How to Build a Desk – 8 Easy Steps

How to build a desk? Do you need a new desk but don’t have the money to buy one? Or maybe you are just interested in carpentry and building your own desk. It is not that difficult to build a desk, and you can customize it according to your particular requirements.

How do you build a desk? Most DIY builders follow these eight steps when building a desk:

  1. Choose the Desk Location
  2. Choose the Desk Size
  3. Prepare the Tools and Materials
  4. Cut the Parts
  5. Sand the Parts
  6. Assemble to Form the Desk
  7. Stain or Paint the Desk
  8. Put the Finishing Touches

Note: Steps 3 and 4 are interchangeable. You can sand first and then assemble the desk, or assemble and then sand. I tend to prefer sanding the wood before assembling the desk.

Desks come in many styles and sizes. While they may be different from each other, the way they are built is practically the same.

Read on to learn how to make a desk all on your own.

Also, take a look at a saw that makes cutting wood a breeze – the SKILSAW SPT77WML-01 15 Amp Worm Drive Circular Saw:

Click here to see it on Amazon.

How to Build a Desk – 8 Easy Steps

If you want to build a desk, you have to first choose its size and style. There are different kinds of desks, and every one of them is built to fulfill a particular function. Once you have determined the type of desk you need, you can start building it. Below are the steps to building a desk.

Even if you don’t have much experience building furniture, you can make a simple, functional desk. Preparation, before you start building the desk, is the key to the success of this project. Below are the steps to follow to help you complete this project.

1. Choose the Desk Location

The first thing you need to do is to decide where you want to put the desk. Measure the available space from one end to the other. This measurement will define the correct size of the desk that will fit in.

Use a tape measure to measure the desk location. Write down all of these things on a piece of paper. You will need these figures in planning the size of your desk and in buying the materials required to build it. If the available space won’t accommodate a full-sized desk, a good option is to build a floating desk.

The wall of your workplace can be the length of your floating desk. This type of desk is easy to build because it is relatively small. Floating desks are often no bigger than 1.5 feet x 3 feet. You’ll just need one to two pieces of wood to build a floating desk.

2. Choose the Desk Size

The size of your desk should not just fit in the available space but also give you some elbow room for your usual movements. A practical tip: if the available space is around 5 square feet, the practical size of the desk is 8 square feet. This measurement can translate to a desk with a length of 4 feet and a width of 2 feet.

A desk this size will have enough working space on its top and will still leave plenty of room around it if it is inside a small space. Will you also use a multimedia station and a filing cabinet? Consider these things as well.

Remember that you also need to consider your chair since it will also occupy space while you are working on your desk. And don’t forget the height of the desk, which is generally around 29 to 30 inches. To make all your sizes easier to transfer to wood (cutting), round off your figures to the nearest ½ foot or one-half of 12 inches.

Lastly, make a drawing or sketch plan of your desired desk, including all the measurements you have made.

How to make a desk
How to Make a Desk – 8 Steps

3. Prepare the Tools and Materials

The tools that you can use to make the job easier include a hand saw, circular saw, jigsaw, c-clamps, hammer, hammer drill, screwdriver, pliers, and sandpaper. Wood, paint, stain, screws, and nails are some of the other materials that you will need. You will also need a cutting platform or board where you will cut the wood into the required pieces. 

A plan or sketch of the desk that you want to build will also be needed. This plan should indicate the sizes of the parts that would make the desk and how they should be assembled as the final desk.

Make a bill of materials according to your desk drawing. It should list all the materials you will need, including screws, nails, glues, etc. If you don’t have any idea about making a bill of materials for this kind of project, you can search the internet for some inventory examples. Buy all the necessary materials before starting the project.

4. Cut the Parts

Cut the wood into the parts indicated in your plan. You can use an ordinary hand saw to cut the wood into the required pieces.

The SKILSAW SPT77WML-01 15 Amp Worm Drive Circular Saw makes cutting wood a breeze:

Click here to see it on Amazon.

The magnesium construction of this circular saw makes it very light. It comes with a cut system that ensures quick and accurate depth cuts. With its 53-degree bevel, you can perform many types of cuts.

