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Easy-Reach 1 Easy-Reach photo 1

copyright 2005

Easy-Reach Computer Desk

Some people need or want all their computer components in easy reach despite the fact that they have a whole lot of them. This desk is made of simple modules that each hold one or two pieces of equipment. You can custom design the height, width, and shelf placement of each module to hold the your equipment at just the right height for you.

The prototype was designed specifically for a person with a vision challenge who uses two large monitors. One is for a closed circuit TV magnification system. The table for the magnifier camera must be in easy reach so that papers can be placed on it and positioned under the camera. Yet both monitors must be clear of the glare from the magnifier's light and must not require the user to twist his neck.

In the photo above, you can see the enormous amount of equipment that must be kept close at hand.

This desk is made from dimensioned hardwood lumber and fir plywood. The hardwood frames and shelf trim are stained and varnished. The plywood is painted. It is possible to build this desk with simple hand Tools but using a table or radial arm helps.

Easy-reach 2

All the Materials can be bought at your local home improvement store for about $340.00 in fir plywood with a nice American hardwood trim.

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

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

  2. Ordering the Sketches

    This design includes nine detailed sketches that are critical to your successfully building this desk. Here is where to get all the ordering information .

    The plans for our major projects are brought to you on the Honor Plan. You may look at as many plans as you like, but when you start to build please pay for the plans you use. These small payments are critical to keeping this Web Site open.

  3. Desk Construction

    You can make this desk by:

    1. Downloading this text.
    2. Ordering the sketches .
    3. Studying the information and locating Materials.
    4. Determining the shelf heights you need.
    5. Purchasing Materials, some local, some mail order.
    6. Cutting wooden pieces.
    7. Assembling the desk.
    8. Installing the shelves.
    9. Finish

      ing all pieces.
    10. Installing the computer.

  4. Discussion of Sketches

    After you order the sketches, these notes will help you understand them. The Easy-Reach Desk is a set of simple frames with shelves.

    1. Easy-Reach Computer Desk

      The Easy-Reach Desk is shown face on. As shown, it consists of four units, each supporting one or two different peripheral devices. This configuration had two computer s three monitors, two phones two keyboards, a TV magnifier, one printer, and a scanner. You can easily adjust the width of the units to suit your needs. Putting the computers in the tower position on a shelf brings the disks and power switch into easy reach. The paper tray provides a place to place papers to quickly clear the TV Magnifier shelf.

    2. Easy-Reach Computer Desk, Sketch #2, Side View

      This sketch is shows the side view of the two monitor unit only. The two monitors are mounted with one in the look-down position and the other a bit high above it. The drawing shows hidden lines and gives overall dimensions. The keyboard is shown in position on a front shelf.

    3. Easy-Reach Computer Desk, Sketch #3, Top View

      The top view shows the keyboard shelf, the top monitor shelf, and two peripheral shelves. It gives the shelf dimensions and shows hidden lines.

    4. Easy-Reach Computer Desk, Sketch #4, Frame Pieces

      This sketch shows the pieces of hardwood that make up the frame. The front and back legs are identical except for a notch for the plywood back piece and the holes for tie wraps. You may want to adjust the lengths of the legs to make the top shelves just the right height for your equipment.

    5. Easy-reach Computer Desk, Sketch #5, Frame Joint Options

      This sketch shows four different options for the frame joints. You can build this desk using your personal choice. All the drawings show the cross Dowel Bolt joints which is very strong and looks very nice but this hardware is a little expensive. You may need to adjust the lengths of the frame pieces if other joints are used. The joint options are:

      1. Half Lamp Joint -- Simply cut away half of each piece of wood and glue and screw the joints. This joint is best made with a table or radial arm saw.
      2. Let-In 'L' Plate -- The wood is cut at a simple 45 and a 'L' plate is screwed to it. The plate is then marked and removed. Wood is them removed so that the plate will be smooth with the surface of the wood. This joint can be made with all hand Tools and looks best if the frame is painted rather than varnished.
      3. Cross Dowel Bolts -- These are special bolts with special nuts in the form of cylinders or cross dowels. They can be obtained by mail order and make a very strong and attractive joint. Matching type bolts to hold the units together are available from the same source. This joint is best made with a drill press so that all the holes are perpendicular to the wood surfaces.
      4. Double Dowel Pins -- You can make the joints with two 5/6 inch dowel pins or a small biscuit. A doweling jig is needed to drill the holes. This is the weakest of the joints shown.

