CHCC Renovation: Tech Desks

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I’ve been posting a few pictures of the progress of my new tech booth desks on Twitter and they seem to have generated quite a bit of interest. So here’s a quick post on how I designed and built them. 

Designed in Sketchup

I typically use Trimble Sketchup for my design work. While there is a pretty good learning curve, it’s not terribly hard to use, at least as far as 3D programs go. It’s easy to draw in scale, which is critical for visualizing how everything is going to work. Plus, there is a huge library of previously built models that you can drop into the plan. I have iMacs, monitors, speakers and keyboards all over my model, which helps me figure out how big thing need to be.

If It Ain’t Over Built…

My dad and I used to joke that we should start a construction company, and if we did, our motto would be, “If it ain’t over built, we didn’t build it.” In that vein, I used 4x4 Douglass Fir lumber for the legs and all cross pieces. Each piece is joined to the other with a half-lap joint and glued together with Gorilla glue. Gorilla glue is crazy strong, and it expands as cures to fill in any gaps. 

We cut the laps first on a sliding compound miter saw, then finished them with a router. With the saw, we set the depth to just under half the thickness of the wood and made repeated cuts to remove a bunch material. After knocking out the remaining slices of wood, I used a plunge router and spiral cutting bit to finish the cut to the right depth. Cutting the ones in the middle of the wood was easy. But the ones on the ends required a piece of 4x4 clamped to the work table near the end of the piece I was milling to hold the router up. 

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Mid-Span Support

One of my biggest issues with most tech tables is there is always something to smash your knees or thighs underneath the desk table. I didn’t want that problem with these. So I located the mid-span cross brace below the table top 12” back from the front edge. I figured this would be far enough that you could comfortably raise the chair up enough to get as high as you want to to mix without hitting anything. 

Most of the tables are under 6’ long, so I wasn’t worried about sagging; especially with two 4x4s holding up the top. But FOH is 10’ long, and that’s a long span for a desk, particularly one with so much weight on it. To fasten the top to the base, I used PL Premium adhesive and 4 1/2” Timberlock screws. Now, for this assembly to sag, the entire thing has to deform, which should be hard.

The top is made of two piece of 3/4” 8-ply plywood, that are fully glued together. I spread Titebond glue over the entire surface, and screwed them together every 12”. As FOH is 10’ long, and it’s hard to find 10’ plywood, I had to join a few pieces. I used a full 8’ piece on the bottom with a 2’ end, and two 5’ pieces for the top. Putting the seam right in the middle will hide it almost completely as the console will be sitting right there. Looking back on it, I should have used plate joints (also know as biscuits) for those seams. Next time…

They’re Strong & Mobile

Overall, the desks are pretty tough. I’ve sat on all of them, and there is very little deflection. Even the FOH desk hardly moves, and as the SD8 is 51” long, most of the weight will be about 3’ from each leg. So I think we’ll be OK. 

I put 3” locking casters on each desk as well. I have always hated having to climb behind the desk to work on the I/O of the consoles. So I decided to put casters on them, so it’s easier to pull the desk out and get back there and work. You can’t skimp on casters, and I found these for about $8 each at Home Depot. The desks roll very nicely and should last a long time. 

Here is the Sketchup file if anyone wants to see the actual design. I’m not going to post construction drawings for them because they take a lot of time to generate, and are only useful if your tech booth is the same size as mine. Grab Sketchup and modify the sizes to suit your booth if you want.

Roland

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