Welcome, I recently decided to level up my home working setup, the ergonomics of my old desk were pretty poor both in height, size and lack of adjustment. This has become especially important to me due to the fact that I will be working from home for the majority of my working week and I have experienced some discomfort whilst in lockdown. This is going to be a really easy build to follow but will look fantastic when its done and will be something you would be proud to say you have built. So get comfortable (if you have a comfortable desk) and below I will take you through from concept to finish my invisible wireless charging, height adjustable, ergonomic smart desk.
Generally there are accepted universal desk heights that most store bought desks will be designed to, this means that most chairs and desks will be compatible with each other. However the missing component here is the person actually going to be sitting at the desk! People are different shapes and sizes, but more specifically in regards to the ergonomics of a desk setup peoples torsos are different lengths. Even between people of exactly the same height. This means that even the universal desk heights don’t fit everyone. Thats a long explanation why I decided to make a fully adjustable desk that can also be a standing desk.
So let’s get into the woodworking. The design for the desktop will follow a Scandinavian minimalist style, so we will be looking a clean edges, thin lines and angles, but also very functional. When designing I use a program called Shapr3D, which specially made for iPad Pro, however you could use other great design programs like SketchUp, or you can use paper and pencil if you’re comfortable with that.
The desk is made out of 18mm Birch plywood, length is 1450mm and depth is 690mm. This is very specific to my space, however the great thing about working with sheet material such as plywood is that as long as your size fits within the board size which is 2420mm x 1220mm then its easy to cut at any size you wish. Please be aware that I recommend ONLY using Birch plywood, this because Birch ply has a much cleaner construction and finishes very well.
As you can see in the design there is also space cutout in the top itself, this was in my original design and its function would be to have cables go through it and thus allow the desk to go flush up against the wall. The finished product had a variation on this design as I decided that I was going to mount my monitors to the desk with a monitor arm at the back of the desk. After doing a bit of research on the attachment options for this setup I decided that the strength of the wood between the cutout and the back of the desktop would not be strong enough or provide enough surface area to support the monitor arm desk attachment. So I opted for an alternate design which would still allow the cable management and desk to go flush but would also allow attachments to the back of the desk.
Adjustable standing desk legs:
OK so I cheated a bit and bought adjustable legs online, however my metal working and electronics skills aren’t up to snuff. To be honest for us average Joes this is the best way of getting a relatively cheap adjustable desk. So as you can see the legs came all packaged up nice and tight in quite a small box. Putting them together was very easy, instructions were good and all of the bolts could be hand screwed and then tightened using the provided tool. You would be surprised how much easier this makes putting together things like this, I always go wrong at least once even with the easiest builds. It took me about an hour to get the legs together and then of course I plugged in the electrics and tested the raising mechanism, its fast and quite quiet, so I know i’m onto a winner.
Cutting to size
Ok this is when the fun begins, so I just want to say before hand that I am using some fairly expensive tools for this build, HOWEVER! Don’t worry if you only have a hammer and a steak knife, I will provide alternate tools that are much more widely available and affordable.
Ok so this step is very important and SHOULD NOT be missed. I take a very close look at the wood, yep really close, what are you doing you ask? I’m looking for two things:
Imperfections in the wood – Even plywood is all natural wood and so it will have imperfections or transit marks that you will not want to see on your desktop. In some cases small marks can be sanded down, but you need to be very careful when sanding plywood as you can sand through the top layer into the next layer down and it will look terrible, this layer is normally a different colour and the grain is running the opposite way the to top layer.
Sexy grain – Yep thats right almost the opposite to first point, there might be some lovely grain patterns that you want to show off on your desktop.
So with those two points what i’m trying to decide at that point is what side of the board is going to be the top of the desk and what is going to be the underneath. This is especially important to do at this stage if you are cutting an angled edge in your desk, once that angled edge is cut you can’t just flip over the desktop if you get it wrong.
Here I am cutting the board to length with a track saw, this is essentially a fancy circular saw that runs along a track and cuts very straight. Alternate tools you can use to cut boards to length are; Circular saw, jigsaw or even a handsaw. Just remember that to keep your cuts straight you can use a piece of wood that is straight and use that as a guide. Additionally I am cutting the board at a 30 degree angle so that the outside of the desk will be angled inwards to the centre. Some of the alternative tools I posted above may have a plate that enables angled cuts, if they don’t then you can actually add this angle using a sander.
Cutting the cable gap
So in the actual build I did not cut out the cable gap until after I applied the finish and then had to sand and apply more finish to the freshly cut wood. Honestly I was waiting for some jigsaw blades to arrive but I wanted to just crack on. Normally in a build such as this though, here is the point I would have cut out the gap. So don’t get confused by the fact that in the pictures I am cutting an already finished desktop.
Ok so to cutout the cable gap I measured the same distance from both ends of the board, marking a line with pencil. I then moved in another 80mm and marked again. The first mark is when I will started the angled cut, the second mark is where the cut straightened up and the same on the other side. This will results in both sides being even and also made cutting easy. I used a jigsaw to follow the line and then sanded down the edges which is detailed below.
Edging & cornering the board
Now that the board is cut to length I take off those sharp corners I’ve have created. In the picture you can see that I have actually used a router guide to make sure that all of my corners are the same bevel. You can pick these up quite cheap on amazon, make your own or just eyeball it. Instead of using a router on these corners I decided it was easier to use the orbital sander. So I just chucked some 60 or 80 grit sanding disks on there and started rounding those corners
Now with the 30 degree edge and the rounded corners you get a fantastic looking corner. This is a personal favourite design of mine , it looks professional but is very easy to attain. Now I move onto the edging, and here all I am doing is rounding over all the sharp edges I have around the board. You will need to be very gentle doing this and you should not apply hardly any pressure at all, the sander will take off the material just with the motion.
