This was my chance to trick out my desk.
That’s what I said to myself before I started my latest home-improvement project. My desk had served me well for years, but it needed a 21st century look.
The massive plastic desk is a holdover from my high school days. When I was a kid, I did statistics on it. The front edge of the desk has a lip that allow textbooks to rest easily against the desk, supported by my belly, in the perfect position for skimming though material without really reading it.
My folks bought it before people routinely had a computer on their desks. It looks like a drafting table and is high off the floor, which makes it comfortable to write on, but becomes a wrist-buster when you put a keyboard on top of it.
I’ve been doing so much typing at work and at home that sometimes I had trouble opening the door to my apartment because the twisting motion was painful. I bought some wrist rests, but they were no match for my injury.
That’s when I came up with the idea that I would retrofit my desk with a tray for my keyboard for my home computer.
After a few beers one night, I concluded that all the pieces in the box looked like they were ready to be assembled. I had borrowed some power tools to punch holes in the soft plastic underbelly of the desk.
Instead of clearing all of the stuff off of the desk and turning it upside down — like a normal person might — I figured I could do it with a lot less effort by turning myself upside down and attaching the keyboard tray while lying on my back.
After I assembled the tray, I got upside down and grabbed the handy template — a large sheet of paper that showed me exactly where the screws should go. I immediately realized that I couldn’t hold the template and the drill at the same time. Rather than getting up or starting over, I decided I could use the Post-It notes that were within easy reach to fasten the template to the bottom of the desk. It took about 30 Post-It notes — they don’t perform well as Scotch tape — to hold the template to the bottom of the desk.
As all the blood drained from my arms, I screwed the first of the screws into the bottom of my desk with a whirl from the drill. I quickly discovered that I’d drilled holes that didn’t match up with the holes on my tray because my template was not stretched tight on the underside of the desk. Thanks 3M.
I installed and reinstalled the keyboard tray a few times and figured out that the self-tapping screws didn’t require me to drill holes into the bottom of the desk. I cleared the curly, gray bits of plastic that had fallen from the desk above from my eyebrows and eyelashes, and repositioned the tray for a final time. I braced for the screws that I knew would fall onto my face and pushed.
How did it turn out? Well, after I successfully installed the tray my chair wouldn’t fit under the desk. So, I went to Lowe’s and I bought two-by-fours — two of the knottiest, cheapest, untreated pieces of wood in the store — with the help of an associate. I took them home and with a borrowed saw, cut them in half and stacked them underneath my desk, elevating it to the perfect height for pounding the keyboard.
Regular readers may remember my stereo that I Frankensteined from several sources. Now I’ve got another monster — a hybrid desk.
And my wrists feel great.
Neal Timpe is the Features editor at The Robesonian. Contact him at (910) 272-6149 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.