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In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk as built
copyright 2007

In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk for Mouth Stick

If you are a person who needs to use a laptop computer while laying in bed or knows someone needs this capability, then this is the desk especially for you. This version of our in-bed computer desk is designed specifically for a notebook computer and can be tipped for use with a mouth stick. I has one large adjustable rotating shelf and casters. This detailed plan with eight pages of illustrations which, with these construction notes, are available free.

This desk is designed so that it can be built by amateur wood workers using only a few power tools and at a reasonable cost.

All the materials can be bought at your local home improvement store for about $200.00. The base of this desk runs under the bed. If your bed does not have space underneath it, then you need a different version of an in bed desk. Please email us with your exact needs.

This desk is a little smaller than some of our other in-bed designs and features just one rotating computer shelf.

In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk for Mouth Stick, Sketch 1, side and end views

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  1. In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk for use with a mouth sthick, Sketch 2, Top view
  2. Obtaining the Detailed Drawings

    This design includes eight detailed sketches. You can get them with this little form . Look for "4 In=bed computer desks".

    Rockler order link to first page
  3. Pictures of our Projects

    Pictures of this and most of our other projects can be seen in our Picture Gallery .

  4. Desk Construction

    You can make this desk by:

    1. Printing out this text.
    2. Requesting and printing the sketches.
    3. Studying information and locating materials.
    4. Purchasing materials.
    5. Having the plywood cut.
    6. Hand cutting and drilling the frame pieces.
    7. Hand lapping the threaded rod and nut.
    8. Assembling the desk.
    9. Disassembling
    10. Finishing all pieces
    11. Reassembling
    12. Installing the computer.

  5. Discussion of Sketches

    After you download the sketches, these notes will help you understand them more completely.

    1. In-Bed Mouth Stick Notebook Computer Desk

      The sketch shows the side and end views or the desk with one moving shelf. The base is on casters like a grocery cart, it is weighted, and it pushes under the bed. The computer is velcroed to a wide shelf that can be tipped forward. The desk is pushed around with a large diameter dowel handle. The same desk can be used from the left or right side of the bed.

      The wide shelf extends out over the user's lap area. This shelf rotated around a support rod so that it can easily be pushed out of the way. The shelf can be adjusted in height and tipped forward.

    2. In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk, Top View, Sketch #2

      This sketch shows two top views of the desk with the shelf and then without the shelf. There is a small fixed shelf beside the bed and a large dowel handle.

    3. In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk, Frame hidden lines, Sketch #3,

      This sketch the side and end views again with all the hidden lines drawn in. This sketch will help you understand the construction of the base.

    4. In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk, Bottom View, Sketch #4

      This sketch shows the bottom view of the frame with the plywood frame separate. The plywood bottom closes a central area where you can add gravel for weight. Also shown is a bottom view of the top fixed shelf that shows its construction.

    5. In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk, Shelf Parts, Sketch #5

      The moving shelf is made from pieces of plywood and trimmed with small molding. The area around the shaft is thickened and stiffened with four more layers of plywood. The first plywood piece below the shelf extends out under the self to stiffen it. These plywood pieces extend back and help counter weight the shelf. The plywood can be cut with handsaw or a jig saw.

      The shaft hole is enlarged and made octagonal in three of the plywood pieces to accept a long metal tie nut. The end of the shelf is cut out to make horns that are easy to catch with your finger to pull to you.

      The shelf assembly is first glued up as one piece. It is then cut as an assembly and two plywood disks installed with glue and cross-dowel bolts. The computer end of the shelf can then be rotated and clamped into a tilted position.

    6. In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk, Base Pieces, Sketch #6

      This sketch shows the wooden parts that make up the base. The sides are the standard width of 3.5", but the internal parts need to be ripped to 2.5" to allow room for the plywood top and bottom.

      The central cross piece has a half-lapped for the upright that supports the metal shaft.

    7. In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk, Base Pieces, Sketch #7

      This sketch shows the wooden parts for the upright and top fixed shelf. The upright support for the metal shaft is made from one piece half-lapped at both ends, two narrow upright pieces, and one piece of plywood. The plywood piece clamps the rod in place and is held with bolts.

      In-Bed Notebook Computer Desk, Plywood Layout, Sketch #8

      This sketch shows the layout of the one piece of .5 inch plywood used for this desk. The two cuts shown can be made at the store so that you can more easily get the plywood home.


  6. Materials

    This desk is made of a pine lumber frame with plywood panels and trimmed with mouldings. The parts are assembled with glue, wood screws, and finishing nails. The mechanically parts are simply made from a large threaded rod. The cost estimate below is clear pine and fir plywood.

