How to Make a DIY Wood Desktop

April 21, 2021

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Why are desks so expensive? It’s 2021 and a large majority of the world is working from home now. I wanted a beautiful, custom desk, so I did what any crazy DIYer (or desperate work-from-home-er) would do. I made my own.

My wood desktop is a whopping 115 inches long (or if you’re not as weird as me, that means 9.5 feet) and comfortably fits me and my husband. Plus, it includes plenty of paper storage.

Wooden desktop on IKEA ALEX cabinets

The desktop cost me less than $75 and a few days to make! This exact same process could work for any kind of wooden table top.

Here’s how to do it–or click any of these link to go to the right section:

DIY Wood Desktop Supplies

Step 1: Make Sure Your Lumber is Straight

I don’t think anyone ever intends to buy bowed or twisted wood, but this here is going to be a desktop. You’re going to be sitting a lot of cups of coffee on this guy–make sure he’s perfectly straight.

You do that by:

  • Placing one corner of the board on the ground and looking down the thin edge of the board from eye level
  • Putting one short edge of the board on the ground and looking down the edge from eye level
  • Placing the board on the ground and walking across it

If the board is twisted or bowed, you’ll see it from one of these angles. If you’re shopping at Lowe’s or Home Depot and you need multiple boards of the size that I needed–expect to spend a solid amount of time looking for the right boards. SO MANY of the boards here are messed up.

When you find the number of boards you’re looking for (in my case, three), place all three on the ground and push them together to make sure they fit together nicely.

Step 2: Cut Your Wood Pieces Evenly

First, you need to measure the space in your room and determine how long you want your DIY desktop to me. Then, it’s time to make the cut.

Line your wood up evenly on one side and clamp the pieces together with your bar clamps.

Wooden board clamped together with bar clamps

If you don’t know how to cut a straight line with a jigsaw or circular saw–no freehanding!–read my simple trick to make it easy.

After this cut, your boards will all be perrrrfectly even and it will be a beautiful moment. Breathe it in.

Step 3: Attach Your Boards

Now it’s time to put the pieces together!

Drill Pocket Holes

You need to decide exactly where you want each board and how you want them to sit. Then, I used my $20 kreg jig to make pocket holes where the boards would meet.

Kreg jig to make pocket holes for wooden desktop

They make fancy kreg jigs up to like $200, but girl, this $20 piece has become my bestie. I highly HIGHLY recommend it.

Apply Wood Glue on the Board Edges

Once the holes were drilled and I had the pocket screws ready, it was time for wood glue. Apply the wood glue on the edges of your wood, then clamp them together with your bar clamps.

Here’s a tip that I learned DURING this project–don’t overdo it with the wood glue.

Also, some wood glues are “sandable,” and some aren’t. The kind I used, to my dismay, was NOT.

wood glue mistake on this DIY wooden desktop
The tragedy of all tragedy: dried wood glue

You would be very displeased to find out how much effort it took to hide these dried wood glue spots. I’ll save you the ten minute rant and just say: TOO MUCH EFFORT.

And if you’re using 1-inch wood like I was, you’re going to get some overflow with even a thin layer of glue. You will not need to apply wood glue on BOTH edges–just one thin layer in between the wood will be plenty.

Anyway–once your desktop is clamped, you can drill in the pocket screws as the wood dries.

Step 4: Sand Your Desktop

I like to keep projects to the minimum amount of tools, which is why I always tell you in the supplies section what is optional and what is not.

You don’t technically need a sander for this desktop. However, in my case, my desk was NINE AND A HALF FEET LONG. So this is the project when I finally bought one–my hand just didn’t have the energy to do it on its own.

Using a sander on table top
My husband using a sander…. for the first and last time

However, I did not make a big investment and ordered my sander for $13 from Walmart. It’s been about four months and this guy has not let me down.

I’m sure that if I used a better, more expensive sander like this, I’d see a huge difference. But if you’re on a budget, the $13 one is fine.

Sand it until you can run your hands all over it without getting a splinter. If you want to be technical, sand it until it feels pretty dang smooth.

Then clean up all the dust. I like to use a vacuum, a good old fashioned wet paper towel, and a damp/dry microfiber towel to get all the sawdust off the wood. All very unprofessional and yet extremely effective tools.

Step 5: Stain or Paint the Desktop

If you’re painting your wood, now you prime.

If you’re staining your wood, use Minwax pre-stain. Again, this is a somewhat optional step–HOWEVER, if you haven’t already noticed, I am not a particularly detail-oriented type of DIYer. I did many staining projects without using pre-stain, but there is an undeniable improvement when when you use it.

And again–this is a desktop. You don’t want the stain lookin’ janky.

I used Special Walnut wood stain for this desktop and it looks BEAUTIFUL, especially on the white cabinets.

Step 6: Seal the Wood Desktop

Make sure you look at your primer, paint, or stain cans and see how long the coats need to cure.

When your paint or stain has had PLENTY of time to cure (it’s frequently 24 hours), it’s time to seal.

There are many different sealer options, and quite honestly, many of them confuse me. Over the past few years, I’ve grown to really love and appreciate Minwax Polycrylic because it barely smells, dries quickly, and WORKS.

In fact, I used it on my painted granite countertops, and it really rose to the challenge.

If you’re thinking of using this desktop as a table top, you might want to add two coats of this sealer. You will also want to do both sides of your desktop. It’s SO hard to wait for this part–but it’s worth it, I promise!

Once your sealer is cured, your desktop is done! You can attach legs or sit it on cabinets, like I did.

Watch a video of the process and connect with me on TikTok!

What questions do you have?

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Hi! I’m Kaylee–a mom of 2, business owner, DIY addict, and so much more. You’ll find some fun DIY tutorials, totally honest reviews, and lots of tips for making your home fit YOU. Welcome to Mama and More!

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