DIY File Cabinet Desk

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 huge 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.

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I looked long and hard on Craigslist and our local thrift stores and came up empty 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 wanted to paint them so they looked really nice. To start painting them, first pull off the hardware.

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You also have to 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. You can not remove the button so I just painted mine.

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I used Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ivory Bisque to paint the file cabinets and for the hardware I used Rust-Oleum Gold Rush.

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It turned out awesome!

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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 will 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 2-10 foot long 2×2’s.  We also bought 2- 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.

Next you need 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 here is what you do. 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. Since I was staining my desktop I used, Minwax Stainable Wood Filler.

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I filled it and left a little out of each hole.

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I let it dry completely. Next came 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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Because I wanted a more rustic look I didn’t use a pre-stain. Here is what I did use. Thick paper towels or a rag, tack cloth, a sponge brush, and the Minwax Dark Walnut stain. 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 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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Be sure to check out my Pottery Barn inspired Inspiration wall:


You can also see the full office reveal:

organized space


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 (40)

  • i need to print this i am getting a friend to build this for me so i will need all the information so he can do it right. can you help. i have sent the link to him but it will not come up on his computer.

    thanks Lisa M

  • I’m making one that’s similar in length but I was wondering how the middle has held up over the years? Did you need to put support in the middle?

  • hi, i saw someone the frame sat.on top of the caninets…does the frame goes over the cabinets and is held in place or does it just sits on top of the cabinet? thinking about this for the small kids, do you think the table top would.stay in place, and would the seams between each plank keave marks on papers if the kids draw or write? lastly, how tall are your cabinets and what was the final height with the table top on? tha nk you

  • I am making this for my daughter. I am using biscuits to provide a good connection between boards and I am screwing the top to the frame from under neither which will not show on the top. Also add some white glue.

    • How did you attach the frame to the top from underneath?

      I was wondering if I could drill pocket holes in the 1×2 to secure to the top all the way around the frame with 1 1/4″ kreg screws so that I would not need to have any screw holes to cover in the top off the desk.

      If I used wood glue plus those pocket screws I would expect the hold would be plenty strong.


      • Max – because of the weight the top, it is just sitting on top of the file cabinets! It is not perminantly attached. If you feel the need to attach it, that sounds like a great idea. But, in my opinion the top is heavy enough and doesn’t need to be attached.

        Good luck!

  • Hi. We are following your plans to make this desk. Ours will be 9.5 ft long. Did you have any problems with sagging in the middle? Did you reinforce it at l or was the frame enough?

    • We haven’t had any problem with sagging! If you feel like it’s need, you just may have to put something in the middle, creating two work areas! I really don’t forsee it being a problem though! Good luck!!

  • Hi. Love your project. We are currently building this following your plans. One question. Ours will be 9.5 ft long. Just curious if you used anything to keep it from sagging in the middle. Or if it was fine with just the frame.

  • LOVE this so much!

    I’m a little late to the party on this post; I found it while looking for ideas for the perfect desk for my Ugly Home Office Makeover, which I’m blogging about as part of my first blog series.

    Thanks so much for the detailed instructions and awesome pics! I’ll comment with an update once I’ve finished my desk.

    I would actually like to have a high-top desk using taller filing cabinets so my biggest challenge will probably be finding filing cabinets in the right size without breaking the budget for my makeover.

    Thanks again for the inspiration!!

  • I love this idea and just started working from home. I am planning to have my husband make this for me. I was wondering if the top sits entirely on top of the file cabinets, or if the cabinets sit between the frame. the file cabinets I’m planning to purchase are 26.5″ deep. It didn’t look like you cut down the boards at all… Can’t wait to have one for myself!

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