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Author Topic: Building A Desk Shelf/Riser  (Read 16034 times)

Posts: 81

« on: November 22, 2009, 07:18:47 PM »

I find that I am in need of a desk riser or shelf in my shack. I have seen many of the shack photos that are on-line to get some ideas.  I am sure that I can build something myself. The desk is 30"x60" so I figure that the shelf should be the same width as the desk, 60" and be at least 14" wide. Just not sure exactly how to build the shelf. Don't think I would put anything heavy such as my Ameritron 811H amp on the shelf but would like to make it sturdy enough in case I want to. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to best construct the shelf riser and what wood I should use, i.e. 1x? shelving, MDF or plywood.  Thanks. Charlie W3DDF

Posts: 27

« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2009, 09:23:32 PM »

Simplest shelf design can be found in any ARRL Handbook for the last 20 years.  If you don't have one, chech your public library.  

Most home inprovement stores have particle board shelving in 16" widths, you would just have to cut to length.  You could also go with pre-glued up hardwood shelving - heavy but strong as hell. Bi-fold doors are another option.

Posts: 27

« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2009, 05:12:16 AM »

I forgot to mention closet organizers.  Most likely not 14 inches deep and not heavy duty (unless you modify with a brace), but its pre-cut and just screwdriver assemply

Posts: 653

« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2009, 06:05:55 AM »

My radio "desk" is made of 2X4 legs, the top is a Hollow Core door and the shelf above is also a Hollow Core door. I had to special order the 18" wide (deep) door as my local Lowe's did not carry them that narrow though yours may. I support the top shelf with 2X2" supports at each end, one in the middle back and a singular support in the front center.  If I were to do it again the only thing I would change is the top would be a solid core door to reduce the sounds of things moving on the desk.

Clint - W5CPT

Posts: 805

« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2009, 11:58:46 AM »

You might drop by a Goodwill store or two. They often have various things like computer desks, shelves, entertainment units, etc., and part of one of them might be just what you want, and they're generally cheap. Probably particle board in a lot of cases, but some aluminum angle or 1x2 can help if it looks like it will sag.

Posts: 182

« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2009, 07:09:58 AM »

I don't trust any of the particle board products to hold my radios.  The connecting hardware screws just don't have anything substantial to bite into and eventually you will put more weight on it than originally intended with sad results.  
I sawed out some two-inch thick oak planks, then planed and sanded and polyurethaned them, but that's overkill.  In the past I have selected clear, knot free spruce or fir two-by-sixes to make desk risers. Paw through the offerings at the lumber store and select the good ones.  With some sanding and tender loving care, followed by a sturdy finish, they look pretty spiffy.
Whatever you use, if it wobbles even a bit, your radio toys are in danger.

Posts: 14491

« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2009, 07:39:17 AM »

I detest particle board. Overload it and it breaks. Its tough on saw blades. I've built several risers over the years using 3/4-inch plywood and 2x4's. You can get cabinet grade plywood with a good finish on both sides. You can find various types of wood trim to hide the exposed edges and give a "finished" look.

On one I even made a 1/4-inch plywood front and cut holes for the equipment to slide into from the rear.

Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA

Posts: 14

« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2009, 01:00:35 PM »


Send an email to me at wd0bwm1 at and I'll sent you some pics of what I use that is inexpensive and looks good in my opinion---and strong.  

I use a 30 x 60 desk also and it fits a FT-950 and ameritron amp.  I agree with the posts about using particle board.


Don, wd0bwm

Posts: 2277

« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2009, 04:33:50 AM »

My riser is constructed from 3/4" birch plywood.  It's a cubby hole design and is glued and screwed together.  It's not elegant, but it's very functional, and because of the webbed structure, holds my heavy Emtron amp without any problems.  One thing I would advise though regardless of your riser's design.  I would made the PC monitor the centerpoint of your layout.  I made the radio my centerpoint, and placed the monitor on the top of the riser; way too high.  Now I'm looking for an arm to bring it back down to the correct viewing angle.