    6. Easy-Reach Computer Desk, Sketch #6, Shelf Details

      This sketch shows the three shelf sizes used in this drawing. You may want to change the width of the shelves to suit your exact equipment. The table gives the widths of the plywood and the widths of the finished shelves with .5" trim.

      The edge molding shown was made on a radial arm saw. It is strong but takes a fair amount of hardwood. You can purchase molding. The molding is attached to the plywood with glue and Finishing nails in predrilled holes.

      Small pieces of 1/4 inch think material are glued to the bottom of the plywood to make it thick enough for the cross dowel bolts.

    7. Easy-Reach Computer Desk, Sketch #7, Keyboard Shelf

      This sketch shows the keyboard and mouse shelf with its two supports. It has small strips of molding front and back to prevent the keyboard from sliding off. You can use 1/4 inch 1/4 round molding with one edge rounded. The molding is attached with glue and predrilled Finishing nails. You could use a piece of the hardwood molding to make a decorative front and back strip.

    8. Easy-Reach Computer Desk, Sketch #8, Monitor Shelf

      This sketch shows the lower monitor shelf and its two supports. This shelf need only be as deep as the base of your monitor. The back strip of wood stops the monitor from sliding off the shelf. It is screwed but not glued on. If you want the monitor to be at a very steep angle then you will need additional wooden blocks to lock it to the shelf.

    9. Easy-Reach Computer Desk, Sketch #9, Back Board Details

      This sketch shows the details of the back boards. Notice the narrow hardwood trim planed to the thickness of the plywood. The holes along the bottom are for tie wraps and the hold along the sides for #8 screws.

    10. Easy-Reach Computer Desk, Sketch #910 Plywood Layout

      This sketch shows the layout of the shelves on one 4 by 8 foot piece of plywood. The first and second cuts can be made a the store. This makes the plywood much easier to get home.

    11. Easy-Reach Computer Desk, Sketch #11, Secondary Plywood Layout

      This sketch shows the layout of the remaining shelf, tray, and plates.

    Rockler order link to first page
  5. Materials

    The Easy-Reach Desk is made from hardwood for the frame and trim and fir plywood for the shelves. The parts are assembled with glue and special bolts. This Materials list is for the exact desk shown in the drawing. You may need to adjust some Materials for your specific equipment.

    1. Wood
      • Frame, .75 by 1.5 inch hardwood ------ 80 linear feet (12 bf)
      • Molding, .75 by .50 inch hardwood ---- 86 linear feet (6 bf)

      Example @ 5.80 /bf Red Oak ------- Subtotal: $106.00

      • Plywood, .5 inch oak, 4' x 8' ------- 1 ------------ $34.00
      • Plywood, .5 inch oak, 24" x 48" ----- 1 ------------ $12.00
      • Plywood, hardwood 1/4 inch 24"x24" -- 1 ------------ $ 6.00

      ------- Subtotal: $52.00


      • Cross Dowel bolt, .25 by 2 inch,(31849)--- 10 Boxes of 8 -- 36.00
      • Cross Dowel nut, 10 mm(31823)------------- 10 Boxes of 8 -- 24.00
      • Connector Bolts, .25 by 1.125 inch, (31831) - 3 Boxes of 8 - 12.00
      • Cap Nuts, (31815) --------------------------- 3 Boxes of 8 - 12.00
      • 10 mm drill bit for cross dowel (46771)---- 1 -------------- 5.00
      • T-handle hex driver, 4 mm (42505)---------- 1 -------------- 4.00

      ------- Subtotal: $93.00

      These Materials can be obtained from:

      Rockler order link to first page
      • Chair Leg Braces, bronze color ------ 4 sets of 4 ---- 9.60
      • Feet, polished nickel glides---------- 4 sets of 4 -- 10.00
      • #4 Finishing nails ------------------ 1 lb ----------- 1.40
      • 5/8 inch brads ---------------------- 1 box ---------- 1.20
      • Glue -------------------------------- 1 pint --------- 4.00

      ------- Subtotal: $26.20

    2. Finish:
      • Stain -------------------- 1 Quart ----- $ 9.00
      • Shellac ------------------ 1 pint ------ 6.00
      • Shellac thinner ---------- 1 pint ------ 4.00
      • Polyurethane ------------- 1 quart ----- 12.00
      • Paint for shelves -------- 1 quart ----- 8.00

      Finish Subtotal: $39.00

    3. Omissions and Contingencies (~14%)( Tax, sand paper, etc.) $33.80
    4. Estimate Total Cost $350.00

    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 is critical to keeping the price down.

