A friend of mine is studying to be a veterinarian and studies quite a lot. Usually, she ends up doing this on her futon sofa; however, it is not exactly comfortable to set up a laptop, textbooks, and notebook on a futon. She asked me if I could make her a sofa desk that she could use to hold a few things while studying but was small enough to hide away when necessary.
Oak and Black Walnut lumber
2 lengths of 24”x 1/2” black pipe
4 - 1/2” black pipe flanges
Round over bit
Step 1: The Design
She asked for the top to be about 20 in x 12 in and for the whole thing to be 26-30 inches off the ground.
I thought about trying to do some cool jointed legs so it could fold up but decided to keep it simple and modern instead. Also, if something broke it would be easier for her to fix on her own. I used a piece of a small black walnut slab I had from a different project for the top and a thicker piece of white oak for the base. The legs were made of black pipe from Lowe’s.
Step 2: The Base
This needed to be heavy enough to anchor and hold the desk down. I took some rough sawn oak and cut it down to about a 12” x 12” piece. I jointed the edges and then planed it down to about 3/4 of an inch thick. This was heavy but not absurdly so. My friend is rather petite and I didn’t want her to have to haul around some gigantically heavy thing.
(Those numbers and markings in the picture are from something else I considered using this piece for.)
Step 3: The Top
I had a left over piece of black walnut that I had thinned to about 7/16 thick.
I cut this down to a rectangle of about 20” x 12” using my circular saw. One side I left with the live edge, the others I cut square and jointed.
I had a random 1” diameter hole in the top from the previous project but I decided to include that section instead of trimming it out. I thought it could be a good lifting point and just add some character.
There was a small degree of cupping taking place in this piece of wood. I decided to use that to my advantage and align it to that the top sloped ever so slightly down towards the user. You can see this most clearly in the last few pictures of the finished piece.
Step 4: The Legs
Easy part here. Go to Lowe’s/Home Depot and get black pipe to the lengths you want along with four flanges and some screws.
Mount one set of flanges on the base, screw in the legs making sure they are the same length, then put the second set of flanges on.
Now flip the whole thing over and place it on the top (which is upside down) and mark out where to put the screws.
Pre drill the holes to help when you screw it in, just make sure your screws are short enough they don’t go all the way through.
Step 5: Finishing
I took a round over router bit and used that on the upper edges of the top and base to soften it a touch. I also used the round over bit on that randomly drilled hole. I left the live edge as is of course.
I then progressively sanded everything down to 320. After this I applied danish oil with a rag, waited 30 min, and then wet sanded with 320 by hand using more danish oil. I wiped it all down with a lint free rag after and screwed the legs on.
My friend really liked it, it was a perfect height for her futon and could hold a laptop and notebook comfortably. The black walnut really popped with the danish oil finish, I highly recommend it.
It’s easy to really spice this up if you wanted. You could get creative with the pipe and make a rack for books or use copper or stainless steel pipe instead, lots of cool ideas. If I ever make another one I will probably try to add a thin bookshelf of some kind in the back.