Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Computer Desk

After upgrading my hardware to the latest and greatest, I became dissatisfied with the computer case options currently available to purchase. I also began looking into tripling the monitor setup to increase my work space and allow more viewing capability for fun activities, including photography and gaming.

Old computer case . . . not so cool.
Dusty and on the floor. I needed something else.
Mid-March, 2013

Idea for New Computer Case

The desk would:

  1. have a built-in case. 
  2. use existing glass top from old desk.
  3. filter air flow, just enough to keep dust bunnies out.
  4. incorporate a lifting mechanism -- allowing me to sit or stand at a push of a button! 
    • This also has the added bonus of lifting the computer from the dusty floor.
Okay, so my plans are maybe a little over the top. I tend to overcomplicate projects from time to time. 

Ready . . .  Set . . . GO . . .

Sketched the basic design out on paper, using my superb drawing skills.
March 17, 2013

After some research, I found Google SketchUp: 

which "(also known as Trimble SketchUp) is a 3D modelling program for a broad range of applications such as architectural, civil, mechanical, film as well as video game design — and available in free as well as 'professional' versions." 

A few days later the plans were completed.

End of March, 2013

Time to order parts!!!!!!!


For the air flow filtration that best works with the structure of my new desk design and needs, I decided to go with 120 mm Vortex fans (x 5), which all have PWM control.

"PWM-FUNCTION PWM stands for Pulse Width Modulation. The 4-Pin connector allows the mainboard to control the fan speed from 800-1500RPM."



For the legs, I chose 18 inch extendable satellite actuator arms (x 4) from eBay, at $50 US a pop. Although normally used for satellites, they would definitely have enough torque to work for the type of elevation system I wanted to create. This was a far less costly option than the pre-built legs, which have a price range in the hundreds for the low-cost, low-quality models and only go up from there. (Note: eBay price for actuator arms changed shortly after to $100 each)



Ton of wood from Home Depot, all ready for cutting.


Structural Support

Heavy-duty linear guide rails, with 22" extension capability (x 4) to function as the vertical, internal track on the elevator legs.



Plans printed out from Google SketchUp:

Mid-section Base & Legs (above), 
Side Panels & Inner Panels with Air Flow Ducts (below left), Desktop Panels (below right)

Little bit of info on the satellite actuator arms.

Heavy-duty linear guide rails 22" extension, next to a fully extended actuator arm. The idea is the actuator arms hold the load, the guide rails keep the legs in line. Together, they should keep the desk from rocking to much.

Also, I had to purchase several tools to cut the wood . . . ya, what a drag.


The desk is built from the top down around the glass dimensions.

Left Side

Left Side - Testing with Glass Top

The measurements must be no more than a 16th of an inch off, or nothing would fit.

Center and sides are joined together.

Early-April, 2013
The glass fits in a lip cut along the top of the desk.

Time to place the bottom. 3/4" base.

So, wood screws are not the prettiest to look at, but they get the job done.

Gutting motherboard & power supply mounting plate from my old case.

Lining up the motherboard tray.

1/2" wood used for the back of the case area.

Mid-April, 2013

Looking good!

Now that the desktop is mostly completed, I started in on the legs.

Some reinforced mounting holes. Metal plates from random aisle in Home Depot.

Detail of Metal Plate in Place

It didn't fall over!!!

One Week Later

Closeup of actuator switch. Cut off switch is triggered at min or max height.

Testing the lifting power.

Rounded off the feet and added cross support.

Afterthought: added a shelf for all my external parts.

Almost done!



Applying wood stain with my helper!

Last Weekend of April, 2013

Completed semigloss.

Prepped legs for staining.

Purchased a 36 v 10 amp PSU from eBay $40 US. Decided to build a mounting plate from type 22 gauge steel, for the power supply and switches.


Time to clean my office!

Testing desk position in the office.

Assembled legs after staining. By this step, I was ready to be done.

Desktop just placed on the legs.

Installed fans! The three in the center pull air in, the two on the sides & PSU push air out.

In Goes the Motherboard

It wasn't too difficult to smile at this point! 

Installing USB and audio jack hardware I had gutted from the old case.

May 12, 2013


Three Days Later

My new screens just got in! (Plus a couple odds and ends.)

  • 1x ASUS VE278Q Black 27" Full HD HDMI LED Backlight LCD Monitor w/Speakers
  • 1x ASUS PB Series PB278Q 27" 5ms (GTG) WQHD HDMI Widescreen LED Monitor
  • 1x EVGA 04G-P4-2673-KR GeForce GTX 670 Superclocked+ w/Backplate 4GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
  • And another ERGOTRON 45-241-026 LX Desk Mount LCD Arm

Watch out, monitors can get feisty!

Screen Setup

  1. center - 27" Asus PB278Q LED Backlight 1440p, 
  2. right - 27" Asus VE278Q LED Backlight 1080p
  3. left - 27" Asus VE276Q CCFL Backlight 1080p

Installing GTX670

NVIDIA Surround Configuration - Resolution is 5760 x 1080

Performance test on all aspects of the computer. Scores are good!


Drum roll!



Standing position.

To Do

  • Automate desk lifting controls with Raspberry Pi and relays.
  • Clean up desk wiring.
  • Install additional temperature sensors.




Build Plans

Not all of the project was documented, following is whats left after the build. And allot of things I made up as the project progressed.

 This is the wiring, from the image below. You can see that when switched one side to the other, voltage is reversed. Couldn't find the correct switch object when I made this.

This is to bypass the automated control's that I have yet to complete.