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variable height desks

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I have a fully height adjustable desk I use as a model making table - not one of those adjustable computer things that sit on top of a desk.  I have found it invaluable when working on different parts of the ship as I can adjust the height for better access and closeness of the work; especially for rigging. 


One word of caution - make sure you have a little room at the back (and/or sides) as when you adjust it up it may snag on anything on the wall etc (learned the hard way :( ) .  Oh, and if you have an overhead hanging light ....  If you can walk right around it (if you have the space) it is an even greater asset.  One member even built a purpose designed (self-designed) height adjustable desk with a top that also tilted - can't remember the build log though.





Edited by BANYAN

If at first you do not suceed, try, and then try again!
Current build: HMCSS Victoria (Scratch)

Next build: HMAS Vampire (3D printed resin, scratch 1:350)

Built:          Battle Station (Scratch) and HM Bark Endeavour 1768 (kit 1:64)

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  • 1 year later...

Hi Guys. I just finished building a variable height table for Alfred and its already made me wish I had made one years ago. The family and I was in IKEA a few years back and saw one of their desk and gave it a try. Thought how nice that would be for working on Alfred. That thought stuck with me and a few weeks ago I was in office depot and looked at one that sat on top of the desk but was to small and a little high on the cost so I still didn't get one. I finally got serious  a with cash in hand went shopping on line that is. Well got to thinking why don't I just build one to suit  me and Alfred. I went and brought the pieces for it linear actuator, dc power supply, control system, a couple of piece's of ply wood and 4 drawer slides.  So after a week it was done and today I used it for moving Alfred up and down and as I said earlier which I had done this a few years back. Here are some photos of it. Probabley end up adding some shelfs to it and a few other things. Gary








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    I used to do a lot of architectural designs at home as a side job for some 30 years on this table purchased from a drafting supply company.  It has a power lift and it manually adjusts the tilt from flat to vertical.  Some of the designs I drew up were on 36" x 48" sheets, so standing at the table with it in the full vertical position was the only way to reach the top of the sheets.  

    I never used it for modeling as I never had any spare time back then, and since I became wheelchair bound the extra height isn't a useful feature anymore.  As you can see now, it's only use is as a regular desk/bird playground. :D



“You’ve just got to know your limitations”  Dirty Harry

Current Builds:  Modified MS 1/8” scale Phantom, and modified plastic/wood hybrid of Aurora 1:87 scale whaling bark Wanderer.

Past Builds: (Done & sold) 1/8” scale A.J. Fisher 2 mast schooner Challenge, 1/6” scale scratch built whaler Wanderer w/ plans & fittings from A.J. Fisher, and numerous plastic kits including 1/8” scale Revell U.S.S. Constitution (twice), Cutty Sark, and Mayflower.

                  (Done & in dry dock) Modified 1/8” scale Revell U.S.S. Constitution w/ wooden deck and masting [too close encounter w/conc. floor in move]

Hope to get to builds: MS 3/16” scale Pride of Baltimore II,  MS 1/2” scale pinky schooner Glad Tidings,  a scratch build 3/16” scale  Phantom, and a scratch build 3/16" scale Denis Sullivan.

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IKEA has a good range of manual and electric powered variable height desks. Consider buying just the base and fix your own top to it. This is what I did. You could of course make one from scratch, (see above) but Mr IKEA has done most of the work already, so you can maximise modeling time.

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Ikea has a few good variable height desks.  There is one with a hand crank and one with an electric crank.  A friend of mine has the hand crank one and likes it (I believe he fixed his own top to it also).  Based on his recommendation, I drove out to Ikea and looked at the tables.  I ended up deciding on a different table that I believe was a little larger, that you can manually raise up and down (but not by crank).  I didn't see the need to be regularly adjusting the height of the table - probably just to lower it when doing final rigging - so why spend the extra money for the hand crank one.  


Take a look at the reviews if you're interested in the electric one - a lot of reviewers ended up having problems with it, which scared me away from that model.  It could just be that they overloaded the table and overworked the motor.  It didn't seem to be a system designed for heavier work, and the one in the store seemed to have issues.  People at my office have electric desks and those seem much more robust when it comes to the motor, etc.  I'd probably go with a heavier duty model if I wanted an electric crank.

Edited by Landlubber Mike



Current Wooden builds:  Amati/Victory Pegasus  MS Charles W. Morgan  Euromodel La Renommèe  


Plastic builds:    SB2U-1 Vindicator 1/48  Five Star Yaeyama 1/700  Pit Road Asashio and Akashi 1/700 diorama  Walrus 1/48 and Albatross 1/700  Special Hobby Buffalo 1/32  Eduard Sikorsky JRS-1 1/72  IJN Notoro 1/700  Akitsu Maru 1/700


Completed builds :  Caldercraft Brig Badger   Amati Hannah - Ship in Bottle  Pit Road Hatsuzakura 1/700   Hasegawa Shimakaze 1:350

F4B-4 and P-6E 1/72  Accurate Miniatures F3F-1/F3F-2 1/48  Tamiya F4F-4 Wildcat built as FM-1 1/48  Special Hobby Buffalo 1/48

Citroen 2CV 1/24 - Airfix and Tamiya  Entex Morgan 3-wheeler 1/16


Terminated build:  HMS Lyme (based on Corel Unicorn)  


On the shelf:  Euromodel Friedrich Wilhelm zu Pferde; Caldercraft Victory; too many plastic ship, plane and car kits


Future potential scratch builds:  HMS Lyme (from NMM plans); Le Gros Ventre (from Ancre monographs), Dutch ship from Ab Hoving book, HMS Sussex from McCardle book, Philadelphia gunboat (Smithsonian plans)

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All eight writers in my pod at work have variable-height work stations. Interestingly, only one writer works primarily standing, and he almost never lowers his desk. The other seven of us prefer sitting and almost never raise our desks. Go figure.

