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Keyboard Shelf Installed

copyright 2005

Keyboard Shelf Add-on

Sometimes you just need to add a simple keyboard and mouse shelf onto an existing desk. You need something simple and fast. You need something to get the keyboard down into a comfortable position and you need it right now. This is it.

You have looked at complicated and expensive commercial add-on keyboard shelves and found them weak, floppy, and grossly over priced. This is not one of them.

This keyboard shelf is simple, yet has a solid feel. It attaches with two bolts and six sheet metal screws in ten minutes. It looks nice and it draws compliments. Yet it doesn't interfere with the use of the desk.

It can be build by anyone who does fix-up around the house for less than $26.00.

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This design has one photograph and two sketches which will print-out with these construction notes. You can get better copies with this little freebie form.

You can make this desk by:

  1. Print Out this text and illustrations.
  2. Study this information and locate the materials.
  3. Decide on size of shelf you need.
  4. Purchase local materials.
  5. Cut out the pieces.
  6. Disassemble the shelf
  7. Finish all pieces
  8. Install the shelf and keyboard.
  1. Discussion of Illustrations

    These notes should help understand the photos and sketches more fully.

    1. Keyboard Shelf, Installed with Keyboard, Photo #1 (above)

      This photo shows the keyboard shelf installed on a standard gray metal desk with the keyboard and mouse in place. The cables run through a hole on one side. The width of the shelf is set to just miss the drawers on either side. It is bolted and screwed to the center drawer front.

      Keyboard Drawing 1
    2. Keyboard Shelf , Three Views, Sketch #1

      This sketch shows the front, side and top views of the shelf. The oval hole in the center of the front view is for the lock on the center desk drawer. The four strips of wood underneath the plywood stiffen the shelf.

    3. Keyboard Shelf, Parts, Sketch #2

      This sketch shows the eight parts of the shelf. There are the shelf, the four stiffener strips, the back, the quarter round molding, and the front lip.

    Rockler order link to first page
  2. Materials

    The keyboard shelf is made from a thin piece of hardwood plywood with a few wooden parts.

    Hardwood Plywood

    1/4-Inch Hardwood Plywood

    You will probably have to purchase a least a 48 x 24 inch sheet. The prototype shown in the pictures are all oak.


    If you have access to a a table saw or radial-arm saw, you can cut all the molding from scrap hardwood and save money.

    If you do not have access to a shop saw, you may make the shelf completely out of molding using hand tools.



    Omissions and Contingencies (~10%)_________ $2.45
    (Tax, sand paper, etc.)

    ______________Estimated Total Cost _________ $26.00

    This is only an estimate (made in the fall of 1998). The price may vary in your area. Getting a good price on the hardwood and plywood is critical to keeping the price down and, of course, making as much as possible out of scrap.

    Rockler order link to first page
  3. Fabrication Notes

    This 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 likes and needs.

    1. Options

      Before starting work, look over the following options and decide what you want to do for your desk:

      • Width -- The shelf would be as wide as possible without restricting the drawers on either side.
      • Attaching the Shelf -- The drawing shows the shelf attached with two bolts and sheet metal screws along the bottom. This worked very well for a solid metal desk but did require two holes to be drilled in the front of the center drawer. You may want to do something different with your particular desk. It is important the the shelf be firmly attached. You may need to get permission to drill holes in the desk drawer front and don't add this shelf to a valuable piece of furniture at all.
      • Side for cable hole -- Decide which side to put the cable hole on.
    2. Making Parts

      The shelf piece is cut from 1/4 inch plywood with the front corners rounded and the back corners relieved to match the width of the center drawer.

      The four stiffeners run the full width of the shelf. They can be thinned with a block plane to as little as .25 inch and well rounded on the bottom and both ends.

      The back piece should match your center drawer front and have a cutout for the lock. Its top edge and corners can be rounded if you like. Do not drill the bolt holes until your are fitting the finished shelf.

      The quarter round molding is rounded at each end. You can make this our of scrap hardwood and round it with a block plane.

      The front lip can be a very small strip of wood. Its purpose is to prevent the keyboard from sliding forward off the shelf.

    3. Assembly

      I assembled the unit with wood glue and toothpicks used as dowels. The wooden parts are rather thin and wold be difficult to nail or screw. I glued and clamped the strips in place and then drilled 1/8 in. holes at the joints. I placed toothpicks and glue in the holes.

      The back piece and quarter round is held on with wood screws from the bottom. A screwmate drill greatly helps in setting these screws in the thin materials.

    4. Sanding

      Hand sand all parts being sure to remove all excess glue so it does not effect the stain. Round over all exposed corners.

    Rockler order link to first page
  4. Finishing

    You may finish your shelf any way you like. I recommend: oil stain and two coats of varnish. You may have finishing materials left from bigger projects.

    1. Staining

      Work with the stain color that you have chosen. Practice on scraps wood (solid and plywood). Don't use a color that looks bad just because you had some on hand. If you used a mix of hardwood plywood and store moldings, you may need to work with several coats of stain on different parts to even out the color.

    2. Shelf Finish

      You might like polyurethane varnish, spar varnish, or tung oil finish. Sand lightly between coats.

  5. Installation

    It helps if you have help holding the shelf in place while you mark the attachment holes. Be sure that all the desk drawers can open with the shelf in place.

    Locate and drill the bolt holes so that you have room inside the center drawer to put on the washers and nuts. Always put a washer on the head of a bolt that is up gainst wood.

    Mark the screw holes in the underside of the desk drawer and drill pilot holes. Drive the screws up into the drawer front.

    Place the keyboard, mouse pad, and mouse on the shelf. You might need to trim the mouse pad a little. Route the cables through the hole and to the computer. A magnet is useful in keeping the cables out of the way.

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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 shelf, we would be happy to put it on our Web Site. We need pictures of desk with real people standing beside them.

Rockler order link to first page

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