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DIY manual: Portable Standing Desk ($8)

male carpenter using digital tablet

A standing desk is “a desk conceived for writing or reading while standing up or while sitting on a high stool.” It’s one of those things, which you don’t know you need until you have used it. The benefits in health and productivity are massive and that’s why standing desks are standard in Silicon Valley. Most employers shy away from the associated extra costs, but as an entrepreneur, you owe to yourself to maximize productivity and health. It costs only $8 anyway.

Optimization

I like to optimize the areas of my life, where I spend the most time of my day. One of them is at work. I work all day every day. When I work, I want to have a comfortable environment so I can focus on the task at hand. That’s the reason why I am willing to pay a premium for a coworking membership, a standing desk and a top-notch laptop.    

Standing desk

The concept of standing desks is relatively new and not well-known in Europe. Europeans tend to be skeptical about new ideas and it often takes a considerable amount of time before US trends are adopted on the other side of the Atlantic. I am always on the lookout for good ideas though.

When I read an article about standing desks, I ordered one the same day at IKEA. I was never as excited about buying a table before. I bought the SKARSTA model, which costs $250 plus $60 for the standing support, money well spent. You can adjust the height, but I never change it and stand all the time. I can’t imagine what my life looked like without a standing desk. The human body is designed for hunting and not for sitting at a desk for hours on end.

Unfortunately, I can’t cite scientific studies about the benefits of using a standing desk, because the research isn’t conclusive yet. But the New York Times has published an interesting article on this topic. I can only point to improved posture and an increased energy level since I am using a standing desk as anecdotal evidence.

Portable standing desk

Now that I have drunk the Kool-Aid it’s hard for me to imagine working at a normal desk. It’s like using an old operating system. You can do it, but what’s the fucking point. It’s easy to set up a productive working environment when you have the luxury of a home office. That task becomes more challenging when you travel.

I am going to live in Medellín for four months and I can’t be bothered to buy a standing desk in Colombia for this short period. The solution is a portable standing desk, which I can take with me wherever I go. It’s somewhat of a niche market and therefore the offering of portable standing desks is limited and I found only two products which I seriously considered. One is made of wood and the other one is made of aluminum. Both of them are too big and heavy for my taste, but they could be the solution for frustrated employees, who want to upgrade their regular desk. I am looking for a simpler solution, which I can transport in my backpack.

When I realized that no good solution exists on the market, I decided to take matters into my own hands, Julian Power style. I went to the drawing board and came up with different concepts. I had five requirements as a starting point and went from there:

  1. Inexpensive production
  2. High stability
  3. Low weight
  4. Small size
  5. Eco-friendly  

The development of a portable standing desk became one of my side projects and I tinkered with different concepts and materials for a couple of months. A prolonged period of trial and error led to a eureka moment and the JP One was born.

Open design

I could have tried to monetize my invention, but I have been interested in the open design movement for years and therefore I decided to give my concept away for free. “Open design is the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information.” I believe that if you give value to the world, the universe will find a way to reward you in one form or another. On a related note, check out the HomeMadeModern Youtube channel and the accompanying book, if you are interested in building modern furniture.

Manual

The main decision you have to make is if you want to cut the wood yourself or let someone else do it, depending on your tools and skills. I chose to commission an online manufacturer, who cut the wood of my choice and sent it by mail. I bought two multiplex boards and I paid $8 apiece (including the cut). I would have done it myself, but I needed to order multiplex boards anyway.

Material

The only material you need is a board as a basis and four regular bottle tops. I prefer wood over plastic, but that’s just me. I have chosen a waterproof multiplex board, which consists of several wood layers glued together crosswise. It’s economical, light, stable and easy to cut. You can also use plastic or other materials.  

Size

The size depends on your laptop model and your preferences. My MacBook Air has a width of 12.8 inches and a depth of 8.94 inches. I used the exact same measurements for my portable standing desk, but you can also increase the size for additional work surface.  

Thickness

You have to weight up stability and portability regarding thickness. I settled for 0.24 inches, which ensures durability without compromising portability. The thickness also depends on the material.    

Screws and nuts

First I tried to use special all-purpose glue to attach the bottle tops to the board, but the glue wasn’t able to withstand high pressure. Therefore, I used screws and nuts, which worked just fine.    

Instructions

The production process is simple and consists of two steps.  

Step one: cutting of the wooden board

You need a solid saw to cut the wooden board, assuming you are doing it yourself. I prefer low tech solutions and therefore I recommend buying a Stanley hand saw for this task. Don’t forget to sandpaper the edges afterward.

Step two: attachment of the bottle tops

Finally, tighten a screw for all four bottle tops in the corners of the wooden board. Congratulations, you have built your own portable standing desk!

Conclusion

The JP One is strong, light and small, which makes it the perfect solution for traveling. But you can also use it in any run-of-the-mill-office. The low price point makes owning a standing desk accessible for everyone and it’s the perfect entry-level model for all office workers.

Spread the word and send this manual to your fellow cubicle monkeys. Now you know everything you need to know about building a portable standing desk. The rest is up to you,

 

 

 

Recommended tools

All-purpose glue
Sandpaper
Screws and nuts
Stanley hand saw