    1. Wood

      Plywood:

      • 1 -- Fir, .5 in., A/C, 4x8 feet, $24.00 each -- $32.00

      Boards:

      • 20 ft -- Pine, clear, .75 by 3.50 inches, $1.00/ft -- $20.00
      • 20 ft -- Pine, clear, .75 by 2.50 inches, $ .80/ft -- $16.00
      • 18 ft -- Pine, clear, .75 by 1.50 inches, $ .60/ft -- $11.00
      • 5 ft -- .75 by .75 inches rectangular, $.60/ft ------ $ 5.00

      Molding:

      • 4 ft -- .50 inches quarter round, $2.00/ft -- $ 4.00
      • 2 ft -- 1-1/4 inch Round, $ 1.50/ft ---------- $ 3.00
      • 3 inches -- 1/2 " dowel ---------------------- $ .50

      Wood Subtotal: $90.00

    2. Hardware
      • 2 -- Casters, 2.5 inch, fixed, $ 3.00 ----------------- $ 6.00
      • 2 -- Casters, 2.5 inch, swivel,$ 3.40 ----------------- $ 6.80
      • 1 -- Threaded Rod, 3/4 inch diameter, 36 inches long -- $ 6.20
      • 1 -- Tie Nut, 3/4 inch, ------------------------------- $ 1.00
      • 6 -- Carriage Bolts, 1/4 by 2.5 inches - $ .40 -------- $ 2.40
      • 6 -- Nuts, 1/4 inch -- $ .05 -------------------------- $ .30
      • 1 -- Wooden Knob, 2 inch sphere @ $1.25 --------------- $ 1.25
      • 2 -- Flat Washer, 3/4 inch ID ------------------------- $ .50
      • 4 -- C Clamps, 1 inch --------------------------------- $ 4.00

      Fasteners

      • 8 -- Cross Dowel Bolt with nut, 1/50 inch ---- $ 6.00
      • 100 -- Screw, flat head, #8 1.25 inch ------- $ 4.00
      • 1 lbs -- #3 finishing nails ------------------ $ 1.50
      • 1 Box -- 3/4 inch brads ---------------------- $ 1.50
      • 8 oz. -- Woodworker's Glue ------------------- $ 4.00
      • 6 inches -- Velcro stick on tape ------------- $ 3.00

      Special

      • 1 bags -- Washed gravel, 40 lbs bag, $2.25 ------- $ 3.00
      • 1 tube -- Valve Grinding Compound, water mixed -- $ 3.00

      Hardware Subtotal: $ 48.00

    3. Finish:
      • 1 qt. -- Shellac ----------- $ 8.00
      • 1 pt. -- Shellac thinner -- $ 6.00
      • 2 qt. -- Paint, oil based -- $16.00
      • 2 qt. -- Paint thinner ----- $ 4.00

      Finish Subtotal: $34.00

    4. Omissions and Contingencies (~12%)( Tax, sand paper, etc.) $28.00
    5. Estimate Total Cost $200.00

    This is only an estimate (made in the March 20007). The price may vary in your area. Getting a good price on the lumber and plywood is critical to keeping the price down.

  7. Tools

    This desk was designed to be build using only a few hand tools that a home owner might have, purchase at reasonable cost, or borrow. These tools are all useful for general around-the-house maintenance and can fit in a tool box.

    1. Electric Drill, 3/8 chuck
    2. Bits, 1-1/16 inch paddle bit
    3. Screw Mate bit for #8 screws -- $6.20 new
    4. Miter Box and hand saw -- under $20.00 new
    5. Tri-Square
    6. Screw drivers
    7. Coping Saw or jig saw
    8. Hammer and small nail set
    9. Carpenter's Chisel, .5 inch

    You will also need sand paper, paint brushes. etc. It would be nice to have a block plane and a four-in-hand rasp.

    The work will go faster if you have a access to a table or radial arm saw to rip a few boards for the base.

    Rockler order link to first page
  8. Customizing

    This desk needs to be customized to fit the exact needs of the user.

    1. Fixed shelf height

      The fixed shelf height with its push bar should be an inch above the height of the bed. Hospital beds many be as much as a foot higher then normal beds. The drawing are for a low bed. If this shelf is too low the steal rod becomes too springy. Email me if you have trouble extending the shelf height.

    2. Computer Shelf Size

      The computer shelf works best if it is not much wider than the computer.

      Also it should not be excessively long. It must be long enough for the use to be comfortable in he or her normal position in the bed.

  9. Fabrication Notes

    This is your desk and you can build it to suit your likes and needs. This is a big piece of furniture, but don't get in a big hurry.

