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File Cabinet Desk Tutorial from overthebigmoon.com!

DIY File Cabinet Desk

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Create an affordable and beautiful craft or work space easily! Come learn how to Build a DIY File Cabinet Desk using just a couple file cabinets and some plank boards. I also have a great tutorial on how to Paint a File Cabinet.

Come learn how to Build a Huge Desk with 2 File Cabinets and some simple Wood Planks for CHEAP! From overthebigmoon.com!

This last month I went through a huge transition — ALL of my kiddos are in school ALL day long! It’s so bittersweet. With my boys being gone I knew I needed a new craft/work space, because I finally have some real craft time! I wanted it HUGE — 10 feet long and spanning my whole room. I did a lot of research on how to create it and decided to use file cabinets for my base.

How to Paint a File Cabinet

I looked long and hard on Craigslist and our local thrift stores and came up empty handed for months. Dang small town living! So, I had to buck up and buy mine off Amazon. To support the desk with how deep I wanted it, I needed deep cabinets. I wasn’t 100% satisfied with their look, so I decided that I wanted to paint them.

Before painting them I needed to remove all the hardware. 

How to Paint a File Cabinet from overthebigmoon.com!

You will also need pull out the drawers. If you cant figure out how to get them out, try YouTube! It helped me! I wrapped around the drawers with paper, so only the front would get painted. On my filing cabinet, you couldn’t remove the button, so I just ended up painting mine.

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For the file cabinet paint color I used Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ivory Bisque and for the hardware I chose Rust-Oleum Gold Rush.

It turned out awesome and I really couldn’t be happier with them!

2018 update: They’ve held up great over the years! They have received a few small scratches due to wear and tear, so I am going to repaint them next year probably!

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DIY File Cabinet Desk

Now it was time to build the desk! The first step was to get the wood! I went the cheap route — Pine 1×6 planks from Home Depot. I needed 5 to make my desk about 28 inches deep. This is one of the most important parts! You want to pick out wood that will line up as best as possible. It won’t line up perfect, because the wood may be warped. You are just looking for the best fitting pieces. This process took us about an hour. Be prepared to be patient!

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Once you have these planks you need wood for the underside frame. The best choice for this would be 2×2 pieces. Unfortuantly, the longest 2×2’s we could find were 8 feet long. Since my desk was going to be 10 feet long we had to buy a 10 foot 2×4 and rip it into two 10 foot long 2×2’s. We also bought two 8 foot long 2×2’s.

While at Home Depot you will also want to buy a countersink drill bit, so you can hide your screw holes. You will also want several 3 inch screws and also inch and half wood screws.

Now it’s time to build your frame!

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Find out how wide you want your desk and how long. We did this by laying our planks out first. Be sure to cut your planks the right length before you start this process! Once you have them cut the right length, you will need to build your frame the same size as the planks.

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Cut your middle cross pieces to fit inside. You are going to screw it in like the arrows show using your longer screws.

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On the front side of the frame you will need to use your countersink bit first so you won’t see the screws. If you have never used a countersink bit then you may want to find a video on Youtube or thoroughly read my instructions.

Drill in first with the countersink bit, just wide enough for your screw to sit into the wood and be completely under the top of the board.

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You can see here how the screw goes in under the wood.

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Once your frame is together it’s time to put the planks on the top.

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Once again make sure you countersink on the top. We did 2 screws on each part of the plank where it hit the frame. One thing I forgot to take pictures of is that we made big holes in the top for computer cords using a spade drill bit. Like this:

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When all the planks are done, it should look like this from the bottom:

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This may seem out of order, but the next thing I did was stain the bottom. I wanted it stained, but I also wanted to be able to sand off any stain that might soak through. So, I stained the bottom before sanding the top.


Then it’s time too fill all the countersink holes. Because I was staining my desktop I used, Minwax Stainable Wood Filler.

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I filled the holes and even left a little out of each hole.

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I let it dry completely and then I broke out the belt sander.

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Because we were using cheap planks we had a lot of sanding to do. Some parts were a little higher and I wanted the top to be even and smooth. So, be patient and get the planks even. It will make all the difference when its done!

Once we belt sanded, it was time for the hand sander.

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You can see how the belt sander was rough. I hand sanded for at least an hour over the whole top until it was smooth as can be!

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This what your filled holes will now look like.

