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Stand-up Desk

like those used by Winston Churchill and Thomas Jefferson

©2007-2012 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas, USA

Some people believe that it is less stressful to stand at a desk while you work than to sit all day. Some would argue that at least part of each day should be spent standing. We built the oak desk for a customer who had used a stand up desk in the past, and wanted to return to one. Another was for a lawyer, who apparently wanted to practice his case presentations, standing up. Another for a rabbi. Another for a banker, to use in his home.

Basic Standup Desk - Natural Cherry

This stand-up desk is 3 feet wide, 30 inches deep, 39 inches high at the front, sloping to 43 inches high at the back. There are small flat areas at the front and back of the desktop, with most of the surface between front and back at about an 11 degree slope - it rises about 4 inches in the 20 inch sloping depth. The customer chose to have the edges overhang each side of the desk by about 4 inches, making the base about 28 inches wide.

Two drawers (with dovetail joints, of course), side by side, were selected. The drawers slide on wooden tracks. The front of the drawer extends below the support, and provides an easy "pull" without a separate handle. The footrest on this desk is about 10 inches above the floor.

Standup Desk - stained oak


This stand-up desk is 4 feet wide, 30 inches deep, 43 inches high at the front, sloping to 47 inches high at the back. The exact dimensions should be determined by the person who will be the primary user... as a starting point consider a desk height slightly below the height of your elbow above the floor when standing. There are small flat areas at the front and back of the desktop and a lip could be added to keep things from sliding off. The primary surface is at about an 11 degree slope - it rises about 4 inches in the 20 inch depth.

Just looking at it, we couldn't resist adding the historic style candle and a big ledger book. Of course we don't have a big ledger book in the house, so we used the biggest book we could find. The several books stacked on the flat section at the back are normal size books. Several people have asked if the top lifts up for storage... not in this case - there are two drawers under the top, that open from the front.

The area under the desk could have had a couple book shelves, or even a closed cabinet. This customer preferred it open, with a foot rest in the front about a foot above the floor. Be sure to measure the height for your footrest, if you want one, by stacking books or other items until you find the preferred height. Note the two pull-out drawers (with dovetail joints, of course).


Our customer requested a drop leaf at the back, so that the desk could be pulled forward and the leaf raised to provide an extra 8 inches or so of work area. A "rule" joint was used to provide stability to the connection. A couple pieces swing out under the leaf to provide support (connected so that moving either moves both).

On a more serious note, this desk will likely be used with a laptop computer and pad, such as these, not a ledger book and candlestick. There was no problem with the desktop contents sliding on the 11 degree surface, and that slope was excellent for the keyboard.

The wood is red oak, stained brown under the clear high-tech acrylic lacquer finish. The drawer sides are maple, with plywood bottoms, and hidden metal full extension drawer slides on the bottom.


A stand up desk is something that can and should be highly customized. We would be glad to help you design a desk tailored to your needs and sizes, out of various types of wood, and with whatever features you would like!

Typical costs

The basic desk in oak, about this size, with an open shelf, clear finish $1,150
Most furniture wood other than oak - add $0 to $150
Add the two drawers instead of the shelf, add $200 with wood or simple metal slides
Add $50 per drawer for hidden soft-close drawer slides
Add the drop leaf at the back, add $200
Stain or dye in addition to a clear finish, add $150
Total cost of the desks as shown, Cherry $1,500, Oak $1,800

Stand-up Desk on wheels

A customer wanted a stand-up desk that could be moved between the rooms of his home... in his office, living room, or wherever.

The wood was natural walnut. The casters were especially ordered from Shepherd, with rubber tires and locking wheels (those high quality casters cost about $100).

The width of the top is 30 inches (the base is 24 inches wide), and about 27 inches from front to back. The Inside of the top section is available for storage or for wiring for the printer, laptop computer, or perhaps for candle storage. The shelf about 8 inches below the top has a slight edge so the printer will not slide off when the desk is being moved. The brace at the front is a foot rest - the height of the mortise (hole) where it is mounted is just above the caster pin. The side and back braces at the bottom were probably not necessary, but provide balance to the appearance.

He wanted the surface to be level, sloped at the usual 11 degrees, or a slope half way between. When partially open (to provide various slopes), a separate set of sides was attached to the inside of the lid, to hide the contents. A custom turned pin with metal shaft was provided to hold the top in the various positions.

Total cost for a desk like this, including casters, $2,050

Custom Stand-up Desk

As a customer was planning a very "ordinary" standup desk, I was given a picture of his dream... a desk with lots of drawers, all solid hardwood, with some exotic veneer, well.... this is custom furniture - your dream can become reality - just look!


This stand-up desk is 30 inches wide, 29 inches deep, 44 inches high at the front, sloping to 48 inches high at the back (the customer is tall). Note that there is only a small overhang at the sides, especially compared to the desks above. The primary wood is sipo, a mahogany-like wood, with a clear finish. Over time it will darken slightly, to become a rich reddish brown. That is not a missing drawer at the bottom - the footrest is about 7 inches above the floor, with 5 inches open for his foot.

The back of the desk had to be as attractive as the front and sides - almost like a lectern. The solid-wood requirement led to floating raised panels on the sides and back, but the customer wanted six panels rather than two or four. Okay, this is custom - but I think he was right (to me it looks great). The top floating panels on each side had to be customized (a trapezoid) to fit under the sloping desktop.


The desktop was chosen to have a special feature on the sloping work surface... a Bubinga burl. Of course burls are relatively small, so this surface was built from four consecutive sheets in a "four way bookmatch." And since burls have flaws, there were holes that had to be patched. I would have preferred to put the veneer on a plywood or other substrate, not subject to wood movement, but the customer was anxious to have solid hardwood, so a second veneer had to be applied to the invisible underside of the desk to "balance" the wood and minimize warping as the hardwood moves.

The special challenge was to maximize the drawer space - we finally agreed on six drawers, two at 3 inches height, two at 5 inches height, and two at 7 inches height. The drawers have grooves in the side, and ride on wooden rails, so no space is lost between the drawers. Plywood is such an ideal material for drawer bottoms that the customer agreed to this one use of plywood in the whole desk. The dovetails are configured so that the broad dovetail pins provide the "stop" against the end of the rail when the drawer is closed.


The next challenge was choosing handles that would set off the features of the rest of the desk. Finally we chose to make custom wooden handles, with more bubinga veneer on the face of the handles. And for even more drama, some small beading above and below the handles, an idea we got from an antique desk.

The customer must have been happy. We were subsequently asked to build this end table, between a couple "visitor" chairs in his office, using similar wood, bubinga inlays, and beading.

Total cost for a desk like this, with all the features, $2,800

Be sure to see our other desks

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We primarily serve Austin and the Central Texas area, but travel to the DFW area periodically and are glad to serve the Garland, Plano, Dallas, and other North Texas areas, and are willing to ship anywhere.