard and mouse rest on the shelf door slightly pulled out. The height turned out to be perfect for me – monitor at eye level and arms at a right angle for the keyboard. It keeps me fresher and more alert at work and is weirdly better for any collaborative work – a bunch of us standing around rather than slouching at a desk is a way better. I stand on a foam mat but occasionally rest one leg on a small box (much like a rail). This works well at work and only takes about 1o minutes to set up and try.

  50. I have a nice ergonomic sit-stand desk at work (I’m an IT professional) and since a recent bout with back pain have been trying to use it much more for standing than sitting. I find that even with an industrial gel mat my feet and calves get sore after an hour or so of standing. I have a coworker who stands for his entire day and asked him about this and he basically agreed with Anon #71 that the important thing was to have some sort of rail or other footrest that allows you to shift weight, so I’ve been scouting around for something that will work. Any suggestions for a foot-rail device would be appreciated.

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