Designing and Building The Ultimate CNC Cut Height Adjustable Desk


When my makerspace finished building our huge Kronos CNC machine, I knew I needed to come up with a neat project to test it out. I have always really liked the design of the very awesome Evil Mad Scientist CNC Workstation Cart. So, I decided to build a sit/stand desk based off of the EMSL cart design.

After looking into a lot of heigh adjustable desks (learn more about the benefits of standing desks here), I discovered that most height adjustable desks on the market were Conset bases with custom tops. Thankfully, a lot of American distributors allow you to buy just the frame. The best price I found was from The Human Solution, which came to $589 and free shipping. The frame also came with a nice mountable control panel with 4 preset height adjustments (seen in the bottom right of the desktop).


Same as the EMSL Cart, I used two sheets of Appleply plywood. If you haven’t used Appleply before, it is basically America’s answer to the ultimate plywood, Baltic Birch. With quality comes a cost. Appleply typically costs around $100 per 4×8 sheet.

Also, in my project I decided to include Accuride 24″ full extension drawer slides. I mounted the cabinet side of the slide 1/4″ from the bottom of each slide of the drawer slot, and the slide on the drawer 1/2″ from the bottom of the drawer box. Offset 1/8″ from the front of drawer, inside wall, and 5/8″ from the outside walls. Using these high quality drawer slides allowed me to leave only 1/32″ gaps around the drawer fronts. They slide in and out without even the slightest rub. The drawer boxes are about 24″ deep by 27″ wide, and 2.25″ deep.


There is a large cord management area in the back of the desk that is isolated from the main desk. This allows me to run two cords up to the desk, one for a power strip, and one ethernet cable.


I finished with the desk with high gloss polyurethane (multiple coats on the top, sides, and drawer fronts).

Other than that, the tool and materials list is identical as the EMSL cart. The drawer boxes, while different sizes, are glued up the exact same way.

The only issue with the design is that the bottom of the desk sags about 1/16″ just at the front. This isn’t a huge deal, as you can see in the photos. This could easily be fixed by gluing the center rail in place, but I like the ability to take the desk apart for easy moving.

Next up, I plan on hacking the control module to make it Arduino friendly. I would love to control the height of the desk with big arcade buttons, have it automatically raise and lower throughout the day to keep me sitting/standing just the right amounts, etc. I will hopefully have a guide on the Adafruit Learning System in the coming weeks. Questions? Post them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.

Find the complete design files on Thingiverse

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