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When It’s Too Expensive, DIY (a Keyboard Tray)

Like almost every room in our home, over time, we find that there are things we need, things we didn’t need after all, and, of course, things we’d like to have. But no matter what, we always find ourselves needing a solution for just a smidge more space. As you can imagine, the studio was no exception.

Even if I’m not painting, I’ll work from the painting table. I hide my drop cloth in Skar, keep my portrait supplies on the shelves, and I’ll bring my laptop from it’s resting place on the fauxdenza to my larger table. I strategize my portraits for the week, catch up on my accounting, and wrap up any bloggie loose ends.

Lately, though, I’ve felt as if the fauxdenza (also dubbed the task station) has been under utilized. If it’s the kind of day that I’m up and about, running between the studio and kitchen, the kitchen and back patio and the patio back to the studio (yes, those days happen!), I’ll often stick to working from the faux – erm, task station, if only for its eas(ier) access to the door.

A few weeks ago, I realized things would make much more sense if we added a pull-out drawer to the fauxdenza – a keyboard tray of sorts – to allow extra space for my laptop and drawing tablet. If we did so, I’d also be able to tuck everything away during my shipping process – a process that uses every single surface in this whole room. (It’s like a tissue paper, brown-box, label printing bonanza.)

Thinking I could easily buy one on Amazon, further research proved that keyboard trays are f*ing expensive! We had 36″ of width to play with, and – you guessed it – we wanted to utilize every last inch of it. The problem was that we only had a 12″ depth. A standard tray had an average depth of at least 14″ and an average cost of $80+ (and that’s on the low end).

So, we made one! And it was easy! Scott ordered these variable height platform slides from Rockler in the 12″ depth, and we picked up a yard of solid, sturdy red oak from Home Depot. After a quick sand to smooth the edges, I painted this guy Behr’s Juicy Passionfruit the same day I prepped our printer station:

A bit of math proved that we could have a tray of 32″ wide, as the slides took up about 1.5″ on each side. We actually had Home Depot cut our 12″d oak to 31″w, so no additional cuts were needed when we got home.

After Scott showed me how our sliders would work (above), we held each side of the slider on the ends of our “tray,” and marked the spots where our screws would go. After pilot holes were drilled…

… we were ready to attach the platform slides:

When it was done, it looked like a keyboard tray I’d buy myself – only, we paid less than $40, it was completely custom to our needs, and it was Juicy Passionfruit!

Scott eyeballed the placement, and I did some quick measurements until it was centered. After quickly marking the spots where it would be screwed into the fauxdenza, Scott secured everything in place.

That’s it! The red oak is sturdy enough for pressure from my elbows, and it’s a great little hiding nook for my laptop when not in use.

I’ve been working and practicing with a drawing tablet, and on those days, I slip my laptop on top of the task station, and I work with the tablet on the tray. (We even scored an external display on Craigslist for a steal, and we’ll eventually mount that to the wall. Nothing will actually lay on the faux-top itself, allowing us to gain precious workspace!)

Similar to our pull-out record player on the media wall, we love the subtle hint of color the tray provides. It mimics Grandma’s chair on the opposite side of the room, and it even picks up on the other orange-y accents on our shelves.

The only downfall we can find (and we’re thinking this should have seemed obvious) is that while the sliders themselves are 12,” the tray does not pull out a full 12.” There’s about 2 inches where the rails overlap with the brackets for stability and safety. We could have counteracted this by installing the entire system a few inches forward under the fauxdenza, but by doing so, the front of the tray would have stuck out. We debated this for a few minutes, but ultimately decided to stick with a flush front (and the loss of inches doesn’t affect my work flow in the least).

I’ve been trying to convince Scott that we need to add a pull-out tray to the painting table, and this room will be bursting with tricks – the rolling printer, our table on casters, a filing cabinet on wheels, and trays pulling out from every which angle – oh, the possibilities!

Where are you finding and adding extra space?

  • Carrie @DreamGreenDIY - July 24, 2012 - 7:47 AM

    That’s a genius (and lovely) solution!! You guys are the best small space problem solvers…You should write a book =)ReplyCancel

  • EDGE - July 24, 2012 - 9:52 AM

    LOVE THIS! such a great space saver! I have a suggestion to make up for the 2″!

    Add a piece of wood to the front of your tray with piano hinges. That way you get an extra couple of inches and when you push the tray in, you can fold it up and whatever is on your tray is concealed!

