I want to build myself a custom desk and maybe a workbench to work on people's computers. I'm thinking of maybe even making this into a very large desk so it's both, then I could have a KVM to switch monitors.
I have a few ideas how I would build it, but I want it to be very organized as far as wires go. I'm thinking, it would have a compartment for my PC with a front door and furnace filter that could fit in, I would build this based on a standard filter size I can find at the hardware store so it's easy to replace filters. Probably use the smallest size. This compartment would be air tight other then the filter and would link to a smaller set of compartments throughout the entire desk, where I could put the UPS and other equipment. All power distribution would be done at that point. There would be some electrical outlets at various locations on the desk that link to that compartment, so there would be only 2 plugs in the UPS, the surge and the power backup. These would then connect to the proper outlets throughout the desk making cable management a brease.
The end of this compartment would have another hole, with possibly a blower. This would suck air through the filter, then through the PC to cool it, and out, and keep everything dust free. This would be raised from the ground making it easy to vacuum, and give full access to wall outlets, and just the wall itself in case I drop something, or whatever. The goal is to make it the least cluttered and cramped as possible, so there is no place for dust bunnies and crap to get caught. I also want this to be rather solid, and not flimsy. Chances are I would build it in several parts then do the final assembly in the office. I expect this to be huge. I would have lot of closed compartments to store stuff as well. The surface would be a simple flat table with outlets on it, for the workbench portion. Most likely some Ethernet jacks too.
I'm familiar with the electrical side of things, just not very familiar with the carpentry side of things. What do you think is the best approach to building something like this? Should I use 2x2 to make a frame, then screw MDF to it? Should I use just MDF and use L brackets, or maybe plywood?
If I use MDF, how do I surface it like store bought desks? I'm guessing it's a type of cladding that comes in sheets and I cut it to size and iron on?
Maybe a tutorial would be nice. I'm not even sure what type of tools I'd need, I'm guessing a circular saw and straight edge for all my straight cuts, maybe a router to make grooves and holes for door hardware etc. This will be a fun learning project I think. Not sure where I'll get the money for this, but that's another story, I at least want to get a general idea where to start.
Have you seen the desks with the slide out metal holders for the computer tower? That's what I would want if I got a new desk, it would make it much easier to access from behind, and the computer probably wouldn't get as hot. I think part of the reason my video card has fried three times is because of the heat build up I get with my computer tower in the enclosed wood section.
As for the table top, a piece of oak plywood would probably be the easiest way to go. Then you can run some trim through a router and use it to cover the edges if you want.
Most of your store-bought desks that use MDF or particleboard just have a laminate glued to their surface to make a nicer finish. This is something you could easily do. You basically just contact adhesive to stick it on.
To trim it, a flush cutting router bit will do the trick. They actually make small routers designed for this, called "laminate trimmers". All the major tool brands make one (dewalt, makita, porter-cable, bosch, etc). A regular router will be heavier duty than needed, but will work. A router is also a good tool to trim edges access panels or what not.
For cutting holes, I'd recommend a Forstner bit. They make nice, neat, round holes and will drill a hole with a flat bottom if you don't want to drill all the way through.
I like your idea of 2x2 framing and MDF over the top. That will give a stronger build than using the MDF as the parent material for the structure. If it cost is reasonable, you may want to look at high-grade hardwood 2x2s, even if it won't be that visible. The superior strength and stiffness of better wood is worthwhile more often than one might initially think.
You can also build the basic structure out of standard metal stock-- angle iron, or aluminum "L" extrusions. Aluminum with rivets makes a tight fit and won't ever rust. Your basic structure would be more involved, though.
As often as you can, triangulate and use "X" brace forms and it will be plenty strong.
If *I* were building this, I'd forget the MDF and go with a solid plywood in paint or stain grade as you see fit. There now plywood panels with an MDF core which might be a good fit for you. Piano hinges will help keep any swinging parts tight and strong.
If you need more strength and toughness, laying a couple skins of fiberglass over top is an easy way to really improve the toughness of the surface.
Just a couple things to think about..
Actually I was thinking plywood too, as I could varnish it and I could probably make it look half decent. Could maybe even just paint it. It's probably more expensive, but it's not like I'd need all that many sheets, so it's not really a big issue.
I've been looking at various woodworking tutorials and it looks like a router is a pretty nice tool to have, if, a must have. Might be my next toy.
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