Studiodesk

    DIY

    After setting up the mastering chain, the reflections of my old studio table (with huge, melamine-coated 240 x 120 cm table top) became a problem. Also my sideracks (both Toploader) did not correspond anymore to my everyday life, because there the backs of the devices were inaccessible. But there are switches - e.g. the "Mini Massive" EQ transformers can be switched on and off. Therefor I was in the need for a new desk - and the desks of the well-known manufacturers did not really suit me - and they are much too expensive (well over € 3000.-)!

    The acute weak points of the old table already defined the most important details (approach by negation) and I didn't want to sit hidden behind a "castle". The whole thing should necessarily be "straight forward" - a clear as possible form and just as easy realization. Such a fine piece of furniture was new territory for me and my tools are limited. Since my workshop (in the basement) is too small for such a big table, I waited for June to build the table on the terrace.

  • The basic idea was to keep the much smaller table top (164 x 80cm instead of 240 x 120cm) from the frontloader siderack. The left side is for analog tracking and summing, so in the left siderack are the processors (Mic-Amplifiers, EQs and Compressors) connected to the Studer 961 console (in the left half of the table). Since the tabletop consists for the most part of holes, there are two transverse strips (as T) for stabilization below.

    In the right half of the table is a 6U rack with all the devices that (also) have digital connections and are the center of my setup. The Desk-Rack has on the back (below the table top) a 3U/19' I/O-Patchbay and a 19 inch Power Distributor (Hirschmann). In the right Siderack is the analog mastering bus, including transfer console. In front of the Desk-Rack are the motor faders and the computer keyboard with trackpad.



    On the left is the table cross-section (from both sides). The Desk-Rack (black) got a different shape during the realization - I originally planned with the shape of my old Desk-Rack - although the principle remained the same. The dots symbolize the side openings in the Desk-Rack. At the rear end, under the tabletop, is the vertically glued bar, which prevents the table from sagging. At the same time, it obscures the view of the cable duct. In the middle of the table runs the cross bar, which forms a "T" together with the rear bar. After all, the tabletop consists almost only of holes - console and filled Desk-Rack together are already 60 kg heavy.




    The Construction

    The two sketches shown above were already my complete plans - I was pretty clear what the Desk should look like. Most widths were given anyway: 19 inches plus rack rails give the inner width of the sideracks and for the Desk-Rack 2x the wood thickness (side panels) must be added to it to sink it in the table. So it was possible to work with sheer rectangles (from the hardware store). I chose Birch Multiplex 21mm for the main parts and 15mm for some smaller parts (crossbars, mixer ears, computer and hard drive trays).

    To avoid a financial debacle, I first bought two 80x80cm squares. So I was able to check first if I can assemble two identical side parts for the siderack. Only after I had succeeded, I bought the remaining wood. In addition, I've bought a new multi-sander for € 80.- - a very good purchase, as soon turned out.

    The photos show the first steps. At the top left you can see the first sawed side parts, behind them the 80 x 80cm squares for the side parts of the second siderack and the rest of the wood. The two small parts are the support surfaces for the tabletop and made from the scrap of the first siderack side panels. Next I sawed the tabletop - at the widest point it is 164cm, 140cm in the back and 110cm in the front. The plate is 80cm deep and the kink (= the widest point) is on the line 60/20 cm.

    To avoid theory errors, I first fit the mixer (top right). It was about the back I / O's, which must be accessible. In addition, the plugs must be plugged in and out - this takes a little space and is best shown in a practical experiment.

    For the 6HE Desk-Rack I first took my old DIY 6U rack - first I wanted to install it - until I thought of the better shape of the Desk-Rack when I built it.



    On the right side you can see the Desk-Rack - still without side vents. It is designed to rest on the front and back of the table top. So it needs no lateral stabilization and is easily removable - the whole piece of furniture can be transported easier if disassembled in individual parts. The front protruding plate in the Desk-Rack is there to "park" the Motorfaders, since I use them relatively rarely. The Faderbank can be easy to sink into the Desk.