  6. Tools

    This desk was designed so that it could be build by an amateur woodworker with a modest home shop. To build the desk as shown requires the use of a radial-arm or table saw, a drill press, and common hand Tools. If you do not have access to these Tools, a simpler version could be made using all hand Tools and commercial molding. Two speciality Tools are shown in the material order for installing the cross dowel bolts.

    Rockler order link to first page
  7. 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.

    1. Options

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

      1. Equipment Supported -- Go over all the computer equipment you wish to support with this desk and determine the easy-reach height for each piece. An exercise, Air Typing is given on our Web Site to help you determine the height you need for the keyboard shelf, the two monitor shelves and the angle for the monitor. You may want to get the lower monitor in just the right place and then shorten that units legs so that the top monitor shelf just clears the lower monitor.You may want the scanner shelf high enough for a two drawer filing cabinet to fit under it (29 inches plus). You may want to place the mouse pad on a block of wood to raise it up slightly as shown in the drawings. You may want to adjust the shelf widths to fit your equipment.
      2. Hardwood trim or all painted wood -- This desk is clearly less expensive if it is make from less expensive wood and painted. The wood you use must be fairly straight grained and have only a few small knots. Popular or clear softwood would work very well if painted.
      3. Joint Type -- Choice the joint type from Sketch #5 that suits your skills and woodworking Tools.
      4. Plywood Back Pieces -- These pieces can be as wide as you like. The wider they are the more diagonal bracing they provide. They are shown at 7.5 inches wide so all the plywood parts can be made from one sheet.

    2. Making the Frames

      The frame parts are all shown made from .75 by 1.5 inch hardwood stock. They are shown in Sketch #4 notched and drilled for the cross-dowel bolt joints. Other joints may require slight adjustment of the lengths. Adjusting the desk for your exact equipment may also require adjusting the lengths of these parts.

      The front and back legs are identical except for the notches for the plywood back pieces on the back legs. This desk does not have a lot of diagonal bracing so these pieces are important. You may wish to staggering them slightly in adjacent units.

    3. Making the Shelves

      The shelves are pieces of .5 inch plywood with hardwood trim around their edges. You could leave off the side trim if you like as it shows in only three shelves.

      The small plate is just to thicken the shelf for the cross-dowel bolt. This can be made of any .25 inch scrap material.

    4. Making the Keyboard Shelf

      The keyboard shelf (Sketch #7) is simply a piece of plywood supported by two back-to-front boards. This shelf sticks off to one side so that the keyboard will be centered on the monitor and the mouse will be off to the right. You may wish to change this direction for left handed users. Tapper the front end of the support pieces to suit yourself.

      The keyboard shelf has small strips of wood at the front and back to keep the keyboard from sliding off. You may prefer pieces of hardwood along the front back but 1/4 inch 1/4 round can be used with one edge sanded off. This strip is held on with glue and brads in predrilled holes.

    5. Making the Lower Monitor Shelf

      The lower Monitor Shelf, Sketch #8, is simply a piece of plywood supported with two pieces of hardwood. It is shown held on with cross-dowel bolts but you can use screws and hardwood blocks. Cut the side supports long and trim them off when you have set the angle. The back has a strip of wood to prevent the monitor for sliding back. If your monitor is to be at a steep angle additional screw-on blocks will be needed.

    6. Setting Main Monitor Heights

      Assemble center the two monitor unit without glue and set it in front of your existing desk. Start with the keyboard shelf. Use 'C' clamps to hold it on for testing. Move the keyboard and mouse to the new shelf. (They do not have to be connected to the computer but it helps.) Have the user sit in front of the keyboard and try typing. Adjust the keyboard height until it is in a comfortable position.

      Install the lower monitor shelf with clamps. Try sitting the monitor on it and looking at it over the keyboard. Adjust the height, angle, and debt until it is comfortable for the user.

