We’ve seen many a desk PC over the years at Custom PC, but this wood PC gaming setup is in a different ballpark. Custom PC reader Martin McDonald wanted to build a corner desk to house his two-monitor PC setup, but also to use for marking up large paper design work. The result is this unique piece of carpentry, with automated monitor lifts and a dedicated control console.
Custom PC has been celebrating the best PC builds since 2003, and our Facebook group has over 375,000 members. We’ve seen many custom gaming PCs, from case mods to scratch builds. Here we talk to Martin about how he made this wood gaming desk PC build.
Custom PC: So how did this project start? Why did you want to build a wooden PC desk with motorized monitor lifts?
Martin: We had just moved house, and a lot of our furniture is made from natural wood with copper accents. However, the PC desk I had at the time was white, so it didn’t fit with the other furniture, plus I wanted to sit facing into the living room, rather than looking at a wall.
Also, one of the things that always bugs me about computer setups is the monitors. They’re big slabs of black that take up space and block your view, and I want to be able to use the full size of the desk when I’m marking up drawings or doing design work on paper, so a lift mechanism was the way forwards.
Custom PC: What’s your background in furniture making??
Martin: I got into it around seven years ago with my first build, after not doing any woodwork since I was at school. I needed a PC at the time, but didn’t have space for a traditional desk setup, so I came up with a design for a coffee table with a touch-screen PC and Xbox 360 inside it, which I could use while sitting on my sofa.
Custom PC: How did you go about planning how it would all fit together?
Martin: All my designs start with the space where it’s going to be located. I take a photo of the area, and draw a rough sketch of where the setup would be located and how I want it to look. Then I draw it all up in CAD in 3D so, I can see how it will fit and where fixings and supports need to go.
Being a design engineer for my nine-to-five job really helps. The designs tend to evolve slightly as they go along, as I’m always asking myself how I’m actually going to achieve what I want. The CAD drawings really help during construction, as I can explode them from the 3D model to make cutting diagrams with the right measurements.
Custom PC: We love the control console. How does it work?
Martin: I have two young children, and they always want to get on Daddy’s computer. On previous builds, I’ve kept them away by making the process of switching on the PC less obvious than a simple power button, but they soon work things out as they get older. Along with a 7-inch monitor on this build, there’s a centrally mounted key switch that’s wired to a double-pull double-throw switch, and to a momentary switch. If the key is removed, or in the off position, nothing works.
Custom PC: What does the console unit control?
Martin: I use the 7-inch screen for PC stats, and the switches control the up/down on the monitor lifts and PC power.
Custom PC: We watched the video of the monitor lifts, and it’s cool how they rise up from the flush desk surface. How did you go about making the lift system?
Martin: I started by searching on Google and YouTube to see what others had done, but then ended up coming up with a method that hadn’t been done before to fit what I needed. Nearly every type of hidden monitor or TV lift I saw had a hinged flap to cover the lift, or a piece of spare wood to be removed, but I couldn’t really do that as the desk was L-shaped.
Originally the monitor boxes were going to be made from aluminum, but after a few issues with weight and the lifting force of the actuators, I had to go with wooden surrounds instead. The actuators push on the top of the box, with the monitors attached via the VESA mounts to the sides of the boxes. There are supports under the desk that allow the monitors to stay in position as they move.
Custom PC: The lifts look a bit slow in the video. Is there any way to speed them up?
Martin: I’ve received a few comments about the speed of the lift, but it’s been calculated to be at its quickest. If it goes any faster, the force of the actuator, plus the weight of the monitor box, will pop the joints on the boxes or bend the wood. This is how I realized that aluminum wasn’t a suitable material for this – even with welded joints at a certain speed, the lifting force either bent the aluminum or popped the joints.
Custom PC: Tell us about building the desk. What woods and tools did you use, and how is it all secured together?