Sanding and finishing the edging
Right now comes the not so fun part (nobody I know likes sanding) With my 80 grit pad on the orbital sander, I just lightly sanded the top and underneath of the board. Again not applying that much pressure here, not trying to remove material, just prepping for finish. I then worked my way through the grits, so up to 120 and 180.
Once on 180 grit I went around the edges and corners of the board again, this leaves them silky smooth. The goal is that I can confidently run my finger across all the edges and corners of the board without risk of splinters or cuts
Finishing is an art unto itself but it is also when all the previous hard work pays off in buckets, especially when using sheet birch ply which is very pale and bland in its natural state.
There are a lot of different ways and products for finishing wood, however for this project I used a combination of Danish oil and beeswax. Whatever finish you choose just make sure it is waterproof. Another important step that should be taken before applying finish is surface prep, make sure that there is zero dust or bits on the wood and apply finish in a dust free environment. ANY dust or bits on the wood will look terrible once finish is applied.
In the picture you can see me applying the danish oil to the desktop with a lint free cloth. Its very important to give the wood an even application and that there is no wet oil left on the top after application. Leave the first application to dry for 6 hours, and apply a second coat, you may want to do a a bit of light sanding between coats if the surface has some bits or nibs in it. Use very high number grit for this. For this project I only applied two coats of oil.
Once the second application of oil is dried I gave it another hand sand with a large number grit. Then the final stage of finish is to add the Wax, note that once you apply the wax you will not be able to apply anymore finish as the wax creates a waterproof barrier on top of the wood. So if you’re not happy with the finish colour then apply another coat of oil and do not apply wax. Wax is applied with a dry lint free cloth and really only needs one application though a second will give more shine. I then leave the wax to dry for an hour and then buffed it with another dry lint free cloth.
Boom, desktop is done. How does it look?
Attaching the desktop to the legs
Ok going to keep this brief, I attached the desktop to the legs with the supplied screws. The only thing to make sure here is that you attach the desktop the right way around and that you don’t put too much horizontal or vertical pressure on the desktop, its only 18mm thick so the screws will not hold the weight of the legs. DO NOT lift by the desktop, always manoeuvre using the legs.
So here I just make sure I have the desktop in the centre and it all looks great before attaching it, this is where that tape measure comes in handy. Attaching the control unit to the underside of the desk was also a breeze, I just used double sided 3M pads (I actually cant remember if these were included or not but I had them to hand) You can also use screws but I didn’t see the need to do this.
Adding the UTS-1 Invisible Wireless Charger:
Ok so I know what your thinking, thats a great looking desk and its adjustable but how is it smart and what is all this about magic invisible charging?
Well thats where the next bit of cutting edge tech comes into play, the UTS-1 invisible wireless charger from Kew Labs. This is the jewel in the crown of my new desk setup and now its installed I can’t imagine how I managed with all the wires before. Because let’s be honest with ourselves here, wireless charging wasn’t exactly wireless, you could see the wires leading to the wireless charger, the wire might as well have gone into the phone.
Adding the UTS-1 to an existing desk setup couldn’t be easier, in fact the hardest part of the installation was choosing what sticker I wanted to use and then making sure I stuck it down straight! (I moved mine several times, I’m still not sure I have it 100% straight)
The UTS-1 comes with 3M pads already added around the edges ready to peel and stick, a generous power cable length (Yes of course it has a wire, but you’ll never see it) and good instructions. So I figured out where I wanted to attach it to the desk then peeled back the 3M pads and attached by pressing firmly to the underside of the desk. I tested the unit at this point to ensure all was good before using the supplied screws to fully secure the unit.
Testing is super simple and explained well in the instructions, just switch the unit to test mode and then it makes bleeps that become more frequent and eventually change tone when your phone is in the sweet spot for optimum charging . Stand back, take a look at your phone location, does it look right, is it going to get in the way? Your phone will need to be in that location to charge.
Once I was happy I screwed the unit on and then I was onto the hardest and most nerve wrecking part. THE STICKERS!
The UTS-1 comes with quite a few variations of stickers for the top part of your desktop, the goal of these is to indicate to you where your phone should go, you don’t need to use any stickers if you have a photographic memory and an excellent sense of space but us mere mortals need stickers. They come in different sizes and colours and there is even a useful guide that comes in the pack to help you place them. As you can see I chose the darker set that works well with the lighter wood. Though I think that I am going to actually engrave a cool icon in the wood myself in the future.
Then all that was left was to switch the unit into the correct charge mode for the thickness of my material and I was good to go! I placed my phone on the sticker and boom, wireless charging, actually without the visible wires.
So thats it, honestly it was not the most difficult woodworking project I have ever done, but the outcome is fantastic plus its only the first step in my home setup. Using the same design principles and angles, I will be making a monitor stand, cabinet, shelves. Once the whole ecosystem is in place it will be mind blowing.
My favourite thing about this project was how simple it was, your desk doesn’t need to have expensive electric legs, you could put that nice desktop you made on some 2by4s hidden underneath and it would still look great. Generally I think I have nailed the minimalist look with this design which was topped off by the added minimalism of a fantastic truly wireless charger.