Standing Desk Finished

Ever since the first time I read Roy Underhill’s book “The Woodwright’s Apprentice” I’ve wanted to build a version of his standing desk. I always thought it would be a great piece to have in the shop for making drawings, laying an open book or magazine or setting my coffee. It would also give me a logical place to keep pencils, scissors and other small odds and ends that typically get lost at the bottom of boxes and cabinets.


So over the last couple of weeks I finally got around to building one. I modified Roy’s design slightly by adding a drawer to my desk. To do so I had to make the sides slightly higher and obviously add a bottom rail to the front under the drawer as well as a frame for the drawer to sit on. I also shortened the height about 3″ from the drawing in the book as I’m pretty short and the original 48″ height seemed just a little high for me to work at comfortably.


The piece is made of Eastern white pine, as with most of the pieces I make for the shop, because it’s cheap, readily available where I live, cheap, easy to work, and oh yeah, cheap. I also like the look of it as long as it’s not full of huge knots (a few pin knots are ok). The inside is currently just a big open space. I’ll add a simple gallery in the future, but for now it will serve as extra storage. I’ll also divide up the drawer in the future but that’s a project for another day.


I’m glad that I finally got around to making this piece. It is certainly a welcome addition to the shop and much better looking than the piece that used to occupy this space (ugly plywood junk cabinet). It’s unfinished right now as I have not decided whether to just oil and wax it or give it a couple coats of milk paint and oil. I think I’ll just leave it alone for now and let it get used to it’s new home for awhile. The finish can wait.



5 thoughts on “Standing Desk Finished

  1. That is a really nice little desk… very nicely done! I’ve often felt that a desk like that needs a drawer, because who wants to have to open the top all of the time (scattering your papers) to get at anything? What colour were you leaning towards? I initially went immediately to green, in my head, but now I’m imagining it in a sort of pompeii red…

    • Mike,
      I too think the drawer adds a lot. It’s not at all difficult to add and provides for extra storage and convenience. I’m glad I added it. I was thinking more along the lines of the pitch black milk paint from the Old Fashioned Milk Paint company, followed up with linseed oil & beexwax.

  2. Nice work. I made one several years ago of poplar and painted it Spanish Brown (red iron oxide) OIL Based Paint. I would avoid milk paint as it is not traditional.

    Another option is to bone (burnish) the pine and let it age naturally.


    • I considered oil based paint since it was more traditional to the period, though I’m not sure where I’d get the pigments. Would an art store like AC Moore have them? You just mix the dry pigments in boiled linseed, right?

      The secondary thought about the milk paint was more along the lines of being a traditional style finish even though it wasn’t traditional/common to the 18th and 19th centuries. There is however evidnece of it’s use at least as far back as the ancient Egyptians over 2000 years BC.

  3. That’s a great desk! Just read an article in JAMA about standing is healthier than sitting and think a standing desk would be a great project from a health perspective. How did you determine the height? I was thinking that the front edge should be elbow height to a maximum of 2″ below elbow height to allow for some hunching over. And the height of the top at the back shoulder height minus a hand’s breath minus the 2″ for hunching so that when I reach for the tea on top of the desk, my hand is straight out. Does that sound about right, or did you use different considerations?

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