Kickstarting a standing desk supported by empty bottles

Simon sez, "I’m a 19 year old Computer Science student and increasingly got neck ache from sitting at my computer. I read blog posts on the benefits of standing desks so tried a plank rested on CD drives. My neck felt great but my desk was ugly. So I set about designing the perfect standing… READ THE REST

Or just wander into the nearest ikea and cobble something together from the absurd variety of parts they sell. A quick google reveals dozens of options using ikea junk at prices anywhere from $50 to $300.

I have had a standing desk for over a year now and I’ve found the most important feature to be the ability to adjust the height so I can change between standing and sitting. My desk has an electric motor and adjusts at the push of a button.

The main drawback of the SG product (and indeed any “static” standing desk) is that it’s not easily adjustable. Yes, the bottle idea is cute, but you’re going to tire of it quickly, especially when your desk is laden with peripherals and other stuff.

1 Like

A college friend and I built a coffee table this way with IKEA bits and bobs after we’d run out of money for furnishings. This project does seem like it would work better as an inspiration for something you can do yourself than an actual manufacturing project. But to be fair, I did get burned once on a “I came up with this cool design, but I know nothing of manufacturing” Kickstarter project, so I’m biased.

Isn’t acrylic super scratch-prone? I’d be afraid of that “crystal clear” surface clouding up right quick.

Laser cut from plywood. Not sure if I should wear a sweater vest with short-brimmed fedora, or bib overalls when standing at this desk.

I know, I know, birch makes it fancy somehow. It’s just hard to think of plywood as fancy, no matter how you laser cut it.

1 Like

Plywood is awesomely stable. Planks expand, contract, and sag dramatically more. There are many purposes for which plywood is unparalleled… desktops, shelving, and Roman legionary shields come to mind (plywood is ancient).

When I work with plywood I bond plank strips to the edges in a contrasting hardwood. This enhances appearance while protecting the weak point of the plywood.


Why must the bottles be empty? I’d think filling them with sand or concrete or something would make the desk much more stable.

Laser cutting a gazillion discs like that is a waste of laser time. I also don’t think it looks nice but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Acrylic is a bad material for top surfaces as it will get scratched and look horrible very quickly. I run a laser as part of my business and I know the cost of plywood. £49 for that Incline is a rip-off.

I’ve seen a number of Ikea coffee table DIY standing desks online; they are certainly functional, cheap and work well for many. If my project is outside of your budget, I’d encourage making a standing desk like this as an alternative because standing really has eliminated my neck aches and made me feel more productive. Marco Arment the creator of Instapaper used to use a standing desk he made from resting a plank on coke cans, while I used to rest a plank on 2 sideways CD drives (I have a picture of this rickety setup somewhere). DIY solutions do work and are cheap, but they often look ugly and with a coffee table you get no adjustability. If the desk if too low you bend and could get back ache, too high and you hunch shoulders which may give neck ache. That advantages of my solution are adjustability, well tested unique design, and features like a drawer, palm rest, backstop and more. Thanks for your ideas, hopefully they will help some readers to get a standing desk whatever their budget. SG

Filled is fine too. The only requirement is that they are glass as plastic would crumple under load. On the Kickstarter page I have a picture of the bottles filled with colored aquarium pebbles to create a personalized desk, and one filled with water and used as a single flower vase. Sand is a great idea, you could even use multiple colors like those bottle sand sculptures you buy on holiday if you wanted to get really creative. Concrete could look interesting in clear bottles for an industrial look, I’m seeing concrete used a lot in design items these days. The bottles are stable enough without filling, however, as the desk itself holds them in place. SG

I take it that because no one else has made comment that the bottles are not, in fact, just going to break under load.

The cork does account for most of the laser time (and price), correct. But I decided early on that I wanted the edge to be curved and soft so that your hands are comfortable even after using the desk for hours. Another bonus of using cork is that it is less sweaty than the acrylic or even melamine coated MDF as found in flatpack.

The desk comes with coasters so the surface won’t get scratched by mugs, and the incline has cork feet so that won’t scratch it either. Most keyboards have soft rubber feet as well. I wouldn’t recommend throwing your keys on it, but I’ve used an early prototype for months and it is still lovely and shiny with few scratches. Some benefits of acrylic are it has greater impact strength than glass, higher light transmittance, and is lower weight.

