DIY – Build a Desk for Two

Home boy and I have been a little busy. ;)  For about, oh I don’t know, two years now, we’ve been saying we need to get rid of our one person desk and build one that we can both use.


And we did for under $90.  Yeah babay!

Here’s the scoop.  We wanted something with minimal lines, but that still has lots of storage and meets our functional needs, like this or this or this.  We searched Craigslist regularly for some file cabinets with a couple criteria in mind:  1) We needed at least two matching short file cabinets;  2) Said file cabinets had to be in decent shape;  3) They had to be less than $20 each.  That was our magical number.  BTW, Kelly wrote a great article about the best ways to search Craigslist, in case you are currently trying to hunt down your own special something.

Anywho, when we spotted some for $15 a pop that a local business was getting rid of, we pounced.  The bonus:  they had three of them!!  This means we didn’t have to build a middle cabinet.  Not that we would’ve minded putting our heads together to build a cabinet, but for $15, we couldn’t say no.

We gave them all a coat of Rustoleum Rust-Free black spray paint.  Then, here’s where we had to put our math hats on.  The cabinets are only 25 1/4″ tall, and a typical desk or table height is 29-30″.  We decided to add height by raising them off off the floor a bit and also by building a frame (that sits on top of the filing cabinets) which holds the desktop together.  If that was confusing, this may help:

Inches Description
25.25 Filing cabinets
0.75 Build 1×2 frames to set the cabinets on, raising them off the floor.
1.5 Build a 2×4 frame that holds desktop together and sets on top of filing cabinets
1.5 Use 2×10″x10′ boards as the desktop
29 Total Height of Desk

The bottom frames came first.  We bought some nice poplar 1×2′s.  Sometimes you’ll see these labeled as “crafting wood” at Lowe’s or Home Depot.  We flipped the cabinets upside down, took our measurements, and got to cutting. :)

We used the ol’ glue-and-shoot method (apply wood glue, then shoot in some nails with a brad nailer) and it worked perfectly.  We recently bought a heavy duty staple gun and I was curious to find out if it would work on these frames, so just for kicks, we did a little reinforcing with some staples, and it worked!  We don’t recommend using staples only (without any nails), but the staples are a nice little reinforcement. :)

We filled the nail holes, gave them a light sanding with 120 grit sandpaper, then used the same black spray paint.

Then we simply set the frames on the floor and placed the filing cabinets on top of them for height.  Easy peasy!

The frames blend right in with the bottom of the cabinet!

Moving on to the upper frames.  We used the exact same method, with one exception.  We built the upper frames 1 inch deeper than the filing cabinets, so that the desktop would be supported.  Then we screwed the three frames onto the underside of the desktop.  They hold the desktop together and provide the extra height we needed.  John used a countersink drill bit so that we could fill the holes with wood filler and everything would be nice and smooth.

We sanded the desktop down so it’s perfectly smooth, then used Minwax Dark Walnut stain on the top as well as the three 2×4 frames underneath  (see above & below photos).

John threw some oil-based poly on it and let it dry for a couple days.

Sorry this phone picture sucks!

We are absolutely LOVING it!!  The simple clean lines make me happy.  And all the storage we need is right there hidden in the file cabinets.

We bought some plastic containers from Dollar Tree to hold all the office necessities:

And then we sat back and admired our handy work!

We have been using our new desk, and I have to say, it’s pretty much DA BOMB DIGGITY.

It makes our office feel twice as big.  It’s crazy how that happens.  A coworker of mine suggested we drill holes for cupholders and add a beer tap to the center…. umm genius!  We may just have to do this- the cupholder idea.  (thanks Jason!)  But if we added a beer tap (not that we could even begin to figure how that would work, ha!), we’d never get anything done.  ;)

Building cool stuff makes me happy, and the fact that it was so inexpensive is the icing on top!

I just realized I used the word “happy” about 8.7 times in this post. So friends, go out and do something that makes YOU happy today!

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7 responses to DIY – Build a Desk for Two

  1. Pingback: DIY Computer Desk - 5 Ways - Bob Vila

  2. That looks awesome Whitney! We’ve been wanting to build a desk just like this, so awesome that it was so cheap to make!

  3. Um yeah. That is crazy awesome and completely fits in the “bomb diggety” category! SUPER LOVE!!

  4. Building stuff makes me happy, too! It makes me feel like I’ve truly accomplished something and OH HAAAAY look at me and what I can do! Or more often, look at US and what WE can do since Bob tends to do the heavy lifting :)
    This is awesome guys! The desk is such a beautiful color and I love how you utilized the filing cabinets!