Kristi's Studio

How To Build A Simple DIY Writing Desk

One of the main pieces of furniture I need in my is a desk to go in my “home office” portion of the room. I decided that I didn’t want anything fancy — no drawers, no frills, and no fancy or bulky design. I just wanted a simple but classic writing desk. And after searching online and finding nothing that fit the bill (especially since I wanted a desk on the larger side), I quickly realized that this was going to have to be a DIY writing desk that I build myself.

So I came up with a very simple design, which is also very easy to build. It still needs to be painted (the base) and stained (the desktop), but I did get it built yesterday, so let me show you how it looks so far…

Simple DIY writing desk made from a solid core door

And of course, that’s one of my breakfast room chairs. As soon as I find a desk chair for the studio, I’ll be returning this chair to the breakfast room.

Very easy to build large writing desk

I had originally planned to purchase some metal legs to build a desk, but I finally came to the realization that if I use all wood, I could build an entire desk for quite a bit less than the price that the metal legs would cost, and the final look (after the base is painted black) would be very similar.

This desk required a solid core door (about $80) and six pieces of 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 8′ lumber (about $66). Throw in some nails, wood glue and screws, and I’ve got a 32″ x 60″ desk for about $170. (I wasn’t able to find the lumber I used on the Home Depot website, but on my receipt it’s called 2 x 2 – 8 ft. select pine board. The actual dimensions are 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 8′.)

Even though I was using all wood for my design, I still found plenty of inspiration from some metal base/wood top designs that I found online. One thing I liked about several of those metal base designs is that the edges of the wood top were flush with the metal frame, whereas a desk top or table top usually extends past the apron on the base. So I decided to adopt that idea in my design.

And while I wanted a basic, no frills writing desk design, I did add just a very simple and easy decorative “V” design on the front of the desk.

Easy DIY large writing desk

I like that it kind of echoes the chevron pattern on the back entry floor.

painted chevron floor pattern - block tannin bleed through with oil based primer

So let me show you how I built this very simple writing desk.

How to build a simple DIY writing desk

Step 1 – Cut a solid core door to size for the desktop

First, the top is made out of a solid core door. I considered several options for making a stainable wood top — plywood, DIY butcherblock, etc. — and decided that the solid core door would be the easiest.

I went with solid core because it’s heavier and more substantial. You can use a hollow core door as a desk top, but I just don’t like the hollow sounds when writing on and placing things on a surface with a hollow core. And because it’s hollow, it also has too much give to it, giving the surface a slight “bounce” when objects are placed on it. I just don’t think hollow core doors make practical desktops.

So I purchased a 32″ x 80″ flush unfinished solid core door with no bore hole.

Solid core door used as a desktop for a DIY writing desk

I wanted my desk to be 60 inches wide, so I started by cutting off 20 inches from the door using my circular saw. This is what the inside of a solid core door looks like. (Note that a solid core door is not the same as a solid wood door.)

Cut a solid core door down to size using a circular saw to use as a desk top

Yep, it’s just a lot of particle board sandwiched between two layers of thin plywood. The cut end looks pretty rough, but even the finished ends of a solid core door (what would be the top and the bottom edges of the door) have visible particle board. They don’t put veneer over those edges, but they do sand them very smoothly. But I still wanted to cover my cut edge as well as the factory sanded edge with wood that would be stainable.

So to make it match the rest of the door, I used the piece I just cut off to make two end pieces of plywood/veneer that could be used to cover the end edges.

First, I used my table saw to cut a piece off of the scrap piece that was 32 inches (i.e., the width of the door) by 2 inches.

Use the scrap piece of solid core door to create veneer to cover the ends

And then using my table saw again, I cut the thin plywood off of each side…

Cut plywood veneer off of the scrap piece of solid core door to use to cover the ends

That gave me two pieces of plywood/veneer to use to cover each end. I wasn’t worried about cutting them perfectly because the excess could be removed using either a sander or router after it was adhered.

Use veneer cut from scrap to cover ends of the solid core door to be used as a desktop

I adhered those pieces to the ends using wood glue, making sure that the glue was spread liberally on the entire surface, and then held them on with painters tape until they dried.

Use wood glue to adhere the veneer to the ends of the solid core door

I gave it a couple of hours to dry, and then removed the tape. I decided to remove the excess plywood using my sander with 60-grit sandpaper, but again, a router would also work.

