Whether you’re dreaming of breakfast in bed, or need a surface for your WFH job, today I’m testing out how to make a lap desk by bending wood. One board and a bit of care to your own DIY lap desk.
Does the idea of lounging in bed on a Sunday morning, toes tucked under the blankets, hot coffee/tea within reach and a good book or iPad at hand for a long and lazy morning sound appealing?
True, for most of us that means that the kids are at Nana’s, or we are away in a hotel at a conference (so rarely, if ever, happens) – but it’s such a dreamy visual isn’t it?
I want that.
We all want that.
And while I have made a DIY breakfast tray in the past, this lap desk by Build Something had me drooling because I really wanted to try bending wood.
The lap desk on Build Something is made from plywood, and perhaps plywood bends better than actual wood – but a 1″ thick slab of rough pine was what I had on hand, so that’s what I used to test out the process.
I won’t steal Jen’s thunder by taking her plans in their entirety for my site, but for measurements to build your own DIY lap desk, click Bent Plywood Lap Tray.
As it is, my bent wood lap desk is different in a few ways;
- I used rough pine that is 1″ thick by 12″ wide. Build Something uses thinner, but a wider cut of plywood. This just makes my DIY lap desk slightly narrower than the one you see in the tutorial
- I read the comments in the bottom of the tutorial and followed the instructions to add extra kerf cuts… which I’m not sure I actually needed.
I invited my Step-Dad over to try out bending wood with me.
After planing down the rough pine board and cutting to length, we set the table saw to 1/16th” short of a full depth cut, and started cutting kerfs on either side of centre (per the tutorial).
Run your board over the table saw, turn it so that you can make the same cut on the other side of centre, then adjust your rip fence by 3/8″ and repeat. Each kerf cut is 3/8″ apart.
I was VERY skeptical that the 1/16th” would be thick enough to hold the lap desk together at bending time, but I was wrong.
Once all of your cuts are made, dampen the wood slightly. We were planning to soak it overnight and so I left a damp cloth on the uncut side of the kerfs for an hour or so before I realized that wet wood would dilute the glue and lessen it’s strength.
I’m such a dough-head!
I removed the cloths, but as a tip for you, a light wipe-down should be plenty to soften the fibres of the remaining wood.
The panic part of this is the bending itself; again, it’s just 1/16″ holding the wood together.
We filled the kerf cuts with wood glue and then bent it slowly and carefully until we had the sides at 90° to the top of the tray.
I did get two small cracks from over-bending, or maybe being too rough (no one wants their wood over-bent or man-handled too roughly lol), but for a first attempt I’m pretty pleased.
I don’t have the 90° clamps that Jen does, so we improvised by cutting scrap wood to a length that would hold the legs at a 90° angle and then using a strap clamp to hold in place. Without the wood spacer, the strap clamp would have over-bent the wood.
You can see here that I’ve done something wrong? The Build Something bent plywood lap tray doesn’t have all of these gaps at the corners? I’m wondering if I used a thicker saw blade than they did (is there such a thing?), or if plywood is just easier to bend overall and therefore doesn’t leave spaces?
Regardless, enough of the kerf cuts were glued to hold my bent wood lap desk together.
See how it seems I have two extra cuts on either side of the tray? But if I’d moved the bend slightly it would have given me those same two extra cuts on the underside of the desktop.
I’m going to have to try this project again to see if I can’t make it better.
Below you can see where the wood split when I bent it. If I were painting this then you’d never notice after a bit of wood filler and some sanding – but the whole point of making my bent wood lap desk was so that you could see the wood grain. It’s a bummer that the wood filler shows a bit, but I don’t mind that much.
I tried to pour more glue into the gaps in the kerf cuts, but the spacing is so small that it was tough to fill. I’m wondering if a cute epoxy treatment would take this error and make it into a feature? If I filled the gaps with black or different coloured epoxy pours?
Again, we’ll try that for round two.
I gave my new baby a light sanding, a coat of stain and poly and she’s done!
If I were a “good” blogger, I would have photoshopped out the wood filler section, but that wouldn’t have shown you that mistakes are okay. Perfection is hard to replicate.
Click over to Build Something for the perfect version.
This is my “I can still have tea on my less-than-perfect bent wood lap desk” – and that’s the end goal anyways right?
If only I’d remembered to pour tea into my cup before photographing.
Seriously guys, you come here for the “how not to’s” right? Because my “how to’s” are never perfect. lol
(Truthfully, I had to stand on the bed to take most of these photos and my moving around would have made my tea spill everywhere – so the empty cup was intentional – showing it empty in the photos was not.)
This bent wood lap desk, while not as deep as Jen’s, is wide enough to fit both of my chubby thighs through with room to spare. It’s tough to tell from the photo, but it is quite comfortable and fits a size 14 ass easily.
I photographed it in a dreamy breakfast-in-bed-way, but this would make a great DIY lap desk for the couch as well. You can fit your laptop on it (with no room for coffee then) and get your WFH job done on the sofa.
I must have staged this somewhat decently though because look at my main man grabbing some lazy time with me. He’s so cheeky!
For my how-to/how-not-to on building a folding lap desk check out this article: