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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > How-To Articles > Making a Lap Desk

Making a Lap Desk

The kitchen table is great for eating - that's what it is designed for. However, it's not so great for paying bills, homework or reading. Relieve some of the pain of paying bills or doing homework with a lap desk. This handy little gadget turns any space you're in into a comfortable work area. All you need are a few tools and a few hours of free time to complete this project. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Tools & Materials


  •   • Tape measure
  •   • Jig saw
  •   • Palm sander
  •   • Sandpaper
  •   • Paintbrush
  •   • Router (optional)
  •   • Dust mask
  •   • Goggles
  •   • Hearing Protection


  •   • Lumber of your choice
  •   • Finishing materials as needed
  •   • Wood glue


You can use faced plywood, MDF, pre-glued pine boards or glue up your own boards. If you want to add a small lip to the bottom of the desk, you'll need a 1" by 1/4" strip that you can glue just above the lower edge of the desk.

The Basic Desk

The basic desk should have a comfortable shape.

The exact dimensions of the desk depend on your individual preferences, but there are a few basic guidelines you should keep in mind when designing your desk.

  •   • Most desks are 30" to 40" wide and 14" to 24" deep.
  •   • It's a good idea to put a slight curve in the lower edge of the desk so the ends wrap around the users torso.
  •   • A groove routed in the top face of the desk makes a convenient place to keep a pen or pencil.
  •   • A small lip at the lower edge of the desk helps hold books, papers and laptop computers in place.
  •   • All of the desk's edges should be rounded over and sanded smooth for greater comfort

Custom Touches

Your lap desk can be as detailed and stylized or as simple as you like. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  •   • For a natural finish, simply apply a clear topcoat, either oil- or water-based.
  •   • For something a little more challenging, add your own design with a stencil or paint it on freehand before applying the topcoat.
  •   • Prime and paint the desk in your school colours or to match your decor.
  •   • Rout your name, nickname or some other design into the desk. Stain or paint the design so it stands out.

Make the Desk

After you decide which features you want on the desk, it's time to put it all together.

A pen/pencil holder is a convenient addition to the desk.

A small strip at the bottom of the desk keeps papers in place.

  •   1. If you've decided to glue up your own boards, then that should be your first step. Glue the boards so that your final board is slightly larger than the finished size of the desk.
  •   2. Measure the desk and size to fit the user. With the desk in the users lap, determine where and what size to make the torso arc, the location of the pen/pencil holder and any other accouterments that you will be adding.
  •   3. Use a jig saw to cut the desk to the approximate shape determined in step #2. Keep the saw blade just outside of the lines you have drawn for the top.
  •   4. Use a palm sander to sand the board down to size. Using the sander to remove the last of the stock gives you more control and ensures that the desk has smooth edges.
  •   5. Round over all edges with the palm sander or, for more uniform edges, use a router and round-over bit.
  •   6. Use a router and a round nose or V-groove bit to rout the pencil holder groove in the top face.
  •   7. Cut the 1/4"x1" strip for the lower edge lip to size and glue it to the desk. Drive 1" brads through the lower lip into the desk. If the brads come through the bottom of the desk, bend them over and set the ends below the surface of the board. Fill the holes with putty.
  •   8. Sand the desk as needed. You can finish the desk in any manner you choose, using paint, stain and a clear topcoat or with an oil finish.

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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