This old fashioned student desk gives a modern twist to the old student desk. Its compact, one-piece design adds functionality and style to any space. Constructed out of 2″x 2″ lumber and plywood, it is sturdy, yet light weight. Perfect for small spaces! This piece was initially built for a middle school’s theatre set of Thoroughly Modern Millie. We built 16 of them!
Student Desk- How it Came About
Being a drama mama and having some woodworking knowledge means I get to be involved in designing and building pieces that are fun and unique. I have built wooden ladders, benches, and a cool pipe shelf, among other items not on this blog.
All to help the theatre arts. I love doing it!
My daughter, now a theater teacher and director herself, needed 16 secretary desks for the set of Thoroughly Modern Millie’s middle school musical.
Sixteen!!. Needless to say, parent volunteers came in very handy. Pun intended!
Because of high shipping costs, buying or renting was not an option, so we decided to build. We put our heads together and among the three of us (my son-in-law is also a woodworker and single handedly built most of these!) came up with a design that is both, one piece and lightweight.
We debated adding casters on the front end, but ultimately opted not to. After all, kids were going to be hopping on and off and dancing on top of these desks.
In the end, they worked out great. Three other schools have now used these student desks on their theatre set, and many teenage kids have successfully been able to dance on them and carry them on and off stage with ease.
With the help of parent volunteers, we built 16 of these! My son-in-law got pretty good at figuring out the most effective way to put them together. Whether you end up building one, or a 100, follow the process step by step and your experience should go without a glitch (fingers crossed!).
DIY Old Fashioned Student Desk Plans
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TIP: Read the entire plan before starting and make sure you follow all safety precautions when using power tools. Sign up for the Sawdust Sisters Newsletter and get free access to my resource library, which includes a pdf printable copy of these plans.
DIY Old Fashioned Student Desk Tutorial
Materials Needed to Build One Student Desk
2×2 lumber & cuts– Qty in parenthesis
Once you have made all your cuts, follow the steps below to put the desk together. This design uses a combination of pocket hole joinery and traditional wood screws. The Kreg Jig is my favorite and most user friendly tool I know of to accomplish this, especially for beginners! My favorite wood screws are these ones!(no pilot holes needed). They use a star head bit that usually comes in the box. Trust me, your experience will be much better if you use these screws! You can find the screws and the star bit at any hardware store.
Step 1: Build the Bottom of the Frame
Using pocket hole joinery, attach the first piece as shown. Use wood glue at the seams. The 2 short pieces should be 7” apart. The pocket holes will end up facing the floor.
Step 2: Attach the Seat Legs
Secure the 4 legs (15” pieces) using 2 1/2” wood screws from the bottom. Placement of the legs should be centered, about 5” from the outside of the frame. Make sure the seat fits comfortably on top before you screw in the legs. You may use pocket hole joinery if you’d like, but be aware that the pocket holes will be visible if you do.
Step 3: Add Remaining Seat Pieces
Grab (2) 7” pieces and (2) 9” pieces using a combination of pocket holes and wood screws as shown, bringing all 4 legs together securely. Don’t forget to use glue at the seams.
Step 4: Attach the Seat
Turn the piece upside down and screw in the seat using 2- 1/2″ wood screws from the bottom.
Step 5: Attach the Desk Legs
Now you are ready to attach the desk legs (4- 28” pieces)in the same manner you built the seat. The legs are 7” apart front to back.
Step 6: Add remaining Desk Pieces
Attach (2) 19” and (2) 7” pieces that go right under the desk top, using pocket hole joinery on the longer pieces and wood screws on the shorter pieces as shown. Don’t forget the glue. See next step for cross bar.
Step 7: Add Crossbar
Now you’re ready to attach the crossbar. This is a 19” piece. Place it 6” away from the top 2×2. You can use pocket holes or wood screws.
Step 8: Add the Desk Top
Turn the piece upside down and attach the desk top using 2- 1/2” wood screws from the bottom.
Now it’s a matter of painting to your liking! I hope this helps and that you are able to build this without a glitch.
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What do you think?
Leave any questions you may have under comments!
Here is one last photo. My cute daughter is posing. This gives you an idea of the size of the piece. She is 5′ 5″ and 110 lbs.
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Janice Thomas writes detailed tutorials for novice woodworkers and DIYers. She also works as a university professor in the health care industry. Have a question for Janice? Feel free to send her a message here!