Sunday, 5 January 2020

PC Desk Refurb 2019/2020 - Part 1

2020 is the year I intend a big refurb of my 'man cave', my craft stroke Hobbie stoke PC gaming room had become little more than a storage dump for the rest of the house. It had gotten so bad that I could hardly get to any of my desks without having to clamber over boxes and crap and in the end I just gave up on certain hobbies (like model making) and all that was left was my PC gaming because I managed to keep a narrow alleyway between the stairs and my computer desk!

So, just before Christmas, I started cleaning things up a bit and made plans to rejuvenate each individual workspace by upgrading the desks and some of my equipment and storage space. First on my hitlist was my computer desk...

PC desk setup 2014
My 2014 computer desk setup. Geez, look at that monitor! Still, at least it was neat and uncluttered,
by 2019 you could hardly see any desk for the piles of crap that infested my attic room!


Man Cave Refurbishment 2019 - Project No. 1: Upgrading My Computer Desk...


The main issue I was having with my computer desk arrangement was the yards of unorganized cable spaghetti underneath which I was constantly catching my feet in! I have actually tripped myself over and nearly broken several peripherals as I have gotten up from my desk with wires wrapped around my ankles. That needed sorting.

Also wiring related was the number of loose cables I had all over the top of the desk. I have so many gadgets scattered around - and they are all wired - that I often got tangled up while gaming. It was not an uncommon thing for me to 'die' in a game because my mouse wire had got knotted up with some other device... On those occasions, the air was heavily laden with expletives.

Step 1: Repairing My Desk
My trusty old desk is a cheap flatpack 'veneered chipboard in mock 'pine'. It's been with me for nigh on 15 years and has been put together and taken apart again and again, and as a result has been bashed about and chipped. So, job number one is for me to repair some of the chips and dents so that I can begin with a pristine piece of furniture...

Desk edge repair
Some of the worst damage to my desk is right at the front edge and so very obvious and, therefore,
I'm going to fill in and sand these dinks so I get a nice sharp edge again.

Cheaper than buying a new desk, I filled in all the big gauges that had accrued over the years using Milliput putty. This is great stuff as it dries very hard and can be sanded smooth. So, once I had a nice sharp edge again I could spray this my chosen colour and the desk should look new-ish again...

I'd decided to go with black for my 'new' desk as I wanted a 'blackout' look to my computing area (everything black so that when the lights were out I had few visual distractions). However, I did not want to spray paint the whole desk as that would be expensive, time-consuming and messy. While I would spray paint my repaired edge I would be covering the rest of the desk surface with vinyl plastic...


Sorry about the quality of photos, by the way, my attic is a bit dark and I was using my iPhone for the snaps! Hopefully, you can still make out what's going on...

Rectangular Cabel Grommit
160 x 80 Black metal desk cable tidy outlet. (Amazon, set of 4, £8.49.)

Anyway, satisfied with my desk's new edge I had installed some access panels in the top so I could thread my peripheral cabling though.

I would buy several sizes and shapes of these cable 'grommets' and fit them all over my desk to make threading wires a lot easier. To do this involved a lot of drilling of holes and this turned out to be a bit of a pain and required a special drill bit for the round-shaped grommets.

Additionally, and very much typically, my desk turned out to be made of bullet-proof compressed chipboard! Honestly, it was really solid and took ages for me to drill and saw through, even with the proper tools...

Desk cabling grommets
View from underneath my desk. Here I have fitted two different types of cable grommets, a
rectangular 'letterbox' type for my desk surface and a round plastic version for plugs sockets.

You'll notice that in the above picture - showing a couple of grommet installations - that I did not bother to paint or cover the underneath of my desk at this point. I decided that I would quickly spray the vertical back panel black once I had test fitted its grommets, but I was not going to bother covering the underneath of the desk surface itself as nobody was going to see that!

Step 2: Painting and Covering My Desk
As mentioned, I decided to go with a black desk, but also wanted a nice wood grain effect on the top. So I bought some JLCorp Matte Black Grain Wood Textured Self-Adhesive Contact Paper Vinyl Film from Amazon for this. I could have got something similar locally, but not the width I wanted. Even so, the sheet was still not big enough to cover the whole desktop in one go so I had to lay it in two strips and hope the join wasn't obvious...

Again, sorry about the quality of the photos.

This stuff really has a beautiful fake wood grain on it and it has really smartened up my old desk. Ones stuck down I re-installed my grommets and continued drilling holes elsewhere in my desk. Everywhere else I wanted black I just sprayed with Wilko's Satin Acrylic spray paint, it was a bit smelly (had to have the windows wide open) but it was very quick.

Desk Upgrade - Drilling Cable Holes
Having the right tools for the job is always advisable. Even so, cutting the round holes in my
chipboard desk was a bit of a grind. If you decide to do this I would suggest you use a proper
wired drill or a high-powered professional battery drill. My cheapo 18v made this hard!

Step 3: Fitting the Wiring System
An important part of this project was that I wanted a proper cable tidy system. I got completely fed up of getting my feet knotted in loose hanging USB cables and pulling stuff over. Although I have decided - finally - to go down the wireless route when and where I can this will be a long term project (due to the expense) so in the meantime, I am making sure all the cables I have are neatly laid and securely tucked away.

Desk Upgrade - Cable Tray
Ikea SIGNUM Cable Duct Horizontal, Silver Metal Clips, Grey, 86 x 21 x 5 cm

The centrepiece of my cable tidying strategy was the purchase of a cable duct - a sort of wire cradle for keeping all the wires which run the length of my desk from hanging down untidily. There are a lot of different designs of these ducts and as it turned out I sorta went for one of the larger ones and this particular purchase decision would come back to haunt me later. So - TIP! Measure up your desk in detail and match it to the purchases you make. Amazon lists dimensions so you should be able to get a fair idea about fit before you actually purchase... I wish I had! :)

Anyhoo... At least the thing was very easy to fit and I did like the open wire construction which would allow me to weave cables in and out of the cradle at any point along its length. I was originally going to spray this cradle black to help hide it, but as it tuned out it wasn't actually silver - as it looks in the pictures - but actually, a gun-metal grey, which I liked so I left it unpainted.

PC Desk Project - Cable Tidy System

With all my cable tidying bits and bobs fitted I then sprayed the desk's back panel black and attached the electrical socket extension. I went for a large eight-socket extension (I could have gone 10) and wired it's cable back through a round grommet so I could stick it up on the back of the panel using some little self-adhesive 'hooks' so that the cable was hidden.

I decided to mount the socket extension front-facing so as to make plugging and unplugging convenient, but there was actually plenty of space behind the desk panel for me to have mounted it behind instead. I'm still mulling over whether I actually should have done this. Hmmmmm...

...And Pause!
And that's about as far as I was able to go at this point in time. I was going to start wiring up my gadgets BUT sudden;y realised that I had more USB devices than I had USB ports on my PC!

Now I did have a nice USB 3.0 powered hub, but this only had five ports in it and I calculated that I really needed seven. This was a by-product of my opting for some desktop 'mood lighting' with extra LED strips and accessories. But it means that I now have to pay out for a good 7-10 port USB hub and they ain't cheap...

So, sadly, I had to pause here while I waited for the next payday - as Christmas was nearly upon us and I just couldn't justify splashing out £20-30 when I still had pressies to buy! This also meant that my original plan to 'have this done by Christmas' was blown out the water and that the job would now stretch into 2020! Ah well...

Next: I continue with my wiring and think about some other little additions to my PC 'workspace'.