How to build a Perfect Adjustable Standing Desk for under $600

As someone who studied biology, I think there could be an argument as to our body was designed to, among many things, sit.  I don't think it's an accident that our biggest muscle also doubles as a nice means to park ourselves, rather comfortably.  With that said, I am also pretty sure our body hadn't evolved fast enough - in the last few decades - for HOURS of prolonged sitting.  I'm willing to bet most of you are sitting down as you read this!  :)

Of course, if you are working out every day, always making conscious effort to exercise, I am sure all that sitting won't hurt that much in the end.  Unfortunately, it's no secret that we have way too many overweight people in this country, myself included, and we just don't move around enough.

As a programmer, I am often glued to my seat 4-5 hrs non-stop.  Some days I have worked 24 hours non-stop, only leaving my seat for bathroom and meal breaks.  That can't be healthy by anyone's standard, right?

So what's the solution?  A standing desk!  (well, working out being the other, albeit harder, alternative)

As I embarked on my search for a standing desk solution, I quickly realized there are couple of distinguishing factors among designs:  1) Adjustable vs. Fixed height, 2) Manual vs. Powered adjustment, and 3) Lifting capacity.

I still like the idea of being able to adjust the height of the desk; may be my children will want to use it one day.  Also, the fixed height tables seem so... rigid.  So, yes, definitely I want an adjustable model.

The adjustable models fall into three categories: 1) powered (i.e. motorized), 2) hand-cranked, and 3) counter-balanced.  After an extensive research (thanks Google), I narrowed my choices to GeekDesk v3Humanscale Float, and MultiTable ModTable.


I was very impressed with the GeekDesk v3 spec, as it is fully motorized, and has the greatest lifting capacity among them (270 lbs!).  It would cost me $924 (after $125 shipping, with a 63.0 by 31.5 top), so it's not exactly cheap.  So, I spent the next few days pondering whether GeekDesk v3 would be _the_ standing desk I was looking for... then it occurred to me:  what happens when the motor dies, never mind if power was out when I wanted to adjust its height.  I realized that when (not if) the motor dies, then I'd be stuck with a very large floor weight.  With that, a motorized adjustable standing desk didn't seem that appealing any more.

Then, I saw the new Humanscale Float standing desk.  It is a counter-balanced design where you can effortlessly adjust its height by squeezing a lever.  It's a very elegant and compact design, and yes that is something I would design and be proud of!  Kudos to Humanscale engineers for a brilliant design and execution.  But my excitement quickly got muted when I saw its price:  $1800.  EIGHTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!  Perhaps this is something a large company's HR would buy for its employee if he/she were to threaten lawsuit for an unhealthy workplace.  But to think that I would fork out $1800 for a desk at home... suddenly I saw images of "other priorities" flying in my head.  Yes, this is THE desk I would buy if I were wealthy, but there's gotta be a cheaper alternative!

Scouring through the net, I finally found a lesser known vendor (among standing desks that is) named MultiTable, and its product ModTable.  The MultiTable company pretty much focus on making adjustable standing desk models that use a cranking handle.  Honestly, my first impression upon seeing a photo of ModTable was "what is that ugly handle thing".  Then, I learned the handle is also removable.  And, the best part, is that it only costs $528 (including, much more reasonable, $49 shipping), if I were to just buy the frame.

Buying it with their own 57 by 29 laminate top would cost fair bit more, at $757.  The difference of $230 seemed a bit much for a laminate top, when a further search showed that a top of that size should be more like $60.  Anyway, I pulled the trigger and ordered the base, and it arrived within a week.

I spent some time searching for that perfect affordable top, and I learned that IKEA sells finished wooden tops.  So, I quickly drove to a nearby IKEA, and picked up a 59 by 29.5 VIKA AMON for $36! (UPDATE: Looks like IKEA retired/renamed that model in favor of LINNMON - still at $36) And after putting it all together - took about 30 minutes - here's the result:

ModTable - in Standing configuration
Looks great, and feels very solid.  All for under $600!

It takes 26 cranking rotations to go from my seated height to standing height, and vice versa.  It takes a bit of an effort turning the handle using my programmer arm, so it's an unexpected exercise benefit.

ModTable - in Seating configuration

And like I said before, the handle is removable, to prevent children from operating it or used to fend off an intruder.

ModTable - looking handsome, with the handle removed

Overall, I am very satisfied with my adjustable standing desk built with a ModTable frame and a IKEA top.  In its raised height, the desk feels very solid, with no noticeable vibrations or squeaks.  The cranking mechanism feels smooth and the frame is beautifully powder coat painted.  It feels very durable and I am certain this desk will easily last 10+ years.  Its published lifting limit of 130 lbs seems plenty enough (considering the IKEA top is only rated for 110 lbs!), for my use as a computer table.  I highly recommend you buy one..

Now, I don't know about MultiTable's claims of reducing cancer and heart disease risks (by using their product) by 30% (not 29%?), but after 3 days of use, I feel great!  I feel I will be modeling for Buns of Steel in no time; who needs to workout?  :)

In all seriousness, I will report back in a few month, see how I feel about using a standing desk day in and out.  So stay tuned, and let me know if you have any questions!

Roy

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** Update **  There is a new treadmill product that seems to be designed for use with a standing desk.  Check out LifeSpan TR1200-D3 Standing Desk Treadmill if you are in the market for it.

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Disclosure: While I am not paid by anyone to write this review, I may be compensated if you purchase products through links on my blog.

11 comments:

  1. Is the Ikea top screwed onto the base? After weeks of research I'm really glad I found your post. Just want to make sure it's secure on top of the base. Thanks!

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    1. Yes, you simply screw them in and you are all set! I am glad you found my info helpful.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your process! Does the process of raising and lowering it make much noise? I'm looking for something that won't disturb my co-workers. Thanks again.

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  3. The frame doesn't make a lot of noise when adjusted. Definitely no screeching or creaking noises when cranking the handle. If your co-workers can tolerate typing noise, they should be able to live with it. :)

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  4. Is there a specific place you must drill into the tabletop to secure the legs and prevent breakage? It seems the name has been changed to Linnmon, at least in my area. Thanks.

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    1. The placement of screws isn't exact, so you'll have to "eyeball". It's not difficult, really; you place the frame on the tabletop, continue measure and shift the frame until dimensions "margins" are approximately equal. Then mark the frame holes with pencils, then start installing screws in criss-cross pattern. Makes sense?

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  5. Any thoughts comparing this to a geekdesk v3 frame only?

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    1. Sorry about late reply. I still prefer manual mechanism over the electric one; motor or controls can always break. Really, you don't move it that much once set it up for your standing height. Geekdesk v3 could be a choice if you are going to be sharing the desk with someone who needs to sit frequently.

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  6. Hey Roy, how is the desk holding up? I'm also interested in this type of desk.

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    1. Hi Alex. My desk is doing fine, and now my wife is also using it often with her notebook. I've been using a standing setup at work for about 15 months, and my legs are definitely stronger and more toned. Highly recommended.

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  7. My biggest problem were my monitors. I have four, and I needed to get creative with the setup.

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