Tested Projects: Building a Custom Computer Desk, Part 1

For his second Tested Project, Will begins the process of building a custom computer desk for his home office. For this ideal desk, he needs a large working surface, outlets for cable management, and boom arms for his monitors. It all starts with the wood. (Support this video series by signing up for Tested Premium memberships!)

Comments (59)

59 thoughts on “Tested Projects: Building a Custom Computer Desk, Part 1

  1. Great video guys! I want to get back to the shop and do some woodworking.

    Can’t wait till Will gets to the welding.

    P.S. There is a typo in the video description.

  2. Good stuff, Guys!

    , Norm Abram (of This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop fame) has some really good tips on making perfect slots in plywood using a table saw. You can find a bunch of it on Youtube. I think you might find them helpful.. 😉

  3. Great start! Though being a woodworker myself I would recommend you keep a triangular file and a medium sized chisel close. Those two tools can help you match a slot and pin perfectly, faster and with minimal effort. Get it close with the band saw, and finish with chisel and file. It’s faster than you’d think. 🙂

  4. This is America. We do our own thing..

    Well, imperial measurements were originally British…

    I just think the impracticality of relying on base 8, base 12, and base 32 when there’s a perfectly logical base 10 system being used in every single other country in the world, except possibly Liberia, is somewhat luddite. Don’t you want to appear intelligent and scientifically advanced and not stuck in the Dark Ages?

  5. Great series! I hope to see much like this in the future.

    My vote goes to the metric system 🙂

  6. Can we just please table the metric vs. Imperial debate? Anyway…

    Nice start into the project, Will. I’m really interested in how the welding turns out. Wonder what Adams setting up on the table in the background. Anybody get a read on it?

  7. Great start Will.

    I would recommend checking out Steve Ramsey’s channel on Youtube “Woodworking for Mere Mortals”. As the title suggests, his videos covers alot of the basics of woodworking like your basic joints, tools, methods etc.

    If I could give you one tip, it would be to use your cross-cut sledge when doing your slots as you did. This will result in alot more accurate work not to mention alot safer!

    Also I noticed you kept your cut edge of the top flush with the side, do you intend on having this seen or where you planning on edge banding the cut edge? if so. you’d have been better to either do the edge banding first or keep the top back the thickness of the edge banding to ensure a neat finish.

    Keep it up, it’s great to see this sort of thing on your site, looking forward to next week.

    Mat from New Zealand.

  8. +1 on the “Woodworking for Mere Mortals”


    So far So Good. Your mistake with the router was trying to take too much out in one pass. Think of the router as a milling machine for wood. A couple smaller passes will equal a better finish. and to be honest I normally would cut rabbits (the little slot in the wood) on the table saw. The trick to getting them set to the right depth is to set the piece of wood that is going into the joint next to the saw blade. Then raise the blade till it’s the same height (use a board or soft faced square across the two for dead nuts even.) They make blades called dado blades the cut the whole width of the slot in one pass… but a normal blade works too just takes some time to trim it out. Also with plywood if you’re having tearing or chipping around the cut. clamp a bit of wood in front (and behind) and cut it all together. The bit of wood in the front an back is called sacrificial as it’s there just to protect the “good” wood so it can be scraps or thinner plywood ( I normally use 1/4″ for this or what ever is in the scrap bin) .

    I do have a question on the design. Most folks try and hide the ends of plywood because it’s not “pretty”. Why did you choose to leave it exposed? What kind of finish do you plan on using ?

    It looks like a fine desk and your doing great! Keep up the great work!


  9. Take it from a professional :

    PLEASE – PLEASE – PLEASE take a basic woodworking safety course before you lose a finger or worse, or somebody sees your video, does it your way and loses a finger. The table saw is set up for Adam’s level of skill with no guards and no riving knife. The table saw and router can do you incredible violence, you got very lucky here, don’t count on luck next time, and don’t suggest to an audience of thousands that such operations are safe to perform that way. I’ve seen what happens when these tools meet flesh, your career will get a lot shorter if you have to type one handed. Please. Read a book, take a class, and stay away from these tools until you know enough to not get hurt.

