Saturday, April 5, 2014

Simple, yet elegant Computer Desk & Chair

At the time of this entry I am living at a friend's house, and it's quite comfortable here.  My friend allowed me to bring all my rustic furniture to help make the place feel like my home.

I wound up setting up my computer on one of my bookshelves, using my end table as a seat.  Even though my stay here will be temporary, I decided I needed a better computer table to work on.  So I designed a simple computer desk using SketchUp.

My friend also has some horse stables, which he let me use as a workshop.

So I made a lumber list and brought it to the hardware store.

For the frame I used five 2x4's which I had cut to 4' so that it would fit in my car.  Normally I would have the store make all my cuts for me, but I now own a miter saw, and can make the cuts myself.  For the desktop, I bought a 2'x4' piece of 3/4" particle board.  The shelves on the side will be made from one piece of 1x4x4' whitewood board.  The total cost of lumber was $32.

Next, I brought all my lumber into the workshop and began cutting all the wood to the sizes needed.

Then assembly began, starting with the top frame of the desk.

The sides were held together using pocket screws.  At this point I did not attach the table top to the frame.  Next I added the legs, again using pocket holes & screws.

Since my White wood board will be the shelves on the side, I place it in between the 2 sets of legs to make sure everything would fit correctly.

Then I cut some smaller wood I had to make pieces to hold up the middle shelf.  

I initially drilled pocket holes but did not have enough room to drill in screws on the inside, so I had to drill holes through the outside.

Next I cut my White wood boards.

And put them in place.  The boards won't be nailed, screwed or glued in place.  They will simply sit on top.

And not too long after I began, I had completed the frame of the desk.

Next I put the table top on the frame and used a drill bit I had which also had a countersink on it.

I drilled holes on the table top and then screwed it to the frame.


Next I used my dremel router to angle the edges of the table top.

I also added a bevel to the front of the shelves.

Then I began the task of sanding and leveling the whole thing.  For this I used my belt sander.

...and my block plane.

...and mouse sander.

After hours of sanding, I cleaned up the table in preparation for applying wood filler.

Once all the filler was applied and dried, I began sanding everything smooth again.

Even my friend John gave a helping hand with all the sanding.

Once the sanding was done I gave the whole thing a good cleaning.

Next I felt that the table leg on the front right may be a little weak...

So I cut some wood at 45 degree angles...

...and attached them to the back corner to give it some additional strength.

I wound up doing the same thing to the other inner corner, purely for aesthetics.  Both pieces were attached using pocket holes and screws.

Now it's time to make it look a little nicer.  I went out and bought some wood trim, and using my miter saw, I cut the ends at 45 degree angles.  This trim will sit below the edges of the table top.

Once all the pieces were cut, I assembled my dremel table router and made a bevel on the bottom edges of the trim.

Once all the trim was beveled, I nailed them in place.

Next I used some wood filler to fill up the nail holes and some cracked wood and to fix up other parts of the table that needed additional filler.

While the filler dried I decided to make an additional shelf for my desk.  This shelf will sit on top of the desk, but will not be attached.  To do this I bought another White Wood plank and made use of some 7" furniture legs that I had hanging around.  I marked the plank where the legs would be screwed in.  I happened to have 5 furniture legs, so a leg went in each corner, and one in the middle.

But before I attached the legs, I made use of my router table once again, and beveled the edges of the plank.

Then I drilled holes for the furniture legs......

...and then screwed them in.

The furniture legs don't quite match the rest of the desk, but I'm ok with that.  The shelf is not permanently attached to the desk, and I can always unscrew the legs in place of something else later.

Because the wood I used for the top shelf is a soft wood, it warped a bit.  The changes in temperature from the warm hardware store to the cold barn could also made the plank warp slightly.  So I placed some heavy tool boxes to help straighten it.

Once the filler dried I gave everything one more good sanding.

The next day I looked at the shelf and wasn't really feeling the furniture legs.  So I removed them and used 3 pieces of 2x4 I had left over.

I placed the plank on top of the 2x4's and liked how it looked.

So I drilled new holes and screwed the plank to the 2x4's.

Now I like the shelf a lot better.  Plus everything matches again.

I added wood filler to the holes and 2x4's to clean up the look.

And sanded when dried.

Then I cleaned the table once again and decided to spray on some filler primer to further prep the table for painting. I put the table upside-down on the saw horses...

