Hey folks -
I have finally found the plans for the perfect ham radio desk, but have a
few questions. Am modifying a workbench plan into a communications desk -
heavy duty - as I have some older ham radios that weigh in @ approx 80 lbs,
so I need good support and a very sturdy top. The top I have planned is 33"
wide and 80" long and will be three 2x11" planks. Thinking pine - any
suggestions? How much will these boards cost, any idea? Any suggestions on
another way to go and still remain heavy duty? No idea how much this project
will cost to complete, but it will be completed. Any help from you
woodworking pros in the group would be much appreciated. This is our first
woodworking project together....wish us luck!
Hard to say. You can find the cost of a 2x12 in your area simply by calling
any lumber yard or Home Depot/Lowes in your area. No one here can hazard a
guess based on what you've given us.
Pine will work as good as anything else for what you're doing, but it will
need to be supported across that 80" span. Don't expect 2x12's to carry
80lbs over 80" without quite a sag. Others will comment, and I don't know
off the top of my head, but I'd guess you'd need a support in the middle to
carry that weight.
Personally, I'd use 3/4" plywood and put an edge band of some sort along the
edges of it. You'll still need to support it, but it will look better.
That's just a personal opinion though. If you like the heavy look of 2x12's
then go for it. You might consider routing the edge of the 2x12's for a
finished look if you don't want it to look like it's just a few 2x12's
sitting up there.
I have a bunch of 2" walnut veneer doors removed from office redos.
They make great tables. Some have no knob hole...were from double doors.
I often put the knob hole in back and drop wires through it.
Most of these are 36", so would need cutting down for a desk.
Making a big flat top is harder than it looks. I'd just buy a husky door
and do the work on legs and an apron.
You might find a suitable door at your local Habitat recycling store, if you
You might want to use a file cabinet for part of the support, maybe even
two, although they limit the leg space.
Agreed! My fathers workshop has heavy solid core oak veneered doors
ripped down to fit over metal cabinets and they are very much sturdy
enough to work on 18 horse tractor motors. You can get those sort of
doors pretty cheap off remodeling jobs like we did.
Seperate planks like what the OP was talking about would need to be
cleated together underneath the suface in several places to keep the
surface flush and would look pretty sloppy, like one of those "redwood"
kit picnic tables.
Wilson Lamb wrote:
Another choice you might consider is keeping look out for offices being
I came across an insurance company replacing all the furniture and bought 2
metal desk, one was "L" configuration which I gave $15.00 and the other was
&10.00. Both were nice and had Formica tops. I have desk loaded with
computers and ham gear.
Sheet of birch plywood is about $50. It will hold the weight easily. Make
a frame of 1 x 6 pine boards, make four legs of 2 x 4, make a frame on the
bottom, about 12" from the floor, put the plywood on top. Could be lower
and you put more plywood on the bottom for more storage space. Or drawers,
or whatever you like.
I've had over 500 pounds on my bench in it never moved or sagged.
Various ways you can do this to get the results you want. Trim the edge of
the plywood with a 1 1/2" strip of pine to make it look nice. Three coats of
polyurethane and you are in business.
I think the plywood idea has merit, and I'd opt for the strength of good
3/4" birch ply -- the more laminates the better. Even with the strong
plywood, I'd build a good frame and brace the work surface from underneath.
Incorporate as many needs into the design as you can....plenty of drilled
openings for passing the coax, connecting cables, ground wires. An area
underneath the console for a single point ground (see my webpage for more
radio ground ideas at http://www.knology.net/~res0958z/ ). And anticipate
the eventual accumulation of more equipment. What ham op doesn't suffer from
G.A.S or gear acquisition syndrome? Finally, start to consider the modern
solid state stuff over the old boat anchors....my entire rig is considerably
smaller than the Johnson Viking II and Hallicrafters SX-28 SkyRider I
started with and is remarkably more capable.
