EricHarlan

Building a Sitting – Standing desk

Standing/Walking desk

A simple search engine query and you can do hours of research on why standing more can pretty much keep you alive a lot longer than sitting.  Let’s face it we sit all the time, in the car, on planes, at work, after work in front of the TV and that late night blog post draft (I’m literally sitting right now).  So after my (successful) weight loss attempt and overall trying to be more active (although I have a ways to go, someone remind me to put air in my bike tires) I wanted to try to well, get off my backside more.

I’m only 32 and I can already feel the effects of sitting all the time, left side lower back twinges, stiff neck etc, you get the point. So I researched for months on building/buying a standing/walking desk.  I had a few personal criteria that needed to be met. First, the desk I ended up with really had to be adjustable.  I assumed that this desk would be my primary desk and because I split my home office between my normal job and my personal time on two separate rigs I wanted to be able to go to and from sitting or standing at my discretion.  Honestly I just didn’t see myself standing for 12 hours a day, in fact that could be counterproductive.  The second part was that the desk needed to be clean. I’ve built my own desk setup in the past, and although I loved that desk it was way too much work and not modular at all, this desk needed to be simple and clean.  My third requirement was that when adjusting the desk it needed to be either cranked or electronically raised and lowered. I didn’t want to pull everything off my desk multiple times a day just to manually raise the desk and move some pegs to keep it at a specific height. If I did that I would end up just leaving it in one location and probably again be counterproductive.  My fourth requirement was that the treadmill I purchased hand to be light and maneuverable, again I didn’t want it to be a huge ordeal to go from sitting to standing.  The last requirement was that it had to be affordable. Go do a search on electronically actuated desks and see how much those suckers cost, literally thousands my budget was 500 dollars.

With those criteria I set out on my research only to find that it is just not easy to find a desk and a treadmill to fit that bill.  Really the hard part ended up being the treadmill. Finding a light, cheap treadmill that I could take the riser bars off of and have only the moving belt part and controls was extremely hard.  There is a company that makes a treadmill that is just the motor, belt and controls but that treadmill at the time was 900 dollars.

After hours of research I stumbled onto a random obscure blog (here) where a girl who was out to build the same thing as me just so happened (luckily) to mention the brand and model she bought and it working.  I jumped over to Amazon and looked up the treadmill thankfully it was listing at a low low one hundred dollars (USD). The “Confidence Power Plus Treadmill” looked like it would fit the bill perfectly. Now I just needed to find/build a desk (btw looks like the cost of the treadmill went up).

I really thought outside the box on this one. At one point I was going to build the desk and mount it on gas shocks, kind of like the ones in your office chair but more powerful so all I needed to do was release them to raise it and lean on it to lower it.  As I really started to spec this method out I realized it would cost about the same as my second option desk and would be a little challenging to raise and lower.

I happened to stumble across the website for the MultiTable where it seems ex-pro football player Mike Haynes (yeah I have no idea either) and his daughter started a company for manually adjustable desks.  I really liked this model because it allowed me to choose whether I just buy the base or buy a full on custom designed desk. Naturally after pricing out the bells and whistles I went with just the base and luckily for me I decided to buy it just as they had a sale taking 50 dollars off the price of the 400 dollar desk (enough to cover the flat rate shipping cost on it…hmm).

Ok so things are coming together well for me at this point, I ordered both and only had to figure out what sort of desktop I wanted.  The MultiTable has an adjustable weight limit of 150 pounds and a static weight limit of 250 pounds. With that information and a full assembled desk back at home I set out for the home improvement store.  I went to both Lowes and Home Depot and all I could find that would fit my needs and be light enough was pre-fabricated laminate kitchen counter tops.  Now I was no stranger to this type of desktop as it’s what I made my last desk from (you can see that here).  But this time around I wanted something lighter and without a backsplash as that looks kind of strange on a desk.

My wife suggested I look at the Ikea website and see if they had anything that would suit my needs there.  Turns out they had a couple options so off to Ikea I went.  I stood at the kitchen counter top display for probably 20 mins pondering my choices.  On one hand I had a really nice (for Ikea) wood top. It was long square blocks of Oak that were pressed together to make a 6 foot top.  An all white 8 foot standard top and a 8 foot faux marble top.  I finally made up my mind on the wood top as it was stainable and sandable and I already had a deep mahogany/espresso finish in my head when I flipped over the info card and realized that the top was 80 pounds in the 6 foot version and 100 pounds in the 8 foot version. In my head considering the weight of monitors, my arms (cause their massive you know) keyboards, laptops etc I figured that 150 pound limit would come up quick.  That and the 8 foot version was 170 dollars (USD). I checked out my second option which was a plain white pressboard and laminate table top.  This was a table top that I surely had laid my arms on a hundred other times in my career. The 8 foot version was only 58 pounds, cost only 38 dollars and during that week another 10 dollars off dropping it to 28 bucks total. Ladies and gents we have a winner.

I got back home and put the top up on the desk stand and noticed that the width of the desk legs would box me into either shortening the length of the counter top back down to six feet, or attaching a third leg to the desktop.  Again, I’ve worked with laminate pressboard before and if you’ve ever tried cutting it, you know how much of a nightmare that can be. So I opted for the third leg to extend my workspace, the only issue being this is an adjustable desk so I needed to have an adjustable leg.