    1. Plywood Cuts

      You will need to cut the large plywood sheet. You can accomplish this in a number of ways:

      • Pay the plywood supplier to make the major cuts shown in Sketch #8
      • Buy precut pieces
      • Get access to a table or radial arm saw
      • Use a skill saw with a plywood blade and a clamped straight edge

      If you want the supplier to make the cuts, have the drawings with you and double check the measurements. You will to buy the plywood even if you make a mistake. Mark all the pieces with the sheet number and description using a pencil by writing on the 'C' side. Keep all the scrap pieces.

    2. Lapping the Rod

      You can get the nut to runs very smoothly on the rod by lapping it with water based valve grinding compound. This paste is available at auto supply stores. Mark the rod and nut's top so that you do not get them inverted once they are lapped to be a set. A punch works best for this. Put a little compound on the treads and run each nut back-and-forth over the top foot of the rod. This process takes about 15 minutes per nut and works very well.

      Remove the nut and clean it with soap and water and a scrub brush. An old tooth brush works well inside the nut. All the grit must be washed away. Dry the part thoroughly. The nut will now run smoothly over the rod. After final assembly you can apply dry lubricant (graphite) to the rod if you like.

    3. Making the Base pieces

      The base pieces are shown in Sketch #6. The outside is made from 1-by-4 (3.5 inches wide)pine. The inside pieces have to be ripped to 2.5 inches wide to allow for the width of two thicknesses of plywood. These pieces can be easily cut to length with a hand saw and miter box.

      1. Up-Rights

        Make the up-right pieces as shown in Sketch #7. Four 1-by-2 pieces are notched the at the bottom and top. The center piece for the rod is half-notched at both top and bottom.

        Trial fit the pieces.

      2. Assemble Lower Base

        Cut out the lower base plywood top and cut its notches to fit the upright pieces. Assemble the outside frame. Add the inside pieces. Glue and nail on the plywood top.

        There are four wheel wells at the corners to accommodate the casters. These are made from extra pieces of scrape plywood that are doubled up to put the casters at the right height.

        Cut and fit the bottom plywood, but attach it with screws only (no glue).

      3. Assemble fixed top shelf

        Assemble the top fixed shelf much like the base. Glue and nail this shelf. Trial fit the uprights.

      4. Assemble the parts of base

        Screw and glue the up-rights in place.

        The shaft support consists of four pieces. One long upright with half-lapped ends. To pieces of 1"x2" that box the sides of the shaft. One piece of plywood that clamps in the shaft and is held with bolts.

        You can adjust the height of the rod by placing a filler piece under it if you want it taller or cutting it off with a hacksaw if you want it shorter. Drill holes for the six bolts through the center upright assembly. The plywood plate should grip the rod tightly so it does not turn after the carriage bolts are pulled down.


    4. Making the Shelf Core

      Cut out the five plywood shelf parts and drill small pilot holes where the rod will be. The whole assembly will be cut for the swivel feature after it is glued.

      Glue the three center shelf pieces. Place a finishing nail through the pilot holes to align the pieces.

      The nut can be strongly anchored inside this assemble by the following steps:

      1. Drill a straight 1 inch hole through the whole assembly. A drill press is a great help here.
      2. Bevel both ends of the hole at least the thickness on one ply.
      3. Run the regular nut 6 inches on to the rod.
      4. Put the washers on the rod.
      5. Lubricate the washers and rod with graphite (keep it off the wood).
      6. Run the tie nut up on the rod and center it carefully in the whole.
      7. Pull the tie nut into the wood by turning the regular nut.

      Drill 3/4" holes in the last two shelf pieces. Bevel both top and bottom edges of the hole so that the outside layer of plywood does not touch the metal rod. You may need to work with the chisel to accommodate the nut on the inside if it is a little taller than the center plywood pieces. Glue these two outside pieces in place. It is a good idea to put the threaded rod through the assembly while gluing.

      When the glue is set, drill two cable holes through the whole assembly. Holes 3/4" diameter will just accommodate most internet connectors, but the holes can be bigger if you have larger cables.

      Plane and sand all the edges of the shelf assembly. Round off edges so that they feel good to the hand.

    5. Making the Shelf Swivel

      Cut the five layer shelf assembly as shown. You may want to put scraps of plywood under the end of the shelf to build it up to the same height. A radial arm saw is best for this job.

      Cut out the two plywood disks and drill a 1/2 inch hole at the center. Find the center of the cut ends of the two shelf assembly parts and drill a 1/2 inch hole 1-3/4 inches in. Be very careful to drill perpendicular to the cut surface. Trial fit the two shelf parts back together with the dowel and plywood disks.

