How To Build a All Wood Standing Desk for Less then $400

I recently took a new job where I’m working from home. Because of that I needed to replace my Ikea some Swedish name Dining room desk in my office/lab with a real desk. While browsing for standing desks, I noticed that any standing desk that is larger then 24″ X 48′ gets really expensive when you want a dual motor frame or a real wood desktop. I decided to take my newly found woodworking skills to the next level and order just the frame and built the desk top myself with lumber from my local Home Depot. Below is the video i created for the process and below that is the detailed process for building a desktop.

Build Process

Decide on your measurements and design goals

The maximum weight and size will be dependent on way the desk frame can support. I’m using the Fromann Electric Stand up Desk Frame Workstation Dual Motor Ergonomic Standing Lifting Columns Height Adjustable Base with Memory Controller I purchased off of Amazon. Here are the desk’s maximums

  • Weight: 276 lbs
  • Width: 35 inches
  • Length: 77 inches

Keep in mind unless you’re going to make the top detachable, most residential doorways are only 30″ wide so that is a good design limit.

Next is assessing what tools you have and/or willing to purchase. Most lumber purchased from home depot/lowes/big box stores has a factory rounded edges. If your goal is to make the desktop look like a single piece of wood then you’re going to need a planer. Hand planers are available but are a lot of work whereas power planers are available but are expensive and will cost more then total amount of desk by itself.

I went with the rustic/barn door style with batter boards on the sides. Even with the rounded extras as long as the boards are straight when you join them together with glue and/or pocket screws the dips will be minimal and have a minor impact to the flatness of the desk.

In this case my total measurements are 27″ W X 70″ L

Next you’ll have to decide what dimensional lumber you want to use. 2 X 4, 2 X 6, etc the a actual dimensions are less then the advertised size for instance 2 X 6 is really 1.5 X 5.5″ and. In your design plan account for lumber sizes and and account for it in your materials purchasing. In my case I used 5, 2 X 6 boards for the middle section and I was able to split 1 additional board for the 2 batter boards.

Cutting Your Lumber

On all your lumber, cut 1/4″ off the end of all of them. This will square up a side of the lumber to measure off of.

With your design in mind, if your design is using batter boards take the width of your lumber and multiple it by 2. Then take that number and minus it from the total length goal. In my cause, my goal was 70″ inches and I used 2X6 lumber. 2X6 is really 5.5 inches wide so 70″ – ( 2 X 5.5) = 59 inches. You can leave an little extra at the end of the boards that can be trimmed down later.

I cut my middle section boards at 60″ and then I trimmed a half inch off both ends at the after I joined the boards together.

Joining the Middle Section

Line up your boards alternating the grain patterns. Then flip them over so the boards over so the bottom is up. Then grab a measuring tape and a straight edge and start marking out your pocket holes. First label the boards so you can join them together in order after the fact. Start a couple inches in and then mark out pockets holes every 12″ or so. With the pocket holes alternate the direct of the screws/pockets for each one. For example, The first pocket hole is on board 1 going into board 2. Then the second pocket hole is in board 2 and go into board 1 and so.

In a 5 board set up, boards 1 and 5 are a mirror image of each other, boards 2 and 4 are identical, and board 3 looks like if you combined the pocket hole pattern of boards 1 and 5 on a single board.

To create the pocket holes I used the Kreg Pocket Hole jig. I marked a line across the entire board and used arrows to mark the direction of the screws. The extra long lines help align the boards and line up the pocket hole jig.

After the pocket holes are drilled, run a line of wood glue on one of the boards and use clamps to keep the boards in line will driving in the pocket hole screws. I used 2 1/4 inch kreg course thread pocket hole screws. Then keep going through the remaining boards.

In my case one of my boards was slightly bent and i didn’t catch it earlier. So I joined 2 boards together and then joined the other 3 boards together. After the glue dried on the 2 boards, I joined the 2 board section to the 3 board section.

Trim the Edges (if needed)

If you’re using batter boards at the end of the desk, you’ll need a flat edge on both sides to attach the batter boards too. I took my circular saw and trimmed a half inch off each side. Then measure the total width of the desk and cut your batter boards to length. Give yourself up to an extra 1/8th of inch on the batter boards to give yourself a little wiggle room when lining up the boards.

To attach the batter boards drill pocket holes on the ends of each board in the center section. The pocket hole should be in the center of the board and going into the batter board. Drilling your pocket holes in this fashion with be much stronger then if you drill the pocket holes in the batter boards with the screws going into the end grain of the middle section.

Once the pocket holes are drilled, join the batter boards to the middle section just like the middle section. Run a line of wood glue down the board and screw it into place.


Use an random orbital sander and sand the desktop with 40, 60, 120, 180, and 220 grit sand paper. In my case i tried to start at 60 grit but the 60 grit wasn’t removing the manufacturer’s stamps on the boards. I had to go down to 40 grit to get rid of them. I wiped the desktop with mineral spirts in between grit changes to get all the fine saw dust off the desktop.

When I was done sanding the top i flipped the desk over and did a quick pass with 60 grit just to remove splinter opportunities while doing cable management.

Distressing the Wood

This is where you can take some artistic license. If you want to make it look worn, weathered, or other. Use hammers, or other tools to add the wear you’d like. In my case i used sand paper to create wear look. Since i have to the desk for tech work I didn’t want to put dents into it. So mine looks worn but is completely flat.

Detailed Distressing
Detail shot of the distressing the desk

Staining and Clear Coat

Choose your stain and and clear coat and READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Both products will have a couple of preferred application methods, pick the method you’re most comfortable with and get the accessories you’ll need.

Stained Desktop
Stained Desktop

I used Varathane’s Aged barrel Wood Stain and applied 3 cost with foam brushes and wiped off the excess stain with clean rags. Then to protect it I used Varathane’s water based Polyurathane with a matte finish. I applied 3 coats and after the 3rd coat dried the desktop was ready to be installed.

Assemble the Desk Frame and Desk Top

Follow the desk frame’s instructions and assemble the frame. Because my garage is on the polar opposite side of my house from my office. I flipped the desktop over and marked out the frame on the bottom of the desktop so when i moved both parts to my office it was easier to line everything up when I moved everything.

I moved both pieces to my desk and attached the desktop to the frame and verified the dual motors worked before cable managing everything.

The End Result

Completed Desk

The Materials and Tools List

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