Make a standing desk using a shelving rail system

Make a standing desk using a shelving rail system


You can make a standing desk out of shelving rails and brackets, and some MDF board. It really doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. I built mine for about \$150, but that cost also included paint, and some tools I didn’t have. See Basic costs and [ancilliary-costs] for further details.

Lessons Learned

  • Measure twice, corroborate your measurements, drill once.

  • The internet can show you how to correctly mount shelves. 

  • Read procedures, even if you think you know how to erect shelving.

  • Don’t be too proud to get all the facts before proceeding.

  • Wall studs are your friend. 

    • Measure these first. Your studs will determine how wide your shelves can be in some scenarios.

    • Don’t even think about using heavy-duty plasterboard screws for this task. They really aren’t strong enough.

      • This shelving is holding all your precious IT gear, not your collection of Lego models.

      • Studs or nothing.

  • Don’t cheap out on tools:

    • Get what you need and don’t compromise.

    • Beg, borrow, (but don’t steal - because stealing is bad m’kay).

  • Get your wood cut at your local big hardware shop. They usually do it for free, and unless you have a circular saw and a keen eye, you will get much better results having it done on a cutting station.

Basic costs

  • Double-slot Upright Shelving Rail White 100cm x 2 = $14.50

  • Double-slot Bracket 320mm White x 6 = $29.40

    • Brackets of this size should have holes in the bottom to screw through. Ensure yours do.

  • MDF Standard 16mm 900 x 600mm Sheet x 2 = $18.00

    • One of these boards gets cut in half, so you get two 300mm shelves.

  • Box of 50 10g 50mm Wood Screws (you only need 8) = $9.90

Basic costs total $79.00 if you have the following Anciliary items: 

  • Stud detector

  • Decent spirit level, at least 60cm long

  • Some undercoat and gloss paint

  • Sample pot paint roller.

  • Nuts, bolts, and screws that can go through the shelf brackets to anchor the shelves into place.

Ancillary Costs

  • 60cm Aluminium Spirit Level - $15.00

  • 300g Hole Filler (hopefully you won’t need this) - $4.50

  • Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3 Primer Sealer Undercoat 1 litre (you only need about 500mls) - $21.90

    • Really, any cheap undercoat will do. This brand was the smallest and cheapest at the time.

  • 1L Pascal Trim W/based Gloss White Enamel (hard-wearing for desks) - $27.95

    • Any Enamel Gloss paint will be great. 

    • Gloss is easy to clean, and won’t be susceptible to greasy finger marks.

  • Sample Pot Paint Roller with extra roller - $2.00 (seriously worth it).

  • Drill, with a selection of drill bits

    • I had one of these. 

Borrow any tools in the ancillary list to save a chunk of change on the raw build cost.

Total for all these ancillaries total about $72.00

Vital Statistics

  • Shelving rails are spaced 450mm apart:

    • For me, this was the distance between studs (the vertical strips of timber that hold a plasterboard wall in place). 

    • You will need to measure your stud distance before continuing. Don’t stuff this up, otherwise that Hole Filler on the Ancillaries list will be in your hardware cart.

  • Shelves are 900mm long. 

    • This was the closest pre-cut MDF sheet I could find at Masters North Lakes.

If you want to convert your standing desk back to a seated desk, ensure you put the bottom of the shelving rails at a height that is equal to your current seated desk. You can see that in my picture.

  • I used thin nuts and bolts to secure the shelf bracket to the MDF. 

    • You can use wood screws if you like for the 300mm shelves, drilled from underneath the shelf through the bracket holes.

    • I didn’t want to risk it for the 600mm shelf:

      • It can be subjected to some load if you lean on the table.

      • There is 300mm of overhang resting on the shelf brackets.

      • Bolts will ensure it doesn’t go anywhere.

What about the old desk?

The original desk can be used for any number of things:

  • Put your drinks on there and keep them away from your IT gear.

  • Put admin stuff like filing trays, game figures, your collection of Star Wars Lego.

  • Use the original desk as a break desk when having a phone or video call.

UPDATE Jan 2015

I have transitioned to a standing desk environment so well now that the original desk is now used as a workbench in the garage for times when I need to fix the odd toy or household item.  

Complimentary benefits

Because I’m a tight arse, and didn’t have enough money to purchase some tools, the cool people where I worked loaned me most tools I needed.

I took this one step further, and made a forum where staff can record what tools they are willing to loan to other staff members. So far, it seems to have had a slow response, but as time goes by I can see it as a great way to have an unofficial tool co-op for everyone to benefit from.

Could your office use a tool co-op?

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