In the market for a new eco friendly desk? Avoid overpriced store-bought versions by making one yourself. All it takes is some salvaged wood, basic tools and supplies, and a single weekend.
- Tape Measure
- Putty Knife
- Quick Square Tool
- Framing Square/Drywall T-Square
- Hammer and Crow Bar
- Squeeze Clamps (2)
- 60-Tooth and Plywood-Cutting Blades
- Orbital Sander and Range of Sandpaper
- Paint Brush
- Foam Brush or Rag
- Nitrile Gloves
- Drill/Driver and Bits
- Circular Saw
- Salvaged Wood
- 4×8 Sheet of 3/4” Pine Plywood
- 1×2 Scrap (about 1 ft. long)
- 2D or 3D Finishing Nails
- Wood Glue
- Wood Putty
- Black Latex Paint
- Legs (with fasteners)
- Miter Saw (optional)
When taking on this DIY task, be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety gear.
- Ear Protection
- Eye Protection
Cut wood platform. Start by deciding how big you’d like your desk to be. Most desks aren’t larger than 30 inches wide by 60 inches high, but you can go as small as 20×30. If you’d like a smaller desk, Home Centers sell pre-cut 24×48 inch plywood. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy a full 48×96 inch piece of plywood. Once you get your plywood, cut it three inches less than you need on all sides. This will ensure your salvaged wood top will extend beyond the platform. Mark your cut lines with a carpenter’s square or drywall T-square, then cut with a circular saw equipped with a plywood cutting blade.
Prep and paint. Sand with 80-grit paper using an orbital sander, then paint the edges and the sanded side of the plywood with a semigloss black latex paint.
Dismantle pallets. Pallets are built to be tough, so they can be tough to dismantle. Using a hammer and a prybar, lift each slat enough to work in a crowbar. Pry away the slats you’ll be using for the desk. Make sure to remove any nails or staples. If your pallet is particularly hard to dismantle, cut the pieces away from the frame with a circular saw to avoid damaging the wood.
Plan layout. Set the plywood on the sawhorses, painted side down. Lay the pieces along the width of the plywood to make sure you won’t have to rip a thin piece to finish the top.
Apply the salvage planks. Lay out your planks so the grain and color are in a pattern that you like. Avoid lining up the joints side by side. Keep them at least six inches apart. Finish the top by fastening the planks to the plywood underneath using a nailer or 2D finished nails.
Trim the ends square. Flip the desk over, and using the edge of your painted plywood as a guide, trim the edges with a circular saw so that the planks are flush with the plywood. Use wood putty to fill the nail holes. Let dry, and sand until smooth.
Sand. Using an orbital sander, thoroughly sand your desktop. If your wood is very rough, you’ll need to start with a coarse sandpaper, move to medium, and then finish with fine. As you work, be sure to sand the edges of your desk as well.
Apply stain and final finish. Stain your desktop with the color of your choice. Apply with a rag, wait five minutes, and wipe clean, making sure to wipe in the direction of the wood grain. When your staining is complete, apply a water-based polyurethane finish with a foam brush. Apply three more coats, letting each dry completely, then sand lightly with fine sand paper. You may also want to coat the edges of the plywood as well.
Attach plywood to desk base and legs. Place the top of your desk upside down on your sawhorses. Position the legs so they’re about six inches in from both sides. Mark the locations of the holes on your legs. Drill pilot holes equal to the size of the shaft, not the threads of your screws that came with your desk legs, and fasten with a drill or driver.
Your desk is done. Step back and admire your new eco friendly build.