Back to the hardware store I go in search of some sort of method of either buying or making this mystical leg of destiny.  After a few laps around the store I settled on some PVC tubing.  The desk turned out really wonderfully. Easily adjustable enough to allow me to swap between tasks and rigs when I needed to sit/stand and work on different machines.  Highly recommend this setup as its economical considering the alternative and just works.  I have a few tips below the build photos so check those out for greater details.

So without further delay here is what the build process and the parts list that it entailed.

Build list:
Treadmill
MultiTable

Counter Top

PVC
1x Two inch in diameter pipe
2x One and a half inch pipes
1x Two inch coupling
1x One and a half inch coupling
1x 2 inch end cap (with a flat top)
PVC cement and Primer
Bolt & Wing nut

So the assembly of the MultiTable I’ll leave to you. It was very easy with the instructions provided I had the desk together in about 10 mins.

 

 


Next came the treadmill.  Now ladies and gentlemen this can seem a bit intimidating but trust me it was extremely simple. The overall task was we needed to remove the poles that go upright.  The tricky part is there is a control panel mounted to the top of the bars which we need to unscrew off the bar and make it modular.

First the unboxing

 

Here you can see one of two bolts we need to remove to make the adjustable arms come off the main treadmill unit. Literally just take a wrench or in my case a set of vice grips and unscrew the bolts from the arms.

 

 

You’ll immediately notice that the wire for the control panel runs up through the arms. (Crap) Ok no problem lets get the panel off the bars.

 

First unscrew the 4 screws that hold the bracket onto the bar. Once you do that your panel is free, we we just have to get that wire out.  You now have to unscrew the other four screws from the back of the panel. So you remove all 8 and pop off the top.

 

Once you remove the top you can see the workings of the panel. Its actually extremely simple the switches and what they do are even labeled on the circuit board so if you want to build your own personal enclosure you can do so (if someone does please let me know I might want one).

 

Now you’ll notice that the wire coming into the panel is held down by a simple bracket. Unscrew those two screws and you’ll be left with just the connector into the circuit board.

 

Now a bit of an important note before you go tugging on the connector. Its held in place by a sort of mild glue that you need to CAREFULLY work free. I noticed this right away thankfully because the pins holding the female end of the connector onto the board is fairly flimsy.  I took a very small screw driver and SLOWLY worked the connector free.

Once its free just thread it back out of the panel box and down through the bars.  Once out run it back up to the box, attach the bracket holding the wire back down and plug the connector back in. Give it a test run and make sure it still works. Make sure you put the little quick release magnet onto the front of the panel otherwise you’ll get a message on the board that says “SAFE” and nothing will happen.

Ok now onto the adjustable leg.

The sitting height of my desk was 25 inches and fully extended while standing on top of the treadmill was 47 inches (yeah yeah I’m a shortie). That measurement is important because at some point you need to cut down one of the 1.5 inch tubes to match the lowest height of your desk. Also keep in mind if you are tall, you may need to add a third tube in the adjustable leg because you wont be able to get your max height and a normal sitting height with just those two tubes. So you may need to play with the leg a bit.

 

Ok so first we need to attach the end cap to the bottom of the desk. I pre drilled 4 holes in the bottom of the cap to make sure it wouldn’t crack and using some washers screwed it to the bottom of the desk.

 

Next I cemented the 2” coupling to the top of the 2” pipe.

 

Next I cemented and attached the two 1.5” tubes into the 1.5” coupling.

 

I slid them all together and measured the max height and minimum height

I took the two attached 1.5” tubes out to the garage and cut one of them down to size to match the marks. Slide them all together and cemented them to the end cap I mounted to the desk earlier. I then set a few heights I knew I’d work at and drilled holes for the pin that would keep the leg at height.

 

 

That was it, fairly straight forward and I only barely went over my limit of 500 dollars. I think I spent 520 dollars. Not exactly cheap in terms of a desk but for what you get out of it. Very affordable.

 

 

 

 

Hope that works for others.

A few tips:
The treadmill seems a little under powered in terms of torque.   On the lowest setting when I step on it I can hear it strain a bit as it pulls my foot and all my weight across the deck of the treadmill. When I lift my foot to step I can hear it speed up. I run mine at about the 1.3 settings to try to compensate for this but that speeds things up ever so slightly. I’m going to keep my eye on it and make sure its well-oiled.   For 100 dollars you can’t expect the world but I hope it lasts a year or two.

Ikea was literally the cheapest and most straight forward material I could find. I even went to their dent and ding section only to find 7 foot doors that were more expensive then the 8 foot countertop I bought. I think you’d be hard pressed to find something that is cheaper and nicer. Not the best desk top but clean and easy to maintain. Plus I bought the white multitable base so it all matches.

Make sure when you run all your wires that you set the desk at max height then run them. Nothing like pulling out all your power cords as you raise the desk. (No it didn’t happen to me, I thought that far ahead ;) ) You’ll have to accept a certain amount of displaced wires as the slack settles in fully lowered mode.

The metal MultiTable legs work as great heat sinks for hot power bricks :)

At full height i get some wobble when I’m typing and walking. This is mostly due to the change in the center of gravity and the fact that my monitor mounts are elevated. With those conditions the monitors rock a little and cause the desk to move a bit. But it’s totally manageable and not very noticeable.

The treadmill automatically stops after 30 mins. 30 mins goes by really fast when you’re working and then suddenly “BEEP” and you almost run into your desk.   It’s not all bad it gives you a chance to remember to take a break. Wish i could over ride it though.

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