With all 3 of my kids home for digital learning, they each need a dedicated work space. Since Jake has been using Jonah’s desk which is just too small, I decided to build him a new DIY plywood desk with hairpin legs. I built Aiden this one a couple years ago, so I wanted Jake’s to be similar but I slightly modified the design to include some storage bins, and some additional “secret” storage bins that pop open using magnets.
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- 4’x8′ Sheet of Maple Plywood (3/4″ thick)
- Pocket Hole Jig
- 1 1/4” Pocket Hole Screws
- 1” Forstner Drill Bit
- Wood Glue
- Brad Nailer
- 1 1/4” Brad Nails
- 2 Sets of Double Magnetic Touch Latches
- Countersinking Drill Bit (optional)
- 1 1/4” Wood Screws
- Set of 4 Hairpin Legs (25″ height)
- Polycrylic or Water-Based Polyurethane
- Silicone Glue Brush (optional)
How to Build a DIY Plywood Desk with Hairpin Legs and Magnetic Pop-Out Storage Bins
Step 1: Cut Your Wood
I started with a 4’ x 8’ sheet of 3/4″ thick maple plywood, and I cut it down to the following dimensions:
- 2 pieces at 4’ x 18” for the top and bottom
- 8 pieces at 4” x 18” (these are for the sides and divider partitions. You can adjust the length of these if you plan on adding a back to your desk but I left the back of mine open.)
- 4 pieces at 3 3/4” x 16 1/2”
- 4 pieces at 3 3/4” x 5” (these are for the little pull-out bins with the holes on the front)
- 2 pieces at 12 1/2” x 14” x 2 1/8” (cut to fit) for the bottoms of your magnetic boxes
- 4 pieces at 14” x 4” and you can adjust the length on these depending on how long you want your magnetic boxes to be. I didn’t want mine to be too long since I know my son will pull them out and use them as pencil boxes etc. Regardless of how long you make them just make sure you allow for space for the magnet in the back.
- 6 pieces at 4” x 1” which we will laminate to create the front panels on the magnetic boxes
For the larger cuts I used my handheld circular saw and I always clamp down a straight edge to use as a guide. Then I used my miter saw for the smaller cuts.
Step 2: Sand
I gave everything a good sanding with my random orbit sander.
Step 3: Build Your Storage Bins
First I built the pull-out bins with the holes in the front to use as finger pulls. I took 2 of the 3 3/4” x 5” pieces and measured and marked the center of them, and then drilled holes with my 1 inch forstner bit.
I created the boxes by attaching everything using wood glue and a brad nailer with 1 1/4” brad nails. I attached the front first just because I wanted to make sure everything was attached straight since I’m terrible at getting things square and this is the only part that will show so it mattered the most. I used a tiny bit of wood filler to cover up the nail holes on the front of the boxes and then allowed it to dry and sanded it smooth.
Then I set those aside for now to make the little storage bins that will pop in and out with these magnet touch latches.
I wanted the front of it to be made out of a panel of laminated plywood that showed the exposed edge, so I cut the pieces an inch thick since whenever I cut strips thinner than that they tend to be harder to work with and more flimsy. Then I laminated 3 of them together using wood glue and clamps, and then repeated the process so I would have two of these panels.
I let the glue cure overnight and then removed them from the clamps and gave them a good sanding.
Then I assembled the boxes the same way I did the other ones, with wood glue and my brad nailer. I ended up having to sand these down quite a bit in order to get them to slide in the slot because it was such a tight fit, but I wanted them to be as flush to the edges as possible in order to blend in. If you don’t want to run into this problem, you could always make them the same size as the other boxes and cut them to 3 3/4” high instead of the full 4”.
Step 4: Drill Pocket Holes & Attach Sides and Divider Partitions
Next I used my pocket hole jig to drill 3 pocket holes along one of the longer sides of each of my 4” x 18” pieces.
I swapped out my pocket hole jig drill bit with the driver bit that came with it so that I could attach the divider partition pieces and side pieces to the desk. I flipped what will later be the top of the desk upside down, and then I measured and marked 16” in from each end, and lined up two of my boards and attached them using 1 1/4” pocket hole screws. By the way you could use wood glue for added reinforcement, i just like to make my furniture easy to disassemble in case I ever want to move it or swap it out and store it more easily. Then I attached the sides the same way.
In order to determine the spacing of the other divider pieces, I placed the boxes where I wanted them to go and then held the divider in place and marked it, then moved the box and attached the pieces with pocket hole screws. I placed the bins with the holes in the front next to the center cubby, and then placed the magnetic boxes next to the outer side pieces, leaving a small cubby between each of them.
Step 5: Install Magnets
Next, I positioned the boxes and attached my magnetic touch latches. I made sure the magnets were pushed in when I marked them and screwed them on. This way, when you press the box in from the front, it will pop out and allow you to pull it the rest of the way. I attached the little magnetic plates that came with it onto the back of my box.
Step 6: Attach Desk Bottom
Next I placed the bottom of the desk on top (we’re working upside down right now), and predrilled holes using a countersinking drill bit around the perimeter of the desk, and attached it using 1 1/4” wood screws.
Step 7: Paint or Stain
I like the look of natural plywood but you could always paint or stain it at this point. I decided to keep it natural and just sealed it with a Polycrylic topcoat. If you don’t like the look of the exposed plywood edge, then you could use some edge banding, but I like it so I am keeping it exposed.
Step 8: Attach Hairpin Legs
Then, I attached the hairpin legs. I ordered these from a company called DIY Hairpin Legs. They have lots of options but I chose the raw steel 3 rod hairpin legs and the height of these are 25”. The hairpin legs come with wax to apply which prevents rust.
You can check out the YouTube video for this project here:
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