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Extreme Programming Pair Desk 1 Rotating Pair Desk 1
Copyright 2004

Rotating Pair Programming Desk

Our ability to develop quality software is now running far behind the capabilities of our computer hardware. One approach to improving software development is called Extreme Programming. It features programming by teams of two people at one work station. The new procedures greatly increase the quality of the software produced, so the pair programming teams have greater productivity than the two people working independently.

One thing missing from this movement is computer furniture specifically designed to support two people working together. The Rotating Pair Programming Desk is one solution to this problem.

The Rotating Pair Programming Desk rotates through 40 degrees on a Lazy Susan bearing (see photograph above). The two programmers stay seated and easily push the whole work station side to side. This desk has the following advantages:

This desk's weaknesses are:

This desk can be build by anyone with moderate woodworking experience and access to a modest woodworking shop. It uses materials available at your local Home Depot which cost about $250.00.

Rotating Pair Desk 1, top view 1
Rockler order link to first page

Getting Ready to Build

  1. Ordering the Sketches

    The design has six detailed sketches. Here is where to get all the ordering information.

  2. Desk Construction

    You can make this desk by:

    1. Downloading and printing this text.
    2. Ordering the Sketches.
    3. Studying the information and locating materials.
    4. Determining if the desk suits your equipment and needs.
    5. Purchasing materials from local home store
    6. Cutting wood and plywood pieces.
    7. Building base
    8. Building the desktop.
    9. Fitting the sections together.
    10. Finishing all pieces.
    11. Assembling the entire desk.
    12. Installing the computer equipment.
  3. Discussion of Sketches

    After you order the sketches, these notes will help you understand them.

    1. Rotating Pair Programming Desk

      This sketch shows the front view. The desk sits on a round pedestal base. The keyboard is at a low non-stress level. The monitor and computer sit on custom bridges to set their height.

    2. Rotating Pair Programming Desk, Side View, Sketch #2

      This sketch shows the side view of the desk. The base is a circular column mounted on plywood pieces. The desk top includes a space for books and a box of rocks as a counter weight.

    3. Rotating Pair Programming Desk, Top View, Sketch #3

      The sketch shows the top view. The two chairs and the rotated top position are shown in light lines. The floor space requirements of the desk are given.

    4. Rotating Pair Programming Desk, Stick Pieces, Sketch #4

      This sketch shows the sizes of the small pieces needed to make the desk. Most are cut from the same sheet of plywood as the desk top. The layout of these parts on the writing surface top is also shown. The corner blocks and stop blocks are cut from scrap wood. The strip of molding may be cut from scrap hardwood or can be store bought.

    5. Rotating Pair Programming Desk, Plywood Layout 1, Sketch #5

      This sketch shows how to cut the desk top from a sheet of 3/4 inch hardwood plywood. The first cut may be made at the store to make the plywood easier to get home.

    6. Rotating Pair Programming Desk, Plywood Layout 12 Sketch #5

      This sketch shows how to cut the 1/2 inch fir plywood for the base. Again the first cut may be made at the sore to make the plywood easier to get home.

    Rockler order link to first page
  4. Materials

    The Rotating Pair desk is made from low cost materials.

    1. Wood
      • 1 sheet - 3/4 AC hardwood Plywood --- $56.00
      • 1 sheet - 1/2 AC Fir Plywood -------- $34.00
      • 2 bdft - Scrap wood ------------------ $0.00

      ------- Wood Subtotal: $90.00

    2. Hardware:
      • 1 box - Screws, #8 x 1.25" flat head --------- $4.00
      • 32 - Screws, #8 x .75" pan head -------------- $2.00
      • 32 - #8 flat washers ------------------------- $1.00
      • 12" dia Lazy Susan bearing ----------------- $18.00
      • 2 - 1/2" screw eyes -------------------------- $2.00
      • 8 - Felt feet -------------------------------- $3.00
      • 2 - Magnetic kitchen cabinet door latches ---- $4.00
      • 2 - Chair braces ----------------------------- &2.00
      • 48" - 12" ID dia. Concrete form tube --------- $8.00
      • 2 - 40 lb sacks of gravel -------------------- $6.00
      • 1 qt - Glue ---------------------------------- $6.00

