Design Review/Prototype: Standing desk


This is the description and follow-up for how I made my standing desk prototype, and some discussion of the what the actual project will be like.

Original Inspirations:

The Veridesk model [1]

This is one of the most popular standing desks, judging my the commercials for it on TV. But it can be very expensive: two hundred dollars or more.

Plumbing pipe desk. Industrial chic, simple [2]
This desk is nice because of the clean, industrial chic style. However, it is only adjustable with a lot of effort, which makes it more of a permanent either standing or sitting desk.

The non-mechanical cut-out standing desk [3]
I find this design attractive because it is simple. No moving parts, simple to manufacture. But this requires a) an original desk and b) enough space on the desk to put the ‘standing’ structure.

The scissor-jack desk [4]
Lastly, this desk solves the problems a) and b) and is easy to adjust, but seems much too heavy for an office space.

Ideation/initial design

Starting with these initial ideas floating around in my head, I started to draw my design. for various reasons, the designs ran into road blocks, as I will explain here.

First steps, thinking about engineering (too much)

This design was too expensive, and probably too heavy for what it needs to do, and what I want it to look like. It’s also difficult to get all those gears to line up right.

Realizing over-engineering still

A little simpler, with only one rack and pinion, but still ugly-ish, not fragile enough.

Realizing higher costs…how to get rid of gears?

It’s too complex in these previous drawings. The purpose of this idea was to explore increasing delicacy and simplification of mechanisms and cost

Maybe I should make it a desk-top

Making the desk as a desk-top desk would make it smaller, and therefore cheaper. But the biggest problem with this is that there is really limited space below the table top to put mechanisms.

Ah Ha! threaded rod is more elegant

That’s true, that the threaded rod is more elegant, and it is more versatile. In this design, the desk top spins to make the table go up and down. Not ideal if you’ve got a cup of flaming coffee on it.

More focused internet inspirations

This section is about focusing more on individual pieces from my chosen design:

Ah Ha! Further simplification of threaded rod idea.

This is the final chosen idea from the ideation steps. A heavy, yet hollow base has a plastic, thick rod through it and a bushing. The table top is attached to the rod. The desk simply slides up and down, and a brake in the form of holes through the rod ,with a peg in it (This will make more sense with the prototype, later)

One idea I had for the base, to make it heavy, yet simple was to make it from concrete, like so:

Cement table base idea [5]
Smooth, industrial yet simple. I have to think more about what it takes to make concrete look like an indoor instead of outdoor effect.

The lightest of table tops[6]
For the table top, it would be nice if it looked heavy, but was not. This kind of table top is hollow on the inside, to make it light. Maybe I can do something like that.

The prototype itself:

The Final Prototype. Showing both positions

As you can see, when the desk is in the “siting” position, the middle stem is mostly all the way inside the base. Then the user would pull the desk up, and insert the peg to keep it there. Multiple holes in the stem allow for different heights.

How It’s made:

  1. The base.

Cover the flowerpot in podge-modge glue, then use some sand from the backyard to sprinkle on the glue. Let it dry, and then put some grey spay paint on it, and let that dry.

The standing desk base


2. Cutting the wood pieces

I used balsa wood for the table top, and the piece that connects the base and the stem. I used a fine-toothed saw, a drill bit, and a sandpaper to make it work. I used the drill hit to cut a too-small hole for the stem, by hand, then sandpaper on a pencil to make it just large enough to accommodate the stem. Lastly, I cut out the circle from the wood, after having traced the flowerpot bottom circle onto it.

A tiny-toothed saw and balsa wood
makeshift sanding device, with sand paper taped to a pencil


3. Making the stem

Then I used a piece of polystyrene tubing (the kind used for model building, from McGuckins) and drilled holes in it for the brake peg, and cut it a decent length.

Polystyrene tubes for modeling
cutting holes for the stem


4. Let it dry, and put it all together with superglue

All the pieces are assembled., and wood stained


Artistic and functional goals


  • The prototype gets the point across
  • Base still not heavy enough
  • Stem does not slide very smoothly


  • I like the cement look of the base
  • The holes in the stem aren’t straight, might need machining on the real thing
  • The ratios are not entirely accurate

What’s Next

  • Time to upscale!
  • Need to think more carefully about large-scale aesthetics
  • Need to think more about fasteners not present in prototype

Thank you for taking the time to look at my prototype!

Presentation video


concrete, industrial chic, simple, standing desk
Previous Post
Top 5 Constraints: Trebuchet Design
Next Post
Design Review: Infinity Mirror Prototype

10 Comments. Leave new

  • Levi Cortright
    May 10, 2017 9:40 pm

    Great job! I really like that you made something that you can use in your everyday life, I wish that I had done that. As someone who has done construction work, I was able to immediately recognize how you are going to make the base.

  • Errol Romero
    May 1, 2017 3:43 pm

    You planned out your project really well. It looks like you have worked through the things that you want and don’t want to be a part of your design. Your prototype looks well-made so I can only imagine what the actual final product will look like.

  • Your reasoning in your design process really shows in your final design. I think the pin system is good, however it does limit the amount of weight. Have you thought about adding a spring? This would help the user when lifting and also alleviate stress on the pin if the table has significant weight. As for the base, perhaps consider using concrete to encase a lighter object so you can achieve not only the dimensions you want, but also the weight. This is a great project, I look forward to seeing the finished product.

  • Sara Palandeng
    March 19, 2017 11:08 pm

    Really awesome to see your idea develop from when you first mentioned it in our team discussion. I really like the aesthetic that you’ve decided to pursue and I think combining the different textures of the concrete and the wood makes it interesting but also modern and industrial which can sometimes be contradictory. Anyways, great presentation and I’m excited to see the end product!

  • Katherine Yarnell
    March 19, 2017 10:01 pm

    This is a really cool project! Sit/stand desks are really nice to have but you are right, they are really expensive. It will be really cool to see your more economical version. The prototype is really well done. It is easy to see that you put a lot of thought in it.

  • Dean Alibrandi
    March 15, 2017 12:35 pm

    Very detailed prototype! I think an adjustable desk is a fantastic idea especially combined with the aesthetic you are giving it. I would be careful with how large your concrete base is. A full bucket of concrete can be heavier than expected and may be a huge headache to move around. Maybe consider using a large stump or log that has been squared off.

  • Marcus Gurule
    March 15, 2017 12:25 pm

    I like that you went through the process of sketching many possible designs and explained why you finally landed on the design you are going to pursue. I have always wanted to find a cheap and stylistic standing desk of my own and I think this is a great solution to the problem. I am excited to see the final product.

  • Blake Arellano
    March 15, 2017 12:22 pm

    I think the industrial chic aesthetic can fit really nicely with this design. With the proper wood and metal the aesthetic can be presented really well. Good work

  • Olivia Watkins
    March 15, 2017 12:13 pm

    Really well thought out presentation ! Great job! I think the project is a great one and you seem to really have a handle on the mechanics of it all .

  • Faisal Al Balushi
    March 15, 2017 12:10 pm

    Amazing work, really shows how detailed and thoughtful the idea is. I like how you got your inspiration and reasoning. The design process and the steps for making the prototype are thoroughly presented. Looking forward to seeing the final product. Good job!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.