  10. I think its really cool to be able to build something you designed, love all your stuff guys this is the first time I’m commenting because I remembered something from when I worked at a hardware store, A dado blade on a table saw can make those square cuts, Its like two adjustable table saw blades that are set to depth. That plastic guard thingy on top comes out to make room for the blades, I believe most table saws allow for this, and being in Adam’s shop I’m sure he probably has one. Just a suggestion for next time. Not sure about posting etiquette but mentioned the same thing sounds like he has more experience in woodworking than me. Love your guys stuff keep it coming,

  11. This was an awesome video, and it is starting to look like a desk already.

    Like people have mentioned many times below, cutting the slots in the sides while holding the board vertically like that, without using the sled (and for some of the cuts, without using the fence), is a very unsafe approach. It doesn’t take much wiggle or hesitation before you get kickback and that board hits your belly at 120mph and your hands are thrown dangerously close to the blade.

    Many good suggestions below for safe and clean ways of doing it for the next time around, as well as YouTube resources on safe tablesaw/router use that would be a well-spent hour or so to seek out.

    It must be boring reading these comments criticizing a beginner’s tool use, but simply putting the saw’s safety features on when you’re using it, and using push-sticks especially when working with smaller pieces, would make a lot of these comments go away 😉

  12. Well done, !

    Loved the shoutout to and the ‘Order of Operations’ honorable mention. Can’t wait for the welding episode!

  13. As a woodworker, I find myself yelling at the screen a bunch about safety, about proper tools, about easier / better ways to do something. I know Adam is a busy guy, maybe get someone with some expertise in to bounce ideas off, try to make it a little more professional – even if you want to have the mistakes / learning experience part of the video.

    I love the idea of releasing the sketchup files it is a cool looking desk, not really sure why so many people made this thread about Imperial vs Metric, you can switch from one to another pretty easy in any CAD program.

  14. Have you thought about how you’re going to take that home when it’s all done? Does it fit in your car?

  15. Hey Will,

    You can certainly lay out the cut list in your CAD program too, and while it’s not automatic, it’s sometimes BETTER when you’re giving your plans to someone else to cut. You can also add dimensions to it and save/export the image.

  16. I think everyone is yelling (at least a bit) about safety, but the fact that he is mostly figuring out which tools and techniques that would work best as he goes along is the biggest charm of this series IMO 🙂

  17. I agree with many here… While I applaud your willingness to dive in a try this on your own, you need to watch a couple of episodes of New Yankee Workshop at least. The methods you are using are extremely dangerous. We’re not talking about diving into the bios on a computer here wher the worst you can do is brick a machine… you have life and limb to worry about.



  18. Will,

    Like others I’m excited to see a woodshop project. I was compelled to sign up for an account to comment on the safety. As much as I appreciate the “figure it out as you go” process, there are many safety issues in the way that you are using these tools. As others have mentioned, many were cringe worthy. Please take a course, and spend some time with an experienced woodworker.

    Like a star athlete others will see this video and repeat what they have seen. Please make an update to address the safety issues. I propose that you re-do the episode with an experienced woodworking giving you guidance as you go.

    I much rather see less in the video (guards in place) with proper safety practices, than see an episode on how nice the loca ER is.

    Keep up the videos!


  19. The phenomenon you experienced with the router on the plywood is called tearout. If you google “preventing tearout” there are a number of resources suggesting ways to mitigate this. Some have been mentioned already like shallower cuts and a backing board.

    Alternatively, as others have suggested, a dado blade on the table saw would be a good way to cut those slots in the plywood.

    Also, as had been mentioned already: please use the crosscut sled or miter gauge when making those sorts of cuts on the table saw. Doing it freehand like you are is dangerous. We’d hate for this video series to be cut short because you managed to hurt yourself.

