To make a lap desk:
- Determine the surface space you want/need
- Choose the style of lap desk that works best for you
- Gather the proper materials
- Piece everything together
- Ensure the lap desk works
There are a few different processes you can use to make your lap desk, and you can choose one of the three we expand on below.
Make sure you choose a lap desk that works well for your needs without compromising too much on proper sitting posture.
DIY Lap Desk Basics
Before you determine how to make a lap desk that suits your needs, you need to map out those needs.
Questions to answer include:
- How much space do you need on your lap desk?
- How portable do you want your lap desk to be?
- What is your budget? Are you working with scraps, or are you willing to purchase new materials?
- How much time will you spend at your lap desk?
For a larger work area, better posture, and greater versatility, opt for a lap desk that is a miniature version of a traditional desk.
Because these don’t sit right on your lap, you can make them larger.
This allows you to sit more properly, and you can add on drawers or storage under the desktop.
A cushioned lap desk with a hard surface works well for short-term work and sitting it directly on your lap.
This is easier to grab and go, and it can be more comfortable for work while you’re reclined or in bed.
How to Make a Lap Desk out of Wood
The easiest way to make a lap desk is using cuts of wood.
Although this requires the most assembly, it’s a straightforward process.
Because the desk is small enough to fit over your lap, you can use scraps of wood to accomplish this.
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If you purchase wood from a hardware supply store, they may cut it down to the dimensions you need.
When making the desk out of wood, you can make the desk as portable or permanent as you want.
A simple design is a surface with legs, while a more complex design involves storage space and the ability to fold down.
The method listed below sits in the middle ground between simplicity and functionality.
You could also watch this video for a quick tutorial to make a wooden lap desk:
Recommended Cuts and Materials:
- 1x12 @ 19.5” (bottom of storage)
- 1x12 @ 24” (lap desk top)
- 1x2 @ 24” (top back trim)
- (2) 1x3 @ 21” (front and back trim)
- (4) 2x2 @ 9” (legs)
- (2) 1x3 @ 11” (side trim)
- (2) 2x2 @ 10” (top side trim)
You can adjust these cuts as needed, but make sure you map out your adjustments and modify all the affected numbers.
Tools and Materials:
- 2-inch screws/nails
- 2.5-inch screws/nails
- Wood glue
- Wood filler (optional)
- 120 grit sandpaper
- Primer and paint/stain (optional)
Use glue before screws or nails to secure the pieces if needed. If using screws, make sure you pre-drill and countersink all the holes for your screws.
1. For a clean appearance, take sandpaper to all the cuts before piecing them together.
2. Start by securing the bottom of the storage to the side trim pieces, making sure you keep the outside edges flush.
Glue the pieces first, then nail or screw the wood together. Repeat with the front and the back trim.
3. Attach the legs to the outside of these pieces.
By putting them on the outside, you give yourself extra lap room underneath the desk.
4. Attach the top back trim to the storage compartment using 2” screws of nails.
Make sure you also screw through the legs to the edges.
5. Sand the wood if you have not done so yet and apply primer if you plan on painting or staining it.
At the least, seal the wood before using it.
Do this before you attach the desktop for seamless painting and sealing.
6. When everything is dry, use two hinges to attach the desktop to the top back trim.
The surface should sit flat on the storage compartment.
How to Make a Padded Lap Desk (Sewing)
If you know how to sew, you can create a padded lap desk that sits comfortably on your legs and contours to your natural shape.
This keeps hot-bottomed laptops off your legs and raises your workspace to a more comfortable level.
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Padded lap desks work well for quick access to a work area and are better suited to unconventional work postures such as reclining.
- Desk surface (cut of wood or pre-cut desktop)
- ½ yard @ 45” wide sturdy fabric (such as quilting cotton or flannel)
- Bean bag filler beans (or packing peanuts)
- All-purpose thread
- Sewing and regular scissors
- Fabric marker/chalk
- Pattern paper (butcher paper or wrapping paper works well)
- Sewing machine
You can also hand sew this project, but a sewing machine usually works faster and offers more durable seams.
1. Start by creating your pattern on your paper.
This will be two rectangles about the size of your desk surface. One should match the surface as close as possible, while the dimensions of the other should be about 2 or 3 inches larger.
2. Pin the pattern to your fabric, then cut out one of each
They should both fit on a ½ yard of a standard piece of fabric.
Once you have the cuts, lay them right sides together and pin the middles of the bottom edge together. Line up the middle section of the top parts and pin those together, and then do the same on the sides.
Pin the corners as well, taking the time to ensure the edges stay smooth. Expect the corners to bunch up.
3. When everything is secure, you can start sewing.
Leave a gap so you can flip and stuff the cushion, and sew a seam around the entire edge. You can round the corners a bit to catch all the fabric.
Turn the cushion right side out, then fill it with your foam until you reach your desired density. It should be firm enough to hold up to use and soft enough to conform to your lap.
Fold the raw edges of the gap in and sew up the opening.
Glue the cushion to your desktop using super glue or a similar strength adhesive.
How to Make a Padded Lap Desk (No-Sew)
If you need a padded lap desk but cannot sew, check out the method below.
This uses different materials and focuses on more manual methods of adhesion, but you still benefit from customizing appearance and comfort.
This is not as customizable as sewing your own cushioning, but you can piece everything together without sewing skills.
- Wooden lap desk top or cut of wood
- Foam square (at least as large as your desktop)
- Fabric (large enough to cover foam)
- Scissors (fabric and regular)
- Fabric glue
- Hot glue gun
- Wood stain/brushes
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1. Trace your desktop onto your foam.
Then cut the foam a bit smaller than your desktop. This does not need to be super neat, but keeping it smaller facilitates a cleaner result.
You can stain the desktop or leave it natural, but make sure you seal the wood for greater longevity.
Leave it long enough to dry.
2. Use fabric glue to secure your fabric to the foam.
Make sure you keep it as tight as possible and adhere to as much of the area as you can.
The fabric should tuck under the side that will attach to the desktop.
Trim the extra fabric if needed, then attach the foam to the bottom of your desktop using hot glue.
Provide ample time for the glue to dry and use as much as you need for a secure hold.
Why You Should Use a Lap Desk
Using a lap desk offers you an unconventional workspace for times you cannot sit at a desk.
Maybe you don’t have room for a desk in your current living area, or maybe you need somewhere away from your desk to break up the monotony of computer work.
If you’re working on your floor, on your couch, or in your bed, a lap desk will help offset some of the challenges.
The hard surface is better suited for writing tasks, and it can limit the normal heating of the bottom of your laptop.
Depending on the type of lap desk you use, you’ll have different health benefits. Any lap desk is better than nothing, but a lap desk with legs brings your work higher up and helps you use proper posture.
A lap desk limits poor posture and prevents back neck and shoulder pain.
A lot of this has to do with how you sit at the desk, but the lap desk provides a better opportunity.
The portability of a lap desk allows you to adjust the position of the desk, the location of your workspace, and the level of comfort you hope to achieve.
Because lap desks are not difficult to make or find for purchase, you can access most of these benefits at little to no cost.
Last update on 2022-12-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API