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New Workbench - Roll Top Desk Conversion

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Sticks
(@sticks)
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Project Introduction

I currently have two outbuildings that I use as workshops for projects of many different types. From car and truck mechanical repairs to word working and metal work projects, my sheds have many tools and lots of space to keep me busy.

What I don't have is an electronics workbench inside my house. When I want to dabble with one of my many ideas, I have to set up my "development lab" on the dining room table and clear it away afterwards. It has become a pain and the real issue is that it actually provides a disincentive to get back to my projects in progress.

My wife has donated an old Roll Top Desk for me to repurpose as she no longer uses it. Thanks to everything being online these days, who sits at a home desk anymore unless they're working from home?

It's a beautiful piece of furniture so I want to honour it by not desecrating it too much. So I need to show respect to it by not modifying any more than absolutely necessary and doing so in a way where any modifications are hidden from view.

Project Aim

To repurpose an unused Roll Top Desk as an electronics projects workbench.

Design Basics

  • Install a desktop PC for software design and uploading to microcontroller boards.
  • Provide storage for reusable basic electronic components and development boards.
  • Access the Internet through a Wireless connection to the home router.
  • Provide a flat clean surface for Solderless Breadboard project design.
  • Install multiple Power Supply points for use in Solderless Breadboard designs.
  • Bring USB Ports from Desktop out to an easily accessible place.
  • OPTIONAL: Incorporate a basic oscilloscope into the design (if space and budget constraints allow).

Hardware

  • Donated Roll Top Desktop.
  • A Windows Based Desktop PC (To be Purchased).
  • Multiple 240V to DC Power Supply units (To be Purchased or DIY Build).
  • Storage Units (To be Purchased).
  • DIY Build a flat control panel with switches, USB port access and gauges.

Software

  • Windows 8 (or newer).
  • Install Arduino IDE on Desktop.
101   Closed
102   Open

 


   
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Sticks
(@sticks)
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The work space available is fairly limited as it is not a large desk by any means. Also, as you can see in the second image above, inside the roll top is a set of shelves that I thought I was going to have to butcher.

Luckily for me, the shelves were actually built as a separate unit and inserted into the desk. They were fitted so well that to look at them you would think that they were part of the desk. They were designed and built perfectly... millimetre perfect in fact.

So I have to take my hat off to the craftsman that built this desk. It was actually built decades ago by my wife's ex husband who was an excellent carpenter. He really was a truly gifted artist when it came to working with wood.

So I have easily been able to remove the shelves and place them on top of the desk. They not only fit perfectly but will continue life as perfectly functional storage. They also still look good as well.

201   1 Shelves

So in the end I now have a small workspace to work with that measures approximately (and forgive me for using metric, but that's what we use down under) 850mm (W) x 520mm (D) x 280mm (H).

202   1 Workspace

I think I can work with that.


   
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ron bentley
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@sticks

looks like a neat and very practical project and, again, I think it is great that you set down your project objectives at the outset - we do not see enough of this approach!

Good luck and keep us updated on progress.

Regards

Ron B

Ron Bentley
Creativity is an input to innovation and change is the output from innovation. Braden Kelley
A computer is a machine for constructing mappings from input to output. Michael Kirby
Through great input you get great output. RZA
Gauss is great but Euler rocks!!


   
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Will
 Will
(@will)
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@sticks 

Wow, that's a beautiful roll-top desk.

I hope you're planning on getting a large silicone mat to protect the finish, it'd be a shame to destroy that desktop with hot solder 🙂

Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.


   
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Sticks
(@sticks)
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Thanks @ronbentley1 and @will

I won't be doing any soldering at this workspace, Will... for the exact reason you highlighted. I'll only be doing development and design work here with solderless breadboards and microprocessor boards. Once I have my design, I'll move to the soldering process out to one of my sheds... which are far more appropriate areas for hot work. 

That said, I'm still putting down a thin white masonite board on the desktop... and looking into an antistatic mat on top of that.

Protecting the integrity of the woodwork is my highest priority on this project. 


   
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Sticks
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Well it's was Mailbag day yesterday.

I purchased a rebuilt Dell Optiplex 9010 Core i7 16GB small form factor desktop PC on eBay. The price was AUD$198 but with a coupon I paid a little less for it... $183 with free delivery.

It came with a 500GB sata hard drive which is more than enough space for my project development files. As the PC will be installed into the desk, it's only purpose is development of microprocessor code... so I feel confident that will be more than enough.

It also came with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed. As I was always going to buy an older second hand PC, this is probably more than I was expecting to be running as the OS.

The downside is the ex-office rebuilt PC came with no network card. So I had to shell out another $65 for a MSI Herald AX210NGW card. I have installed it and for the Wifi connection up and running (I'm posting this from the PC now actually) but the Bluetooth functionality has failed. I've logged a call with online support about that.

It is a bit of a bugger as to help with the limited workspace available in the desk, I have purchased a cheap $20 mini keyboard with touchpad. It of course needs Bluetooth to connect... but if I don't have any luck with the support desk, I'll buy a Bluetooth dongle.

So for about AUD$270, the system details are:

  • Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-3770 CPU @ 3.40GHz 3.40 GHz
  • 4 Cores 8 Threads
  • 16.0 GB (15.9 GB usable)
  • Windows 10 Pro (64-bit operating system, x64-based processor)

That should be my development PC sorted.


   
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Sticks
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The Bluetooth dongles arrived yesterday... worth noting that they arrived from China before I heard anything back from my support call.

I actually purchased five dongles. They were like a buck each... so why would you just buy one? lol

I have just plugged it into the Dell development desktop and it worked straight away. I also entered the BIOS setting on the PC and changed the power management settings so that the PC will startup automatically when 240V power is returned.

The idea being that I can now hide the mounted box somewhere within the desk out of sight. I can wire the AC mains cable to a switch on the control board to turn on the PC when required. I will also use USB extension cables to bring the PCs USB ports up to the control board as well.

The PC does have a DVD drive. I have considered access to it but decided not to worry. With network access now working, the DVD drive seems redundant.

So know I have my development desktop with mini VGA screen and mini keyboard/touchpad ready for installation into the desk. I am thinking that the mini tower can be mounted inside the footwell of the desk up on the underside of the desk surface. If I mount it towards the rear of the desk, then it will clear my legs and should have sufficient air flow for cooling. 

Next step... Scaryville. Time to drill holes in that beautiful timber. I will have to crack a tinnie or two while doing it... to pay homage in a truly respectful way.

20221112 184504

 


   
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