      Select the height for the top monitor shelf. This shelf should clear the lower monitor but not by much. However do not make it so close that you can not accommodate a slightly larger monitor in the future. You can either shorten all four legs and make new joints or install this shelf below the top of the legs. The first options is stronger but cannot be later adjusted higher.

      Remove the computer components. Drill the pieces for hardware and assemble the unit. Do not glue shelf joints as you may later wish to adjust them.

    7. Setting Peripheral Shelf

      Assemble each of the peripheral desk units and adjust the heights of the shelves for your exact needs. You may wish to leave enough room under one of the shelves for a two drawer filing cabinet.

    8. Assembly

      Assemble the legs and cross pieces with glue. Also glue in the back plywood pieces and the top shelves if they are aligned with the top of the legs. Install the feet now or wait until after Finishing.

      The 1 inch chair braces shown at the back of each shelf are very important to providing diagonal strength. If you have very heavy peripherals, do not plan to bolt the units together, used narrow back pieces, or simply wish to have even more diagonal strength, you may add additional braces at the front of the shelves. Depending on your trim, you may need small pieces of scrap material to make a flat place for the brace on the bottom of the shelf.

      Place the units in the space they will be used and clamp them together. When you are happy with the way the sit on the floor and stand up straight, install the hardware tying the units together.

    Rockler order link to first page
  8. Finish

    You may finish your desk any way you like. I recommend: oil stain, a spit coat of shellac, and two coats of satin finish polyurethane on the hardwood. A spit coat of shellac, two coats of oil based paint and one of polyurethane for the shelve tops. A spit coat and one coat of paint for the bottoms.

    1. Staining

      Work with the stain color that you have chosen. Practice on a piece of scrap wood (flat side and edges). Do not start on the panels until you are satisfied. Do not hesitate to write off an $8 can of stain and go purchase another of a different color.

    2. Spit Coat

      A spit coat made of one part 3-pound shellac to five parts shellac thinner makes a good wood sealer.

      If your test shows that side and end grain are staining differently, you can apply a spit coat to only the one that stains darkest (usually the edge). This will limit the stain penetration to more closely match the finishes. Test this on scrap first.

      A spit coat can also be used between applications of stain and as a general sealer after staining.

    3. Plywood Edges

      You can brad and glue trim pieces of wood to all visible plywood edges to give the best effect. Or, you may wish to save on cost by simply sealing and staining the exposed plywood edges. These exposed edges include the front of the keyboard shelf, the tops of the back pieces, the sides of the middle shelves, and the front of the monitor shelf.

      These edges can be sealed by filling large holes with wood splinters (or tooth picks) and glue. Then driving wood filler into the edge with a putty knife. Let dry and thoroughly sand. Then stain or paint the only the edge very dark with an artist's brush. A brush that is flat across the end and .25 to .4 inches wide works well. Spit coat the edges twice and lightly sand.

    4. Paint

      You may wish to paint the fir plywood shelves to a dark color. Black is traditional but dark red, blue, or green can look very nice. Spit coat the wood and mask off the hardwood trim before painting. The tops will need two color coats and the bottoms one.

    5. Finish

      For this desk I like satin finish polyurethane or a modern tung oil finish such as:

      Formby's Tung Oil Finish

      These are applied with a cloth pad rather than a brush. This desk will take at least one 16 oz. bottle; two will be better. Follow the instructions on the bottle carefully and apply a liberal number of applications on all work areas. The toughest finish is needed on the keyboard shelf directly in front of the user. I would apply the finish over the painted surfaces also to produce a glazed effect but try this on scrap first.

  9. Completion

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

    1. Reassembly

      Do not glue the shelves to the frame if you wish to retain adjustment capability later.

    2. Cabling

      Detailed cabling instructions and plans for a remote power switch are given in our Web page under Freebies. Make up several cable tie mounts and be ready with mounting screws and tie wraps. The remote power switch is optional but is really helps the desk user.

      Determine which side will be closest to the wall outlet. Screw the remote switch box and surge suppressor to the inside of this back leg. Route the switch cable up to the your user's preferred location.

      Install a generous number of cable tie mounts to the back legs and underside of the shelves where cables will run.

      Dress the cables neatly and tie them 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


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 standing beside them.

Don't forget to order the sketches .

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