Desk of Ultimate Arting - Behind the scene
This whole damn thing started about 2015 or 2016 as "wishful thinking". But, the spark that set the fire was when I became a full time freelancer/contractor. It's been a great long while since I owned a desk of my own and felt it was about damn time I made it a good one!
Now, if your ears start burning when I talk about over complicating things, you're in good company. Because I started with two goals, versatile and durable. Simple, right? Yup! And that's exactly why I feature creeped the heck out of this...
- Frosted glass top (this was like a must.)
- Aluminum extrusion frame (80/20 15 series t-slot)
- tilting function like a draftsman desk
- standing height
- dedicated keyboard and mouse tray (had to be vented to prevent dust build up)
- area for monitor stand separate from the tilt function
- built-in PC cabinet and cord management
- USB hub near front
- RGB LED lighting to illuminate the glass top
- pencil tray
- tons of shallow drawers to handle things like pencils, pens, paper, small electronics, etc.
- animation disc with interchangable disc such as a cintiq mount
- and a ton more which I'm forgetting.
Initially, I sketched out a few different layouts. But, the true design process got kicked off when the glass top that I ordered arrived. The rest of the project centered around this pre-made surface which was the top to a glass dining table, providing a huge surface to work with.
Blender 3D was used for the modeling. There are easier softwares to use, but I also wanted to get more familiar with the power of Blender.
In Blender, I used the system unit to measure as inches. Which makes the model insanely large in the Blenderverse! (I actually had a hard time trying to get it to render a beauty shot for that reason. Yeah there's work arounds, but I just wanted to get this blog done, dangit!)
For the frame, I knew I wanted to use 80/20 aluminum extrusion (I may do an article focusing on this stuff at a later time). Luckily, the company had 3d files available for each product, which was easy to scale the length to the size I needed. Not only that, but each of the different types of connectors has a 3d download. So you can basically make a shopping list of parts in the outliner.
I really like 80/20 and have used it in a couple projects since (maybe more on that later). The stuff is sturdy, versatile, precise. It is aluminum which loses the magnetic property of a ferrous metal, but it's so easy to bolt a steel plate in the t-slot. It is expensive, but I only really use it for projects that really need that durability.
When I started, all designs were at full, ergonomic standing height to me and were going to be built rigid to that. I figure at my age, the only height changes I have to do is shrinking years down the line, so carving off height would be better than trying to add it. I used a rigid standing desk for over a year at the web design firm and loved it. When I needed to sit and focus or rest those legs in the 20/8/3 rotation, I simply had a bar stool at the appropriate height to keep my elbows at the same height. However, somewhere during the process, I stumbled onto motorized lift legs that were sold without desktops. So I ordered a set of those and adjusted the designs.
After several iterations, I finally had a design which I felt could work. I loaded up the cart and ordered everything. When it all arrived, I helped the UPS guy unload it and began work.
A side note, I wanted to use the anodized black 80/20. The price wasn't that bad, but the lead time on those was insane. I figured I could spray paint or have it anodized at another time so went forward to with the project.
The first step was to frost the back of the glass. I don't like clear glass! While I'm working, I don't want to see all those hanging cords. Not to mention my spindly legs and gross feet. Challenge: the glass was too large to chemically etch, the spraycan frost flakes off, there is adhesive film but I couldn't find it on a consumer level. Hiring someone to do it wouldn't be too bad, but I've spent enough already. I've had good luck with static cling film for windows, so thought I'd give it a chance. Installation was less than ideal when due to a shedding dog and carpet that only releases dog fur when it's inconvenient. That said, it got installed.
Aluminum rail for the frame got put together next which was incredibly straight forward. But, at this point, the glass and aluminum was making this whole thing heavy AF!
Next up was the legs, which did require some modification. I messed up a measurement somewhere and the minimum distance the legs was just shy of the brackets... IF... that is I follow the directions. With slight modifications to the mounting bracket and the crossbeam between the legs, I was in business!
Took some planning to flip this sucker right side up, but I did it!
The keyboard tray was hacked together from a recycled wire shelving, scrap wood, and some random hardware I had on hand. The tray drawers slides and monitor stands were found online. and called this first stage done for the time being.
My patchwork desk was finally done and usable for the time being.
I've been at this desk almost daily for over a year and it has been working great. I've moved it around the room several times in a fit of rearranging (as I do...) and it's held up. I've made some improvements like added decorative rail caps. And added some additional attachments like a cintiq stand and an over head microphone mount.
The design process thinned some of the wishlist in order to get the project done. But, I have a growing list of improvements as I use it.
- Add a dotted, one-inch square grid in between the frosted film and the glass top
- Upgrade the glass frosting to an adhesive backing (free of bubbles and dog hair)
- Prevent the keyboard and mouse pad from sliding as the tray gets pulled in and out
- upgrade the motorized legs to support more weight
- upgrade keyboard tray with built-in cable holder
- Electronic linear accuators to assist tilt lift
- mount the leg lift controllers
- keyboard tray wrist wrests
- RGB LED under the frosted glass
- add black anodizing or paint
- and a handful other improvements!
So, we'll see what the future brings.