      ------- Hardware Subtotal: $64.00

    3. Finish:
      • Shellac, non-yellow ------------ 1 quart ----- $8.00
      • Shellac thinner ---------------- 1 quart ----- $5.00
      • Oil based polyurethane --------- 1 quart ----- $12.00
      • Oil based paint, Black --------- 1 quart ----- $7.00
      • Oil based paint, Red ----------- 1 pint ------ $4.00

      ----- Finish Subtotal: $33.00

    4. Omissions and Contingencies (~12%)( Tax, sand paper, etc.) $37.00
    5. Estimate Total Cost $225.00

      This is only an estimate (made in the winter of 2004). The price may vary in your area. The cost may be kept down by using scrap wood for the blocks or by using fir plywood for the desk top.

    6. Tools

      Be sure to use proper safety equipment and procedures. Carefully follow all instructions that come with your power tools.

      This desk is a medium level woodworking project and is best done with access to a small woodshop. It requires a few common tools including:

      1. Jig saw
      2. A table or radial arm saw
      3. Hole saw of about 2 inch diameter
      4. Screw mate drill bit
      Rockler order link to first page

    Fabrication Notes

    These notes are is not intended to be a detailed step-by-step construction guide but rather a number of points to consider. It is your desk and you can build it to suit your needs and likes.

    1. Options

      Look over the desk drawing and decide what you are going to do:

      1. Heights

        The heights of the keyboard can be set during construction only. The height of the monitor can be set by the height of a small easy to build bridge. You can run our exercise Air Typing to work out the desk top height that is best for you.

    2. Building the Base

      The base is two pieces of 1/2 inch fir plywood that sit directly on the floor (this assumes the floor is flat) with a round column pedestal to support the desk.

      Cut two pieces of the cardboard cement form tube to the right height with a jig saw. A straight line can be made on the tube by wrapping a large piece of paper with at least one straight edge around the tube and insuring that the paper edge meets and the paper is laying flat all around the tube. Cut the worst looking piece of tubing down it length twice to remove a strip 3/8 inch wide.

      Check fit the cut tube section inside the better tube section. The slot should be just wide enough that the inside tube section does not over lap with itself. Glue the inside section in place with lots of wood glue.

      When the glue is dry, apply two coats of thinned shellac to the tube. Shellac hardens the cardboard and acts as a primer. You can sand the ends of the tube after the shellac is completely dry.

      Cut the two piece of plywood for the base. Mark the center with a small hole.

      Cut seven circles of plywood to fit inside the double tube. Cut one plywood circle 1 inch larger in diameter to serve as the top piece. Drill a small hole in the center of each piece so you can use a finishing nail to align them. Glue these into two groups of four with the large circle at the top of one stack. Rasp and sand the edges to fit into the tube.

      Fit the Lazy Susan bearing to the top stack of circles. Drill a hole to allow access to the screws to attach the Lazy Susan to the bottom of the desk top.

      Assemble the base with glue and screws. Do not glue the top set of disks to the tube. Make a mark on the top circle and the tube that you will be able to see even after painting. Install the circles with 16 pan head screws and flat washers against the cardboard tube.

    3. Making the Desk Top

      Cut the desk top from 3/4 inch hardwood plywood with a jig saw. Use a saw blade with very fine teeth to reduce splintering. The back edge is an arc. Drill a small hole in the writing surface top to mark the center of rotation. Cut the rectangular pieces from the plywood scrap with a table or radial arm saw.

      Drill 1 inch cable holes in the middle and front pieces.

      Assemble the Front, Middle, inside Back, and two sides to the writing surface with screws and glue. Do not glue the very back piece. Be sure the front pieces is parallel the front of the desk. Install top with the front parallel to the writing surface front and the back curves matched. Use glue and finishing nails.

      Fit the Back piece and hold it in place with screws only.

