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Setup build series: building the desk [Part 2]

Top Setup Magazine
November 10th, 2016 · 4 min read

Welcome to the second post of our setup building series.

Part 1: Ideas and choosing a desk

In the previous post we went over the brainstorming, the ideas we had and the decisions we made regarding the desk. Also the reasons behind a sit/stand desk and the choice of an IKEA SKARSTA desk platform with an IKEA GERTON top.

Now that we have the parts, we will start the process of putting the desk together.


Both boxes are heavy, especially the counter-top, it was tedious and challenging to get all that stuff in a Hatchback and drive 300km with that counter-top almost touching your head !




The SKARSTA comes in a very compact box, IKEA did a great job making this desk portable in such small packaging. Make sure to have a soft surface like a carpet to work on top of it to avoid causing any scratches or damage to the shinny white surface of the desk.

SKARSTA box opened

Parts, from left to right:

  • 3 first ones are to form the axis that will hold the legs together and left the top
  • 2 adjustable legs, make sure they’re at the same height (preferably at the limit) before starting the assembly
  • 2 top holders
  • 2 bases for the legs
  • shaft and crank

Attach the leg caps to the bases, then attach each base to the corresponding leg, finally mount the top holder to each one.

SKARSTA assembly
Now you can mount the axis parts to each leg and you should have the 2 legs with all the pieces attached to them except the central axis part and shaft.

SKARSTA assembly
What’s left now is to route the shaft from the leg that has the crank hole to the other one through the axis. Then mount the central piece of the axis and make sure everything is secure, then add the paddings.

SKARSTA assembly
And that’s it the desk is fully assembled, you can attach the crank and test that the system can go up and down smoothly, and that the legs are balanced, you can also adjust the caps to level the desk if you have an uneven floor.


This huge slab of massive wood is really heavy and it’s a good idea to get some help before starting to work with this. Opening the box we really liked the texture and the different part of wood patterns in the design.

The GERTON isn’t designed to fit on a SKARSTA desk, for that matter, no IKEA tops are designed for that purpose except the original SKARSTA top. It only have holes for standard IKEA legs like ADIL, but that’s not an issue we will make some holes, but you’ll need a powerful driller and a new drill bit to go though this tough wood.

Do the measurements to center the top and desk, better flip the SKARSTA and confirm. Then drill the four holes, you might need to test the desk fittings a few times to check if they can fit without making them too wide, take your time with this step since a problem in the fittings will result in unstable or wobbling desk.

GERTON drill

P.S: This is a good opportunity to drill keyboard cable hole if you want one.

Now flip it… no no don’t flip that huge thing yet ! just detach the top for now.

As we mentioned in the previous post, the GERTON is untreated wood, which means it’s vulnerable and can be damaged by water or other factors. To protect the wood we need to finish it, we think polyurethane is a good fit since we want a nice shiny surface while having the natural wood color. We also want a bit more contrast and color, since this top looks a bit pale out of the box.

While we were at IKEA we picked the BEHANDLA oil, it’s recommended to be used with this top. Oil is used for kitchen counter-tops to saturate the wood and make it water resistant. The color of the wood changes after absorbing oil so we don’t want to saturate the counter-top very much, we just want to add to darken the wood and add more contrast, making the wood texture stand out more, polyurethane will be our main protection layer.

There is a manual on how to apply the oil, in our case we know we don’t need to follow it step by step, so we started by sanding the wood making it clean and smooth using the finest sanding paper we could find, then we cleaned the wood removing all the dust produced by sanding.

GERTON sanding

Now we start applying the oil, you can use any brush as long as it won’t leave marks or bristles. Working with oil can be messy so better get a sheet of plastic to cover working area, also make sure to work in a well ventilated area since this oil has a very strong smell.

Start by applying a thin coat of oil, better go in the direction of grains. Then let the wood absorb the oil for 2 to 3 days, some of the oil will be absorbed but some will stay on top and build a residual layer, sand that layer gently and clean it. Apply another coat and follow the same steps until the wood color is good for you, we did it 3 times and did a final sanding.

Applying oil

Time for polyurethane, the one we got is a 2 parts clear glossy PU, the polyether and the hardener, which need to be mixed in a defined portion for a good hardening. Most guides we found online say to apply 3 coats but we only applied 2 thick coats.

Make sure to have a well ventilated area, but make sure it’s very clean since any dust in the air can make the final result rough. Do a quick sanding with fine sand paper then mix an adequate quantity of PU, we went with 300mL for each coat even though we have some leftover. We found using regular brushes cause issues because they can pick dust and leave bristles as you’ll see in the next photo (P.S: the hole is for keyboard cable routing):

Brush bristles

We did some more sanding to remove those imperfections and we switched to a Latex brush even if the bristles are thick, PU is thick so it can level itself while hardening.

Latex brush

We went with 2 coats, applying thin layers in the direction of grains, with some sanding after each coat to remove imperfections and clean the surface until we achieved a result that satisfied us.

No doubt, what we did isn’t perfect and people with more knowledge in woodworking can have many remarks on the methods and choices, we welcome any feedback that might help the community and anyone interested in replicating the build.

Desk is done, time to move to other parts… next time.

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