The inspiration for the project I am showcasing today comes from the book Make Space. This book is awesome! The authors bear an incredible understanding of how space affects the way that people think, feel, and interact. If you have a home or office where you have the power to change things around, you are sure to be inspired by this book which will explain things that you have known intuitively but didn’t know how to put into words.
Aside from the mental benefits of standing, there are also numerous health benefits! I think this Lifehacker article sums it up very well.
My coworker, Chris, and I decided that we really want to stand at our desks full-time. We looked at a number of different solutions, from propping up our monitors and keyboard to putting our desks up on cinder blocks, but finally we decided to modify the legs of the existing desks that we had in order to bring the work surface up to elbow height.
This is a picture of an unmodified desk. You can see from the picture that there are a number of single legs which are already adjustable, but the maximum height of the desk is only 32 1/4 in. The ideal height for a standing desk would place the work surface at or just below your elbows when your shoulders are relaxed, so we already know this won’t work, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give it some extra height regardless.
Coming up with the design is half the fun, but it wasn’t necessarily easy. Here are the dirty details:
Initially we intended to make the legs out of steel, but then we found that the set screw you can see above protrudes into the shaft quite a bit, maybe to set a minimum level (?):
This forced us to consider a different strategy than steel. We want to maintain the function of the set-screw, but didn’t want to cut or bend the steel. That’s when Chris remembered something he had seen on Hack A Day (I was wrong, it was actually this YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BackyardBowyer) about heating PVC pipe to make it malleable. PVC is a great material to work with because it is really cheap and adaptable and has a good set of fittings for making things square or joining them together.
My co-worker Chris is awesome at fabricating things, and he did most of the work when it came to assembling the new legs. Above you can see the fixture used to hold the shape of the pipe while it’s being formed. Early on, we had an issue with the pipe deforming in the wrong direction and it wouldn’t fit in the desk any more!
This is a 1200W heat gun that we use for all sorts of things around the lab, including de-soldering large SMT components.
After the PVC is warm, the shape of the divot can be pressed into the pipe with anything rigid, like this giant chisel.
Here is a comparison of the original steel leg and 3 new PVC legs, almost twice as long but yet with the proper indentation.
The next part of the design is what I call the “ankle”. We decided to use the foot that came with the the desk:
We chose to use a pair of PVC fittings to form the “ankle”. These are readily available from Lowe’s (PVC 00101 1000 and PVC 00110 0600). The screw-on design is convenient because it allows us to bolt down the cap before we attach the legs. It also make it very easy to revert in case the facilities manager gets upset.
Add a coat of primer and a coat of shiny silver spray paint and you can’t even tell they’re PVC!
Finally, here is a picture of a hipster using the final product.
All in all, I am very satisfied with the output, ESPECIALLY for the value:
$23.83 – Total cost (ignoring PVC primer and glue, which is really cheap)
As you can see, this is a great value and if something doesn’t work out, you can always go back to the original legs.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article, please feel free to leave comments or questions!