    I want to mention the amount of work: for some, perhaps the image of the Desk-Rack allows to recognize which grinding orgy is related to the construction! It was by far the most tedious single process in construction. It's sanding, wiping, watering, drying, sanding, wiping, watering, drying and over and over again. Gradually refine the sanding paper (I had 80, 120, 180, 240, 300, 400), whereby I have performed several passes from 120 with the same number. This takes a lot of time and also needs good nerves (at least the neighbors)! It's worth it though. You can feel it. The wood becomes as smooth as a stone.

    Watering: moisten the wood thoroughly with a well-soaked sponge - soak properly. During drying, the hairs then turn up in the wood, which, after complete drying, are abraded again. Thus, the surface becomes noticeably smoother / denser each time, and each time the water draws less into the wood (surface tension). Therefore, the sandpaper should gradually become finer. As can be seen, I have already glued the racks before staining.

    When staining I tried different ways. The best solution has been found to stain for the first time already at 80 or 120 grit paper thickness, because the stain then pulls deep into the wood (I've done so at the table top, which is why it is already black). If the wood is first finely ground, the stain remains only on the surface due to the fine structure of the wood and is accordingly sensitive. After pickling, continue to grind, water to dry, grind, water to dry ... and finally stain again and finely grind.

    Since the sides of the Sideracks are lighter, I stained them first (and taped the edges). Stain powder is much more productive and much cheaper than liquid stain. The work is straightforward, but must run in a controlled manner, since stain color is difficult to remove, if something splattered. Latex (or latex-free) gloves are also recommended. In order to avoid too darkening of the edges with lighter stains, it is good to moisten them beforehand with a sponge (and water) - this does not attract too much stain-color.

    Finally, I oiled everything with kitchen worktop oil. This is food safe and does not stink. Very pleasant work - with a soaked towel. 3 passes with at least 24 hours of dry-time in between. Even if it shines after oiling, it will be matt, when the oil is absorbed. But it is important, 15 to 20 minutes after oiling again to go over it with the cloth to absorb the excess oil - otherwise it will stick for weeks. After the last oil pass, it takes about 6 days until the wood is fully loadable. (I used the time to renovate the room where the table is coming in.)

    Lower photo: The Desk-Rack is inserted from below into the table. Upper right: the light bar under the tabletop (the black line) is not part of the table rack, but the crossbar (the "T-bar") under the plate (see picture below). The Desk-Rack has become even flatter - after the photos I have taken about 3cm height.

    So that the Desk-Rack can not fall out, I drilled two small holes in the tabletop, which lie then inside the Desk-Rack, at the corners. Two metal pins lock the rack and prevent worse.

    In the lower right photo of the 4-image can be seen how the cross bar rests under the tabletop of the Desk-Rack - so a further protection against bending of the plate is reached. The Desk-Rack is indeed held by the tabletop. Below the crossbar is the space for the Audio IO Panel and the Power Distribution.

    Both can be seen during the wiring of the computer (right picture). The bottom photo also shows the still open power conduits in the table rack. For better shielding, I lined it with tinfoil.




    For the power distribution in the table I use an old Hirschmann board, which found its way to me. I prefer it much better than a Schuko socket, because it offers 16 device connections, but it is only 19 inches wide and 1 U high. Outside, it also provides a grounding screw, if the grounding of a circuit is necessary. Meanwhile I have connected the grounding of the turntable there. Very nice.

    On the right photo you can see the (still) empty inside of the Desk-Rack. Above: the open conduits, middle: the Hirschmann distributor and bottom: the Mambabox with the audio D-Sub 25 connectors for the Audio Interface.

    Left picture: I enjoy that all power cords are secured by turn-lock (main supply cable) or by metal brackets, which lock the inserted device cable when folding down. Even if Hirschmann distribution systems are a little more expensive than normal sockets - it is worthwhile and much easier to integrate (size!) than bulky Schuko-plugs.


    The Tools

    Jigsaw, Grinder, Drill

    By purchasing pre-sawn birch-multiplex rectangles (hardware store or internet) the biggest obstacles have already been overcome: long exact cuts! With a small tool, this can only be accomplished with considerable effort and great skill. The wood thickness of 21mm I find perfect and it is easy to work with small tools. The price difference to 30mm was also enormous! The first thing to do is to use a jigsaw to saw off any number of triangles from the squares, as there is no tabletop or side panel made from a square on my desk. Of the 19 rectangles, 7 are processed into polygons and 12 remain rectangular. For sawing I have a simple workbench in the basement - I think that's very helpful - for clean and accurate cuts, the workpieces must be well clamped.

