Easy DIY Industrial Desk Tutorial- No Power Tools Needed
Our guest bedroom is tiny; and also serves as an office and a library (because we have an insane amount of books ya'll!). This is a lot of requirements for such a small area, so I am working on finding a way to maximize our 90 sq/ft guest room into a more functional space. Here's what I'm talking about:
I'd been keeping my eye out for a desk to use in the guest room but hadn't had any luck. I needed a piece that was pretty narrow, so that it wouldn't impose too much into the center of the room, and that had some kind of storage space. I always lean towards rustic, industrial style pieces and while I kept seeing gorgeous desks they were all either too large or waaaay to expensive...or both.
So when I spotted these two little metal shelves at Home Goods last week, I had an idea. I've seen tons of tutorials on people using file cabinets to make a desk base, so I figured that I could use anything as a base, as long as I had two of the same height pieces. I whipped out my tape measure (yes, I am the only person I know who carries a tape measure on my keychain!) and they were 29" height and 13" depth, perfect for my space.
At $49 each, they were still a little bit more than I wanted to spend, but at this point I figured the rest of the materials would be pretty inexpensive and I'd end up spending only around $125 total, which isn't too bad for a custom sized desk. **See the full materials list for this project at the end of the post**
*Tip: When looking for pieces to use for a desk base, in order to make this the easiest DIY possible, try and find something that has a thin top, so that you can just lay the wood across. As long as the two pieces are the same height (which will make it MUCH easier on you when you start constructing your piece) you could use anything. Since my pieces already had holes in the top because of the design, I didn't have to drill through anything, which was a welcome surprise!
Here's where the "no power tools" trick comes in. I'm sure most of you know this already, but for those who don't, they will cut wood for you at Home Depot, which saves lots of time and cleanup! So, I selected a 1" x 8" x 10' piece of pine (look for the straightest piece you can find) and had them cut it into (2) 52" pieces. Here's why I chose pine for my desk top: it's pretty inexpensive ($17 for the 10' piece), it's a soft wood so by using wood screws to attach it to the base, you don't have to drill anything, and if you pick the right piece and prepare it properly, it stains beautifully. Keep in mind that since it is a soft wood, it will be more prone to dings and scratches, but I don't mind my piece getting a little more character as time goes by.
When I got home, I turned the pieces on their side and used Titebond wood glue + clamps to join the two pieces of wood. I waited a few hours, then I added two "mending plates" across the back for a little bit more stability.
While I was waiting on my wood glue to fully set, I decided that I wanted to paint the metal bases black, since the walls of the room are gray and I'm not really a fan of the steel look they had, but you could totally skip this step if you're happy with the color of the bases you pick.
It would have been a lot easier, and much faster, to use a spray paint for metal on these pieces. However, being the cheapskate that I am, I knew I already had some graphite chalk paint on hand and didn't want to spend the extra $7 on spray paint. I did regret this a little bit later, because they were a pain in the you-know-what to paint, but turned out great in the end! It took 2 coats of paint and one coat of a clear polyacrylic to get the coverage and protection that I wanted.
I also bought these little metal corner plates to add a little something extra to the desktop. They are around $4 for a pack of 4 (you can find them in the hardware section of any home improvement store) and I painted them in the same black and the metal bases. As a personal preference, I used some vintage, black upholstery nails I already had on hand to attach them to the corners of the desktop, but you could just as easily use the wood screws that came with them.
After a few hours of drying time, I stained the desk top using General Finishes Gel Stain in Antique Walnut. If you haven't tried GF Gel Stain yet, do it! It's by far the easiest stain to work with and turns out beautifully with just one coat. I buy mine at our local Woodcraft, but you can also order it online via Amazon. It's a bit pricey, but for a project like this you'd only need to buy a 1/2 pint which is around $14.
At the end of day 1, I'd spend a couple of hours on the project (most of that time was due to painting the metal shelves by hand instead of spray painting them) and left my stained desktop to dry overnight.
The next day I added two coats of General Finishes clear, water-based topcoat to the shelves and desk top, with a light sanding in between coats. After that it was just putting everything together!
I placed the shelves upside down on the wood, measured and centered them (leaving about 2" of space on either side of the ends), and used wood screws to attach the base to the top. I also used washers because the screw heads were too small and I worried they may slip through the holes. We used 5 randomly place screws on each side and that was it!
That's it! Once bases are attached to the top, your new desk is ready! I couldn't be more happy with how it fit in the space and looks in the room.
I love that the guest room window looks out on to the back patio and having the desk there really maximizes what was otherwise an empty space of just curtains.
Looks expensive, right?!? Here's the full materials list for making your own DIY industrial desk:
- 29"height metal shelf bases, or any other bases you choose
- One 1"x8"x10' pine board, cut into (2) 52" pieces
- Wood glue and clamps
- Hammer, nails, and wood screws
- 4 metal corner braces
- 2 metal mending plates
- black chalk paint (or metal spray paint)
- Wood Stain (I used General Finishes Antique Walnut) and wiping clothes (or staining pads)
- Clear water-based top coat