Build an Adjustable Standing Desk with Pipe and Kee Klamp

Standing Desk - Finished!

This project got stared the other day when I read and discussed a couple of posts on the Lifehacker web site about the health risks of working while sitting all the time.  I got inspired to do something about it and decided that I would build myself a desk that I could stand at.  One of the goals that I had for the desk was to make it versatile enough to be used in a number of settings.  My thought was something that I could use in my office, but might also be used with a treadmill.

In this video I talk about the idea for the standing desk:


My design consisted of a telescoping pole that went from floor to ceiling and a perpendicular pole that could support a keyboard or laptop.  I sketched it out on graph paper:

Concept for Telescoping Laptop Stand


Building the Standing Desk

Design is one thing, implementation is another.  What I found when I went to build my desk is that the telescoping pipes did not have enough force to stabilize the unit.  Basically at this point I had two options. 1) Attach the flanges directly to the ceiling and floor or 2) build a tensioning device to tighten the vertical pole.  Both are valid options.  Because I wanted my desk to be somewhat portable, I decided to go for the tensioning option.  If that's a little too risky for you, you can go with option one (attaching directly to the ceiling).

Additional Supplies

  • 5/8" Threaded Rod
  • 5/8" Threaded Rod Hardware Kit
  • Shelf
  • Plumbers Pad or Another Shim Material
  • 1 3-8" Rubber Stopper
  • Circular Foam Pad
  • #10 - 3/4" Screws

In this video I talk about the advantages of using Kee Klamp and Kee Lite parts:

Basic Costs

Everyone always wants to know, how much does it cost?  For all parts for the project ~$200.

The lion share of the cost is in the pipe.  You may be able to cut costs by 1) using shorter lengths of pipe, 2) using steel instead of aluminum, 3) finding a local pipe supplier and cutting the pipe yourself.  You are paying something for the convenience of the pipe being pre-cut and sent to your house in bubble wrap!

You could also save by not doing the tensioning device and attaching the pipe directly to the ceiling.  That would eliminate all the threaded rod and hardware and perhaps even the need for the collar and the 1" 6 foot length of pipe.  There are definitely ways to chop down the cost if this is a major factor for you.

Basic Assembly Points and Tips

A picture is worth a thousand words here.  I'll try to refrain from being verbose.  Watch the videos, the will give you most everything you need to know.

Setup the Vertical Telescoping Pipe

Slide the 1" pipe into the 1-1/4" pipe.  You must be using SCHEDULE 40 pipe for this to work properly.  They have a near perfect telescoping relationship.  The 1" pipe should slide freely in the other pipe.

Slip the collar onto the 1" pipe and set it at the basic height for your ceiling.

In this video I talk about how the telescoping relationship works:

Slip on the L45 to the larger pipe and tighten it on at the working height of your desk (you can adjust this after it is setup).

Standing Desk Components

Attach the L61-7 to the bottom of the pipe and tighten it to the pipe.

Standing Desk Components


Two Options For Ceiling Attachment

In this video I overview the two attachment methods:

1. Simple / Permanent Attach fitting to pipe and ceiling

The simplest way to attach the vertical pipe to the ceiling is just to attach the L61-6 to the 1" pipe an screw it into the ceiling.  That will give an unquestionable stability to the vertical pipe.  There are many different ways of attaching to the ceiling if you are using this method.  You could even use a LC58-6 Swivel Flange to attach to to a angled ceiling.

2. Semi-Portable Tensioning Arrangement

I chose to be a bit more adventurous and setup a tensioning device with a threaded rod and a couple of nuts.  This arrangement is also very stable, it just requires some more attention to detail and tightening.

Pipe Tension Assembly

The picture is probably the best explanation here.  The threaded rod has two nuts.  On the bottom the nut actually sits perfectly in the 1" schedule 40 (couldn't have been better if I planned it). On the top there is a nut, a lock washer and a regular washer (these all came in a package together.

Bolts for Threaded Rod

To stabilize the rod inside the fitting I used a 1-3/8" rubber stopper (another amazing fit!!).  I drilled hole in the stopper and pushed the rod into the stopper.  The stopper keeps the rod from sliding around in the top fitting while you are tightening.  IMPORTANT: the rod is providing tension by pressing on the washer and the washer presses on the flange.  Be careful that you don't feed the rod too far through or it may end up poking into your ceiling.

Drill Hole in Cork

Fit Cork on End of Rod

On top of the flange I placed a pad that I actually ripped off the bottom of a furniture pad (the third perfect fit in this project!).  You could use any foam rubber type material, just cut it into a circle that matches the circumference of the flange.

I ripped the pads off these


Create the Extending Arm Desk

I used a 4 foot section of pipe to make my desk arm.  You can see from the pictures that I could probably go shorter if I needed to.  The pipe caps are hammered into either end (put a cloth to protect the aluminum) and give the pipe a really nice finished look.

Standing Desk Components

The L70-7's are used to attach the pipe to the desk surface.  Just attach the shelf with some basic screws and tighten the arm pipe into the L70's.

Standing Desk Components

After you attach your shelf, slide the arm into the L45 on the vertical pipe, set the angles and heights and you're pretty much ready to go!

Standing Desk - Finished!

Finishing Touches

Adjust the desk to fit your working height.  Make sure you arms are bent properly.  You have adjustability here, use it to your advantage!

The components used in this project are not "tight tolerance" which means, even after you tightened them down there is a little bit of "flex" in them in the opposing direction.  In a situation like this where there is only one support it helps to add a some shim material to make sure the pipe is perfectly level in the fitting.  I used some simple silicon plumbers pad.  You can pick it up for a $1 at the home store and all you need is a tiny piece

Plumbers Pads


Stand and Work!

My experience with the desk has been fantastic so far.  I am a natural "phone pacer" so I like the idea of being able to move around a little bit while I'm working on my feet.  I find that it's a great place to start the day, checking email, brief correspondence, writing blog posts, and doing creative work.  I find that for intense programming I still want to sit down (probably mostly because of the monitor setup), but for a lot of other tasks its great to have an alternative spot to work.

 Standing at the Desk

Other Ideas

If you read the original Lifehacker article, it talks not only of standing while working, but also the possibility of working on a treadmill.  I'd like to experiment with this idea to see if it's effective and safe.  Another idea from a friend in the UK was to use a small stair stepper unit under your feet to exercise that way while standing an working.

Another idea I have is to attach another post to support a flat screen monitor.  This post would need to extend out from the pole so that it's not right in my face, but I think it's definitely doable and you make the desk more ergonomic by moving up the viewing area.

This type of desk configuration opens up a world of ideas.  I think of a desk that is mounted on two poles that could be adjusted up and down as needed.  There are really so many ideas of what you build with pipe and fittings.  Looking forward to hearing your response and more ideas in the comments.

Here I am in my completed office full of furniture built with Kee Klamp and Kee Lite components:

It's a whole office full of Kee Klamp

You can find out more about the desk I'm sitting at in this picture by reading my post on Flickr set of photos for more pictures.

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