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Look Down 1

copyright 2004

Look Down Computer Desk

Some people with neck problems can find relief if their monitor is mounted low and behind the keyboard. They can then view the monitor with their head tilted down. This also may be a good position for people who wear tri-focal glasses.

This design provides a wide shelf for the keyboard and mouse nearly in the user's lap. You view the monitor just over the back edge of the keyboard and you can adjust it in height and tilt.

An exercise, Air Typing is given on our Web Site to help you determine the height you need for the keyboard shelf, the monitor, and the angle for the monitor. You may wish to adjust the height of the base slightly.

We also have plans for a more advanced Mission style look-down desk. The mission and several other designs can be adapted to have a well for the monitor. Here is where to get all the ordering information for the bigger desks.

Look Down 2

The computer is best located in a matching printer stand as a tower. The top view shows the three shelves, keyboard, monitor, and top.

Look Down 3

The computer can sit on a shelf under the monitor but this makes reaches to the disk drives difficult. The printer would still have to be on a separate piece of furniture.

All the Materials can be bought at your local home improvement store for about $400.00 in nice American hardwood.

Rockler order link to first page
  1. Obtaining the Sketches

    This free design includes nine detailed sketches. You can get them with this little form .

    Rockler order link to first page
  2. Desk Construction

    You can make this desk by:

    1. Downloading this text.
    2. Down-loading the sketches.
    3. Studying the information and locating


    4. Purchasing Materials.
    5. Cutting wooden pieces.
    6. Assembling the desk.
    7. Finishing all pieces.
    8. Installing the computer.

  3. Discussion of Sketches

    After you download the sketches, these notes will help you understand them. The Look-Down Desk is a simple frame with two adjustable shelves.

    1. Look-Down Computer Desk, With Printer Stand

      The Look Down Desk is shown face on with the printer stand beside it. You can easily adjust the width of the desk and the printer stand to suit your needs.

    2. Look-Down Computer Desk, Sketch #1, Side View

      This sketch is shows the side view of the desk and the printer stand independently. It shows hidden lines and gives overall dimensions.

      The keyboard and monitor are shown in position as well as the rows of holes that allow adjustment.

    3. Look-Down Computer Desk, Sketch #3, Top View

      The top view shows the keyboard shelf, the monitor shelf, and the top shelf. It gives the overall dimensions.

    4. Look-Down Computer Desk, Sketch #4, Front Parts 1

      This sketch shows the top shelf, the bottom shelf, and the keyboard shelf. The keyboard shelf has two small wooden strips to stop the keyboard from sliding off.

    5. Look-Down Computer Desk, Sketch #5, Front Parts 2

      This sketch shows the monitor shelf, the monitor shelf front, and the back brace. Three back braces are required.

    6. Look-Down Computer Desk, Sketch #6, Side Parts

      This sketch shows the side, keyboard shelf support, top shelf block, bottom shelf block, and foot block.

      The holes for the adjustment screws must be drilled only 5/8-inch into the sides so that they do not show through to the outside.

      'Pair Req.' means that two pieces of this type are needed and that they match like a pair of shoes, but are not quite identical.

      The foot blocks provide additional width for feet or casters. Their grain should run up-and-down like the sides.

    7. Look-Down Computer Desk, Sketch #7, Monitor Shelf End

      This sketch shows the end of the monitor shelf and three drilling jigs. Details on the use of the drilling jigs will be given in the construction hints below.

    8. Look-Down Computer Desk, Sketch #8, Table Top

      This sketch shows the table top, the table frame with the top removed, the table bottom shelf, and a cutaway of the frame with the bottom shelf removed. It gives the sizes of the top and the shelf.

      The grain of the top and shelf should run side-to-side to match the desk shelves.

    9. Look-Down Computer Desk, Sketch #9, Table Parts

      This sketch shows table leg, top side, bottom side, top end, bottom end, and the top mounting blocks.

    Rockler order link to first page
  4. Materials

    The Look Down Desk is made from hardwood boards. The parts are assembled with glue and wood screws.

    The cost of this desk is very sensitive to the cost of the wood. Shop around for a good price. Good wood for this desk include maple, ash, oak, and the less expensive tropical hardwoods.

    You may even use a less expensive wood and paint the desk. Popular (slightly green in color) or pine could be used. The would can have a few small, tight knots but the boards must be straight.

    Plywood could be used for the shelves. You could then apply strips of wood all the front edges. It is difficult to get a nice looking edge if you make the sides of plywood.

    1. Wood
      • Desk Sides ---------- 16 board Feet
      • Desk Shelves ------- 20 board feet
      • Printer Stand ------- 11 board feet

      Example @ 6.40 /bf Maple ------- Subtotal: $300.00

      • #8 x 1.25 in. flat head -- Box of 100 ---- 3.00
      • #8 x .75 in. flat head ----- 32 ------------ 1.00
      • #8 x 1.5 in. round head ---- 16 ------------ 3.00
      • #6 x .75 in. flat head ----- 16 ----------- 1.00
      • hardwood Plugs -------- 100 ------------ 4.00
      • Feet -------------------- 8 ------------ 6.00
      • Glue -------------------- 1 pint ------- 4.00
      • Construction Hardware Subtotal: $ 21.00

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

      Finish Subtotal: $31.00

    3. Omissions and Contingencies (~15%)( Tax, sand paper, etc.) $49
    4. Estimate Total Cost $400.00

    This is only an estimate (made in the fall of 1996). The price may vary in your area. Getting a good price on the hardwood is critical to keeping the price down.