      Cross-dowel bolts are special fasteners made popular in Europe that are now available in the US. They make a very strong joint for parts at right angles. They consist of a bolt with a very flat head that is driven with an Allen wrench and nut that is a piece of metal dowel with a treaded hole at right angles to the axis of the dowel. The hole for the dowel nut may be an unusual size and you may have to buy a specific drill for it and a metric Allen wrench to tighten them.

      Take half the shelf, the wooden dowel, and one plywood disk. Drill pilot holes for the four bolts through the disk. Place the disk on the wooden dowel and very carefully align the bolt pilot holes with the top and sides of the shelf part. Drill pilot holes down into the shelf part. Drill shallow holes for the heads of the bolts with a 3/4" paddle bit. Drill loose holes for the body of the bolts through disk and 1-1/2" into the shelf part. Carefully mark where the bolt body holes are and drill holes for the dowel bolts at right angles of to the bolt holes. It may be easier for you to drill four dowel nut holes than to try to drill two holes all the way through.

      Assemble the disk to the shelf part with four dowel bolts and glue. Be sure to glue the wooden center dowel into only one shelf part.

      Repeat the process for the other shelf part.

      Install the trim along the front and back of the shelf with brads and glue. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly and sand all the pieces.

    6. Trial assembly

      Test assemble the entire desk. Drill a .75 inch hole for the rod in the wooden knob. Do not yet put the weight in the base or glue on the knob.

      Install the rod and clamp it down. Spin on half the shelf and check the height limits.

      Install the outer half of the shelf and clamp the two parts together with the four small C clamps. Try different angle adjustments.

      If possible trial fit the computer equipment, but do not use Velcro yet.

    7. Disassembly

      Dissemble the shelf, base, shaft, and knob for finishing. Round off all sharp corners with a rasp, block plane or sandpaper. Fill all nail and screw holes and the crack around the top plywood. Sand all flat areas.

      Rockler order link to first page
    8. Finishing

      You may finish your desk any way you like. We recommend sealer and two coats of oil based enamel with an accent color down the sides. This seals the wood completely and makes it easy to clean. The plywood edges of the shelves need a little more preparation work.

      1. Plywood Edges

        The exposed plywood edges of the shelf take some effort to seal. The end result should be uniform in texture and not have holes one place and excess filler another.

        First fill all visible holes with glue and wood splinters. Do not force the splinter in, they should be a loose fit. Toothpicks work well. Let dry and sand with course paper over a wooden block. Fill with wood putty. Let this dry thoroughly and sand again. Seal with a spit coat. Sand again and refill. Sand again, seal again, and sand with fine sand paper. In the process you can round the edges of the plywood a little bit. The edges are now ready for an extra spit coat.

      2. Spit Coat

        A spit coat made of one part 3-pound shellac to five parts shellac thinner makes a good wood sealer and primer. Here its use is important in getting the paint to stick and in sealing the plywood edges.

      3. Color Scheme

        You can, of course, finish the desk to suit yourself. We recommend a two color treatment. The body of the desk should be a light color. We made the prototype a very light blue. The sides of the base can be a complementing color.

      Rockler order link to first page
    9. Completion

      All that is left is to reassemble the desk, and install the computer cables.

      1. Reassembly

        Weighting the base, makes the desk feel more solid and less likely to move when bumped. Turn the base upside down. Remove the plywood bottom. Fill the front pocket in the base with about 20 pounds of clean, dry gravel. Rake the grave flat so it does not interfere with the bottom plywood. Reinstall the plywood base with a screw about every 4 inches around the edge and down the center board (no glue).

        Install the casters and be sure that the swivel casters do not touch the sides. If you put the swivels in back the desk will handle like a shopping card.

        Be sure to print your name, the date, and who the desk was for on the bottom of upper shelf.

        Spin on the shelf and adjust it to the desired height. Glue on the knob.

      2. Cabling

        This desk will probably need a cable for the Internet line and a power line for the computer. Run it through the holes in the fixed shelf and then up through one of the holes in the moveable shelf. You may wish to install a power strip on, or under, the fixed shelf. Do not pull the cables too tightly and check that the shelf can turn freely.

        Place the computer on the shelf. You will probably want to put pieces of Velcro tape on the bottom of the computer and on the self to insure that the computer does not move. Try tilting the shelf and checking the access of the computer.

        Route and connect the cables. Dress the cables neatly through the holes in the shelf and inside the up-rights 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.


    Rockler order link to first page
  10. Conclusion

    Thanks again for using a Woodware 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 web page. We need pictures of desk with real people using them.

Rockler order link to first page
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