Mark the wood with your measurements using a pencil. Cut the wood according to the sizes indicated in your plan by using the hand saw or circular saw. To keep the wood piece in place while cutting, clamp it securely using the c-clamps. Safety should be your first concern while using power tools.

Basically, the parts of the table that you need to cut from wood are the top of the table and the four legs. You can also buy ready-made table legs produced by table manufacturers or at a home depot. Attaching these legs to your tabletop will make it look more professional.

If you want to build a fully functioning table, you also have to make at least one drawer. The drawer must have internal structural supports to be fully functional. Please note that making a desk drawer needs precise measurement, cutting, and setting, which may be beyond your skills as a DIY enthusiast. I would recommend that you ask the help of a cabinet maker to make a drawer that will fit inside the desk that you are building.

The drawer should have all the fixtures to make it fully functional. Of course, you can try building the drawer yourself. However, you will need to make a separate plan for the drawer and its parts. You also have to be precise in cutting and assembling these parts so that they will perfectly fit the structure underneath the top of your desk.

If you don’t want to cut wood, you can buy 2×4 or 2×6 wooden boards instead of the whole 4×8 feet boards. This method is the easiest way how to build a desk. You can also buy a sheet of 2×4 or 2×6 laminated plywood that is at least ¾-inch thick. Use this sheet as the top of your desk.  

build a desk

5. Sand the Parts

The freshly cut wood parts are still very rough. To make their surfaces smooth, they need sanding. You will need the right grade of sandpaper for this job, or you can use an orbital sander just like the Bosch Electric Orbital Sander, Polisher to make sanding easier and faster.

Click here to see this sander on Amazon.

This sander has two operating modes: random orbit and eccentric orbit. It can be used for fine finishing or aggressive stock removal. It has a 7.5 amp variable speed motor that makes it very flexible for any sanding job.

Sand the entire wood surface of your desk in preparation for staining or painting. Use the electric orbital sander I mentioned above to make your job easier and faster. It will also make the wooden surface look more professional if you will use a sander instead of sanding it manually.

6. Assemble to Form the Desk

When all the surfaces of the wood parts are already smooth, you can now assemble them as one complete desk. You will need to nail or screw them together according to the sketch or plan of the desk. Use the right sizes of nails or screws for each part of the wood that you will assemble. Don’t use big screws or nails for small wood parts.

The Bosch Ultra-Compact Hammer Drill/Driver Kit makes assembling the wood pieces much easier:

Click here to see it on Amazon.

It is easy to use because it only weighs 2.3 pounds. This drill is quite powerful, although it is only 7.3 inches long and 7.1 inches high. You can use it for tight situations, screw driving, and drilling. This drill also has 20 clutch settings for precise screw driving.

7. Stain or Paint the Desk

Once the desk is assembled and you are satisfied with how it looks, you can start to stain or paint it. If the wood that you have used has beautiful grain patterns, it is best to stain it. Use a stain color that will highlight the grains of the wood. However, you can also paint it using one or two different colors if you want.

Your desk will look more beautiful with its grains enhanced by the stain. However, after staining, you have to cover it with at least two coats of lacquer or varnish.

8. Put the Finishing Touches

You may want to put some artwork on your desk to make it distinct from others. You could put a simple art piece placed on the edges or corners of the desk. You could also put some metal accents on the legs. Do anything just as long as it will not offend the sensibilities of those who might also use the desk.

Please take note that you can choose to change the order of steps 3 and 4. The desk can be assembled before its wood parts are sanded. It depends on how you want to progress in this project or what you think is best and easier to do.

See the below video for other tips and a great demonstration on how to build a desk:

Conclusion – How to Make a Desk

So, to revisit our initial question: How to build a desk? Most DIY builders follow these eight general steps when building a desk:

  1. Choose the Desk Location
  2. Choose the Desk Size
  3. Prepare the Tools and Materials
  4. Cut the Parts
  5. Sand the Parts
  6. Assemble to Form the Desk
  7. Stain or Paint the Desk
  8. Put the Finishing Touches

It can be intimidating at first to build a desk by yourself. If you follow these six steps, you will be able to build the desk in no time. If you have absolutely no carpentry experience, don’t give up when you run into an issue or make a mistake.

I have made many desks over the years and have improved after each one. You, too, will be able to build your own desk by following this guide.