An adjustable height desk project

The Rationale

Like most computer nerds, I am in front of my computer for an inordinate amount of time during the day. I estimate I spend 11 or 12 hours a day during the week sitting and staring at a glowing monitor, and it has taken its toll on my back over the last few years. I have tried a few different types of chairs, including kneeling chairs and even a Swiss ball, but ultimately all would be uncomfortable after sitting even most of the day. One of my coworkers had an adjustable height desk and I was intrigued by the idea, but didn't know if I wanted to spend the money.

However, over the last year there was quite a lot of publicity around several different studies (some not recent at all) on the effects of prolonged sitting or sedentary activity (an oxymoron?) on the body, and the news was rather grim.

NY Times
"Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. "

"in a study published last year that tracked more than 17,000 Canadians for about a dozen years, researchers found people who sat more had a higher death risk"

Papers: British Journal of Sports Medicine | Journal of the American Medical Assocation

The surprising result to me was that, in more than one study, the negative effects of sitting down were seen regardless of how much a person exercised. Dang! That was always my excuse for why it wasn't such a big deal that I spent so much of my day as a vegetable with an aching back. I now had one more reason to do something about my 75 hour a week sitting habit. Interestingly, money became less of an issue once I was thinking of it as a preventive health issue rather than 'just another office gadget', although I still wanted to be economical.

The Project

After some research I decided to go with a GeekDesk, because the ability to adjust the height by pushing a button means I will actually put the desk up and down - I'm a little lazy. I don't need a huge desk, so I went with a GeekDesk mini, and I found that by ordering just the frame I could save about $250 (inc shipping). The frame was pretty easy to set up, although one of the cross pieces was damaged. Michelle at GeekDesk was very responsive and they quickly shipped me a replacement piece, and I finished putting it together as soon as I could.

GeekDesk Mini Frame

Now I needed a top. I had a bunch of ideas, from stone and faux stone (heavy and expensive) to pine plywood (cheap and, well, cheap). I also went to a local Habitat ReStore to see what old furniture I might be able to use. They had a whole section of tables and I realized that most of them came apart so you could put a leaf in the middle. This was perfect for me, as it meant no sawing or woodworking would be necessary - all I had to do was find one with the right dimensions. I managed to find a great-looking table for only $100, and it was so nice I almost wanted to keep it as a table instead of taking it apart!

It was relatively easy to get all of the straps, screws, latches, and leaf supports out of the table, and it took a little longer to knock out most of the molding on the underside of the table. It fit almost perfectly on the frame.

Manhandling the frame over was a little tricky - probably should have asked for help.

And voila, I have a desk! I love how it turned out. The desk operation is smooth, there is plenty of space once the monitor and laptop are raised up (using an Ergotron Lx Dual Stacking Arm, and it looks really nice.

Mmmm. Of course, I can't go quite as minimal as this. I might need a mouse.

And here's a picture in better light.

The old desk - a bit cramped and fuzzy



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