Posts: 1819

« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2009, 05:36:30 AM »

For many years I built custom shelves, glued and screwed, only to have to rebuild them as the station equipment changed.  I finally came up with a more flexible approach using commonly available materials (see the shelves at:  The shelves are made of 3/4 inch oak veneered plywood with oak edge banding applied with a hot iron.  The vertical members are "pillars" from Sanus, a company that makes a wide variety of audio and TV stands using them.  The pillars come in 5", 8" and 12" sizes and are made of steel with a nice black wrinkle paint finish.  Inside the ends of each pillar is welded a heavy disk, threaded to accept the bolts used to hold the shelves together.  Home Depot and Lowes sell bolts with wide thin heads that are perfect for this application.  

I use a piece of solid oak 1x2 to connect the front and rear pillars at the desk surface and that results in a very solid structure that doesn't need any further bracing.  As you can see in my photo, a shelf made of these materials easily supports my heavy Alpha amplifier.  As my equipment changes, I can raise or lower the shelves by replacing the pillars or the pillars can by relocated by drilling new 1/4" holes in the shelf boards.  If you have welding equipment and skills, you can probably fabricate your own pillars.  The pillars are often found on eBay, just search for "Sanus pillar" and can also be ordered from various online sellers of audio/video racks.

Posts: 1042

« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2009, 05:26:50 PM »

I would choose 3/4" plywood and either glue on a finished hardwood edge or veneer.

Gussets at the rear of the risers will reduce wobble a great deal.

Deeper shelves are worthwhile - I have a 16" deep shelf and this allows room for almost any equipment.

Not many wood shelf standards can hold heavy radio gear - if you have a lot of heavy gear, I'd go with relay racks and shelves.  You can get 4 or 5 rack modules and bolt a desk to the front for a super heavy duty desk/operating position.

When you put shelves over power supplies transmitting equipment or tube gear, don't neglect cooling air circulation clearance.  Of course, you could put some sort of forced air system.

I like open-backed shelving to permit easier access for moving wiring and equipment.

And you got a good tip on the computer monitor.

Posts: 227

« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2009, 06:09:01 PM »

If you use bracing on the front and rear of the riser shelf, you can use inexpensive material and support heavy loads. My small ham shack table is an oak/ash library table from an unfinished furniture store. Very solid and nice looking. The table is small 30 in deep by 42 inch wide.

I built a riser out of 11 1/2 inch wide by 3/4 inch thick bullnosed MDF shelving. The shelf is reinforced front and back with a 3/4 by 1 1/2 brace on the shelf bottom. The riser uprights are also MDF. I used two on the ends and two braces to divide the space. One would have been plenty. MDF is easy to cut and drill but you need to drill accurately for the screws or it will split. Construction is glued and screwed with bugle head screws. I painted it flat bronze oil based paint because it hides a lot of sins and I had most of a quart of it.

I agree with what has been said and if I had a deeper desk I would have used a deeper riser. Flush hollow doors make good shelves if braced to prevent sagging. They are readily available 24 inch wide, a useful size. If you shorten a hollow core door you may need to make a plug to close up the end. Not a huge problem if you have a table saw.

You can also look into some of the industrial catalogs such as Global or McMaster Carr,for workbench and test bench products. Legs, tops,shelves, and risers are plentiful and reasonable.
If you can find lumber core flush doors, they make excellent tops and shelves.

Good luck on your project.

73 de Walt N2IK

Posts: 32

« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2009, 09:44:44 PM »

I have used 3/4 inch veneer plywood and/or  1X12 clear pine for shelving and risers.
The risers have dado cuts and the shelves are glued and screwed.
Along the front and back I use 1X2's on edge for support.
Add edge moulding, fill all holes, sand.
I like natural wood, so I stain and polyurathane.
If you have some basic woodworking skills the end product is good looking, sturdy and easy to keep clean.


Posts: 4283


« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2009, 07:30:21 AM »

Pine boards and a router to make tongue and groove joints are best.

Posts: 901

« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2009, 05:42:21 AM »

I bought a piece of shelving at Home Depot, 18" x 96" and had them cut it to my requirements. One piece at 60" for the shelf and then pieces at 6" for the risers. Once you decide where the equipment is going to go, you can glue them in place. I use PL Premium products. Not fancy, but does the trick, and the display on my PRO is up where it needs to be at a comfortable viewing angle.

You can see the setup on under my callsign.

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