How to add an adjustable-height keyboard shelf to your $20 standing desk Oct. 8th, 2013 Suzy Bates

How to add an adjustable-height keyboard shelf to your $20 standing desk

October 8th, 2013

I arrived at work one morning to find a new standing desk in my office. Todd had been busy over the weekend assembling three of these around Four Kitchens HQ for people who want to stand occasionally. My new officemate, Paul, is quite a bit taller than I, so we were faced with the dilemma of where to attach the shelf to be the “right” height for both of us to share.

Off to the hardware store! I had made a walking desk at home for my treadmill, which needed to be adjustable for adults and kids. For that project, I used drawer slides. The trick is to make it stop where you like and be sturdy enough to lean on.

Getting started

Check out our $20 Ikea standing desk, which was based on Colin Nederkoorn’s $22 standing desk. Follow those instructions, but don’t attach the keyboard shelf to the table! The instructions below explain how to make that shelf adjustable to suit several people, all while remaining stable and attractive.

Parts list

Hardware for the adjustable shelf

Hardware used to assemble the adjustable standing desk

  • Slotted angle bracket (2). Check that the holes in the angle brackets are the same layout and that they line up when installed. These are cut from a longer piece, so sometimes they aren’t perfectly aligned (or check at the hardware store before you buy them). I found these at Lowe’s cut to the shorter length. Home Depot had the longer lengths of the same material, but required cutting.
  • Drawer slides (1 package contains 2). There’s no need to spend the extra money on the “soft close” versions — just the regular drawer slides that go on the side of drawers.
  • Barrel bolt lock (2). The medium-sized one worked the best.
  • Screws (~10). Particle board screws are best for attaching the shelf because the wood is MDF.
  • 3″ machine bolts and nuts.
  • Fender washers.

Additional cost: $26.09. This brings the total cost of the adjustable standing desk to $46.07. (That’s more than $950 cheaper than the motor-driven adjustable desks you can buy online!)


  • Portable circular saw with a metal cutting blade (or a Dremel tool with a metal cutting attachment).
  • Power drill with screw bit.


Step 1: Install the angle brackets

Angle bracket mounted to the standing desk

Using the screws and a washer, install the angle bracket on the inside of the table legs. Have the front edge of the bracket out about ¼” from the leg so the barrel bolt lock can catch the holes. Line up the shape and alignment of the holes so they match.

Step 2: Shorten the drawer slides

Measure the length of the shelf brackets on the drawer slides. Completely extend the drawer slides. You will be removing some of the smallest slider to make it the same length as the bracket for the shelf. Mark the inside slider to remove the portion that sticks up if the shelf bracket were attached to the bottom of the slider.

Cut off the top of the inside piece of the slide using a portable saw with a metal cutting blade. It’s best to clean up the cut so there aren’t any sharp edges. Clearly, don’t do this where there are a lot of wood shavings that can catch fire. (Yes, I was cutting this on my wooden deck, but I did have on safety goggles.) You could also use a Dremel tool with a metal cutting attachment.

Step 3: Attach the slides to the shelf

Attach the shortened, inside slide piece to shelf brackets using the screws provided with the drawer slides. When the drawer slides are fully extended, the top of the shelf bracket should be even with the top of the newly shortened smallest slider.

Step 4: Attach the slides to the legs of the table

It’s helpful to have someone help hold the shelf. Extend the drawer sliders completely and screw the larger “back” part of the slider to the legs of the table. I aligned the bottom on the slider to the bottom of the legs. Make sure that the sliders are parallel so they slide smoothly.

Use the plywood screws at various points to attach the slider to the legs. You will have to move the middle and top slider bars to find the holes in the back slider bar to attach it at the top and bottom.

I put one last screw at the bottom and don’t screw it in all the way to catch the “middle” slider so it doesn’t slide up 1 foot in the air above the table top.

Step 5: Attach the barrel bolt lock on both sides under the bottom of the shelf

You’ll only use two of the holes to attach so that you make sure that when the bolt is all the way open it catches the holes in the angle bracket.

Step 6: Mercilessly mock those without adjustable standing desks

Here’s the final product:

Paul and I can share the table. And when I wear heels — doesn’t happen often, but when it does — I can still stand at the standing desk!