Customized | Hairpin Desk

8:01:00 PM mandy 0 Comments

Two years ago, I rearranged my desk to refresh my room. Two years later, I switched it with a custom-made desk instead. Extra? You can say that. Necessary? I would like to think so.

lavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk

lavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk 2

I was originally hesitant to have a non-painted, original wood colored, tabletop because every other piece of furniture in my room is pitch dark. The birch wood is also out of place given how yellow my flooring is. This is partly why I went through all the troubles to have white hairpin legs instead of the industrial metallic look, at least then something will tie in with the rest of the room.

It might not be the prettiest desk nor the most refined piece of furniture, but it fits the space and crosses out all the issues I previously had with my old IKEA Malm desk. As far as desks go, it was generously spacious...especially when I had a smaller computer setup (i.e. laptop). As I sat in it for a while, I quickly developed a few small issues. But I generally loved the position the table is in so I set to find a happy medium.

Issues with old setup

1. My iMac monitor was too large for the depth of the desk—headaches and eye strain galore.
2. The corner of my room has a weird protrusion to cover pipes—table can't be pushed against both walls at once leaving large gaps and wasted space.
3. The original desk had support along the backside—hits against the radiator and blocks electrical outlets.
4. The table legs were closed off—difficult to see the trash can (which I leave next to the desk & out in the open).

lavlilacs Ikea Malm Desk abovelavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk above
lavlilacs Ikea Malm Desk sidelavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk side

Of the problems I had, the only thing I could change was the placement of my computer and the desk itself. I tried to solve the depth issue by:

1. placing the monitor on the window sill and moving the table slightly away from the wall. However, the screen became a little too far and high for my sitting height.
2. placing the monitor on the furthest edge of the desk and moving the table closer to the wall. I would either find my face very close to the screen but my arms were comfortable or I sit so far back that my arms have no table space to rest on.

The perfect solutions seemed to be a combination of both; the iMac should sit as close to the window as possible and the desk should have a deeper tabletop.

Why didn't I just set out to purchase a table the size I needed? Apparently, the standard desk depth is around 25-26 inches. The depth I needed in order to forcibly sit far enough away from the monitor is closer to 32 inches or above. The extra 6 inches makes a huge difference! Solid wood butcher blocks could have been an option if I wasn't trying to keep costs low; plus, I had to cut a corner out which would have been a waste of a beautiful piece of kitchen-grade finished wood.

lavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk planning

I drew the first sketch in 2016. It was just an unfeasible wish at the time. Every room in the house that needed a desk already had one. If I made one then, it would have been very unnecessary in many people's eyes. When my brother recently switched over from a laptop to a Windows desktop computer with the works (monitor, tower, keyboard, mouse, speakers, mic, etc.) his small desk (about 2/3 the size of the IKEA Malm) became overcrowded. My perfect excuse finally came!

The thought that DIY projects would be affordable is dangerous. It might be in some scenarios, just not quite so in mine. I wanted the most affordable version of a simple desk as I could get. Simple in the sense that it is minimalistic and easy to put together. Even still, a huge chunk of the cost went into the hairpin legs, then the plywood, then the paints & clear coat for the table legs, and other miscellaneous materials. Since my uncle generously helped me out, I saved money on a good deal on screws, clear coating for the tabletop, and machinery & equipment rentals.

What I Bought; $213.68 (including NY sales tax)

Set of 4, 3-Rod 28" High 1/2" Thick Raw Steel Hairpin Legs $98.30
1 sheet of 3/4" 4'x8' Birch Plywood $54.41
3 cans of Rustoleum Painter's Touch 2x Ultra Cover Paint + Primer in Flat White $12.99
2 cans of Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Protected Finish in Clear Satin $29.98
Vinegar ~$4
Paintbrush ~$1-4
Paint tray ~$1
Set of 4, The Hairpin Leg Co. Hairpin Leg Protector Feet in White $10.00

