A farmhouse-style laptop desk

Last Updated on February 10, 2019 by Dave Farquhar

I needed a small laptop desk but wanted something that wouldn’t clash with my other furniture. So I built a farmhouse-style laptop desk and stained it oak. I used scrap wood, but if I’d had to buy the lumber, it would have cost less than $20.

You can build this farmhouse-style laptop desk in a few hours for less than $40.
You can build this farmhouse-style laptop desk in a few hours for less than $40.

Farmhouse style is trendy right now but it’s also very simple to build. It generally uses dimensional lumber, simple cuts, and few tools. You can cut the lumber yourself or have the store cut it when you buy it. You can use simple studs and furring strips, or, for more a more refined look, buy appearance boards. Whatever you get, check each piece for straightness and avoid boards with too many knots, holes, or splinters.

The desk is 24″ wide and 22″ deep.

Here’s my cut list:

(4) 24-inch 2×6 (for top)
(4) 23.5-inch 1×2 (for legs)
(2) 15-inch 1×2 (for sides)
(3) 21-inch 2×3 (for back and frame)
(2) 15-inch 2×3 (for frame)

Adjust the height of the legs as necessary. The height works for me to sit with my legs and arms at a right angle and type. That’s crucial for controlling wrist pain from typing. For a child, you may need to shorten it. For a taller adult, you may need to heighten it. I’m 5’9″, so I need a relatively short desk.

You’ll also need 4 ounces of stain and a quart of polyurethane. I used water-based polyurethane. I don’t like the stain and polyurethane combo; you get better results with two steps. You get a second chance if the stain doesn’t take, and can apply multiple coats of polyurethane for durability. Get a bottle of wood glue too. I like Titebond, but I’m not going to get into a religious war over glue.

I made this desk top from scrap 2x6 lumber left over from taking out a wall.
I made this desk top from scrap 2×6 lumber left over from taking out a wall.

Glue the top together first. It will be stronger and probably look a little bit better if you have pipe clamps to clamp it together while drying. Serious woodworkers always make their tabletops that way. But I’m not a serious woodworker and I don’t own pipe clamps. Mine still turned out OK without them, so don’t fret over it.

Assemble the frame while the top dries. You can nail, screw, or glue it together, or use a combination. Adapt it for the tools you have. I think it’s best to screw and glue them together for strength. When you screw and glue the pieces together, they become as strong as a single piece of lumber would be.

This frame of common 1x2 and 2x3 lumber is surprisingly strong.
This frame of common 1×2 and 2×3 lumber is surprisingly strong. Just make a rectangle of the 2x3s, put the legs into the corners, then glue and/or fasten them into place. Then put the supports near the bottom. I used scraps of 2×3 to help me position them.

Inevitably, you’ll have some gaps, especially if you use cheap boards. To fix gaps so you don’t end up with a wobbly desk, squirt some glue into the gap, then stick toothpicks down in them and snap off the ends.

Once it’s dry, stain it. Wipe off the excess, then let it dry according to the instructions on the can. Once it’s dry, apply a couple of coats of polyurethane, waiting about two hours between coats. Stain and a couple of coats of polyurethane make even cheap wood look nice. Here’s how to prevent or fix white spots on your polyurethane.

I attached the top using L-brackets and 5/8-inch screws.

Pottery Barn sells a farmhouse-style desk for $899. Theirs has more complex angles than mine, but mine costs $35 to make. Even if you splurge on materials like A-grade hardwood lumber, you can build it in a weekend and stay below $200.

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