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There were a few spots where the stain had come through so I sanded those down some.

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I wanted a more rustic look, so I chose not to use a pre-stain. Here’s the process I followed to stain my desk:

I used thick paper towels (or you could use a rag), tack cloth, a sponge brush, and the Minwax Dark Walnut stain. The tack cloth is amazing! It will get all the dust particles off of your wood. Before you use the tack cloth I would spray the seams of the desk with a compressed air duster (like you use to clean keyboards). I didn’t do that and I had dust come up during staining which was frustrating! Make sure you remove all the dust with the tack cloth before you stain.

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I don’t have any staining pictures, because I was concentrating on getting it done right since it was such a large piece. The key to staining is to put an even layer on and leave it for a few minutes (until it gets the shade you want) then wipe the rest off. After the stain I added 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic which gives an amazing sturdy coating over the stain. I followed the instruction and made sure to sand in between each layer and used tack cloth to clear any dust.

Then you can place your file cabinets and set your beautiful desk on top!

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This is what the holes looked like when stained.

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I love that I have room to pull out my Cricut or my sewing machine and still have room to work!

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DIY Home Ideas from overthebigmoon.com!

Pottery Barn Inspired Inspiration Wall | How to Build a Plank Wall | Creating an Inspiring Office Space

I hope you loved this tutorial and you can build an inspiring workspace too!

I’d also love it if you’d pin one or both the images below!! 

Create an affordable and beautiful craft or work space easily! Come learn how to Build a DIY File Cabinet Desk using just a couple file cabinets and some plank boards. I also have a great tutorial on how to Paint a File Cabinet.

How to Paint a File Cabinet -- this tutorial shares the process and products I used to paint an ugly file cabinet into something that isn't such an eye sore! From overthebigmoon.com!


Previous author of Over the Big Moon. I shared my passion for home and family life! I love graphic design, DIY projects, cooking, and working in my garden! My favorite role is taking care of my husband and our 3 amazing and busy boys!

Comments (50)

  • Lovely work, it reminds me of the desk my mom made for me when I was a teenager. The top was similar, but she used kitchen cabinets for the base. I’m now thinking of making a desk for a home my husband and I are moving into soon. How has the middle of the tabletop held up without any visible vertical support? Does the frame take care of that?

  • That’s so cool!! I recently bought the file cabinets on “offerUp” for 15$ bucks each!:) I’ll paint them soon! But the most difficult part seems to be the actual table!.. Did you finished that in one day? Does it works perfect?:)

  • We are totally doing this, but dumb question: How tall were your file cabinets? We have one already, but it’s only 2′ tall and I would prefer something taller.

    • i also have a file cabinet that measures 26 1/2″. Yes that is too short, even for me! But after you make the frame it measures at about 28 1/2″ – 28 3/4″ depending on the thickness of the desk top. My small desk that I use is 29″ tall and works well. You could also add casters to the bottom of the file cabinets which will increase it another 3″ – 4″. I hope this helps you.

  • so cute! Love the desk, I have a similar one with an Ikea butcher block counter top and saw horses. I love the spray painted trash can. Absolutely fabulous.

  • Love this! So pretty! When I made my desk/art space I just used a really big solid white door. I love the versatility of the planks for staining them. Your office space is gorgeous. What an inspiring place to be 🙂

      • I did use a door and it butts up against one that is at right angles on the other wall . Works great for me. I use one desk for computer and personal business(paying bills etc) and the other one for quilting, bought a large cutting mat and cut it down to size covers the whole “desk top” (door.

  • I love this idea. I have a 6ft island counter top I could do this with. Sure would solve a lot of my problems with computers and crafting. Thanks for the inspiration. Your desk turned out beautifully. A project to be very proud of.

  • I love the idea of this desk and I am trying to make one for my own room. Does anyone know where you can get cheap wooden filing cabinets from though as I have been looking for them for ages? Thanks

  • We did a similar project several years ago using premade kitchen counter top. You still need to raise the counter so it will clear the file drawer opening. Not as pretty as yours but suitable for a child or teen homework center.

  • What a great idea! I love how it turned out!!! When I was a kid my mom had a huge desk like this, but not as pretty! I also have been looking for used (decent) file cabinets to buy for cheap with no luck!! I wish I was not afraid of the DIY movement. It scares me.

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