Building The Redneck Treadmill Desk

redneck_desk

Don’t tell Brent Ozar, but here’s another DBA writing another helpful article about shrinkage. Before he gets bent out of shape and writes another rant about shrinking database files, let me clarify one thing – this article isn’t about database shrinkage, it’s about DBA shrinkage.

Almost a year ago, while meeting Grant Fritchey, Merrill Aldrich, and a few other folks for dinner at the Mall Of America, I picked up a Fitbit One. Easily the best $100 gadget that I’ve ever purchased. Since that night, I’ve walked or run 3,118,471 steps, climbed 3,652 flights of stairs, and traveled 1,391 miles on foot. More importantly, I’ve lost 40 pounds, weighing in this morning at 149, down from the 189 that I started at. Serious DBA shrinkage.

A lot of those steps and miles took place right in my own basement, on the 10-year-old treadmill that sat in the corner for several years. Combining that treadmill with the Roku that is hooked up to the basement television, I’ve walked through all nine seasons of The X-Files, several episodes of Star Trek, The Walking Dead, and a dozen or so full-length movies. A few weeks ago I decided to try a different combination – walking and getting work done at the same time. For that, I needed a treadmill desk.

treadmill_roughYou can buy some really nice treadmill desks, but they tend to be rather pricey. Since I already have the treadmill, and I’m relatively handy when it comes to building things, I decided to try making my own. The first version, my “rough draft” if you will, consisted of three pieces of pink styrofoam insulation laid across the armrests of the treadmill. Not pretty by any means, but quite functional.

As I said, this was my rough draft, a test to see if I would actually be able to work while walking on the treadmill, and to see if it would be comfortable to do so. Both have proven to be true – I’ve spent hours walking that would otherwise have been spent sitting in a chair with a computer in my lap. I’ve spent the same amount of time, maybe more, using the computer, getting work done, while at the same time getting a lot of physical activity.

I affectionately called this my “redneck treadmill desk”, but I decided this weekend that it was time to dress it up and make it a little less redneck. I wouldn’t want the family dropping my for a visit and deciding to take it with them.

What follows is a step-by-step guide to how I built my refined redneck treadmill desk. Should you choose to follow these, some steps will be different for your treadmill, but the basic concept should be the same.

I Want Wood

The main goal to refining the redneck treadmill desk was to cover up that pink styrofoam with something. The foam is nice because it’s light and easy to cut, but it’s ugly. The obvious, easy choice for material was wood, so I went shopping for some lumber.

1. I considered one of those pre-finished, laminated shelf boards, but since my plan was to glue the styrofoam to the board, I had concerns about the glue bonding with the laminate finish. I chose instead to go with unfinished wood – a 1″x12″ shelf board for the top, and 1/4″x6″ for the front and the sides.
2. As previously mentioned, I used pink styrofoam insulation for the underside of the desk. I chose this material because it’s light, easy to cut, and I just happened to have some lying around from an unrelated project.
3. To hold everything together, I used to different types of glue. For all of the wood-to-wood joints, I used normal yellow wood glue. For all of the styrofoam-to-styrofoam or styrofoam-to-wood joints I used a special foam adhesive from Loctite.
4. The first step of the actual assembly is to glue the shelf board onto a piece of pink styrofoam. Ideally, the piece of foam will be longer and wider than the shelf board – it will be to trim off the extra after the glue has dried. Apply a generous amount of the foam adhesive to the shelf board.
5. Place the shelf board on top of your piece of pink foam, adhesive side down (obviously). Put something heavy on top of it, and call it a day. The glue needs to dry overnight.
6. After the glue has dried overnight, it’s time to trim off the excess foam from around the edges. I used a hobby razor saw for this. Suggestion – do this step outside, because it will make a mess.
7. Turn the shelf board onto its edge, then run a bead of the foam adhesive along the exposed edge of the pink styrofoam, and a bead of yellow wood glue along the exposed edge of the shelf board.
8. Place one of the 1/4″ facing board along the edge of the shelf assembly. To aid it assembly, I drove 4 small finishing nails through the facing board into the shelf board.
9. From the second 1/4″ facing board, cut two pieces that are each 12″ long. Consider this an excuse to use the table saw that has been sitting in the corner of the garage, ignored, for the past two years.
10. Stand the shelf assembly on-end. Apply a bead of foam adhesive and a bead of wood glue to the exposed edges of the shelf board and the pink styrofoam. Put one of the 12″ pieces that you cut from the 1/4″ facing board onto the end of the shelf. As with the front edge, I used finishing nails to help secure this in place. Turn the shelf over onto the other end, and repeat this process.
11. If you’ve done everything correctly, you should now have what is essentially a three-sided box that looks something like the one in this photo.
12. Now it’s time to take the shelf into the house for a test-fitting. Put it onto the treadmill armrests, centered.
13. Using a black Sharpie, or some other writing utensil, mark the INSIDE of each armrest on the pink styrofoam.
14. Take the shelf back outside, and cut two more pieces of pink styrofoam. Once piece needs to be the full length of the shelf. The other piece needs to fit between the two marks that indicate the inside edge of the armrests. Using the foam adhesive, glue them to the underside of the shelf as seen in this photo. The full-length piece goes in first, with the shorter piece on top of it, centered between the armrest marks. When the shelf is installed on the treadmill, this shorter piece will sit between the armrests. This needs to sit overnight for the glue to dry, so it’s time to call it a day.
15.
After letting the glue dry overnight, it’s time for the moment of truth. Take your awesome new treadmill desk into the house and put it on the treadmill. As I mentioned in the previous step, that shorter piece of pink styrofoam will fit between the armrests. This is to prevent side-to-side movement of the shelf.
16.
That’s it! You’ve done it! You’ve built yourself a dirt-cheap-yet-fully-functional treadmill desk. Slap a coat of paint on the thing and it won’t look half bad.

Now, join me in a Tim the ToolMan Taylor gruntfest…