    My mom lived in an old farmhouse that had a cutting board like that. When you pulled the knob a 3in “front” folded down and then the cutting board pulled out.

    Just an idea! I’m crazy about your blog fyi :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - July 24, 2012 - 9:59 AM

      Carrie, you are so sweet. Thank you!

      Edge, now THAT is genius! Holy cow, seriously. And thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Heather {ModernMealsforTwo} - July 24, 2012 - 3:21 PM

    I love this! It’s a great DIY! I love that you personalized it with a pop of color.ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlin - July 24, 2012 - 8:55 PM

    So cute. We needed 12″ deep cabinets for our built-in desks in the guest room, and so I totally understand the frustration and crazy price tag problem. You guys had a genius solution- well done!ReplyCancel

  • Henry - August 10, 2012 - 6:35 PM

    The brackets are $40 with shipping.

    The plank is $7+.

    The paint is $7+.

    Please provide realistic price ranges as the brackets alone are more then the estimated total of less than $40.


    • Kim - August 11, 2012 - 4:18 PM

      Hi Henry, the price quoted in our post is what we paid, perhaps they were on sale? We also had a promo for free shipping. Thank you for the input though!ReplyCancel

  • Ram M - November 28, 2012 - 9:50 AM

    You can buy the slider/brackets for $12.87 in HomeDepot.

    Keybaord SliderReplyCancel

  • Kim - November 28, 2012 - 10:01 AM

    Hi Ram,

    Thanks for the link! For us, we were unable to find sliders in the very short length we needed (12″) at a standard store. Like most things in the studio, we had to pay a little more to get the right size and fit.

    For a deeper desk, those are perfect and a steal though!ReplyCancel

  • Natalie B. - December 21, 2012 - 1:54 AM

    Love, love, LOVE what you’ve been doing!

    I was wondering, do you think a 40″ wide keyboard tray is feasible? The specs for the drawer slides you used state a max keyboard tray width not exceeding 24″ despite the 75 lb. load capacity.

    I need the 40″ to fit my full-size keyboard, mouse (sometimes mice), G13 Gamepad and Logitech T650 Touchpad. My Upton desk’s 40″ tray fits the bill (side mounted, no repurposing) but it doesn’t fit my 27″ iMac and two PC monitors, and I’m tired of using mismatching furniture as a workaround.


    • Kim - December 21, 2012 - 8:41 AM

      Hi Natalie,

      I think that something that wide would likely need a deeper keyboard tray, so the plank of wood you use is more sturdy – and you may need to purchase thicker wood from a local lumber yard as opposed to Home Depot or Lowes. Or, you could purchase 2x4s from Home Depot, and reinforce the bottom by framing it out with 1x2s so it can support extra weight (or even leaning your arms on the tray)!

      Hope that helps! Let us know how it goes!ReplyCancel

  • Natalie B. - December 21, 2012 - 1:07 PM

    Thanks, that does help. I was thinking about using the 18″ or 20″ deep slides. The Desk is 24″ deep and I like that a deeper keyboard tray gives you room to store little stuff (pen tray, post-it notes) behind the keyboard/mice. I guess the other concern is that the Desk I’m looking at is 3/4″ thick laminated high density wood. They sell their own keyboard trays for it (28″ is the widest, sadly) so presumably it’s thick enough for installation.

    If I go through with this, I’ll let you know how it turns out. Happy Holidays!ReplyCancel

  • Han - May 10, 2013 - 11:30 AM

    Hi, how did you attach the brackets to the table? do you drill a hole first then screw it ? thanksReplyCancel

  • Kim - May 10, 2013 - 1:13 PM

    Hi Han! Yes, drilling a small pilot hole first will help guide the screw in properly (and straight).ReplyCancel

  • [...] shelf rail track – iBuyLa_Tmall_****** Angent – Online Shopping at in Singapore When It’s Too Expensive, DIY (a Keyboard Tray) | Yellow Brick Home [...]ReplyCancel

  • Ron B - October 22, 2013 - 2:07 PM

    Thank you for this post. I know the original post was written over a year ago, but I find myself in need of just this bit of advice and help. My Mom purchased a desk off of craigslist a month ago or so, and it didn’t come with a keyboard tray, and it was driving her bonkers. The prices of ready-made keyboard drawers are slightly outrageous (ok, more than slightly.) Thank you again, I knew it was possible, just wasn’t sure how to go about it.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - October 22, 2013 - 2:34 PM