Then I filled the tiny crack with wood filler…

Use wood filler and sandpaper to smooth out the ends of the desktop made from a solid core door

Here’s how it looked with the whole thing filled, but before the excess wood filler was sanded off…

Wood filler sanded smooth on ends of solid core door

With the door cut to size and the ends finished, I moved the desktop inside to build the base. I placed the desktop face down (i.e., the prettier side down) on my work surface…

Build a writing desk - step 1 - place solid core door face down on floor

Step 2: Build the front section of the base

I built the base using 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 8′ pieces of lumber. The whole base, which was 60″ x 32″, required six pieces of lumber.

Starting with the frame for the front of the desk, I cut two pieces that were 57 inches long, and two pieces that were 28.25 inches long. Then I secured those together using wood glue and screws that were inserted through pocket holes that I drilled using my Kreg pocket hole jig.

Build a writing desk - step 2 - build front of base out of 2 x 2 lumber and attach with Kreg pocket hole jig

Here’s a closer look at the pocket holes. I drilled two pocket holes in each end of the long pieces, and then used 2.5-inch screws to attach the pieces.

Attach desk frame pieces with wood glue and Kreg pocket hole jig

And I repeated that on the other side…

Construct desk frame out of 2 x 2 lumber using wood glue and Kreg pocket hole jig

I attached that bottom cross bar five inches up on the legs, but there’s no hard and fast rule. You can attach it where you think it looks best.

With that section of the base completed, I attached it to the bottom of the desktop using three 2.5-inch screws.

Attach front of desk frame to the under side of the desktop

I attached this portion of the base so that the pocket holes faced under the desk, and the pretty side faced out.

How to build a writing desk - Screw the front frame piece to the desktop

Step 3: Build the back section of the base

Next, I repeated that process for the back side of the desk (i.e., the side that accommodates a desk chair), but obviously this side can’t have a bottom cross bar since that would be in the way of a desk chair. So this one just had one long piece and two shorter side pieces. I attached those in the same way, using wood glue and pocket screws.

DIY writing desk - step 3 - build the back base section

Here’s a closer look at those pocket holes…

DIY desk base - attach pieces using wood glue and Kreg pocket hole jig

With that section of the base built, I attached it the same way as I did the front section, using three screws.

DIY writing desk - attach back base section to the under side of the desktop

Step 4: Attach front and back base sections with side stretcher bars

To finish the basic structure of the base, I attached two side stretcher bars on each end of the desk. The first one went here…

How to build a writing desk - step 4 - attach side stretcher bars to front and back sections of the base

…and I attached it using pocket screws that went into the legs, but I didn’t screw this piece to the desktop.

Then I attached the bottom stretcher (i.e., the one that would be on the bottom if the desk were upright) in the same way…

DIY writing desk - attach side stretcher bars with wood glue and pocket hole screws.

And after repeating that on the other end of the desk, the basic frame was done.

DIY writing desk with basic base construction finished and attached to desktop

Step 5: Add any optional decorative pieces to complete the base

I still wanted to add a simple decorative touch with the “V” design on the front, so I placed the desk with the back side (i.e., the side where a chair would go) down on the floor and the front of the desk facing up.

Build a writing desk - Step 5 - attach any optional decorative pieces to base

Then I marked the center of the bottom cross bar, and I marked over 13 inches from the edge on the top cross bar. I placed a piece of 1.5″ x 1.5″ lumber on those marks, and then used a pencil to mark where I needed to cut that piece to fit inside the frame.

Create a decorative V design on the front of the DIY writing desk

I cut two identical pieces using my miter saw, and then attached them in a “V” formation using wood glue and 1.25-inch 16-gauge nails.

Attach decorative V pieces to front of desk using wood glue and 16-gauge nails

Here’s a closer view of how I nailed these pieces to the frame…

Decorative pieces attached to desk base using wood glue and 16-gauge nails

And with those pieces attached, the basic build for this large writing desk was done.

DIY writing desk - basic construction completed

I still need to do some wood filling, sanding, priming, painting, staining and polyurethaning to get it finished, but I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turning out.

How to build an easy DIY writing desk out of a solid core door and six pieces of lumber

And since the top is attached with only six screws, I’ll be able to easily remove those screws and remove the top so that I can spray the base and stain the top separately.