  5. Tools

    This desk was designed so that it could be build by an amateur woodworker with a modest home shop. It requires the use of a radial-arm or table saw and common hand tools.

    Rockler order link to first page
  6. 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. Board or Plywood -- This desk can be built out of hardwood vinear plywood with thin strips of hardwood glued to all the edges. This approach is a little less expensive than solid hardwood.
      2. Set shelf heights -- A exercise, Air Typing is given on our Web Site to help you determine the height you need for the two shelves and the angle for the monitor.

    2. Edge Gluing Wooden Boards

      Their are a number of good ways to edge glue boards together for the sides, shelves, and tops. All will work. The one to choose depends on the tools available to you.

      Any plank saw boards wider than about six inches are subject to crowning up. You should rip these boards into, turn one half over, and reglue them.

      1. Simple Edge Gluing -- If the edges are planed straight and square to the sides, then you can simply glue the edges together. Modern wood glues are quite good. The more complicated approaches below do not add much strength but to help you keep the to surface flat.

        If you have a limited number of clamp you can still do a good job this simple way by working slowly. You simply glue one board at a time. You can then be sure that the top is flat. You simply come back about four hours later and glue the next board on. Professionals cannot take the time to do this but you can.

      2. Tung and Grove -- Tung and Grove work is best done with a router table and a pair of matching bits. It can be done on a table or radial arm saw with a dado cutter. This approach wastes a lot of good wood.
      3. Biscuit Joint -- This is the exact type of job the biscuit cutter is designed for. It you have (or can borrow) this tool, it will speed the work and produce a very nice finished surface.

    3. Adjustment Screws

      The keyboard and monitor shelves are held up by screws into the sides. An large array of pilot holes let you adjust these shelves to any height you need.

      • Drill the Pilot holes -- Sketch #7 shows two jigs to help you drill the pilot holes. Both are made from scrap wood. They help you drill the holes in a matching pattern and to limit the hole depth.
      • The one for the keyboard shelf has ten 1/8-inch holes on 1/2-inch centers. These holes must be drilled straight and are best done with a drill press.

        When drilling the sides, be sure to chuck your drill so that it goes through the jig and only 5/8-inch into the side. Practice this on scrap wood.

        Locate one end hole on the side piece and drill it. Insert one screw through the jig into the side. Align the jig parallel to the side, and drill the other end screw. With the two end screws in place, you can drill all the rest of the holes.

        The monitor shelf holes are done the same way but are on 1-inch centers.

      • Modifying the Screws -- You need to blunt the points of the round head screws so that they do not brake out the sides. This can be done by drilling a pilot hole through a piece of scrap wood and inserting the screw so that the point sticks out. You then easily fill off the point.
      • Flat Washers -- The adjustment screws need flat washers. These should not be too loose a fit.

    4. Monitor Shelf End Drilling

      The monitor shelf ends need slotted screw holes to allow the shelf to be tipped. The monitor end jig will help you drill these holes.

      This jig is made from a piece of scrap wood or plywood. It has a pattern of screw holes that match the side screw holes but these go all the way straight through the jig.

      First cut out the two monitor shelf ends. Locate and drill the lower-front hole and end holes for the lower back slot. All holes for adjustment screws should be a loose fit on the screw body.

      Now screw the monitor shelf end to the jig through the pivot hole and back slot. Choose the holes so that it runs straight across. Turn the assembly over and drill the top two pilot holes into the end piece.

      Now remove the back screw and rotate the monitor shelf end down one inch and reinstall the back screw. Turn the assemble over and again drill two pilot holes, each exactly two inches about the screw.

      Repeat this procedure six times for each monitor shelf end. Then remove the jig and drill out all the end piece pilot holes to the screw body size. Remove excess material between the holes with a rat-tailed file or rasp.

      The result should look like the monitor shelf end in Sketch #7 with one arc and one keyhole.

    5. Attaching Shelves and Table Top

      Wood expands and contracts with humidity and temperature. The amount of expansion is different with-the-grain and across-the-grain. The expansion is not very much but it can build up large forces in the wood and split the top or open the joint. This desk is designed so that differential expansion should have little effect as the wood grains do not cross.

      The printer top and shelf may be wide enough to have this problem. Fortunately there are a number of ways to address this problem. A number of options for attaching desk tops is given on our Web Site under: Table Tops

      The drawings show long screw and glue blocks for the shelves and short blocks for the table top. You may wish to use short blocks in both places.

    6. Printer Table

      You can make the printer table any width and height you need for your equipment. The bottom shelf could also be made of plywood even if it does not match the rest of the wood.

      This design has the side pieces glued into shallow dadoes in the legs. They are held with screws and glue with wooden pegs covering the counter sunk screws. You may want to do this frame a little differently to suit your preferences and Tools.

    7. Final Assembly

      First make up all the parts then assemble the desk body without the adjustable shelves. The desk body is simply assembled with screws and glue. None of the screws show as they all come from the back or inside.

      Check the adjustable shelves for length in the desk body before attaching the end pieces.

      Trial fit the adjustable shelves using the blunted screws and flat washers. Start the monitor shelf with the lower front screw and then the lower back. Install all four screws before tighten any of them. Do not over tighten the adjustment screws. You may want to try several heights and angles for the adjustable shelves.

    Rockler order link to first page
  7. 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. You could use a modern tung oil finish if you prefer.

  8. Completion

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

    1. Reassembly

      Do not glue the shelves to the frame.

    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 side panel. Route the switch cable up to the monitor shelf.

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

      Dress the cables neatly base and table legs 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
  9. 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 standing beside them.

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