Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pullout Desk Shelves You Can Make

Kitchen cutting boards that pulled out of the cabinet were all the rage a few years back. The same principle works if, like most of us, your desk is piled high with computers, printers, scanners and the myriad other bits of desk debris that are the hallmark of the technical age we live in. I'm lucky. My oak rolltop desk came with, not one but two pullout writing boards, complete with inset mouse-pads. Best of all, I got it on eBay for $250 from a guy who didn't have room for it.

I love my desk.

If you don't have such a handy writing surface, here are three ways to solve your problem.

I. The Handy Dandy Drawer Topper
This one you just shove down under the desk and when you need it, just pull out the drawer and set the writing board on top of it. The 1-by-1 strips glued beneath the board keep it from slipping around.

  • Wooden butcher board or 1 inch thick flat board at least as wide as your drawer
  • 1-by-1 strips
  • Table Saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain
  • Varnish
Step 1
Pull out the top right hand drawer of your desk till it stops. Most desks have a built-in stop that keeps the drawer from falling all the way out. If your drawer doesn't, just find a place where you can stop it and it sits level.

Step 2
Measure the width of the drawer and the distance from the front of the drawer. Cut your writing board to fit in the space between the drawer and the desk.

Step 3
Measure the width of the drawer. Cut two 1-by-1 Lay the board on top of the drawer and “Voila!” you have a place to write or to at least move aside the I-pods, calculators, laptops and paperweights so you can write on the regular desk. The drawer front may get in your way, depending on how high it is, but if your writing board is thick enough, with a lot of desks this type of add-on writing surface may be even with the drawer front. You will have to make sure not to put too much junk in your drawer so that it sticks above the top of the drawer sides.

 II. The Drawer Replacement

This one costs you a drawer, but if you need the extra space it may be well worth the sacrifice. This really only works well with wooden desks and drawers.

  • Wooden cutting board or 1-inch shelving material wide enough to fit in the drawer space.
  • Table saw
  • 1-by-1 inch strips
  • Carpenter glue
  • Screws.
  • Drill and bits w/ screwdriver bits.
  • Hinges with screws
Step 1
Pull out the drawer and take off the front of the drawer. Screw the hinges to the base of the drawer compartment and to the back of the drawer front. The drawer front will fold down to allow the writing drawer to slide out.

Step 2
Remove the drawer slide mechanism from the sides of the old drawer. Cut down the sides of the drawer leaving only enough to screw the slide mechanism to. You can do this by turning the drawer bottom on it's side and cut along a line just above the top of where the drawer slide mechanism attaches to the drawer. Leave the bottom of the drawer attached.

Step 3
Reattach the drawer slide mechanism to the bottom of the drawer and reinsert the drawer in the desk. Test to make sure there is enough clearance for the drawer front to close. You may have to add a magnetic catch or something to keep the drawer front closed.

Step 4
Pull out the drawer bottom to where it is level and presses against the drawer stops. Measure the width of the compartment and the depth of the drawer bottom. Cut the writing board to fit those dimensions .

Step 5
Cut two 1-by-1 strips to fit inside the drawers from front to back. Glue the strips to the bottom of the writing board so they fit just inside the drawer sides on either side. Allow to dry.

Step 6
Set the writing board on top of the cut down drawer bottom. It's not necessary to screw the board in place as the 1-by-1 strips will hold it securely in the drawer and the board itself rests on top of the cut-down sides.

Step 7
Stain and varnish the writing board and allow to dry. Push the drawer in and close it.

III. Pull Out Writing Board.

If you have a section of your desktop that doesn't have a drawer, simply build a compartment underneath the desk and slide a writing board into it.

  • 1-by- 8 shelf board
  • Wooden cutting board or 1 inch thick board the width of you desire
  • 1-by-1 inch wooden strips
  • 1-1/4 inch screws
  • Drill and bits and screwdriver bits
  • Table saw
  • Carpenter glue
  • Tape measure
  • Square

Step 1
Measure the width and depth of the space you have for your writing board compartment. Cut a piece of the shelf board 8 inches deep by the width of compartment for the shelf drawer bottom.

Step 2
Glue a 1-by1 wooden strip on the top of either side of the shelf drawer bottom, running front to back, flush with the edge of the drawer bottom. When the glue is dry, pilot drill the 1-by-1 strips and screw them into the drawer bottom. The drawer bottom is now a flat “U” shape.

Step 3
Glue the top edges of the 1-by-1 strips to the bottom of the desk with the drawer bottom centered in the space beneath the desktop you've chosen for your drawer. If you can turn the desk upside down for this it's easier. The pilot drill through the drawer bottom and the 1-by-1 strips and halfway into the desktop. Don't drill through the desktop. Screw 2 inch screws into the sides of the new drawer compartment to hold it to the desktop bottom.

Step 4
Cut your writing board to fit the width of the new drawer compartment and the length of the space behind it if possible. This allows you the maximum workspace.

Step 5
Stain and varnish the writing board. When dry push it all the way into the compartment.

Step 6
Screw a length of 1-by-1 inch strip to the bottom back edge of the writing board. This prevents the writing board from accidentally pulling completely out. Don't glue the backstop strip in case you ever need to remove the board for repair or replacement. 

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