Modular Desk System

Modular Desk System

Create an organized desk system on your patio with the help of carpenter Amy Devers.

5 col

At least (2) 2”x4”x8’ pine boards
2 Pistol Grip Bar Clamps
Tape Measure
3/4” exterior coated screws
1-5/8” drywall screws
3 1/4” pan-head screws
Shelf brackets (for desk)
3”x3-1/8” Deck joist ties (for mounting)
1 1/2” Brad Nails
3/4” Plywood boards (for desktops)
Nail gun (or hammer)
Fine-grit sandpaper
Outdoor enamel paint
Paint roller and pan
Chop Saw

NOTE: This project is reliant on the use of existing deck posts.



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  1. Determine the height that you’d like your desk to be and mark the position with a pencil on the existing deck posts. Most desks rest at about 29” from the ground.
  2. Move a 2”x4” into place at your desired desk height in between the existing posts.  Secure the 2”x4” to the deck post with one pistol grip bar clamp on each end. With the 2”x4” rail in place, use a level to guarantee the rail is sitting perfectly horizontal.
  3. Use the counter sinking drill bit to create two pilot holes on each end of the 2”x4” rail. Using the impact driver, drive one screw through each pilot hole, securing the rail to the deck post. Remove the clamps and repeat with additional 2”x4”s (if necessary) to achieve the desired number of rails for your modular system.
  4. Using the tape measure, determine the height of the top rail depending on how high you would like your shelf components to sit above the desk (the desk will sit on the lowest rail). Mark the positioning with the pencil and repeat steps 2 and 3 to attach the additional rails to the deck posts.
  5. To create the desktop component: Measure and mark out your desired size of the desktop on the plywood and cut it out with the chop saw. Measure and cut a plywood back plate to 10” in height and the same width as the desktop. Apply a bead of wood glue to the back edge of the desk top, placing it about 3/4” from the top of the back plate.
  6. Flip the desktop over and apply 1-5/8” drywall screws into the back of the back plate, into the edge of the desk, using the impact driver. Space the screws about 6” apart. 
  7. Place the shelf brackets underneath the desktop about 6” in from each end. Screw the brackets into place with the 3/4” exterior screws and the impact driver on the bottom side of the desktop and the back plate. This will allow your desk to bare extra weight.
  8. Install the deck joist ties, which you can purchase at your local hardware store, to the back of the desk’s back plate. Make sure the edges of the deck joist ties are aligned with the top edge of the back plate.  Secure the ties by screwing them in with the 3/4” exterior screws, through the holes and into the back plate, installing them with the impact driver.

*** Add inset***

  1. To create the cubby components: Create a five-sided, open-topped cubes. Using the chop saw, cut out three 14”x22” boards and two 10”x14” boards. Apply a bead of wood glue to the bottom, left and right side of two of the 14”x22” and two 10”x14” boards. Lay the unglued 14”x22”, flat down; this will be the base of our five-side open-topped cube. One by one, place the four, glued boards onto the base with the glued bottom edge down, creating a rectangle. Be sure that all of the glued edges are aligned.  Using 1 1/2” brad nails and a nail gun, nail each glued edge into place, about every 4” apart. 
  2.  Repeat step 8, but with the new cubby component in place of the desk, to attach the desk joist ties to the cubby.
  3. To create the shelving components: Cut two plywood boards to the desired measurements that you’d like the shelf to be. One board will be the back plate of the shelf and the other will be the actual shelf to hold books/objects. Apply a bead of glue to the top edge of the back plate and place the shelf top directly on top, aligning the edges. Using 1 1/2” brad nails and a nail gun, nail the shelf top to the glued edge, about every 4” apart. 
  4. Repeat step 8, but with the new shelf component in place of the desk, to attach the desk joist ties to the shelf.
  5. With all of your components constructed, sand each one with fine-grit sandpaper.  With each piece smooth, use the paintbrush and paint roller to prime each component.  Allow ample time for each piece to completely dry.
  6. Once the primer has completely dried, apply the outdoor paint to each component, using the paintbrush and paint roller. Allow ample time for each piece to completely dry.
  7. Place each dried component onto the rails where you would like it, making sure the desk joist ties are sitting snuggly onto the 2”x4” rail.

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