Brooks (brooksmoses) wrote,

Building a very small desk.

I've been thinking about building a desk for the last few months. When I set up my workspace in this apartment last year, I ended up building an L-shaped arrangement out of my desk, a desk-sized table (actually, I think technically it's a desk too, but it looks more like a table), and some spare shelves piled on boxes. It turns out that this works really well, except for the fact that the part of it that's boards and boxes doesn't really look very good. And so I've been thinking of making a proper piece of furniture that takes their place, but has roughly the same shape and size.

The important characteristics of the pile of boxes are that it has a platform that's about 20" off the ground -- about level with my chair seat, though a little higher would be ok -- that's a bit over two feet deep and about three and a half feet wide. This is functionally divided into thirds the long way; on the back third is a row of books accessible from the back side, then a row of books that I can reach from my chair, and then a flat mostly-empty surface for temporarily piling things. And then there's another shelf, just a couple of inches above normal desk height, that goes above the two rows of books. Oh, and my computer fits underneath -- it's actually supporting one end of the platform with the books on it.

For the last couple of months, I've been trying to figure out how to design a piece of furniture that does the same thing but also makes better use of the space below the book-platform. I'm thinking that I want the entire back to be bookshelves, but that is a bit of a problem because there's not really room for more than one row of books under the platform as it is now, unless I raise it quite a lot, and then I think the upper shelf may be too high. And there are a few other similar things where making it into a real piece of furniture means that things won't fit quite the same way. So it's been a bit of a challenge to figure out, and it's also complicated enough that I've been having a bit of trouble visualizing what the various possibilities would look like, even with sketches.

Thus, I decided to build some models, and started on that today at mikz's Projects Night Afternoon. I'm building them out of some cardboard that the local art supply store calls "utility board" (it's about like a cheap mat-board, though not as pretty-colored), held together with plain old Elmer's white glue. It's been a long time since I've used this stuff, and I'd remembered it as being okay but not remarkable for holding construction paper together for grade school projects, but was a little dubious about whether or not it would be strong enough for heavier work, and also whether or not it would dry too slow to be annoying. Turns out that I needn't have worried; if squeezed tightly, it dries strong enough to rip the cardboard in a couple of minutes, and the built model is startlingly solid.

So, I finished the first one today. I'm not sure how much I like it; it would certainly work, but I'm not completely happy with some of the design compromises. Which is, I suppose, the point -- much better to try this with three dollars worth of cardstock and glue and an afternoon, rather than a hundred dollars worth of oak and dozens of hours building a real one!

A couple of pictures:

That's at 1:8 scale, by the way, so 1.5 inches on the model to one foot in reality. So it's a bit under four inches high, just over three inches wide, and six inches long. The computer goes behind the cabinet in the middle, and there's room for a ventilation system for it that takes air in from over the books on one side and vents it on the other side; with decent sound insulation, it should be nearly silent.

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