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What timber to use for a D.I.Y. desk?

NhamDesk.jpegI like to use the timber panels that you get from Bunnings. They are easy to work with and the quality is very good for the price. For my last tables, I used the rubber wood worktop that Bunnings was selling for $69 and also the Oiled Karri Laminated Panel for $129. At the moment I am using the spotted gum which is just beautiful, full of colour and amazing patterns. I like the water base coatings, such as clear coats, stains and paints. Just easier to work with and clean up.


I have used several of the Interbuilds wooden panels, and they are very sturdy. If you place the wooden panel onto a frame, it should hold a PC and several monitors. I made a desk 12 months ago for my WFH office using an Interbuild top, and it is still going strong. My last desk for my son was 500mm deep, and it will fit a narrow space. I would not go any smaller as you need to have the monitor and keyboard on the desk. If you want more desk space, you can use a monitor arm to mount the screen.


I would measure out what size you need, ask the Bunnings staff to pre-cut the frame (pine) and the tabletop if they can. Using a handsaw will take you a long time, but it might be okay. I would find it hard to keep a straight cut. The other alternative is that you can get pre-made steel legs and attach these to the table top. With this setup, the panel is not sitting on a frame but is easier to put together. - Nham


For those looking for deeper desks, most of our panel products go up to 600mm deep. We do have the Selex 2100x900mm 30mm Clear Laminated Pine Panel, which you could cut down to suit your 1600-1800mm length requirement. As this is a Pine panel, you'll be able to stain and varnish it to your desired appearance.


If a standard Taskmaster 700 x 50mm Black Steel Table Leg was not high enough, you might like to consider using Adoored 76 x 710mm Brushed Nickel Adjustable Table Legs, which would give you an additional 155-185mm of height. - MitchellMc


We also have the Ash 2400 x 900 x 33mm Hardwood Laminated Panel and Merbau panels if you were looking for a hardwood option. Panel products like these are not suitable to be cut in-store. However, they can easily be cut down at home with a circular saw. Personally, I like to lay down some masking tape on both sides of the panels and then mark out the guidelines on them. This means that there is minimal tear out of the timber when the cuts are made through the tape.


In regards to coatings, you generally would use a hard clear coat like Cabot's 500ml Satin Water Based Cabothane Clear Polyurethane Varnish. This protects the timber from staining and those track marks you were mentioning earlier. If you wanted to change the colour at the same time, you would use a stain and varnish. Here's a video showing How to varnish a timber tabletop.


I like working with the water-based options. I have used oil-based coatings several times before, but on one particular project, it yellowed and I wasn't thrilled with that. I've never had any issues with water-based coatings before, and they dry much quicker. The other reason I go with water-based is that brushes are far easier to clean. I'm a bit lazy, and if I use something oil-based, I know I'll throw the brush out instead of cleaning it. - abarrow


I personally like to work with water based stain and sealer for the shorter drying time. Mind you there is nothing wrong with oil based stains and sealers. It all comes down to preference and personal choice. If you've worked with it before you will know how the stain and sealer will behave when used on timber. But at the same time using a water based one gives you the opportunity to try it out and see what kind of results you can get. Plus it adds to your knowledge of stains and sealers.


For really deep desks, Kaboodle timber bench tops are an option. Bamboo tops at 2400x900 or THINK timber bench top in Beech 2400x900. Both these tops will need to be stained and sealed.


You could do it in plywood AA grade for a superior top finish. You would have to join 2 sheets together to achieve a 36mm thickness. If you’re worried about marks on a desk using softer woods, one way to protect your desk from pen damage is to purchase a desk writing mat, it is made of PVC material and is transparent and hence will neatly blend in with your desk. The mat will take the brunt of the writing damage while keeping your desk blemish free. - redracer01


I used Bondall Monocel Clear Wood varnish to create a nice glossy finish for my desktop. It turned out really well but in future I would highly recommend using a water-based coating. I'd start with a water-based varnish, then top it off with a two-pack acrylic clear-coat, and then use cutting compound (such as Meguiar's Ultimate) on a medium cutting pad with my Dual-action polisher, followed by a light buff with a polish pad on the same tool.


Automotive clearcoats deliver a nice, hard surface which responds well to cutting, polishing and buffing. You'll get that french-polished look without the need for all that business with Shellac, and in some cases it'll last longer. I would highly recommend using a desk mat as well though. Mostly to give your mouse a nice gliding surface. - oheyitsbeano


I have a desk that is just over 800mm deep, and I could definitely use more room. Personally, I love the look of Merbau and the 1050mm depth would be great for me.


As for coatings, I've used both oil and water-based products. I prefer to use water-based products myself (the Cabots polyurethane is great) as they give just as good a result as the oil-based ones these days, and they are way easier to clean up afterwards. But in the end, it all comes down to personal preferences. All the best. - DCS


Here’s a project panel that I’ve used for making a desk.


It is strong enough to hold multiple monitors including the computer itself. It can be cut to size even with an ordinary handsaw, you can paint it to whatever finish you desire. I suggest building your own frame and legs to custom fit your office area. - EricL


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