    Sawing involves the first sanding (cleaning the cutting edges). I did that with a Bosch Multi Grinder PSM 200 AES - not the last word, but surprisingly good for such small money. Because it comes with a rectangular area for replacement next to the Delta tip, it is called Multi-Sander. Both forms are useful for working on the desk. Grinding is the most critical operation. You will feel it with every touch, so, always when you will sit at the table.

    Why stain and oil instead of varnish? First, it is much more pleasant in processing (vapors, odor, water solubility), then it is much easier to repair, if at some point a damage should occur. A refresher in a few years will be done easy. Crucial for oil instead of paint, however, is that bacteria spread on painted surfaces and by the time the surface would be dirtier than I'm ready to accept.

    Sponges and Cloths - no Brushes

    For staining, I cut household sponges into three parts. Better and cheaper does not work. On YouTube there are also countless instructions - also for the final oiling. For this I tied a discarded tea towel into a mushroom and soaked it with oil. For safety's sake, the wipes must be laid flat after work, otherwise there is a risk of self-ignition. I had a bit of a mess before oiling, but it turned out to be the simplest job and seemed like a release envelope from the weeks-long DIY seizure.

    Last rites.


    Addendum to the Tools:

    In the meantime, I have renewed my old tools (Bosch 80s hammer drill, Ixo and a 70s jigsaw) and switched to the 10.8V (battery) line from Makita (screwdriver, hammer drill and jigsaw). I'm so excited about that that I would like to recommend it here. The hammer drill I had bought with case, bits, saw blades, two 2Ah rechargable batteries and charger for € 135.- (!) - then jigsaw (€ 79.-) and screwdriver (€ 110.-) without battery, suitcase or accessories. I have chosen a more expensive model with the small screwdriver, because I need it almost every day (and it came with another 1.5 Ah battery). All three units have brushless motors (longer lasting). I think it's amazingly cheap. The fact that the hammer drill does not turn so fast does not bother me - so the holes are cleaner or less devastated. The batteries are charged much faster than emptied! So you can work continuously. The quality increase, both to the old tools, and to the green Bosch devices is significant. Sawing without a cable is really different - wireless drilling in the home much more discreet! Even in remote areas of the house you can work immediately without extension cable. Not only for quarter craftsmen a fantastic set!

    [My Makitas: Bohrhammer HR166DSAE1, SDS+, mit Ladegerät, 2 Akkus 10,8V/2Ah, Bohrer-Bitset und Koffer; Stichsäge JV 102 DZ; Akku-Bohrschrauber DF032DY1J]


    Conclusion

    The whole action was great! It took almost a month and was sometimes very exhausting - but that's just what makes it special. The quality has become outstanding - much better than I would ever have dreamed!

    In the photo you can see my orphaned Argosy siderack in the front. From the proceeds of the sale, I was able to cover 70% of the material costs of the desk (about € 300.-) - also that has "rounded" the whole action again.

    I have gained over 2.5 square meters space and I'm no longer built up to head height. This allowed me to lower the speakers over 30cm. For crucial work (Mastering), I can put my acoustic elements and tuned absorbers a bit diagonally into the room and further optimize the acoustics. The table feels like an expensive piece of furniture and everything is within perfect distance. There are no problems with reflections. Jackpot.

    The biggest obstacle for me was the doubt as to whether I could perform this work satisfactorily. A few good tools and patience are very beneficial to a good success.


    I have learned that the high price of studio furniture does not come from the material, but from the work effort. So I'm all the happier about doing it myself. Many things are different than on bought tables: wood multiplex instead of MDF, absolute customization / adaptation to the existing equipment (that would be significant extra charges) and better stability: in all the commercial tables and sideracks I saw, I did not like that they only become really stable when devices are screwed. The Argosy siderack is an extreme example of this (looks very nice though). Finally, oiled wood feels better or warmer and reflects less sound than foiled MDF.