It can be finished very easily IF the weather will cooperate, that is. 🙂 It’s not looking like today will be that day, but maybe tomorrow!

Helpful sources and products:

  • Kreg Jig Master System — This is the Kreg pocket hole jig package that I have, but there are several available. At minimum, you’ll need the actual large blue jig, the drill bit with adjustable collar, the screwdriver bit, and a clamp. The Master System comes with all of this, including a clamp, but I also have and highly recommend this right angle clamp, which does not come with the Master System.
  • Porter-Cable 3-Tool Combo Kit — This is the air compressor combo kit that I purchased years ago and have used ever since. It comes with a little portable 6-gallon pancake compressor, a 16-gauge nail gun, an 18-gauge nail gun, and a staple gun. And while I mainly use the 16-gauge nail gun for my building projects, l use all three of those tools quite often. I wouldn’t want to be without any of them.

Update:

The desk is finished! Here’s a peek at how it turned out…

Large DIY writing desk with black base and stained top made from a solid core door

You can see how I finished the desk here…

*This post contains affiliate links.



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41 Comments

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jean
    June 17, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Love it!!! Can’t wait to see it finished!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Matthew "Your hunk of burning love" Linauer
    June 17, 2019 at 11:16 am

    I love how your room is coming out, and that desk is very fitting. Great job my beautiful wife.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi
      June 17, 2019 at 11:17 am

      😂😂 Oh my. But thank you. 😃

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Sheila F.
        June 17, 2019 at 11:33 am

        This is so cute! My sister has her husbands number in her phone as “[email protected]#$ , MY LOVER!” Cracks me up when her car tells her her lover is calling.😂😁😄

        • Reply To This Comment ↓
          Trish
          June 17, 2019 at 11:52 am

          My daughter had me in her phone as “Birth Giver” my husband is “Assistant Birth Giver”

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Rosemary
        June 17, 2019 at 5:12 pm

        Great job. You are one talented girl. So sweet your husband commented. The desk looks better than a simple one you could buy.
        I enjoy watching and learning from you.
        Rosemary

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Vicky Henson
        June 18, 2019 at 9:52 am

        Your “hunk of burning love” approves! You two are awesome. Great job, Kristi!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Linda
      June 17, 2019 at 11:22 am

      Awwwww…..!!!!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Linda
    June 17, 2019 at 11:16 am

    Well, Queen of the Building World, you did it again! Fantastic job! I love your new desk.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Krikit
      June 17, 2019 at 11:38 am

      It is such a joy ‘watching’ you create! I surely wish I would have learned power tools and skills decades ago; all the great things I would have learned to make!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Phoebe
    June 17, 2019 at 11:26 am

    I haven’t even finished reading this post yet, but OMG and THANK YOU!!! This is EXACTLY what I need to do and I only just realised!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    carswell
    June 17, 2019 at 11:30 am

    LOL Kristi – you need to get yourself a couple of cheap canvas drop cloths and save your good fabric.

    Nice desk design by the way.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi
      June 17, 2019 at 11:33 am

      So, funny story, I have two large canvas drop cloths, but I’ve had them for a few years and they have dried paint, primer, caulk, etc. on them. I was afraid that the dried bits might scratch my floor, so I opted for fabric. 😀 But yes, I need to get some new canvas drop cloths, because I really am going to try to keep my floor looking nice, so I plan to use them often. We’ll see how long that lasts. 😀 My history with using drop cloths isn’t so good.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sheila F.
    June 17, 2019 at 11:34 am

    This is so cute! My sister has her husbands number in her phone as “[email protected]#$ , MY LOVER!” Cracks me up when her car tells her her lover is calling.😂😁😄

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jill
    June 17, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Kristi this desk is so beautiful!!! And so classic! Just love your work

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kathie T.
    June 17, 2019 at 11:46 am

    LOVE everything you do and totally loving the support from your ‘hunk’ :)))))

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Janice Patricia Gardner
    June 17, 2019 at 11:47 am

    Beautiful classic desk! I love it! Also – love your husbands comments!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    HopeJW
    June 17, 2019 at 11:54 am