  20. Not bad, not bad at all. As to the biscuits, they are very nice to use, especially for joinery like that. I’ve used them for many years and I’ve found that a squirt bottle for the glue helps a lot and leaving the excess to squirt out is good because it means that you’ll have total adhesion (you can use a damp rag or sponge to clean it up once it is all clamped down). As to the routing, yeah, it’s scary, in fact it’s one giant pain in the butt sometimes when you’re doing things like this, but a jigsaw or table saw to get the majority of the material out to begin with helps a lot. I’d go check out Norm Abram videos on Youtube for more precise methods; they’ve helped me out a lot over the years.

  21. learned that from my friend Paul Crane, He was 94 still doing cabinetry with all his fingers. Glad to see it put to use.

  22. Many folks here have sent you off to the interwebs to watch woodworking videos but provided no links.

    Here are a few links to cutting Rabbets/ Dados with Routers, Dado (stacked blades) and a table saw (covers setup of the saw real well.) I know your past it for this project but who knows you or Norm may have another project in the wings that this could help with. The Last video also covers Safety…. maybe next time you’ll not get so many posts on the topic 😉


  23. I enjoyed the video and don’t want to add to the chorus of “You should have done this or that…”

    But, at the risk of adding too much to your/Joey’s work load, maybe you might consider doing followup videos/articles sort of aggregating the useful feedback you’ve gotten in the comments and how you would go about it now in light of all the suggestions? It’d be nice to link to it from the video so that future viewers don’t fall into the same issues and hopefully will address all the safety concerns brought up. You might also consider adding some sort of disclaimer that the video isn’t meant to be instructional- wouldn’t want you to get into any sort of legal issues.

  24. Great video series and I am glad that I can help fund it for everyone to enjoy! I am only going to mention about the safety aspect…..I agree with the comments…”enough said”.

    You should also check out the Wood Whisperer on You Tube. Marc Spagnuolo did a great post titled Are You a Maker or a Woodworker. He mentions one of Adams talks at Maker Faire and Bill Doran.

    In the end it doesn’t matter what you call yourself just get out there and make stuff!

  25. Wow, another great video. Congratulations on the scariest Tested video of all time. Just google “kickback”. This topic was covered very well in previous comments; however, I don’t think we can emphasize it enough. I remember my dad ripping a thin piece like your crossbar and he managed to shoot it through the garage wall after first passing through a plastic jug of antifreeze. Luckily he was not standing behind the piece!

    A quick comment on edge banding. My entire house is built with plywood, edges exposed (bathrooms, cabinets, kitchen, etc). It is a good look, but we used “furniture grade” plywood. It is a bit more expensive but the edges look great and there are no voids in the middle. It also has more plys. For 3/4″ ours has 13 plys versus home depot nice plywood which has 5. We were shooting for a retro 60’s atomic ranch look and it turned out great.

  26. Have you considered posting the Sketchup files? I also use sketchup for all my projects, but you can learn a lot by playing with other folks designs.

  27. As a professional furniture maker I just want to say PLEASE, let me help you! Losing one of your fingers is not part of the learning process. PLEASE, let me help you!

  28. This is still awesome, keep them coming. I’m fairly certain you’re being careful in your own way, I’m sure there are ways to be safer but I already see lots of improvements from the last video, people will continue to yell as you learn but keep being a cowboy and just watch those digits 🙂

  29. I’m sorry, Will, if this is what my “Premium Membership” is going toward, I won’t be renewing my membership. I’m glad you’re taking steps outside your comfort zone, but I don’t think these videos are in the spirit of Tested. Normally, Tested’s content is informative, instructional, and entertaining, and this video falls into none of these categories. We’re not learning anything about how the new product works or a new way of doing things, so it’s not informative. You don’t seem to know what you’re doing, and watching you fumble around with no instruction on how to build your projects is difficult to watch, so it’s not instructional.

    Without information or instruction, the video isn’t very entertaining. If you continue with this series, I’d suggest you find someone knowledgeable with the types of projects you’ll be doing. The reason I liked the videos with Adam is that he is always instructing you on how things work or ways to do a project.

  30. While I admire Adam’s shop and tool collection, it looks a lot like a place to learn safety the hard way.

    nearly everything in working with wood is dangerous, and I never like hearing generalities such as “being careful” used. Instead of focusing on the chorus of specific dangerous practices people saw in this video, I’d much rather hear that you redesigned the project and workflow to require less improvisation and only contain cuts you have mastered safely.

