Learn how to make a simple DIY lap desk! This portable lap desk is made from one inexpensive piece of wood. It’s easy for anyone to build with basic tools.
DIY Lap Desk
This DIY lap desk is the perfect solution for working in bed, on a couch or in a chair. It provides a flat surface for a laptop, a book or even snacks. I made mine with inexpensive pine, but you can use any wood you like. It was made with just one board (about $10) which makes this an inexpensive project.
The desk was designed without a cushion, so this is a no-sew project. You can customize it by adding a cushion or just use a pillow between your lap and the desk. The lap desk was made with basic tools, so it’s a great project for beginners. It also makes a great gift idea for family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and coworkers.
You may also enjoy this Simple DIY Desk.
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Table of Contents
What Skills Do You Need to Build a DIY Lap Desk?
This is an easy project to build for DIYers of any skill level. It’s made with just a few basic tools, so it’s a great project for beginners.
What Tools Do You Need to Build a DIY Lap Desk?
We only need some basic tools to build this lap desk. Tools like a jigsaw and a drill.
It’s handy to have a miter saw and an orbital sander, but this project can be made without them. It’s also helpful to have an assortment of bar clamps.
You may enjoy these helpful tool tutorials:
- Beginner’s Guide to Using a Power Drill
- 7 Miter Saw Tricks Every DIYer Should Know
- 11 Secrets for Sanding Wood Projects Like a Pro
What Kind of Wood Do You Need to Make a Lap Desk?
This DIY lap desk can be made with just about any type of wood. One thing to consider is the weight of the wood. The desk will be resting on our lap so we may not want to use a heavy wood like oak or maple.
I used common pine to build my desk. Pine is inexpensive and lightweight compared to other types of wood. I purchased the pine at my local big box home improvement store.
How Do You Finish the DIY Lap Desk?
The DIY lap desk could be painted, stained or left natural. I chose to leave my desk natural and seal it with a clear finish.
I considered a few clear finishes before deciding on a water-based polyurethane. I chose a water-based polyurethane for two reasons. First, I made the lap desk as a last-minute gift, so I needed the finish to dry quickly. Water-based polyurethane dries fast which means I could apply three coats of finish in one day.
Second, I could apply the water-based polyurethane in my workshop. I made this desk in the winter. The heating system for my home is near my workshop. This means I couldn’t use a flammable finish to seal this project.
My first choice for finishing the lap desk was Bob’s Miracle Finish for Wood. This finish is easy to apply, but it needs 24 hours to dry between coats and it’s best to apply three coats. This means it would take three days to finish the desk. Plus, it’s flammable, so this finish wasn’t an option.
Related: Bob’s Miracle Finish for Wood
My second choice was shellac. Shellac is easy to apply, dries quickly, and doesn’t need to be sanded between coats. This means I could apply three coats in one day. But shellac is also flammable so I couldn’t use it in my workshop.
Customize This DIY Lap Desk
There are a few ways to customize this desk. First, this is a no-sew project because I didn’t add a cushion to the bottom of the desk. If you wanted a cushion you could get some foam, wrap it in fabric, and attach it to the bottom of the desk. Or even easier, just place a pillow between your lap and the desk.
The next way to customize the lap desk is to add a rail. The rail will keep laptops, pens, books, etc from sliding off of the desk.
DIY Lap Desk Video
Watch the quick video to see how I built the lap desk!
How to Make a DIY Lap Desk
- Get the FREE plan here (includes detailed instructions, measurements, and bonus tips).
Step 1. Make the Lap Desk Panel
Apply glue to the edges of boards and clamp. Remove the clamps when the glue is dry.
Step 2. Cut the Curve and the Handle
I used a 1″ diameter Forstner Bit to drill two holes. You could also use a 1″ hole saw, but a Forstner bit makes a cleaner cut. Next, draw a line across the top and bottom of the holes. Then cut the area in between the holes with a jigsaw. Sand the handle area smooth.
At the bottom of the panel I measured in from each side and up 1-¾” at the center of the panel. I placed a push pin at each mark. Then I pushed a flexible metal ruler against the push pins. This formed a guide for me to trace the curve onto the wood. If you don’t have a flexible metal ruler you could try a piece of cardboard or just use a pencil to freehand the curve. Use a jigsaw to cut out this curved area.
Step 3. Cut the Angles
At the top and bottom of the panel I made marks and connected the marks with a straightedge. Then I cut the angles with a jigsaw.
Step 4. Round the Corners
I made marks at the top and bottom of the panel and used a 1-quart paint can to connect the marks. Then I cut the corners with a jigsaw.
Step 5. Attach the Rail (optional)
Cut a piece of wood to length. Measure up from the bottom, center the rail from side to side, and clamp. On the backside drill several countersink holes and attach with 1-¼” wood screws.
Related: How to Use a Countersink Bit
Step 6. Finish the DIY Lap Desk
Sand the lap desk smooth with 120 grit sandpaper. Paint, stain or leave the desk natural. For my lap desk, I applied three coats of Minwax Polycrylic.
Related: How to Apply Polycrylic (Without Streaks or Brush Strokes)
This DIY lap desk is the perfect solution for working in bed, on a couch or in a chair. I made mine with inexpensive pine, but you can use any wood you like. It was made with just one board which makes this an inexpensive project.
The desk was designed without a cushion, so this is a no-sew project. You can customize it by adding a cushion or just use a pillow between your lap and the desk. The lap desk was made with basic tools, so it’s a great project for beginners. It’s also a great gift idea for family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and coworkers.
Get the free plan (including the detailed instructions and measurements) now!
Thank you for stopping by. If you found this information helpful, would you please pin it to Pinterest? Other DIYers would appreciate it and I would too! Thank you – Scott
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