After a few months of COVID related working from home, with no end in sight, we wanted a dedicated work space with a big screen.
Sitting with the wife at the kitchen table happily hacking away is fun, but when both of us have conference calls, or when the kids are around, not much work gets done.
There was no spare room, and we were neither willing to tolerate a permanent work desk in the bed room nor did we want to lose an entire PAX — at most we were ok to lose one drawer.
Luckily a fold out desk with a screen is enough for either one of us. No need for printer, lots of binders or other tools.
We share this space, whoever needs the separate room most gets to use it that day.
Here’s how our PAX looks
Opens up to reveal our fold out desk
Slide out and start working
- PAX frame with sliding doors — in my case the 2 meter wide, 2.36 meter high version. (Could work the same I guess with the 75cm PAX frames, 50cm would probably be useless.)
Other materials required:
- Wooden plates to the sizes required
- Heavy duty slides
- Piano hinge
- Screen with a corresponding VESA mount
- Magnetic catches
- Some scrap wood
- Wood glue
- Dowel pins
- Measuring tape
- Joiners square
- Spirit level
Make a fold out desk in a PAX wardrobe
This requires some advance planning and measuring, since the slides and the screen will vary based on what one can source.
I started with the slides.
I wanted to get reasonably heavy duty slides for the desk, and I wanted the slides to come out as far as possible.
If the fold out desk slides out 50 or so centimeters, there’s enough space for your legs under it, so I did not want to skimp there.
My PAX has an inside depth of 57 cm, and I was able to source slides pulling out 55cm. Here’s a link to what I bought.
These have a width of 13mm per slide and are rated for 45kg load.
The PAX tolerates quite a heavy load, might want to make sure it’s screwed to the wall.
The PAX being 96cm wide on the inside, I got the board for the desk cut to 93.4cm x 57cm. I mounted the slides to desk height into the PAX (around 76cm for me, but you may vary according to your liking), flush to the front.
The sides on my PAX are chipboard, this has enough ‘meat’ to hold the slides. This constitutes the basic desk to slide in and out.
Mounting the slides was not very hard to do, but it’s important to measure and work precisely. This step does not tolerate sloppy work. If the slides are not parallel, the desk will not slide out easily – or at all.
Next step was to measure the screen and screen mount.
I wanted to figure out the depth of the screen and mount assembly. I got two boards cut to this height, added a few millimeters to spare.
The higher those boards are, the more space the construction will take later when folded, and the higher the screen will come when unfolded. I chose my boards to be the interior width of the PAX (96cm), and had to take out little corners to make space for the slide. One could also make them the width of the desk board, but I preferred the full width look.
The last board needed is the cover, when folded flat, that houses the screen. I made that one the width of the PAX, and the full extension of my slides – 96x55cm.
I had all the boards cut for me at the DIY shop – perfectly straight and true. I went for glued beech wood (in 18mm) for those boards, which I oiled, because I like the look. One could just as well go for laminated chipboard — no need to treat it, but will have to cover the cut edges.
I finished the desk part by fixing one of the small boards vertically to the rear end of the desk board. As mentioned, I had to make little cutouts for the slide.
I mounted it so that it would be flush with the front of the PAX when the desk was all extended. At this point, I had to mount and unmount the desk board several times from the PAX to measure and check things.
The vertical board will hold up the cover board later. One can either screw and glue this on, or use wooden pins. I went for the pins since there’s no visible screws, but functionally both methods are good.
The cover board is next.
This lies flat when folded and holds the screen. I mounted the VESA mount on to it in such a way that the lower edge of the screen is just above the lower edge of the board, and drilled a big hole in it to route the cables on to the other side of the board.
On the 1 meter PAX, a 32” screen works beautifully, however a 4K screen is required. You will sit too close for comfort with a FullHD screen, it will look all grainy. I know because I tried. 🙂
On top of the cover board, above the screen, I mounted the other small board vertically. Again with wood pins, but screws are good, too. When folded down, this board holds up the cover board, so the screen does not touch the desk board.
The fold out desk slides out of the PAX and the top cover is then lifted up.
I fixed the small board not at the very edge, but 2cm in, to give me a handle to grip the entire contraption when folding it up. One could just as well drill a hole into it to get a finger in as a handle.
Next to last step is …
… attaching the cover board with the screen to the desk board – this is what the piano hinge is used for. Again, it’s not extremely hard, but precision is required. The hinge has to lie straight on the edges of the two wood boards, so when one folds the cover up, it sits nice and straight.
Once the entire construction was ready and mounted into the PAX, I made sure that, when pushed in, it lied flat with the front of the PAX and the sliding door closed just in front of it. When pulled out and folded up, the cover board was flush with the PAX.
Using some left over wood, I cut two blocks that I screwed into the PAX for the cover board to rest against, and two magnetic catches to hold it up. The catches are rated for 10kg each, and in conjunction with the blocks mounted lower on the sides of the PAX, make sure the cover board does not come down on its own, and the desk board cannot be pushed in when the cover is up.
Added a laptop holder
As an encore, I added a holder for a notebook computer (which is just an L shaped contraption made of left over wood) and a power socket on top of the cover board. When I get to work, I pull out the board, plug in my notebook, slide it into the holder, and fold up the screen — and I’m in business.
One could just as well mount a small form factor PC like a NUC to the back of it, but in my use case, various company supplied notebook computers are used.
How long and how much did it cost?
This was work — I spent around 8 hours working on it, over the course of a week or so. It was not hugely expensive, the slides cost 20 EUR, the VESA mount was 15, assorted hardware another 15, and the wood around 100. The screen is expensive, but that was needed anyway.
What do you like most about the hack?
The fold out desk is very pleasant to use and set up. Takes me a minute in the morning to convert the bedroom to office, and a minute in the evening to move it back.
What was the hardest part about this hack?
Nothing was very hard, some bits just required precise work.
What to pay special attention to?
It’s important to make sure one takes exact measurements of the thickness of the mounted screen, of the exact position of the VESA mount. VESA is a standard, but the height of the mount varies from screen to screen. Also, the VESA mount may need some extra space to assemble it once mounted to the screen. I tried these things several times before finally fixing them.
I like it. 🙂 The wife likes it too, so it’s all good. 🙂
~ by Marc from Luxembourg