Several weeks ago I decided to turn the fourth bedroom of my house into an office. Once that transformation was nearing completion, I had but one thing left to finish the space – a desk. My old desk was still being used for the family PC in a different part of the house so I decided to get a new one. But I didn’t want just any desk, I kinda wanted to build one myself.
I have to admit, I did not do a great deal of planning when I started in on this endeavor, but I was not worried, as everything always seems to work out just fine in the end no matter how much planning is done. I did some quick searches for DIY tables and desks, had the basic idea that I wanted to do a “pipe and wood” desk, and even went to Target to price some pre-made desks that were similar to what I might want. I didn’t really have to look long before I found a site that laid out the basic premise and building materials that I would need for my project. That was for a patio table, but I knew I could alter the design to fit my needs.
I also only made a trip to Lowe’s to price out materials and figure exactly how much pipe I was going to need. That night I came home and drew this up on the whiteboard in my office.
Lowe’s will cut galvanized steel pipe and thread it for free, so the only cost I was going to incur was materials and also gas for driving back and forth to the hardware store. I probably made seven trips total, counting that first one where I did not purchase anything. I can attribute this number of trips to the lack of planning and also changing my mind on a few things as well as not reading the fine print on the wood stain before I left the store.
The second trip was when I spent the largest chunk of change, and it was also the most satisfying. I went early in the AM ( Lowe’s opens at 6AM!!), gave my pipe specs to a wonderful old gentleman who wheeled out this really cool machine and proceeded to cut all the pipe right before my very eyes. I wish I would have taken a pic or video of that. The oil pouring out of the machine as the blades cut threads into the steel resulting in smoke and hot shavings of metal dripping into the pan below. It was super-neat. Instead, all I have to offer is this pic of the machine.
The result of this was 13 pieces of pipe which would fit together with six T-joints to form a frame. The frame would be secured to the desktop with a set of four flanges. Towards the end, I found some really cheap flanges at Ace Hardware and decided it was within my budget to use them for the feet of the desk legs as well (this is one of those decisions that cost me a few extra trips to various hardware stores). The original DIY post I looked at used casters at the base, but I didn’t really want a desk that rolled. Anyhow, I was really anxious to have something to show for my efforts the same day I purchased the materials so I put it all together.
I did, however, end up taking it all back apart and washing each piece of pipe thoroughly. I wanted to make sure there was no barcode sticker residue or pipe cutting oil left on the pipes in case I decided to spray paint it all once it was together. After the frame assembly I had to work on the desk surface which was a slow process because I could not just hurry up and get it done. I had to do a thing and then wait.
I chose to use a single pre-glued solid piece of pine to simplify things. The largest of these Lowe’s had in stock was 48 inches long by 24 inches deep which was not as deep as I originally wanted but it was still better than trying to work out getting three 1 foot boards secured together. I had to adjust my pipe measurements because of this, but it wasn’t too bad and I had actually decided on the pre-fabricated surface before having the pipe cut. The choice of stain caused me two trips to the store. The first I chose the same day I bought the pipe, but then decided I wanted to go a little lighter with more of a red tint. Here’s what it looked like in progress.
After a coat of stain on both sides, I had to let it dry. Then I put a second coat on just the top and had to let it dry again. It wasn’t until that second coat that I was really reading the directions which clearly say to follow with one or more coats of polyurethane. That was something I did not account for. So it was back out to the store to get some more supplies. I decided to do three coats of poly which had do dry 4 hours in between so it took several days to finish. I was pretty proud of myself for knowing I should get some tack cloth to wipe down the board after sanding in-between coats. I picked that up several years ago when helping a friend with a wood finishing project.
I decided along the way to use two 1/2 inch thick cross boards to go lengthwise under the desktop for added support and of course these also needed to be stained and poly’d as well. On the directions it said to let dry for 24 hours after the last coat, and I may not be stellar at planning, but I am pretty good at following directions, so the assembly ended up waiting unit the weekend. Here is everything drying but staged and ready to go.
I ended up making two trips to the store just for the right screws because I didn’t know what I should have gotten the first time. Obviously I did not want the screws to go all the way through the flanges and wood and stick out on the other side, but at the same time they had to be long enough to go through all three AND have a screw head larger than the flange holes. Doh! The assembly itself was cake. I placed the frame upside-down on the bottom of the table top and shifted everything until it was centered. I measured and marked and then double and triple checked my measurements before I drilled the pilot holes with my power-drill. Once that was done, I put the screws to it and flipped it back over.
All-in-all, it was a good project and a great learning experience. I love my new desk and it is the perfect piece of furniture for my new office, not to mention that it’s super sturdy and looks great. The raw materials cost me less than 150 dollars total, and the lessons I learned about pipe, wood finishing, and the importance of planning ahead will likely benefit me in many projects in the years to come (if I decide to plan ahead anyway). I would highly recommend this type of project to any of the other newbie DIYers out there needing a table or a desk.