 ...and started off with one can of white primer.

When that ran out I used some light gray primer.

Once done, I let the table dry.

I'd like to take a moment to stress the importance of spray painting in a well ventilated area.  The barn in which I am working in is quite spacious, but I did not have sufficient air flow.  This can be dangerous and cause silly/stupid candid photos like the one seen below.

Although not seen, I did use a respirator, but it still remains that I should have been smarter and opened a window and door.

Back to the desk....once the filler dried I could see more areas that need filler and sanding.

So I filled and sanded.

Next I gave the desk a thorough cleaning with a damp cloth.

When the desk dried, I gave it a coat of white paint.  No spray paint this time!

After the first coat I let the table dry over night.

The next Day I gave the desk a second coat.

I also applied some white paint to the bottom of the top shelf.

For the smaller side shelves I applied some glossy black paint.

I decided to make the shelves and desktop black because I saw a spray paint online called Krylon Webbing spray.

This stuff supposedly gives a marble effect as seen in the images below.

So when the shelves dried I flipped them over.

...and painted them black.

I then flipped over the table and taped a tarp around the white areas to protect it while I spray painted the top black.

I misted on a little black to the white areas after I removed the tarp.  I did this, as I do to most of my projects, to give the table a slightly worn look.

Next, I used some silver spray paint...

...and misted silver onto the shelves and table top.

I did this because marble has tiny spots that glisten.  It also looks more like marble now.

I ordered the Krylon webbing paint, and while I waited for it to arrive I went out and bought some felt pads.

I added these pads to the frame where the 2 shelves sit on,

...and underneath the top shelf's legs.  These pads will protect the surfaces of the desktop and shelves and prevent scratches.

Once everything dried I put the shelves on and it looked great!

Finally I received the webbing spray and after a few practice tries, I applied the webbing to the shelves.

...and then the desk top.

I love how the webbing looks, but I wanted a little extra sparkle, so I bought some glitter spray.

It's hard to tell from the photos, but the glitter spray really enhanced the look further.

When all was dried I put the top shelf on and took a minute to admire this fine looking desk.

Next I used some glossy polyurethane spray on the shelves and desktop.

After many applications I let everything alone to dry.

While it dried I decided to drill a few small holes in the back of the frame.

Then I screwed in some small hooks into the holes.  These hooks will be used to hold and divert wires from the computer.

Once everything was dry I put the table together and it looks amazing.

The "marble" surfaces look very marble-like and glossy.

A day or two later I added more clear gloss enamel to the "marble" tops.

When dried I put it all back together again.

Although the surfaces of the desk look great, the texture is not.  It feels like sandpaper to touch.  So I ordered some High Gloss finish to coat the surfaces and hopefully make it smoother.

While I waited for the stuff to arrive, I prepped my desk and shelves.  I put a drop cloth under everything and placed the shelves on the saw horses.

Once it arrived I followed the directions and mixed the materials....

and applied it to the surfaces.

I used my heat gun to help sift out air bubbles trapped in the finish - as the directions said I could do.

Once the gloss was fully applied I let it sit to the designated time (48-72 hours).  I'm going to wait longer than 72 hours being that it is colder here and the directions say warmer temperatures speed up curing time.

After a few days I checked on the desk.

The "marble" surfaces and now completely smooth and extremely shiny.

I assembled the desk and I couldn't be happier.

...well I could be a little happier.  The gloss surface dripped a little on to parts of the desk frame.

Instead of leaving glossy drips on the table, I painted over them with some white paint.

The cover up worked well.

When all was dried I put it together again.

The only thing that remains is to bring it into the house and set up my computer on it.  However, I still have one main problem: As I stated at the start of this entry, I'm using my Rustic End table as a chair. Now that I have a computer desk, I need something to sit on!  So I decided to make a very simple chair that matches!  To do this, I designed a chair in Sketchup to match my desk.

This simple build only requires three 2x4's and one piece of 2'x2' particle board.

So I went to the hardware store and bought my material.

I measured the 2x4's...

...and cut them with my miter saw.

For the most part, the whole thing will go together using pocket holes and screws.

Not long after I began, the chair started to take shape.

After about an hour and a half the frame was complete.

Since I'll be parking my large keister on this thing, I reinforced the inner corners with some brackets.

Next I used my T-square to make the guides for cutting the seat...

...which I did using my circular and jigsaw.

Once cut, I made sure the seat fit the frame correctly.

