Alas’ New Treadmill Computer Desk

Hi all, @Ataraxaven here. In case you don’t know who I am, I tank for Alas IRL and in game as her husband :)

Just wanted to show off a project that was finished last week for @KissMyAlas, a treadmill computer desk, handcrafted and woodwork done by yours truly for less than $100 in materials.

Thanks to @DiscoPriest for the idea of playing World of Warcraft on a treadmill, you were an inspiration, and this is our take on it.

Original Treadmill Computer Desk Idea Drawing SketchupRevised / Final Treadmill  Computer Desk Drawing SketchupTreadmill Computer Desk Underside of Adjustable Height BracketsTreadmill Computer Desk Finished Front Side with LaptopTreadmill Computer Desk Finished Back Side View

A few weekends ago, Alas found a used treadmill listed for $50 on the local classified site, which of course sounded a little too good to be true, but I called them up, and it was still available if we could beat the people coming to look at it in the afternoon. We high tailed it out to their house across town, and sure enough, a decent working treadmill for only $50. Some searches on the model number after we got home indicated it was a $600 treadmill new a few years ago. Score!

After getting it home then arranging a stack of some 2 coolers and several boxes behind it to set the laptop up on to get by for a bit, planning mode began for something permanent and hopefully a bit more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Using Google SketchUp to make said plans and get an idea of how much plywood would be needed, the first draft used inside dimensions that were based off measurements taken from the treadmill. It was 55″ to clear the very top, and 46″ seemed a reasonable height for the keyboard/mouse surface to clear the handles, and 36″ wide would barely clear the width of the treadmill.

(BTW, all pictures are clickable for a larger version)

On the weekend the construction began, while playing with the tape measure around the treadmill again (“measure twice, cut once” and all that), I realized that a fixed shelf height for the keyboard/mouse was a bad idea, because that might not prove to actually be a comfortable height once the desk was in use. So the idea that formed was something like brackets with a long slot down the middle that could be adjusted up and down should be used, but, couldn’t find anything like that at Home Depot. Also decided against the curved cutout.

This SketchUp that is something closer to the final desk, and here’s a link so you can download the Treadmill Computer Desk Sketchup file for yourself if you want to look and make adjustments of your own.

To make the adjustable height shelf work, custom brackets had to be made by cutting a 4′ piece of hole stamped steel into (4) 12″ pieces, then bent each piece about 2-1/2″ down their length to 90 degree angles with an anvil and hammer.

Since there would now be adjustable brackets, extra clearance on the insides needed to be made to room for the wing nuts (or, if I can ever find some, nice plastic knobs like is found on most adjustable furniture) so it became necessary to change the width of the unit from 36″ to 40″ just to make sure there would be plenty of clearance, would have hated to make it too small and caught on the handles. Well, FYI, 38″ wide would have been plenty. Our treadmill is a little less than 36″ wide to allow it to make it through most exterior doorways.

Black looks better than bare metal, so all the hardware was spray painted black except for the underside screws that had been forgotten in the first round of materials purchased. Oops.

The plywood used is 3/4″ birch (which is a really nice light weight wood), finished on both sides, with an iron-on white birch veneer applied to most visible edges of the sides and shelves. There is a piece of 41″x 39″ or so scrap of plywood left over from the project.

Originally planned to use linoleum vinyl 12″ x some number of feet to cover the top since water bottles will be used on the surface, but Lowes didn’t have any to cut to size that could be found, so instead, snagged some self-stick 12″ vinyl squares. I wish I hadn’t, as they are thicker and harder, with rough edges that bother me. Not much can be done about it now though.

There are some small wheels on the inside bottom of the feet that were found in the sliding closet door hardware section, but they really aren’t necessary.

While it seems sturdy enough once it is in place, it is really wobbly on its own. Definitely needs more structural strength, probably at the top shelf with thicker/longer brackets than the ones in use. Can’t do much to strengthen across the middle/bottom area without it getting in the way of the treadmill itself.

The desk was made with the idea in mind that it should be quick to disassemble for the purpose of moving, and it should be. Just a few screws on the undersides of the shelves to take out and it will be more or less 4 flat boards plus hardware.

Materials used:

4’x8′ Sheet of 3/4″ Birch Plywood, finished on both sides
(2) 25′ boxes of 3/4″ white birch veneer, used a bit over 36′
4′ of hole stamped steel, cut and bent into brackets
(4) small shelf brackets with screws
(8) 1/4″ bolts, wing nuts, screws
(7) 12″ vinyl self stick tiles (but wouldn’t use again)
Black spray paint

Total cost of materials was less than $100.

Time to build: Most of a Saturday afternoon to cut the wood, iron on and trim/sand finish the veneer edges, spray paint the hardware, plus an hour here and there over the following week to stain, then install the hardware. Could probably be done in a full day if you don’t count letting the paint and stain dry.

Tools used:

Tape measure
Straight edge
Table saw
Skil saw
Metal shears
Anvil & hammer
Belt sander to clean up edges on cut brackets
Iron (to iron on the edge veneer)
Utility knife
Sanding block

Special thanks to Alas’ brother-in-law for the use of his tools since most of mine are still in storage.

All pictures taken with my Droid Incredible.


Alas’ New Treadmill Computer Desk — 16 Comments

  1. That looks so fantastic! You did such a great job with it; the finished product is so impressive. Now you’ll have to tell us how your Warcrafting en treadmill goes! :D

    • So far, my two attempts have been severely not good. This laptop is ancient and WoW blue screened me twice before I hollered at At to please also fix this thing over here that is preventing me from realizing my herbing potential.

      It worked just fine for him (without him doing anything I might add), but I am afraid to try again if he isn’t here to bless the laptop with his divine makes technology work presence.

  2. Haha, this is awesome!
    Now all you need to do is find a way to connect a treadmill generator with the laptop’s power device to create proper motivation! ;)

    • Hehehe. I probably would if I had any notion how. Maybe.

      I have a lot of motivation right now in the form of My Baby Sister who I now live very close to again and HAET because she is blonde and skinny and I am neither of those things. (I actually love her, but I do feel like a cow standing next to her, so that’s clearly gotta change)

  3. Very neat. I can’t wait to read more about the adventures of raiding while running. :D

    As far as extra structural support goes, you could place a piece of wood across the back of between the two sides to make a kind of H. From the pictures, it looks like that could be done without getting in the way of the treadmill.

    • Alack, my laptop is old and ancient and there’s pretty much no way in hell I could run a heroic on it, let alone a raid.

      I will put At on the task of firming it up as soon as I can. (There are so many dirty jokes in here I want to make but hi! I don’t know you and I am unsure if you know enough about me to know that I’m really juvenile. But also harmless.)

    • /flex

      (I really didn’t do anything here other than decide I really need to lose some weight and then find the treadmill.)

      • I still admire the motivation to actually get some exercise while playing.

  4. Love it!! I’m trying to get Cendra (my husband) to make me one, as I lack in the handiness skills, and thats a similar layout to my treadmill, so this is a great starting point! Knowing him he’ll make TONS of adjustments so it will take a lot longer, but great to have a starting point!!

    • Awesome. At is all delighted that this will be helpful for other people! He’s grinning and everything!

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  6. Just one bit of advice. try to get some kind of cross brace in the back to make it more stable. but other than that it looks awesome. good job.

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