      I cut a small piece of hardwood molding to go across the front to stop the keyboard from falling off. I installed it with glue and brads.

      Turn the desk top over and fit the Lazy Susan bearing to the bottom. Attach the top stack of plywood circles to the Lazy Susan bearing.

    4. Building the Bridges

      The two bridges are simple supports held together with screw blocks, glue, and finishing nails. The bridge for the computer is odd because the legs are of different heights to suit the two level base.

    5. Check Assembling the Desk

      Put one plastic sack of rocks into the base. With the help of another person (I said it was a pair programming desk). Lift the desk top and lower the plywood circles into the tube. Rotate the circle to align the marks and align a screw hole with an awl. Install the 16 screws and flat washers.

      Work out the location of cables holes to suit your equipment and mark them.

      Fill the back box with rocks. The desk tends to be very front heavy so you need as much weight as you can get at the back. This will be less a problem if you use a flat screened monitor. Place books or other weights on the desk top to represent your equipment and get a feel for the motion.

      Attach a stop block to bottom of the desk top a the back with chair or angle braces and screws. It should miss the tube by 1/4 inch. Rotate the desk and determine the amount of rotation you want so two people can work side-by-side without being in each other's space. This should be about 40 degrees. Locate two stop blocks on the tube so that the magnetic door latches contact and hold the desk at the two extremes.

      Take the desk apart at the top circles and remove the rocks. Drill cable holes in the desk top with a hole saw of about 2 inch diameter. The two at the back should be centered and aligned. Do not drill into the rock box at the back of the desk.

      Rasp two stop blocks to fit the curvature of the tube and to meet the block on the desk top squarely. Screw the stop blocks to the tube just below the line of screws. Remove the metal latches for finishing.

    Rockler order link to first page

    Finishing

    I used oil based stain and satin polyurethane for the desk top and two colors of oil based paint for the base. You do what you think will be cool.

    1. Edge Sealing

      The plywood edges require special attention. Fill and seal all the exposed plywood edges with the following steps:

      1. Insert splinters of wood and glue into all open spaces. These should be loose fits and not forced in. Do not cut them off until after the glue is dry and then use a sharp knife.
      2. Rough sand all edges. Round off the outside plies very slightly.
      3. Fill visible edges with wood putty. Force the material hard into the exposed edge with a putty knife.
      4. Fine sand all edges.
      5. Seal the edges with sealer, thinned shellac, or thinned paint.
      6. Let dry completely
      7. Sand again with fine paper.
    2. Finish

      I used oil based stain and satin polyurethane for the desk top and two colors of oil based paint for the base.

    3. Reassembly

      Fill the box weight at the back of the desk top with rocks and screw on the door.

      Move the desk parts to where it will be used. Place a sack of rocks in the pedestal. With another person, place the desk top back on the pedestal.

      Reinstall the latches and check the rotation. The desk should rotate freely and latch at both extremes. Put felt feet on the bridges.

    4. Cabling

      Place your equipment on the desk and bridges. This desk require extensions of the keyboard, mouse, and monitor cables. If you have phone on the desk you will need a long cable for that too.

      Route the cables through the book space, around the weight box and though the large hole at the back. Tye wrap the cable bundle about every 6 inches and tye wrap it to the eye screw on the bottom of the desk top. Check the full rotation of the desk. Tye wrap the outer end of the cable bundle to a eye screw at the base of the pedestal at the back. Route the cables to your computer.

      Dress the cables neatly and tie then in place using tie wraps. Do not pull the tie wraps too tightly, the cable should be able to slide back-and-forth a little. Trim off all the tie wrap ends. Black tie wraps look best and last longest.

    Rockler order link to first page

    Conclusion

    Thanks again for using a Woodware Designs computer furniture plans. We very much want to know how you are getting along with your project and would be happy to answer any questions by email.

    If you send us a picture of your finished desk, we would be happy to put it on our Picture Gallery page. We need pictures of desk with real people standing beside them.

    Don't forget to order the sketches.

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