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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
Cut your middle cross pieces to fit inside. You are going to screw it in like the arrows show using your longer screws.
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.
You can see here how the screw goes in under the wood.
Once your frame is together it’s time to put the planks on the top.
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:
When all the planks are done, it should look like this from the bottom:
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.
I filled the holes and even left a little out of each hole.
I let it dry completely and then I broke out the belt sander.
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.
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!
This what your filled holes will now look like.
There were a few spots where the stain had come through so I sanded those down some.
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.
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!
This is what the holes looked like when stained.
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!!