Skip to Content

Building A Trestle Desk From Scrap Lumber

Our living room also doubles as our home office area.  It seems like there is never enough space  to organize our own work – let alone the homework assignments and projects of the kids.  So this desk, like almost everything we build, came purely out of necessity.

The Trestle Desk In Place – With Our Two Salvaged Vintage Chairs. It’s 8′ Long and 30″ Deep

We wanted a long work space that could have two separate working areas on either side – with room for a shared printer in the middle.  We had a couple of old wooden chairs that we wanted to use to fit the room’s “vintage” theme – so we designed the trestle desk around them.   The beauty of a vintage build like this – even if it gets a ding or a scratch – it just adds a little more character to the piece.  Not something you can do when you scrape or scratch the flimsy pressboard desks you buy in big box stores.

To help manage the cords and keep a clean look on top – we added a few holes along the back edge to drop cords through for the laptops and printer.  So for now – the end result is a nice clean vintage look in the living room / office.  That is, of course, until the projects, papers, and everything else soon clutter this desk as well!  We are realists after all. 🙂

From a material standpoint – it’s an inexpensive build – especially if you have some scrap lumber lying around.  But even if you have to buy all of the materials at the lumber store – you can build it for under $50.

Here’s how we did it:

We have two separate lists below – one if you are buying all new lumber, and one if you are making from scrap pieces.  Make sure to look for nice straight pieces with no bowing or warping – it makes the project go easy.

Building From Purchased Lumber Material List:

(4) 2x4x10’
(5) 2x4x8’
(3) 2x10x8’  For Main Top
(75) 3″ screws
Wood Glue / Construction Adhesive
3/8″ Wood Plugs – approx. 40

Building From Scrap Wood Material List:

(6) 2×4’s  28” pieces
(6) 2×4’s  25” pieces
(6)  2×4    32” pieces
(2) 2x4x93” for back boards
(3) 2x4x8’  For Outer Trim Boards
(3) 2x10x93″  For Main Top

We started by cutting 2×4 boards into 6,  28” long pieces

Next, we cut 6 more pieces of 2×4 boards at 25” long

We pre-drilled each end of the 28” boards for 2 screws

Step 1 – Assembling the 28″ and 25″ pieces to for 3 squares

Taking two (2) each of the 28″ and 25″ pieces, we applied a little construction adhesive (you could also use wood or carpenters glue) to the ends of each 25” piece – we screwed the 28″ pieces into the 25″  to form a square.

Next – scribe the angle cuts with a pencil and cut to make the inside “x”

*2×4’s are 1 1/2″ thick – so they make a perfect 28″ square when glued together with the 28″ boards overlapping the 25″ boards.

The Finished “x”

We repeated this process two more times until we had 3 complete squares.

Pre-drilling some 3/8″ holes in the top desk boards – these are to put the buttons in after they are screwed down on the desk

We set 2 of the finished squares 93” apart from outside edge to outside edge on a flat surface – and then set the 3rd square in the dead middle of the two.  We then took two 93” boards  – and screwed them into the back side of the 3 squares – one flush to the top – one flush to the bottom, connecting the back of the desk.

Attach the back 2 x4 x 93″ boards flush to the top and bottom of the back of the desk

To add the “trestle effect” to the desk – we then cut two more angle boards to fit in between the back two boards – and screwed them into place.

After all holes are pre-drilled – we then screw the top down flush with the 3″ screws and glue

Up next – the inside cross bracing.  Now, you can be fancy and figure out the exact inside measurement – or you can take the easy way and just simply lay down a 2×4 piece on top of the square and make simple cut marks by tracing the line.  2 angle cuts later – and your x braces are ready to assemble.  Once again we drilled a few pilot holes on the outside of the squares, applied construction adhesive and screwed them together.  We repeated it again for the other 2 squares and the desk was ready to start assembling.

With The Top On – We added the back trestle angle boards

For the top – we wanted the screws to be hidden – so we used a 3/8″ drill bit and pre-drilled the 2 x 10 x 93″ top pieces down a 1/4″ inch on each board.  This way – when we were finished assembling we could pound in some 3/8″ wooden dowel plugs to hide the screws and give an old peg “look” to the piece. Then – we applied some glue on the top of each square support and screwed down each board.

We then cut out 1″ circles in the back for pass through cords

After the top was all glued and screwed down – next came the dowel plugs. You can buy them at all most any hardware store – or  can cut your own from a long dowel – either way – – installing them is a snap.  We put a little glue in each hole – put the dowel plug on top and with a little tap of a rubber mallet (or hammer if you go easy) – we secure them down in the screw holes.  Some of them were just a touch above the board surface height – but a quick sanding smoothed them all out.  Finally we added a 2×4 edge board to the front and side edges to give a thick wood look.  We used the same plug method here to hide the trims screws as well.

Before painting -we added a 2×4 trim board all around the desk to give some depth to the piece.

Next we gave the entire pieces a quick sanding – and it was time to paint.  We decide to match the pieces in the room – so we painted the base a matte black – and used a dark walnut stain for the top.  For the base painting – we used a quick coat of primer before applying two coats of black matte paint.  For the top – we wiped on two coats of walnut stain – and then applied 3 coats of urethane (with a light sanding in between coats).

Bottom primed and getting its black paint – all that is left is to stain and seal the top

The finished result – a two station work desk for our home office / living room.

Stained and waiting to move indoors

If you would like to receive our weekly DIY and Gardening Tips Post each Tuesday – be sure to  hit the “Like” button on our Facebook page, sign up to follow us via email on the blog, or sign up to follow us via twitter.

Jim and Mary