    Ron, no problem! We’re actually making another desk for ourselves, and I’ll be purchasing the same sliders again!ReplyCancel

  • WhyzGuy Studios - November 17, 2013 - 8:02 PM

    I was looking for DIY plans to build a sliding shelf identical to yours. This was very helpful. Awesome tutorial, thank you.ReplyCancel

  • [...] 3. Slide-Out Laptop Tray [...]ReplyCancel


The Week’s End

After a long week for both of us and working later than I’d like to admit on Friday evening, Scott and I exhaustingly pushed each others’ buttons – poking and huffing over little, nit-picky things. We can see this clearly now, but at the time, we were pissed at each other. In his attempt to start the night over and kick the weekend off right, he suggested we walk Jack down to the Miwaukee Ave Arts Festival. After a protest on my part (I’d rather stay home!, I’d said; man, I was moody), he convinced me we’d have fun, spend time with our friends, and (obviously) look at art.

He won.

That night, we made our own prints at the Spudnik Press booth (which we plan to mat and hang as part of our living room booster), connected with an artist that had me drooling for donuts, and snacked on bad-for-you foods (and boy, was it yummy!).

We followed our Friday fest bright and early with a day of bicycles and brews at Tour de Fat, a favorite of ours that comes to the ‘hood once a year. This time around, we watched our intake of Sunshine, allowing us to avoid our afternoon slump and enjoy a late night barbecue on the patio with our neighbors.

As the weekend wound down, I treated myself to a bit of pampering with a pedicure (in Turquoise and Caicos) and a pint of my favorite treat (coffee Haagen Dazs, mmm).

Happy Monday, all! How did you spend the last few days?

  • Heather {ModernMealsforTwo} - July 23, 2012 - 8:53 AM

    Sounds like an awesome weekend (post Friday fighting), especially the fair food and pedicure.

    We did nearly nothing this weekend and it was amazing! The highlights included grabbing a barbecue feast with my parents and making a chocolate layer cake with salted caramel frosting. Yum!ReplyCancel

  • AnnieNPaulsMom - July 23, 2012 - 1:44 PM

    This makes me think about the movie Beer Wars. You can stream it on Netflix if you’re interested.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - July 23, 2012 - 3:06 PM

      @Annie – you know, I think we have seen that movie… it’s been a while though (if it’s the one I’m thinking of!).ReplyCancel

  • Two Pitties in the City - July 23, 2012 - 6:48 PM

    I always love seeing your photos, and I had to laugh when I saw a certain turkey-legged guy in your photostream.ReplyCancel

  • Kalli - July 23, 2012 - 6:51 PM

    Your weekend sounds pretty fun (except for the grumpy mood part). I was looking forward to going to a street festival in Los Feliz, actually within walking distance of my house, but was struck down by the flu, which I must have caught babysitting on Friday. I adore that little kid, but this is like the 4th time this year that she’s given me a virus.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - July 23, 2012 - 6:51 PM

    BORIS! :)

    Kalli, oh no! You’ve got to stop getting sick. Get well SOON!ReplyCancel

  • Amy Lynn - July 23, 2012 - 8:25 PM

    My toesies have been done in Turquoise and Caicos all summer! :)ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - July 24, 2012 - 10:21 AM

    What a lovely week :)ReplyCancel


(The Printer Isn’t) Trapped in the Closet

A few months ago, I revamped my closet as one of the first steps toward completing Kim’s Stu-Stu-Studio makeover. Things went very well at first, but I slowly realized that while the bones were good, it would need some tweaking. In all honesty, things had gone downhill pretty quickly.

Jump forward a few months, and as the studio progressed, we realized that Kim would need to upgrade her printer to one with higher resolution. We settled on the Canon Pixma MG6120. It has wi-fi connectivity, all the functionality we need, and scans Kim’s work beautifully. The printer is, however, about 40% larger than our old model. This presented a problem, as the studio space remains about 40% smaller than an average bedroom.

Up until last weekend, here’s where we stood with a printer crammed under Grandma’s chair, and my closet overflowing with nonsense.

From there, the plan was simple: I gut my closet, reconfigure the shelves into a more usable orientation, pet Jack while I work, and hide the wi-fi enabled printer on a little wheelie tray inside the closet so that it’s (functionally) out of sight 95% of the time, but can be rolled out into the room for Kim’s weekly portrait scanning sessions.

