UPDATE: 5-1/2 years after making this cart I put together a CNC version. If you’re interested in the CNC files to cut one of these really quick click here.
I’ve been wanting to get a computer in the shop for various reasons for the past couple of years now. At my previous residence, it wasn’t a huge concern because I didn’t have a decent wifi signal to sync files. That’s a different story in with this shop though. I pieced together a low power Linux computer so it was time to look at computer desk options. I priced stand up computer desks online and the cheapest I found was still over $200. I honestly never had any intention to buy one but it’s always nice to see how much you can save by building it yourself.
I wanted this stand up computer desk to be mobile. Luckily I found the original casters that came with my Harbor Freight dust collector that I never used. I also had a few scrap pieces of crappy looking 3/4” pine plywood and some L shaped legs that were for a project that never quite made it. The L shaped legs I used were from pine but you can get away with using plywood for the legs.
This is a simple project that pretty much anyone can figure out by themselves but for those who are interested, I did put together a detailed set of plans.
With the materials gathered I could start to think of a game plan as to how this would go together. Like my shopvac cyclone cart, I didn’t have a plan when I started this build. I actually wasn’t even planning on doing this project but right before shooting last week’s vlog video the idea popped in my head so I had to get it done.
The plywood scrap that I was using was already a suitable length to use for the shelves. It just needed to be ripped to the appropriate width for the shelves. I originally wanted to rip them down the middle to have all of the shelves the same width but that didn’t leave as much room as I wanted for the top shelf. Instead, I was able to get two wider pieces for the top and bottom shelf and a shorter piece for the middle shelf. It worked out great in the end.
The legs were actually from a treadmill computer desk that I made a few months ago. In case anyone is wondering, editing video and working in SketchUp is IMPOSSIBLE to do while walking. To make these legs a little more suitable for this project they needed to be cut down to get them a little closer to elbow height.
And of course, that’s pretty easy with a miter saw. Here’s a beautiful shot of a chunk of metal and carbide spinning at about 4,000 rpm tearing through some helpless pine.
I started with the bottom shelf. With it laid on my assembly table, I glued and nailed the legs to the outside of the shelf.
I wanted to brace the shelves to prevent flexing under load so I first cut some squares.
And cut them along the diagonal to make triangles. I was going to use my hold down jig for the table saw but using a bandsaw makes for quick work of the cuts. They didn’t have to be perfect as the cut faces are non-reference faces.
The braces are glued on all mating faces and tacked on with the brad nailer. You can also see how crappy this plywood looked. It’s not bad for a shop project but I had an idea to quickly cover it up..
And installed the top and middle shelves the same way. The shelves were glued and nailed through the legs and the braces were glued and nailed all over. The bottom shelf has the braces on top and the other shelves have the braces on bottom.
With the main structure complete I made sure the computer had good clearance and thought of a way to mount the monitor. I ended up going with the VESA mount on the back instead of using the monitor’s stand. Most monitors have machine thread mounts on the backside in a specific pattern called a VESA pattern or VESA mount. There are a few different patterns depending on the size monitor but the vast majority of monitors used will have a VESA 100 pattern which is a 100mm x 100mm square with M4 machine thread inserts.
I had another piece of scrap plywood on my lumber rack that was the perfect width for the monitor mount. Four slightly oversized holes are needed.
Nobody wants to look at a crooked monitor so before attaching I made sure it’s perpendicular to the shelves.
And secured it with four screws. I made sure to predrill these holes to the plywood wouldn’t split.
I wanted to cover up the junky plywood I used but didn’t want to have the covered look or feel of the paint. I went with Rust-Oleum Ebony stain. It makes everything nearly pure black but you can still see the grain which I like.
This was the first mounting of the casters. It didn’t work too well. I’ll explain why in just a minute.
I didn’t want to go crazy with the finishing process on this one but I did see it as an opportunity to use up some old finish that I had. This can of water-based Polycrylic has been in my shop for a long long time. I only used it on the shelves though.
After the finish cured I attached the monitor. I absolutely love mounting computer monitors from the backside instead of using stands. This allows for much more room on the actual desk surface.
The computer sits nicely on the middle shelf and has no urge to fall over even when moving it around so I doubt I’ll tie it down like I originally planned. Also, I’m sure a dozen people will ask about keeping dust out of the computer. I’ve had this computer case for about 5 years now and have never had the covers on the case. If it gets dusty a quick shot of compressed air or a vacuum will tidy things up. And even so, it’s just a junk computer. I’ll probably end up putting a bag over it when it’s not in use though.
If you haven’t already noticed, I had to relocate the back casters by 3” to prevent tipping. This actually worked out quite well for a separate reason. Now, if you push the cart against the wall the back feet will hit before the cords will. This gives plenty of room on the backside of the monitor post for mounting a power strip or any other cords that you need managed. I didn’t include any type of power strip mounting options as everyone’s cable management needs are unique.
If you are in the market for a standing computer desk I hope you decide to make instead of buy. The cost savings are huge compared to commercial options plus you get the opportunity to build it to fit your body for better ergonomics. As I said earlier, you can probably figure out everything needed to make your own cart from this article and the video but for those who are interested, I do have a detailed set of plans available. Have a great week folks and for those who are on my newsletter list, I’ll talk to you Tuesday in the next vlog video. Take care.