Chris Coyle
Greer, South Carolina

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
- Tuco

Current builds: Brigantine Phoenix

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I bought this one a few months ago with the intention of pushing it under my work table and pulling it out when I work on an awkward area like high rigging or whatever. For the $200CAD that it costs (tabletop is extra) it is very well engineered and high-quality. I have since moved my chair out of the workshop because everything I do I can now do standing up. I can set the table height to wherever I want it to be comfortable and go to work. I have not gotten rid of the chair yet but I could see doing so in the future. If you spend lots of time in the shop these things are great!

From about as far from the ocean as you can get in North America!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/16/2019 at 4:02 PM, Landlubber Mike said:

 I didn't see the need to be regularly adjusting the height of the table - probably just to lower it when doing final rigging - so why spend the extra money for the hand crank one.  

As a user of an adjustable table with the motor, I adjust it all the time... Different operations require different distance, and instead of bending to the table - I can just adjust the table a bit. Also working while standing is more convenient sometimes.


I have the IKEA electric table, model name BEKANT. Works great, with very little wobble (heavy table top helps as well). The least wobbly of all the desks I tried. Note that they sell it with or without table top, so you can buy the base itself, and mount some thicker table top, more suitable for modelling other than office work. IKEA have some hardwood tops that are pretty cheap as well. 

But I would not dare using a hammer / mullet on that table, since that might damage the mechanisms inside the telescopic legs.

The hand-cranked desk they have (model name SKARSTA) is built much cheaper and lighter, it is less stable and have a considerable wobble. 

I see that they have released a new line - IDÅSEN. A bit more expensive, only one size, different construction. Haven't tried it yet, just spotted on the website.


I have it for probably 5 years. Once some electrics broke, it simply stopped working. IKEA mailed me a few replacement parts and then delivered a new table, no questions asked.. Not sure if they have the same level of service in US though.

After that replacement, it worked with no issues. I guess some early versions had their faults (I bought it the same year it was released), but hope they fixed them now.

Here is the final setup I ended up with. The combination of an inset vise + pegs allows me to quickly fix the model and work on it without holding.

Note that the table is lifted to some sort of mid position here. Making fine continuous adjustments is very neat, I would not recommend to have a table that you can only adjust rarely to some fixed positions.




Edited by Mike Y
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On 7/28/2019 at 2:37 PM, Mike Y said:

As a user of an adjustable table with the motor, I adjust it all the time...

100% agree...  adjusting  the height table to your work is easier than adjusting you to the work.

Having the proper height to work  means it is easier to work and it also means that you can get a higher quality work.


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  • 1 month later...

I've got two, but one will be donated to an artists' organization if I don't soon incorporate the mechanism into a larger bench.  I work on  many types of objects, and the variable height makes things easier.  I've found it's easiest to locate the workpiece at elbow height.


One is based upon a salvaged veterinary operating table.  The top had broken mounts, and so I put a top with clamps on it.  What makes it special is that it has a pedal-operated hydraulic jack that can lift the top about 12", and the column and inclination mechanism allows it to rotate 360 degrees and incline from 0 to 85 degrees.  It can lift probably 400-500 lbs, which is more than I could ever lift and place on its top.  


The other one is one that I bought today for $200.  The top is 24 x 52 inches, and the height is variable from 26 to 42 inches.  The lower drawer is 39 x 16 x 1.5 inches, and the upper is 39x8x1.5, and they're on ballbearing slides.  The base is powder-coated steel.  I will make a cabinet with additional drawers that will be mounted on the base, probably resting on the crossbeam and attached to the columns.  This will add more storage space and mass to the bench.



Edited by Bob Blarney
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I have often thought about looking at dog grooming tables which are height adjustable and suitable for larger dogs in excess of 60kg. 


Has anyone gone down this route and discovered any issues?

Finished builds are 

1/35 Endeavour's Longboat by Artesania Latina

1/36 scratch built Philadelphia Gunboat from the Smithsonian Plans


Current build is

Scratch build Boudroit's Monograph for La Jacinthe at 1/36

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On 9/9/2019 at 4:34 PM, noel_colledge said:

Has anyone gone down this route and discovered any issues?

Oil cylinder is not the best road, electric one are far more convenient and easier to use. Electric table are becoming very easy to buy for around $200.


I would buy this tool before many, many other ones. 


This is the kind of tool that you do not see the use unless you try it. It is exactly like trying polaroid glasses; when you try it, you would not come back to a standard sun glasses.

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  • 1 month later...

Checked IDÅSEN in IKEA. It is actually very good from technical point of view - hard to shake it even when on maximum height, very stable. It is flipped upside down comparing to BEKANT - wide parts of the telescopic legs are in the bottom, narrow ones are on top:


Nice design of the control buttons - instead of pressing a button you pull a small lever up or down, very intuitive. I like it!


There are two problems though:

1) They do not sell frame only, you buy it with a table top which is too weak for our purposes, it is an office table. So you need to buy a solid table top, making it more expensive.

With BEKANT you can buy a frame and put any top on it, a bit cheaper.

2) Leg design, the look a bit ugly for my taste, and I will hit them with my feet all the time... Comparing to a flat design of BEKANT:image.thumb.png.c1f92e7a271794b083eb46debdb1db2d.png

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