How to Build a Computer Work Station from Pipe

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:
When I was a kid, what I loved about Tinker Toys is that I could build just about whatever I wanted to, and then I could take it apart and build something totally different, using the same components. And that started me thinking, is there an adult counterpart to Tinker Toys? Something that would allow me to build grownup projects.

So I went online and did a bit of searching and eventually landed on the Simplified Building Concept site. This is a company that distributes a product called key klamp, a versatile pipe connection system that uses specialized fittings that allow you to create about any kind of structure you can imagine.  But this site is more than just an online catalogue. 

It features dozens of novel projects that folks had built, using these fittings. Coffee tables, truck racks, storage shelves, a shade structure, and more. And this one in particular, caught my eye. It's a computer work station and you know what, I'm gonna build it.

So, I went on a sort of online shopping spree. And what I ended up with is my version of an adult Tinker Toy set. It has all kinds of fittings in a variety of shapes. Now as for pipe, I have a couple of choices, both available at my home improvement center.

This is inch and a quarter water pipe, and this is chain link fence post. The difference is that the water pipe has a thicker wall, which makes it stronger, but a little heavier. The fence post, on the other hand, is lighter in weight and less expensive.

Whatever option I choose, I've got several ways to cut it. Step one is to clamp the pipe in a vice, then measure and mark it to length. A heavy duty pipe cutter will work with either version but goes through the thinner wall fence post more quickly.

A hacksaw with a blade that has 18 or 24 teeth per inch will also do the trick. But you will get a fairly vigorous upper body workout. This cordless portable bandsaw, does the same job in a mere fraction of the time.

Or you can try a metal cutoff saw like this one that uses an abrasive blade. It's as quick as slicing salami, but be sure and wear a face shield, because it produces an impressive fireworks display to boot.

I've got all my pipe pieces cut to length. Now, as in Tinker Toys when you're building things with sticks and connectors, I'll be doing the same thing here, except I'll be using pieces of pipe and connectors.

The connectors are secured to the pipe with a reassessed set screw, and while an ordinary Allen wrench can be used to tighten it, to speed things up, I've cut the end off the Allen wrench and am inserting it in my drill. I've set the drill clutch to give me just the right amount of torque without stripping the threads. I'm going to build the computer desk from the bottom up, starting with these feet. [DRILLING SOUNDS]. Next, I'm going to connect two uprights to the feet.

The two uprights will get connected together with a bottom spreader or brace. Now, I can begin attaching the shelf supports for the computer and the printer. Next, I'll install the supports for the desktop. These fittings are adjustable, so that the desktop can be flat or tilted to any angle.

Now, I can put on the supports for the speaker shelves. Finally, I'll attach the top spread, which also serves as the top shelf support. The framework for the computer is now complete but not very useful without some shelves.

I can make these from either high density particleboard or cabinet grade plywood. I give them a sanding, and since I'm going for a sort of high tech look, a coat of flat black paint. The shelves will be attached to the pipe with these metal supports that slip on and tighten in place.

Coarse threaded screws and fender washers will secure the shelves to the supports. Slightly different shelf supports will be used for the desktop. These plugs or caps, snap into the open ends of the pipes and will give the desk a more finished look.

Rather than sit on a shelf, the monitor will be suspended from a vertical pipe connected to the top spreader. I found this monitor mounting brackets, online. It's designed just for pipe applications like this. The bracket allows the monitor to be positioned at any height and swiveled or tilted, for the best view. But the monitor is not the only thing about this computer desk that can be adjusted. Just about any shelf can be raised, lowered and swiveled. In effect, the desk can be custom fitted to suit anyone's preferences.

You know, I guess some guys just never out grow their toys.  One of the things I really like about this system is that I can take the same components; pipe and fittings, and build something completely different.  Like this roll about storage unit. And if I want to make it taller, shorter, narrower or wider, well all I’ve got to do is change the length of the pipe.  I guess you could say, that this system is Tinker Toys for big boys.

Learn how to assemble a modular computer desk; watch a video that shows how quickly a modular desk goes together.

Kids' construction toys were great because they really got the imagination working. Now there's a line of products from Simplifed Building Concepts that draws on that creative energy to allow you to build all sorts of amazing and useful things from pipe, lumber and some simple Kee Klamp connectors.

Purchase Fittings for the Modular Computer Desk
Step 1

Purchase Fittings for the Modular Computer Desk

Purchase connectors for the DIY modular computer desk online. Choose 1 1/4 inch water pipe with a thick wall or lighter-weight and less-expensive chain-link fence post pipe. The choice is based on the importance of strength over cost and weight.

Cut the Pipe to Length for the Modular Computer Desk
Step 2

Cut the Pipe to Length for the Modular Computer Desk

Clamp the pipe in a vice. Cut it with a heavy-duty pipe cutter, a hacksaw with an 18 to 24 teeth-per-inch blade, a cordless portable band saw, or a metal cutoff saw with an abrasive blade (requires face shield).

Insert Pieces of Pipes into Appropriate Connectors
Step 3

Insert Pieces of Pipes into Appropriate Connectors

Fit the pipes and Kee Klamp connectors together like TINKERTOYS. Secure each connector with a recessed set screw. Tighten manually with an Allen wrench or a hex key bit in your power driver with torque adjusted to avoid stripping the threads.

Build Two Feet for the Modular Computer Desk
Step 4

Build Two Feet for the Modular Computer Desk

Construct two feet for the modular computer desk. First, thread a vertical fitting onto a pipe for the uprights in the next step, and then add a flanged fitting at each end of the pipes to serve as feet.

Connect Two Uprights to the Modular Computer Desk Feet
Step 5

Connect Two Uprights to the Modular Computer Desk Feet

Insert an upright pipe length into the vertical fitting on each foot assembly. Use a level to confirm they are upright and snug the fitting with a T-handled Allen wrench. Add a spreader or brace to the uprights.

Begin Attaching Shelf Supports
Step 6

Begin Attaching Shelf Supports

Thread horizontal shelf supports over the uprights at desired levels and positions and Fix them in place by tightening the set screws. Typically, these shelves will hold the CPU and printer in the modular computer desk.

Install Desktop Supports for the Modular Computer Desk
Step 7

Install Desktop Supports for the Modular Computer Desk

Add a horizontal support over each upright to support the desktop for the modular computer desk. These fittings are adjustable so that the desktop can be flat or tilted to the desired angle. Secure the fittings with set screws.

Add Shelf Supports and a Top Spreader to the Uprights
Step 8

Add Shelf Supports and a Top Spreader to the Uprights

Install shelf supports on the uprights for the speaker shelves. Connect the two uprights with a top spreader which doubles as the top shelf support for the modular computer desk.

Cut Wooden Shelf Panels for the Modular Computer Desk
Step 9

Cut Wooden Shelf Panels for the Modular Computer Desk

Make shelves of high-density particle board or cabinet-grade plywood. Attach to pipes with metal slip-on supports. Secure shelves with coarsely threaded screws and fender washers. Snap end-caps into pipes to give the modular computer desk a more finished look.

Hang the Monitor from the Top Spreader Pipe
Step 10

Hang the Monitor from the Top Spreader Pipe

Suspend the monitor from the top spreader of the modular computer desk via a special fitting. Secure the monitor with a monitor mounting bracket to position it at any height and swivel or tilt it for the best view.