I think the 2x lumber will give you more mass than strength. For that
length, putting an 80# rig near the middle will still sag. For instance,
a large, hollow-core door will probably have less sag (torsion box) and
be lighter and cheaper. Otherwise, I'd just use a melamine sheet to get
a nice, clean workspace. For strength, I'd put a 4" rail in the back
along the length, another in the middle, and maybe a 2" drop lip in the
front. Putting a leg in the middle (or two legs along the length), maybe
half-way back to allow knee room, would add more strength than anything
I'm actually going to build a station shortly, but this will be a
vertical column with a drop-down workspace, about 3' wide and 8' high.
Melamine with rails for support.
My first thought would be a solid core exterior door that is either
close to size or one that is close and you cut down to size.
Trying to use solid planks will produce something that you probably
won't like in a couple of years, if for no other reason the major sag
that will develop if left unsupported over an 80" length.
I agree with others that you are engaging in wishful thinking if you
imagine an 80" span of 2xs will support your Johnson Ranger or DX-100.
You'll need some interim support and possibly embedded angle iron to
keep the sag to a minimum.
A couple of other things to consider: I made the mistake of buying an
old steel office desk once and using it in my shack for years. The
knee hole was too narrow to be comfortable for long hours of operating
such as during contests or trying to shag DX.
Another thing to consider is your keyboard and paddles (if you do much
CW). Comfortable keyboard height is approximately 3-4" below a typical
desk height. So, either design a well in the middle of your desk
(which complicates the design for weight bearing capabilities) or
build the whole thing lower than standard desk height. Don't forget
space for mouse or trackball.
Transmitters, amplifiers, TNCs, VHF rigs, tuners, coax switches, and
other accessories can and should be mounted 3-4" above desk level so
you can use the space underneath for paperwork (logs, notes), other
accessories, or whatever.
Generally speaking, the more you adjust or tune a piece of equipment,
the closer to the middle you want it. For example, TNCs can sit way to
the side, while tuners and coax switches should be toward the middle.
Amplifiers can be about half way. If your VHF radio is just a
convenient local QSO device, it can set off to the side, but if you do
VHF/UHF contesting, treat it more like your HF radio and have it favor
the center, offset to the non-CW side (see below).
However, you almost always will want your receiver on the main desk
surface; you will spend a great deal of time with one hand on the
tuning knob tuning the bands, and if the receiver is elevated at all,
you will soon come to detest its location. Also, your computer monitor
should be as low as you can make it so you don't get a stiff neck
trying to look at it from an awkward position.
Right handed or left handed? If you send CW with your right hand,
you'll want your receiver on the left so you can tune with your left
hand. Conversely, If you send CW with your left hand, you'll want the
receiver on the right.
To reduce desktop clutter, try and fashion a small panel with
headphone, mic, and PTT jacks at the front of the desk top to reduce
wire clutter on the top surface. Although not desk top related, you
may also want to make accommodation for a couple of foot switches on
the floor (PTT with one, spotting switch as in Kenwood's TF-SET
function with the other)
Be sure and either leave room between the back of the desk and the
wall or make the desk easily movable, as whatever cable configuration
you start with will not only not last long, but will be changed often
as you add equipment or accessories.
Master Woodbutcher and seasoned termite
Shamelessly whoring my website since 1999
DX-100? Man, that takes me back ... that was my second transmitter. I got rid
of it when I got a B&W 5100B, with the SSB adaptor. THAT was heavy!!
I just built a new table for my RAS like the one in the Mr. Sawdust book. I
wonder if that approach might work for a heavy-duty desk top? Two layers of
3/4-inch plywood, and a few pieces of 1/8 by 3/4-inch steel from the Borg. Cut
a few matching kerfs in the plywood, slip in the steel, and glue & screw the
Don't know if you can get that steel in 7 or 8-foot lengths from the Borg, but
I'd imagine that using two shorter pieces in each slot would work, as long as
you stagger the joint locations, and maybe add one or two more lengths.
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