Before and afters are great, no? This only required the purchase of one extra shelf, two extra supports, and about three seconds with a miter saw to chop one existing shelf in half.

The same day we went to Home Depot to pick up the extra shelf supplies for my closet, we picked up a small piece of project-plywood that started out 24″ x 24,” and we had HD cut it to 15″ x 19″ – just slightly larger than the printer itself. We also grabbed a small brass pull handle, four swivel castors, a white extension cord, a cable cover kit (more on those later), and a Behr paint sample in Juicy Passionfruit. Seriously. Juicy Passionfruit. I know, right?

As with all trips to Home Depot, the biggest time-suck of our journey was Kim’s raging internal debate between two identical shades of peachy, orange-y, coral-y, paint. (Love ya!) But we eventually checked off all the boxes on our list and were on our way home.

Upon our return to the tiny homestead, I  sanded the edges of the plywood smooth to remove any splinters and spackled the edges to finish things off nicely and keep the plywood from separating.

After I wrapped up the edge finishing and gave things a quick final sanding, Kim put on 1 layer of Zinnser Bullseye 1-2-3 primer, 2 coats of our Behr sample and 2 coats of Polycrylic in semi-gloss (to protect from scuffs and counteract the flat finish that’s the only choice in the sample size).

You keen observers might also notice a longer, narrower piece of hardwood (that’s what she said?) in the background of the photo below. You’d like to know what that’s for, wouldn’t you? You will. Soon.

We gave everything ample drying/curing time. Like, an entire week ample since we’re trying this new thing where projects are largely reserved for the weekends to avoid burnout. I gotta tell you, it’s pretty great. At any rate, 3 days is more than enough time for primer, paint, and poly (alliteration!) to cure under normal circumstances.

The next step was to wrangle 16 tiny matching screws from the grandpa jar. This is the fastener equivalent of finding 16 needles in a haystack. A sharp, rusty haystack. But hey, all of our projects are done on a budget with as many repurposed items as possible. Plus, I’m up to date on my tetanus shot, I think…

Here is a rare photo of Kim using a drill. The bottom half of her face sure is pretty, huh? This is where we affixed the four little castors to the bottom of the plywood section (which we didn’t paint not only to save time, but we would never actually see it).

This is where the cable cover and extension cord came into play. There is obviously not an electrical outlet in the closet, so we had to run the extension cord from the nearest outlet.

This stuff works pretty well, huh? With Grandma’s chair back in place, you can hardly see the cord.

So, here sits the printer on a piece of plywood, with four swivel castors and a tiny brass pull handle to ease it’s exit from the closet.

Like so!

In all honesty, the handle isn’t perfectly straight. Since plywood is essentially a stack of thin, glued-together pieces of wood, sometimes you just need to let the screw go where it wants to go to avoid splitting and cracking.

All said and done, we’re super happy with how things turned out. The printer is no longer trapped in the closet, we can print wirelessly, and I somehow actually gained some shelf space in this transaction. All’s well that ends well.

Is anyone else working on a hidden electronics project?

  • heather s. - July 20, 2012 - 7:13 AM

    Great job! I did this years ago with a piece of closet shelving (like what is in your closet above) and casters to keep my printer under my mammoth desk. I rolled it out when necessary and pushed it back under (and against the back wall) when not in use. It worked great.ReplyCancel

  • Taryn - July 20, 2012 - 7:55 AM

    This looks fantastic! I swear, you guys are such an inspiration to those with a small space!

    Quick question though – how have you attached the cord to the wall? Have you done a post on it previously?ReplyCancel

  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia] - July 20, 2012 - 8:46 AM

    Oh, I love this! You guys are so. cool. And can I just comment, that is the perfect peachy-coral color. ;)ReplyCancel

  • kasey at thrifty little blog - July 20, 2012 - 2:28 PM

    Hey, my printer *is* trapped in the closet. What a good solution!ReplyCancel

  • Trude - July 20, 2012 - 4:45 PM

    Brilliant! I may need to do this for my printer, because right now it’s not really hidden on the bottom shelf of my little half bookshelf. :)ReplyCancel

  • Holyoke Home - July 21, 2012 - 4:02 PM

    What a GREAT idea! seems such a shame to not use every single inch of storage and you’re doing just that! Um… that a flor rug? I am LOVING it!ReplyCancel

  • Kalli - July 23, 2012 - 10:17 PM

    So smart, it looks great!ReplyCancel