Steel Pipe Standing Desk

Galvanized steel pipe frame with oak desktop

For my coworker Andrew, I wanted to make a tougher and better looking desk. He had shared some links of tables and bookcases that people had made using plumbing pipes, and reclaimed wood.

The Plan

My plan was to to brace the legs near the bottom with an H-shape, and connect the legs using T-joints, with end caps at the bottom, and flanges at the top.

We wanted to use a solid wood table top, to make sure that it would be very durable.

The total height would be 45 inches.

Materials

  • IKEA NUMERAR Oak kitchen countertop ($129)
  • 24 1-1/4” wood screws ($5)

Galvanized steel pipe, 1” thick

  • 6 T-joints ($12 total)
  • 4 flanges ($20 total)
  • 4 end caps ($6 total)
  • 4 1-inch extensions ($8 total)
  • 4 couplings for the 1-inch extenssion ($7)
  • 4 6-inch nipples ($16 total)
  • 4 8-inch nipples ($20 total)
  • 4 33-inch custom cut lengths ($40 total)
  • 1 48-inch ($20)

Paint (for the pipes)

  • paint brush ($3)
  • latex gloves ($3)
  • white primer for galvanized steel or aluminum ($14)
  • matte black paint ($10)

Stain (for the desktop)

  • rags ($3)
  • paint brush ($3)
  • wood stain (Varathane in Early American) ($11)
  • polyurethane (satin finish)

Tools

  • Drill
  • Sandpaper, 180 and 220 grit ($5 total)
  • Sanding blocks ($7)
  • 2 pairs of gloves ($3 each)
  • TSP substitute (for degreasing the pipes) ($7)
  • tarp to use as a drop cloth - 9 x 12’ ($10)

Pipe shopping

Plumbing supply stores and hardware stores have pre-cut lengths of pipe, and the big ones like Lowe’s and Home Depot will cut and thread specific lengths for you for about $5 a cut.

I picked up my pipe at Lowe’s where they cut my custom lengths right in the aisle!

To take them home in a Zipcar, we wrapped them in a plastic garbage bag, so they wouldn’t get greasy on the car (or on us!)

Cleaning

The first thing I did was wash them, using imitation TSP. It’s a solution that removes the grease, and leaves a slight tack on the steel surface so that paint can stick to it.

Assembly

Then I screwed them together tightly, making sure that they were the same height when attached.

I wore gloves because the threaded ends had some sharp bits.

Durability testing

The frame was super strong!

White wash

I primed the legs with the white paint, made specially for painting galvanized steel.

Black out

Next, I painted two coats of matte black.

Now that the legs were done, I moved on to the desktop.

The desktop

To stick to a budget, we bought the NUMERAR Countertop, oak, from IKEA. It was $129, and super big. This isn’t your typical IKEA furniture quality, it is actually quite nice! My coworker (and victorian homeowner/restoration specialist) Val tipped us off to it, because she used it at home in her kitchen remodel.

Sanding

I started by sanding it all over, first with 180 grit, and then with 220 grit.

(I know that not all of us are fortunate enough to have a sanding helper, but if you do, now is the time to utilize them!)

Staining

I tested out 4 different colors of stain by staining narrow strips on the underside. I decided on “Early American” by Varathane. It wasn’t very far off from the natural color of the wood, it just added a slight amount of richness.

I applied two coats to both sides and the edges of the table.

Sealing

Next, I applied two coats of satin (the lowest gloss) polyurethane sealant, so the wood would be protected from liquids and would be easier to clean.

Attaching top to bottom

I put the table on the legs and verified that it was level.

I drilled guide holes before I screwed in each 1-1/4” wood screw.

Adding a monitor stand

We wanted the monitor stand to be as rugged as the desk. I had two 8” blocks cut from a beam of 9”x4” pine.

It was only about $3 per cut, which seems like a deal given the amount of work it was to carry this 20 foot beam to the cutting station!

I sanded and stained the blocks with leftover wood stain.

The final result was much better than a stack of textbooks!

Final result

I was very happy with the final result! It is super sturdy, and has minimal wobble.

The desk is big enough to use as a pairing station, and looks good from all sides.

Thanks!

I couldn’t have done it without help from my coworkers and friends! Thanks to @adelcambre, @hone02, @ejgreenberg, @h (for modelling), @inrgbwetrust, @mkb, and Lauren and Jean for helping me move things around and supporting my nights painting upstairs at the office!