A Pole-Based Standing Desk Design

A Pole-Based Standing Desk Design
Matthew Bellows
Matthew Bellows

Matthew Bellows

5 min read0 reads

The benefits of standing while working are numerous and well documented, and there are a number of options out there for either buying or building your way into a more upright work experience. But none of them worked for me. So here’s my Standing Desk project – I hope it inspires a couple more people to stand up at the computer.

Design Criteria

After reading about peoples’ experience adapting to the standing-work lifestyle, one thing became abundantly clear:

  • You want to be able to switch between standing and sitting easily.

People (including me) who have been sitting at a desk for most of our professional lives don’t have the muscles or posture to immediately switch to standing up the whole time. Since I’m doing a bootstrapped startup, my standing desk project was not going to cost a lot of money. On the other hand, it should look decent enough that I wouldn’t cringe when people came in the office:

  • Budget: $150

And since I have minimal construction skills, basic tools and no tested plans:

  • Has to be easy to build

Starting Point

I didn’t want to scrap my existing desk (it works fine for sitting). It’s a hollow-core plywood door with a mahogany veneer.

One side of it rests on a two-drawer file cabinet. The other side is supported by two tacked-on legs. I didn’t include these items in the budget.

The Steps

Step One: Measure

The first thing I did (as recommended by several thoughtful posts) was stack books, games and etc. up on my desktop until I could stand upright and type comfortably on a keyboard placed on the stack. For me (I’m 6’1″ on a good day) I needed an additional 12″ of height above my desktop to comfortably type while standing. I know! I thought it would be more also!

Measuring the Keyboard Height for a Standing Desk

Measuring the Keyboard Height for a Standing Desk

Step Two: The Shelf

I built a plywood shelf to support the keyboard and hold all the other crap that used to float around my desk. I used scrap plywood from my garage, but if you have to buy it new, it won’t cost more than $20 for one nice sheet. The top shelf is 12″ off the top of the desk, with a 2″ lip on three edges. I put an intermediate shelf in there and bought some tupperware knockoffs as bins for pens, USB keys, post-its, etc. The shelf stretches the entire width of the desk, but is only 10.5″ deep, so it’s easy to move around, and when it’s pushed forward, there’s still plenty of workspace on the desk. I used a 1.5″ drill bit to make a hole in the back of the shelf to feed wires.

Shelf for my standing desk

Shelf for my standing desk

Step Three: The Pole

So far, not a whole lot of innovatin’ goin’ on. But get ready… All the standing desk designs I looked at used either furniture or expensive hydraulics to support the monitor. Furniture is cheap but doesn’t move. Hydraulic shelves aren’t cheap and are hard to build. My solution was to buy:

  • precast concrete base (for 4x4s) at Home Depot: $4.95
  • small bucket of quick dry concrete: $10.00
  • 6″ galvanized steel pole: $16.00
  • VESA-standard monitor clamp: $85.00

I put a piece of plywood under the base, shimmed the pole into place, mixed the concrete (first time since my days at Arcosanti!) and glopped it in. Pro tip: Wear a mask when you mix the concrete. I breathed some dust in and I swear its turned the back of my throat into a mini parking lot. Then, with the help of my beautiful assistant, I made sure the pole was level.

Checking that the pole is straight

Notice the shims under the base: it has to be level for the pole to be true.

Here’s how it looked in place.

The Pole base

The Pole base in all its glory

Step Four: Assembly

I rested the monitor on the shelf to attach it to the clamp, plugged everything in, and it’s done! A dual-mode desk that takes 30 seconds to switch between standing and sitting, doesn’t look terrible, and cost less that $150.

Standing Desk in sitting mode

Standing Desk in sitting mode

Standing Desk Standing Mode

Just slide the shelf forward and raise the monitor!

And for you PC/external mouse users, here’s my gaming setup… Keyboard and mouse live on top of the PC under the desk.

Standing Desk Gaming Mode

yes, I’m _still_ playing WoW…

The whole project took about three hours and was pretty easy. I need to do some wire management still, but overall, it works pretty well. Hope it helps!

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