It was here that I discovered an error I made.  I cut too far one one side with the jigsaw.  This made a larger gap then I wanted.

To fix it I simply cut the correct size from my scrap pieces...

...and then glued it in place.

Next I used my plunge router to bevel the edges of the seat.

The bevels looked great so I decided to also bevel a piece of scrap particle board.

This piece I may use later on as part of a seat backing.

The picture above does not look too comfortable.  Instead I used a piece of trim and cut it to size, and then nailed to the top of the back.

Then I decided to test the chair so far.  I placed it in front of my desk to check that the height of the chair worked well with the height of the desk.

I also sat on the chair to make sure it could support my weight.

I couldn't exactly take a picture of me sitting on the chair, but trust me - I'm sitting on it, and it's holding up  quite well!  After the seat was glued and wood filler added I placed it on the chair frame with some clamps.  I will screw it in temporarily, but eventually remove it for painting/sanding/etc.

I also decided to place that other piece of particle board onto the frame to use as a back rest.  This will also be screwed in temporarily.

Once the screw holes were made, I removed the seat/back rest and it's time to start sanding and leveling the chair and all it's parts.  Again I used my belt sander, mouse sander and block plane.

After sanding was complete, I cleaned up and applied wood filler.

While that dried, I put the seat and back rest on the saw horses....

...and gave them a coat of white primer.

Once the chair frame was dry I thoroughly sanded it.

Followed by a thorough cleaning.

I then put it on the saw horses...

...and started applying white primer (with proper ventilation).

I ran out of white primer and started using up my remaining black and gray primer.

Sometimes before you can make something look really nice, you have to make it look really ugly first.

Then the seat and back rest got a coat of black primer.

The next day I put my chair upside down on the saw horses.

And applied a first coat of the same white paint I used for the desk.

Then I applied a coat of black glossy spray paint to the seat and back rest.

Once those dried, I turned the chair right side up and gave it a second coat of white.

And then I applied some webbing spray to the seat and back rest to create the same marble effect as in the desk.

I also added some glitter spray to further enhance the marble look.

I'd like to insert a personal rant here:  Krylon Glitter spray - although useful for this project - is a horrible product.  I've used many kinds of spray paint in my time and glitter spray has to be the worst product I've worked with.  I only got about 5-10 seconds actual work time with it.  After those few seconds, the nozzle clogs and aerosol sprays and leaks out.  After that I could not use it.  In the future I would not buy this product again, and find a different method.

Back to the chair....When the chair frame was done, I misted on some black spray paint to create the same worn look as the desk.

People often ask why I constantly give my stuff a worn look.  In this case perhaps it was a subconscious desire to make the chair look like a Biker Scout helmet.

The truth is I simply like the way it looks.  I have friends and family who absolutely detest even the slightest smudge on anything.  I don't like things to be dirty, just appear worn and used.  Again, I have no real reason other than I like it that way.  Next I took the back rest and added the web spray to the back since part of it will be exposed.

Once both sides of the were dry, I put everything together to see how it looks.

Looks good to me!  I then took everything apart and mixed up some more pour-on gloss and coated the seat and back rest.

Then I let everything sit for a few days to dry.

While I waited I hammered 4 sliders onto the bottom of the chair legs.

When all was dry, I attached the seat and back rest.


All that remains now is to bring the desk and chair into the house and set everything up!

At the time of this writing, this project took me 2 months to do.  I started in the beginning of February 2014 - perhaps one of the coldest, and most snowy months I can remember - and I finished in the beginning of April.  The weather was definitely a factor in the slow speed in which I was able to get things done, but I am happy to report that soon I will be moving, and when I do I will be bringing my new desk and chair with me. 

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE:  So, it was going to be too expensive to move this and my other furniture, so I eventually gave this desk to my friend Julio.  He painted the base of the desk to match the decor in his house.  He left the marble texture as is.

Looks good Julio!!


  1. Oh, wow! That is gorgeous. Just scrolled down through this massive tutorial, after wondering what you'd been up to lately, and have been sitting here open-mouthed! This is lovely - it's beyond carpentry - it's Wood Art!

  2. Wow! That is quite a compliment! I can't thank you enough!!!

  3. You dont happen to still have the sketchup file do you ?

    1. Deamiel,

      Yes, I still have my sketchup file.
      If you'd like it, give me your email address and I'll send it to you.