What Uncle Spared Me; unquantifiable

3M Paint Sanding Respirator Mask $7.97/pack of 2
3M Blue tape ~$7-9
Lots of 1-1/4" screws ~$7-10/box of 100
Wood glue ~$5-7/bottle
1 Quart of Benjamin Moore Benwood Stays Clear Acrylic Polyurethane in Low Lustre ~$21.79

Table saw
Miter saw
Sander + sandpaper
Electric screwdriver
Vacuum with blower (for sand dust)

lavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk process

In order to have the table length I had in mind, bowing (sagging) could have been a potential issue. It could have been exacerbated because the radiator would have sat right in the middle as well. The two possibilities were to have a thick tabletop by gluing two 3/4" boards together OR having a fake 2-layer top by creating framing around the edges and adding support in the middle. I chose the latter to keep costs low—an extra plywood would have been another $54.41!

Home Depot can cut boards. The one I went to did not make cuts less than 12". We needed our 48"x96" board to be cut into one 68.5"x34" (table size), three 68.5"x3.5"(4 edges), one 68.5"x3" (middle support), and scrap 27.5"x48" (leg support & extra). Since the store couldn't do make the smaller cuts, we left with 3 pieces (68.5"x34", 68.5"x14", and 27.5"x48") and my uncle made the rest of the cuts himself.

The worst part about Home Depot cutting a lower-quality plywood board is the chances of the cut edge splintering is very high, especially when going against the grain. Their machine is powerful and mainly used for rough cuts. It isn't ideal for furniture but what can ya do? The best we did was place the severely damaged sides where it couldn't be seen or felt.

My uncle chose to cut 45-degree triangles off the corners of the support beams to improve the aesthetics. He attached it with a light layer of wood glue and many many screws. This isn't a foolproof method, not all edges were completely stuck long as the gaps aren't terribly large.

Sanding wasn't the most time-consuming since he had a mechanical sander. With that being said, there is still a lot of sanding to be done. Straight back from the store, sand. After anything else is cut a little bit, sand. Before anything is attached together, sand. After it is attached together, sand it again. After every layer of primer/paint/clear coat, sand sand sand!

The step that took the most time was unsurprisingly painting. I chose to forgo sanding in-between coats for this project. Even still, I found myself applying clear coats for multiple days because I had to cover both the top and bottom of the tabletop and giving sufficient time for one side to dry before flipping it over. The quart of clear coat gave me 2-3 very light coats on the underside and 6-7 very light coats on the top surface. Each coat needed 30 minutes of drying time before the next one could be applied and ~24 hours before it dried through.

While I waited for the clear coating to cure, I ordered feet protectors off Amazon since I did not plan on using a rug to protect the hardwood floor. The week wait was long yet completely worth it. The feet protectors I found were from a UK brand called The Hairpin Leg Co. and they luckily offered a white version. It isn't a true white, more like a creamy off-white. Once on and the table is right-side-up, the shadows help mask the color difference.

lavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk underside

A better view of the table situation. How the top was framed. How the edges can finally reach the walls. How open the hairpin legs make the area feel. How all the outlets are fully accessible and with extras to spare.

lavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk detailslavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk details 2

My desktop monitor is now finally the perfect distance away. I no longer have to zoom in 2x, 3x times to look at websites. I do not have to arch my neck way back to look at the screen. I also don't have to go blind because the monitor is only a foot away from my eyes. My elbows get plenty of resting space while all my other junk can be sprawled all over. Glorious!

I will admit though, reaching for things across the table is much harder now unless I physically move my butt out of my seat. I guess this is a good thing for my body in the long run?

lavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk cable organizationlavlilacs Custom Hairpin Desk details 2

Another nice perk to come out of the custom desk. No matter how accurately things are measured, it is probably impossible for tables to stick to walls without any gaps whatsoever. The benefit from the tiny gaps I have are the natural cable organizers. I did not have to cut a hole for the computer cable to pass through nor did I have to buy cord management systems to stick onto the desk. Huzzah!

And so that is the story of how my custom hairpin desk came to be. Hopefully, it will last a while without too much paint wearing down or splinters catching into my skin. That is the only fear I have with wooden furniture.