The costs of the SG Incline are: materials (baltic birch plywood, natural cork), hardware (nuts and bolts), the shipping of the above to me, laser time, packaging, shipping to you, Kickstarter’s cut, card processing, and VAT on the fees. My profit margin on the SG Incline is slightly higher than the other products, but far lower than for example tech giant’s typical 40% margin. The overall product is cheaper than several laptop risers from a leading retailer. I wish I could sell all of these products cheaper as I love them and want as many people to be able to afford them as possible, but without reaching massive scale this is sadly as low as I can go. If you factor in the hundreds of hours of work that has gone into this project then I should really be charging a lot more or have the goal much higher, but I wanted to be as fair to backers as I can, put the price low, while leaving a small margin for any ‘unforeseen expenses’ I may encounter so I’m confident I can deliver.

I hope this provides some clarity, design is all about compromises and the path I’ve chosen may not be for everyone. But that’s great, because design is a very individual thing and everyone having different tastes makes the world interesting. Thanks for your feedback, feel free to ask any more questions on here, Kickstarter or by email. SG

In early testing I stood my whole 8stone weight on a single bottle and it did not break, so all 4 should be able to hold a huge amount of weight (don’t try this at home). In my further testing the desk held an iMac with no trouble, and I leant a little on it too. I can’t guarantee that every bottle in existence is strong enough; the bottles are supplied by you so I can’t take the blame if one does break. However in all my testing with different bottles and months of use, no, they don’t break :slight_smile:

1 Like

I like it, but I’m biassed so don’t listen to me. Check out Printrbot; some of those designs look really great in my opinion and their construction somewhat inspired these desks. On its own plywood can seem cheap, but my aim was to have the natural look of it contrasted by the very modern look of the clear acrylic. The burnt edges provide further contrast for a really striking look. It’s a fusion of natural materials (birch, cork) and man made materials and processes (laser cutting, acrylic). In the end it will come down to individual taste, of course. SG

If you are making less than 40% profit on the Incline then you are paying over the odds for something.

Oh wow I must be dreaming. A post on Boing Boing — one of my favourite blogs — is a dream come true. I’m absolutely ecstatic, thank you Cory!

So if you haven’t guessed I’m Simon George, the same SG of this Kickstarter. I’m happy to answer any questions.

I’ll address Cory’s note head on. He is correct, I’m 19 so don’t have any prior hands on manufacturing experience. I have a Product Design A-level, and much of those 2 years were spent researching manufacturing. The prototype SG Wave as can bee seen on the Kickstarter is a success (I’m typing standing at it now) and it could go to production as is (though I will be making some minor improvements). I have found 2 suppliers for every component — including the laser cutting — so even if one part of my supply chain lets me down I have backups. Each product has been carefully costed so I am certain that if funded I will have enough money to produce and ship all the rewards, with a tiny bit left over in case of unforeseen expenses. I backed the Printrbot 3D printer a year ago at a similar price, and know the feeling of trusting someone to deliver on their Kickstarter. But Brook did deliver, I even met him in person and he was lovely, so no regrets there. I hope I can deliver my Kickstarter in the same wonderful way Brook did with his, and I promise to do everything I can to make that a reality, keeping backers updated every step. I love my SG Wave, and I want to get it to as many people as possible so they can experience it too. SG


My apologies, your deduction is correct and I should have had my spreadsheet open when writing my prior reply. The profit margin on the SG Incline is not under 40% as I previously stated. It is the larger desks with margins much lower than 40%. I have balanced the funds this way because I wanted to make the desks more affordable knowing that they are a smaller volume product, and I make up some of the margin on the smaller items. Overall I won’t make a huge profit, but enough to complete this Kickstarter successfully.

I don’t understand why projects like this need crowdfunding. It seems to me Kickstarter is for stuff that requires imposing capital costs to even get started manufacturing, but he’s already built at least one, so he obviously already has the tools and ability to build more.

Unless he’s trying to go directly from weekend personal project to full-scale mass production, skipping the whole moonlight garage business and cottage industry phases, which raises the question of why would you want to dodge those highly educational and relatively low-risk steps?

1 Like

My thought exactly. Kickstarter is being used a lot as a marketing base for new products. In this case it is just being used to take orders thus reducing the risk of ending up with unsold stock. Convenient if you want to start a business without any element of risk I suppose.