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Book Holder for a Styrofoam Desk
When you need to refer to a small book while working on your Styrofoam desk, use big document clips—even ones with weights fastened to them to hold open the book. Or use a clipboard-type copyholder that's fastened to the end of a spring-loaded arm.

Bigger books will have difficulty fitting on the desk while the laptop is there, and may not stay open. So your best bet may be to build yourself a book holder.

To make a book holder, get 2 pieces of high-grade 11-inch by 9-inch plywood ¼ inch thick, a few scraps of ¾-inch plywood, a couple of feet of 2-inch by ½-inch peel-and-stick medium soft rubber tape/belt/strip (or whatever you call it) from a rubber products house, a clothes hanger, a couple of pieces of ¾-inch by ¾-inch molding 9 inches long, and a selection of flathead wood screws.

Cut a bracer out of the ¾-inch plywood 7 inches by 2 inches but with a V cut from one side so that the ends stay 2 inches but the middle is only 1 inch wide. (Hint: cut the V out of an edge of the scrap piece of plywood before cutting the 2-inch by 7-inch piece with this V in the middle.)

Cut a 7 ½-inch by 11-inch piece of the ¾-inch plywood and use the 7-inch-with-a-V bracer above as a model to make a V on one of the 11-inch sides of this newer bracer. The V should have the same 144-degree angle as the 7-incher, but make the V 11 inches wide and extending to each corner. (Hint: make the angle 144 degrees using a protractor, or simply draw lines so that the bracer ends stay 7 ½ inches wide but the width of the board at the V is only 6 inches.)

Screw (with countersinking) the two V-board bracers to the ¼-inch rectangular plywood pieces whose 11-inch edges will meet at the Vs like an open book. Make sure you fasten the 7-inch bracer 2 inches from one edge and the 11-inch bracer 3 ½ inches from the other edge. Screw the molding to the bottom of the 9-inch edges nearest the 7-inch V.

Cut off the twisted part of the clothes hanger with a big Vice Grip or hacksaw and vice and bend it so it's straight and cut it off so it's 20 inches long. Make a 1.3-inch-wide 180-degree turn in the middle of the wire so that the wire is a tall U shape. Three inches from the bottom of the U, bend the parallel wires 100 degrees. Four inches from the bend you just made, or 7 inches from the bottom of the U, bend the parallel wires 90 degrees toward the U. Using a vice and a needle-nose pliers, bend the ends of the wires into eyes through which will fit a small bolt.

Take 5 inches of the peel-and-stick rubber and peel it, then fold it over the end of the wire 180-degree loop so it sticks to itself—compress it hard so it won't come loose. You've just padded the end of the wire "hook."

Drill two holes through the ¾-inch plywood to accommodate the bolts. Make them 1.5 inches apart and near the back right corner of the 11-inch V when you're looking at the book holder from the front. Bolt the wire "hook" onto the top of the corner of the 11-inch V in such a way that the wire goes down across the back edge of the ¾-inch plywood and curls under this plywood once it's 3.5 inches below it.

Now find the back left corner of the 7-inch V when you're looking at the book holder from the front. You need to pad this corner with a double layer of the peel-and-stick rubber. Cut a piece of rubber around 6 inches, bend it over the edge so the rubber's ends are flush with the back of the ¼-inch plywood, and trim it shorter until it's a tight wraparound. Peel and stick. Now do it again, adding a layer to the first rubber strip. Don't start with 6 inches but 8 or more instead.

Now let's study how to use the contraption. Put the Styrofoam desk on the floor with the points of the legs facing you and with the book holder on it with the hook under the back underside of the desktop at the intersection of the desk's left leg and the underside of the desktop. Place the holder at an odd angle on the desk for best viewing. Keep in mind that the holder will be on a desktop that's tilted toward you quite a bit, when in actual use. The back left corner of the 11-inch V will overhang the left side of the desktop about 3.5 inches, and the front left side of the holder will overhang the front of the desktop considerably.

This holder worked for me for years—you may need to change it in order to adapt it to your special needs. The wire hook can be on the other side, which would mean that the double-layer rubber strips under the left side of the 7-inch V will have to be on the right. You may need some sort of clip on the top of either side of the holder's ¼-inch plywood top to keep pages from turning.
Building a Book Holder
Book Holder for a Styrofoam Desk
Book Holder for a Styrofoam Desk