    Overall I think you’ll probably be fine, but I’d hate to hear you hurt yourself because you couldn’t find a youtube video on how do something right. I’d love to see you default to a hand tool when things get iffy.

    BTW, heard you talk about using a planer at least twice. You probably mean something else but I can’t figure out what. Do you mean a square? A straightedge?

  31. I’m not really adding anything new to the discussion, but it’s a serious point, so it’s worth echoing for the umpteenth time. I was a premium member back in the Whiskey days, and I’ve been following Tested from the start. I really want to support you guys, since I think the stuff you do is really entertaining, but now I have to have separate subscriptions for Giant Bomb and Tested, I decided to leave off subscribing to Tested immediately to see what kind of content would end up behind the paywall. And the premium content looks good! I honestly would love to buy a premium membership, and the stuff behind the paywall looks well worth the money.

    But, on seeing this video, I am not going to buy a premium membership. This is not to do with the premium content itself, and this isn’t to do with the price. I am not going to subscribe out of principle:

    I refuse to support content where you are working with potentially extremely dangerous machines and not taking proper safety precautions.

  32. I commend you on your exploit of British vs. American English, Sir. I motion to close the discussion on metric vs. imperhial because it is irrelevant to the video.

    Now please address the safety discussion.

  33. I emailed this to Will last week.

    This showed up on my Face book timeline from the RPF group:


    With all the comments on the headphone hanger thread I just want to add; be safe. Power tools do not play favorites. I’m sure you know that, but sometimes when working with a new tool, like you are in Adam’s shop that might not sink in. That goes double for a lathe or mill. Two years or so ago here at Yale a young lady was working alone late at night and got her hair caught in a running lathe and the lathe snapped her neck. Watch the tools and make the videos fun.

    I worked in a hardware store for ten ye3ars off and on between engineering job and I have seen a bunch of old carpenters with missing fingers.

    Enough about safety, enjoying the videos.

  34. +1

    But, on seeing this video, I am not going to buy a premium membership. This is not to do with the premium content itself, and this isn’t to do with the price. I am not going to subscribe out of principle:

    I refuse to support content where you are working with potentially extremely dangerous machines and not taking proper safety precautions.

  35. Can we be more specific about the exact safety issues. I’m not a professional woodworker, but I got sweaty at around 5:22 where Will was trying to hand feed a small upright piece along the fence into the router. When the piece was flat, it seemed fairly safe, although probably taking too much material too fast.

    At 7:03 the freehand mortise was a little lackadaisical, but would have been fine if the piece if a guide was used.

    Possibly Will scares me more because he seems a little clumsy at times. Sorry Will, love your work especially with all digits and appendages intact!

  36. You hit the major points.

    The router is taking on way too much during the vertical feed, which along with the unsupported/handfed tablesaw cuts are both prime candidates for really bad kickback, risking hands and other serious injury from boards flying unpredictably at an easy 120mph.

    People are upset because both are easy enough to avoid with a bit of instruction. As soon as I watched those parts of the video I thought “Oh man, people are going to hate that”.

    IIRC Will has taken the Woodshop Safety and Basic Use class at Techshop, where they cover using the tablesaw. A notable difference between Techshop and the cave is that the former has Sawstop saws with full safety features installed at all times. The SBU class only covers basic techniques on the saw (it being one of a series of tools being covered in a two hour class), but if you are trying something new there are always Techshop staff on hand to help you do it correctly and safely.

  37. I was not going to comment on safety after so many others already have but considering my membership helped fund this video I have to add my two cents. I love the production of this video and I really enjoy Will trying to figure out how he is going to build his desk. BUT the lack of safety precautions is really troubling. Adam’s shop is full of high powered equipment he has sooo much experience working with. And while I don’t think anyone should be removing safety devices its not surprising that Adam has done so. Not only should Will not be using this power tools with the safety’s off there are lots of hand tools that this work can be done with. Chisels are very effective and I’m sure Adam has a lot of very nice chisels, we know he has some very nice hand saws. I’d really like to see some of this addressed because I’d rather by sub to go to video production, cameras, and Will’s time in the shop than ER bills.