Martin: The desktop is made from a single maple slab, the trunk is made from a sycamore tree and the monitor boxes are made from pine. The desk is joined with dowels and wood glue, and mainly supported by the two logs. I didn’t have a workshop for this build, so I only used hand power tools – a circular saw, a router, a jigsaw, a drill, and a rotary sander.
Custom PC: You’ve drilled through the console from the bottom for cable routing – is there any similar internal cable routing in the rest of the desk?
Martin: The only other internal cabling is for the powered USB hub that sits in the other corner. One of the other design points was that other people in the house would be able to use the desk for laptops if I’m not using it. I cut out a hole in the log for the hub, then routed a channel for power cables on the underside of the log. All the other cables are tied and clipped to the underside of the desk and hidden behind the mesh.
Custom PC: Why did you choose the Phanteks Evolv Shift X, and were you tempted to make your own wooden PC enclosure to fit the theme?
Martin: No. The idea of this desk was to be a piece of furniture rather than showing off any PC internals. As well as the Shift X being the only case on the market that would fit in the space, it’s also one of the cleanest and understated-looking cases in my opinion.
Custom PC: You’ve built a few pieces of PC furniture – tell us about some of your favorites.
Martin: I’ve got a soft spot for all my builds. Each one has had a design that nobody else has done before, and I’ve learned a lot about different building techniques and working with different materials along the way.
There’s one called the Captain’s Chair, for instance, where I had to teach myself upholstery to go along with the woodwork, and making this current desk build was the first time I’ve used epoxy resin. My Pedestal Desk is probably my favorite though. I took an old desk I found on eBay, and put a PC inside one of the pedestals, so it was all hidden – it was a very clean and simple build.
Custom PC: How big is the whole desk unit when it’s all set up?
Martin: The desk has a 1,400 x 1,400mm L shape, and it measures 800mm high to the desktop – with the monitors up, it adds another 500mm. The sycamore log in the corner goes almost all the way to the ceiling, with a height of 2,150mm.
Custom PC: How long did it take you to complete the whole desk build?
Martin: From design to completion took around six months. However, as I didn’t have a workshop at the time, I was limited to building it outside on weekends with good weather. The actual time spent on building the desk was probably around 14 days.
Custom PC: Are you completely happy with the end result, or do you wish you’d done some of it differently in retrospect?
Martin: Ideally, I would love to have made the aluminum monitor boxes work, especially after I’d spent so much money on the custom-cut pieces. There are also a couple of little mods I would have made if I could do it again. However, it’s perfect as a corner for work and playing games, and it’s a beautiful slab of wood on which to work as well.
Maple Corner desk PC specs
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700 X
- GPU: Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 8GB AMD 50th Anniversary Edition
- Case: Phanteks Evolv Shift X
- Storage: WD Blue 500GB SSD, 2TB hard drive
- Memory: 64GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3600MHz
- Monitors: 2 x Acer KG1 27in 240Hz, 7-inch 1080p screen
- Extras: Logitech C920 HD Webcam, SteelSeries Arctis 5 with GameDAC, Apex Pro TKL, Rival 700 and QCK Prism
- Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 I Aorus Pro WiFi
- PSU: Corsair SF750
- Cooling: NZXT Kraken X62 all-in-one CPU cooler
The PC builder
- Name: Martin McDonald
- Age: 41
- Occupation: Design engineer
- Location: Kent, UK
- Main uses for PC: Work and gaming
- Likes: Gaming, cooking, designing, and DOTA2
- Dislikes: Mushrooms, salad, and DOTA2
Wow, so much work has gone into this Martin – we’re in awe of your carpentry skills, and the motorized monitor lifts are just brilliant. We’d love to see any future woodwork PC projects you do.
Have you been tempted to build your own wooden PC gaming setup? Join the conversation to discuss this PC build with our 375,000+ strong member Custom PC Facebook group, where you can also submit your own PC build or gaming setup for consideration. If you want to see more outstanding custom PCs and gaming setups, check out our massive guide to the best PC builds.