Stand Up Computer Desk Plans
Mobile Stand Up Computer Desk PLAN
You can see the build article and video for this project here. These desks normally sell for $200 and up on the internet. Make your own for about $50 depending on what casters you purchase. Every piece in this plan is color coded to designate it’s location. I find this approach easy to follow as you can visually glance at the layout or reference diagrams and know where on the final assembly that particular part will end up. The total height before casters is 60-3/8” with a footprint of 25-3/8” x 17-1/2”. All materials, including room for height adjustments, can be cut from a 48″ x 48″ piece of plywood. Included in the mobile standing computer desk plan:
- 9 detailed pages
- shopping list
- tools list
- plywood layout diagram
- reference diagrams for specific part and overall dimensions
- step by step 3D assembly diagrams with written instructions
The entire plan is included in one PDF document. Most everyone will have a PDF reader installed on their computer already but if you do not you can use the free program Adobe Reader to view the plans. You can download Adobe Reader HERE. The checkout process for this plan uses PayPal. You can use major credit or debit cards through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account. To purchase the plan follow the link below. After you purchase the plan you will receive an email receipt from me containing a link to download your plan. Make sure to check your inbox and spam filter for the receipt. If you do not receive the email within 10-15 minutes or encounter any problems please contact me.
Jay, always enjoy your videos, but as of late i gotta watch a couple of times to catch everything going on in the backvround. Like your traveling logo, proxisim of joy? Dont stop. Ever
Of course now I must go back and watch it again!
Are you still running Ubuntu Studio or did you choose another distro this time…
Still running Ubuntu Studio.
Longtime Ubuntu Desktop user, but changed jobs and was issued a Mac. Kinda like Mac too.
I was planning to do this next week. So, your timing is great. Question: What about dust? Don’t you think the open shelf will allow shop dust to get in the computer … which will increase heat and eventually lead to a breakdown? Your videos are great – practical and clear. Thanks.
I’ll just blow it out as needed. This computer has been incredibly dusty before and I’ve just always blown it out.
I don’t know which I enjoy more….the projects or your entertaining videos! Great job!
Now that you have the cart and ubuntu, LinuxCNC is next?
If you run your dust collection system when you work that should help keep dust down. And you said you can just blow it out from time to time. What some people don’t know is, you should blow out and clean your system 1 to 2 times a year in your home because of dust, so the shop area would need cleaning more often. BTW not sure I would have panted it black, but maybe that’s all you had or you wanted something to show all the dust. A good build though and well thought out.
Black was my way of making a lot of ugly scrap lumber look the same.
I like to use water base gray floor paint to do the same – hide the dust, really hard after cured, can handle a lot of abuses and protect well the wood in my workshop furniture.
as always, nice video!
If you don’t need a lot of storage you can install on a thumb drive or flash media this reduces your cooling needs in the box. You can also put a filter over the intake and just swap filters instead of having to blow it out. When I worked at a saw mill that is what we did and the computers stood the test of time in that environment.
Yeah I have alternate plans for this computer. The stand is just to get by in the shop. I’m going to make a case for it within the year and hopefully within the next week or two I’ll have an SSD in the machine
Newegg has some deals on hybrids and ssd right now.
Nice project Jay. All it needs now is a push button height adjustment. I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for a while.
Thanks! I find it easier to get a higher stool or chair for the times when you want to sit.
Great project. Simple, but really looks first class. Are you concerned about dust in the computer?
Thanks Roger. No, I’ll just blow it out as needed. That’s what I’ve always done. This case has never had covers on it.
I have an old desk top PC that I used to use somewhere in my shed next to the shop doing nothing. I believe that I will build a cart like yours so I can use it in my Shop when needed. Good project Jay, thanks for sharing.
Thanks Doug. Good luck with your cart.
Love the video, excellent editing and sound effects.
Just wondering if there are some go-to programs you run on your computer? I’m thinking I might need to add one to my shop soon, as watching how-to videos on my phone screen gets cumbersome at times.
The go-to programs depend on what you are trying to accomplish with the computer. If you are just watching videos than any computer will work.
I hope you are going to put the sides on the computer, otherwise sawdust will soon block the fans etc. like the paint job finishes it off just right
i hope this means you will be venturing into cnc projects. Maybe the Shapeoko 2? Thanks for the great vids.
LOL the sound effects had a worried something else was running on my computer lol. i think id like to have something like that evenutally lol, love watching your videos and enjoy seeing you put things together :)
Looks great. Are you still doing your video editing in Vegas (if you were, I might have you confused with another youtuber) or are you back to editing in Linux? I’m starting to dabble in editing but finding Windows software lacking without spending a lot of money (having trouble editing MTS files recorded in the AVCHD format).
How about some spray painted pvc with a few holes cut out mounted vertically to the back for cord management? I was thinking about something like this for my autistic boys, your plan is fab. And don’t forget a silicone cover for your keyboard, they are cheap and very worth it in the shop. I only keep a laptop in shop\ garage but it is crazy handy.
Recently retired,new woodworker. Your videos/projects are great and I have a new “words with friends” word. . proxisim
Hey Jay. Nice lil cart. I see your getting the use out of that Ryobi battery powered brad nailor. How do you like that? Just curious.
Now you can watch the Red Wings game in the shop.
Great job, Jay! I also dig the ebony stain. You can’t even tell it’s crappy plywood anymore!
that looks great jay what was the stain you used?
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