    Hey Kristi, great simple desk! First I wanted to share a tip that got shared with me. Pull painters tape across your line to cut and it will prevent any splintering. I was very surprised at how well this worked. I no longer had to repair any cut line especially on any type of veneered wood.
    Second is a question; on the 2×2’s, are they select pine? Soft wood, will it tend to bow under the weight of the solid core door? I ask this because I have a solid 12ft. door of black maple that I want to make my dining table. (Rescued from our local country club.) If it will bend, what do you recommend for the base?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Rose
      June 17, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      I’ve used this same lumber. We used it with other pine to create custom craftsman trim around the windows we installed in our guest house. It’s very strong – not soft at all – and really pretty. An 8′ length is around $10.00. We found them with all the other millwork at Home Depot.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Rebecca Neustel
      June 17, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      You’ll have to think of the weight of dishes, silverware, drinkware, food, elbows, etc. That’s all considerably heavier than a computer/laptop, paper, pens, elbows, etc.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Brenda Pawloski
    June 17, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Your pics are so pretty all the time now, Kristi! No more ugly, demo’d stuff or red waterproofing. I can’t wait til I’m there too. Thanks for blazing a trail.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Julie
    June 17, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    Saahhhwweeeett!!!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Arli
    June 17, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Love it! The simple design is spot on. Can’t wait to see it finished.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mona Keegan
    June 17, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    Wow, again! You are so capable. Love it. I even took a stroll on the web and watched Lowe’s video on How to Use Your Pocket Hole Jig. Great desk and great project!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon
    June 17, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Your talent and creativity never cease to amaze me!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Alta Craig
    June 17, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Great design for the writing desk, love how the diagonal bars echo your chevron floor pattern. And it is so cool that Matthew appreciates how your studio is shaping up, lol. One question on the desk: will the writing surface be hard enough to hold up or will you top It with glass or acrylic?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Martha K Gish
    June 17, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    I love it! Even unfinished. Can’t wait to see the end product!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marianne in Mo.
    June 17, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Will you build me one and bring it to Missouri? LOL! I would love a desk like this – Will definitely show it to my husband, because I gave up doing DIY. (He was always coming along and judging my work and methods, and borrowing MY tools!)

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Teri
    June 17, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    A real beauty. I love how you were inspired and created your very own elegant solution!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Peggy S
    June 17, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Several years ago I copied a metal base coffee table, using all wood. It was a little tricky getting the finish just right on the base, but it ended up looking like brushed brass. It’s still one of my favorite projects and really wasn’t hard to pull off. I like your design.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rebecca Neustel
    June 17, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    I’ve decided that you can really do anything and will cease to be amazed at your skills…nah, that’s no fun!! I love this desk—I also love the style of the metal frame flush with the top. It’s sleek without looking super modern.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Robin
    June 17, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    AMAZING!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jane W Adams
    June 17, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    Kristi, I’m curious as to how you acquired your carpentry skills. Did you take classes? Did you learn from someone in your family? I am so clueless!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Bonnie
    June 18, 2019 at 9:05 am

    I follow every single one of your blogs even tho I am old and don’t need a thing,,, I can’t wait until the next entry lol. Lately though, State Farm advertisement covers the right side of your blog, with no x to get it off there. It never used to do that, I don’t know what changed, but I have waited to see if anyone else complained about this,, but they haven’t that I have seen. I love your house, your talent and even though I am not building,, I could follow your step by step instructions that are written so clear with photos , just makes a perfect
    project very easy to follow every single time. Great job Krisit!!!!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi
      June 18, 2019 at 10:32 am

      Can you tell me what device and browser you’re using to view my blog? That will help me know how to proceed with fixing any issues. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Nerissa
    June 18, 2019 at 10:49 am

    I love this! Such a great simple, graphic look. I love desks with lots of leg room.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Hallie
      June 18, 2019 at 8:53 pm

      How did you keep bottom stretcher bars level as you attached them?

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Kristi
        June 18, 2019 at 9:59 pm

        I used a Kreg clamp to hold the pieces together while screwing them together. This is the specific one I used for this project.

        • Reply To This Comment ↓
          Hallie
          June 19, 2019 at 10:43 am

          Hi Kristi. Thank you for the reply. I’m still trying to picture it.

          You drilled four holes in the stretcher bar, applied glue to the ends and then held it in place with the clamp until it dried, then put screws through?

          I’m one of the people who reads every word of your instructional posts and tries to make the information sink into my brain for when I attempt to build something.

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