This post has been 5 months in the making but if it helps you learn how to build a filing cabinet desk then we’ve done our job. We actually had this filing cabinet desk completed quite some time ago, but I haven’t been able to show you the finished product because I couldn’t keep my daughter’s room clean. Just keeping it real for all the tired parents out there. Toy story is real.
HOW TO BUILD A FILING CABINET DESK
I forewarn this is going to be a very picture heavy post.
I wanted to call this post “The deIKEAfication of my kids room” because none of the components of the desk that we put together for my daughter’s room are from IKEA. It’s a post Christmas miracle. Alas everything around it is from IKEA. So that wouldn’t fly.
It started like this. Once upon a time our daughter had a room that looked like this.
The problem was there was no desk. She had turned 5 and all she does is draw from the moment she gets up to when she goes to sleep. Our kitchen table was covered in crayons, markers, art supplies, activity books. It was time for a big kid room update and an overdue desk.
Her bedroom is a long narrow rectangle shape, and eventually there will be a set of bunk beds in there replacing the existing bed. We did not want a regular desk, but rather one that would run parallel to the bunk beds.
In other words a really long desk.
But we couldn’t find anything that remotely matched our needs for the shape of the room. This seems to be a theme in our house and why I made the custom sized storage boxes. Time to build a filing cabinet desk!
STEP 1 – SCOURING THRIFT STORES
The first thing I did was hit the thrift stores and after much searching when I finally scored these two filing cabinets at the Salvation Army, for around $20.
STEP 2 – CLEANING AND PAINTING THE FILING CABINETS
We cleaned, primed and painted them. Prep is the most important step when painting anything. Otherwise your paint will not do what it needs to do. Don’t slack on this part.
Make that I took photos and my husband who is a way better spray painter than I am painted them. We used Rustoleum Aqua because apparently the Queen of I love the color Purple, has a new favorite color.
STEP 3 – FINDING THE WOOD COUNTERTOP
Then we needed a desk top.
We started with a trip to Home Depot where we met a great guy named Al who worked in the lumber department. He also had his own furniture making company and was a Godsend with his help. He made some excellent suggestions on how we could effectively mount an 8 foot desk, without brackets holding it up to the wall.
The wood desktop we picked up was an 3/4″, 48″ W x 96″ L (4 x 8 foot) piece of Hardwood Plywood Maple, Columbia Forest. Along with some pieces of some scrap wood.
TIP: Home Depot always has a giant bin of scrap wood from all the cuts that customers get that you can go through to use for your projects.
From that one 48″ W x 96″ L piece of wood came this:
- Two, 3″ strips of wood (same length as the desk)
- One, 2″ strip of wood (same length as the desk)
- The remaining board was cut in half which left it at 20″ deep (from the original 48″ width/depth)
STEP 4 – BUILDING THE DESK TOP
First we stained the wood with Minwax polyurethane in a Clear coat. Then as with anything, measure twice cut once or in this case, measure twice, drill once.
As you can see in the image below, we laid out the blocks of scrap wood and the 2″ strip of wood to the underside of the maple desktop. It was fastened with construction adhesive and screwed in.
PLEASE NOTE THIS TIP:
The 2″ strip of wood had a very important purpose. It added support to the wood desk top. For example, if you sit on a piece of wood when it is laid out flat horizontally, it will sag from the weight of the object on top (a.k.a. your kids that will inevitably sit on it), especially in the center of the desk.
When a desk is that long, usually you either need a bracket, a cabinet or some form of support in the center under it so it won’t cave and sag.
So that is essentially what this 2″ strip of wood flipped on its side does towards the front of the desk.
The scrap blocks of wood were also there to add support and they would be resting on top of the filing cabinets.
The bonus of the 2″ strip of wood was that it also concealed these scrap wood blocks.
See the photo below to understand that visually.
We then placed the desktop on top of the filing cabinets and marked where one of the 3″ strips of wood would go under the desk, mounted to the wall.
This strip would also be the lateral support under the desk that the desktop would also be ‘sitting’ on.
The desktop was then securely screwed down into the 3″ strip that was now mounted to the wall.
The other 3″ strip of wood was mounted on top the desk to add as a wall buffer. Half to create a more built in look, the other half to prevent markers from flying and decorating the wall on their own.
We used LePage PL Premium Construction Adhesive to glue it down.
STEP 5 – EDGES OF THE DESK
Another important finishing step we did was to put rounded trim at the raw unfinished edge of the desk. We don’t own a router to do a bevel (the nice smooth rounded finish that normally appears at the edge of desktop) so this was a cost effective way of doing so.
Same adhesive + clamps.
And this is the finished desk.
The honest to God best part of using trim at the edge of the desk. It prevents the markers and crayons from rolling off the edge and onto the carpet, leaving a trail of destruction.
If we went back in time, we probably would have just gone to Lumber Liquidators and gotten a 12″ foot of butcher block, if only for aesthetics. We have them in our current kitchen and love them! This option however is MUCH less expensive.
Just in case you’re wondering the measurements of the desk are as follows:
28″ H x 20″ D x 96″ L (8 feet).
The filing cabinets on their own are 26″ H x 18″ D x 15″ W.
Eventually we want to put an IKEA EXPEDIT type of shelving unit to the left of the desk vs the TROFAST unit that is currently still there. Which for the record is still by far the greatest tool for cleaning up toys.
We used this desk for quite a few years until we moved and then we still wound up using the filing cabinets for another 5. That’s a pretty good return for a thrift store find. I hope this helps you build a filing cabinet desk of your own!