  38. I’d like to throw out a suggestion to the Tested guys referring to the this video series. I think there is value in content which illustrates a beginner wood worker learning the ropes. I think the biggest mistake here was that Will started with a project that is a little beyond his current skill level. Instead of jumping to a somewhat complicated build, like a desk…start with smaller projects that are focused on learning how to use the tools instead of the final product.

    For instance, a perfect learning project for the table saw would be a box with a sliding top. First you’d start by talking about the tool, how to use the fence, angle guide, cross cut sled, etc, and appropriate safety precautions. Once past that, you could talk about the project plans and the order in which you make your cuts. Then test so that your certain the fence is parallel to the blade, and discuss proper technique when feeding the wood into the blade. Making a box isn’t particularly difficult but getting everything square can be tricky, which is why it’s such a good starter project for this tool. To make the sliding top a couple dados will need to be made. This will demand learning how to set up and feed this type of cut and how to change the blade. Sure this is basic stuff, but one needs to build there skills on a foundation of fundamentals before jumping into more complicated projects.

    Another effective component to these videos would be to bring in an experienced wood worker as an instructor (at least for the first few videos). Sure Jamie isn’t around, but there’s got to be someone available who could fill that need. With a teacher and pupil the viewer gets to see both the beginner and his mistakes, and the instructor explaining what was done wrong and how to correct it.

    The idea here is to lift these videos from a “watch Will bumble around and eventually learn some woodworking skills,” to a step by step tutorial series where the viewers see the learning arc of a beginner who eventually becomes proficient at the craft.

    Anyway, that was just my thoughts on this one. I applaud Wills efforts and I’m sure he’s on his way.

  39. A box with a sliding top was my first real tablesaw and router project. I made it out of solid wood, so I got to learn how to use the jointer and planer while I was at it.

  40. I think one of the key things is that Will overlooked is that with router tables and table saws jigs are critical to their safe proper use. The crosscut sled is a great tool. He could have done the notching with the sled in a much safer manner than freehand (!!). For the router, using a sled would have also made the vertical notch possible with low risk. Jigs jigs jigs, they help you hold the work and use the tool safely.

  41. I don’t want to pile on too much, because you were properly scared of that mile of angry router bit sticking out of the table, even if maybe you were a little too comfy with the table saw.

    The main thing that struck me was that you never used a single hand tool to solve any of your fit problems, or even to approach some of the simple cuts you needed to make. Tools like the table saw are great for cutting down big piece of plywood and doing production work. But you don’t have to use them for everything.

    That’s just ignoring a very large component of woodworking, and using a handsaw, chisel, and coarse file would have gotten you where you wanted to be a lot faster than fiddling around with the router, table saw, and band saw. And without the horrifying specter of imminent maiming hanging overhead. Seriously man, there were a number of points where I was just like “Oh no, don’t do that”, and I’m not even a good woodworker. I’m sure the pros commenting here were having absolute fits. Being scared for someone’s wellbeing isn’t part of what Tested is supposed to be about, I don’t think. A good rule of thumb is if a sentence starts “I’ve never used *insert limb mangling tool here* before, but…” you should be looking at hand tools or a different approach.

    Oh, and as a side comment, and this will be true when cutting your steel as well:

    Mark one cut. Make the cut. Then measure the next, make that cut, and then the next. You can try to accommodate for the kerf with your measuring if you do it all at once, but chances are you won’t get it exactly right, and stuff will end up slightly off.

  42. Instead of using the router, and running the plywood freehand to cut your slots, you should use the sled to cut the slots. Also you could ask Adam for a Dado blade

  43. When trying to view the next video in a series, can we add a “Related” category to these videos so the next one(s)/previous one(s) can be found easier. Having a heck of a time navigating to them w/o having to go to YouTube directly.



  44. 2 words my friend…..Kreg Jig or if your dead set on overlapping joints, Dado stack or Jig Saw and Router.

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