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Building a Styrofoam Desk for Your Armchair
Building a Styrofoam Desk for Your Armchair
Building a Styrofoam Desk for Your Armchair
The problem with putting a computer on your lap is that it's somewhat bouncy and unstable, it's farther from your eyes than most close glasses are set for, the Masonite board or other flat surface is a hassle, there's no place to put your work or trackball or a book, and you're straining your neck forward enough to make it uncomfortable. But these problems will melt away like ice on a hot griddle if you make a Styrofoam desk.

A Styrofoam desk is as wide as a plush recliner chair with padded armrests and it rests on this half-reclined chair's armrests when in use (usually with the leg rest up). It holds a laptop, your work (papers), a trackball, and even a
book holder if you wish.

When you need to get up you simply move the laptop, first, and then other desk material onto a side table or shelf right next to your recliner, then lift the desk off the armrests with one hand as you're unreclining the chair with the side handle with the other hand. Once the chair is upright, you'll continue the forward motion, pushing yourself toward standing with the handle-pulling hand as you stand and put the desk back on the armrests.

Don't worry, a Styrofoam desk weighs little and holding it with one hand is nothing. Getting back to work on the recliner is simply the reverse of this process.

If your bad back needs you to push out of the chair with both hands, then instead of holding the desk as you stand, set it down at the side of the chair first.

You can have the armrests and desk tilted back at a surprising angle without anything slipping on the desktop. The reason is because you'll get a piece of -inch thick rubber mat material 1 foot by 3 feet at your local rubber products supply house for your desktop surface. It's smooth on one side and has little bumps on the other and the bumpy side absolutely resists anything sliding on it, whether laptop, trackball, or papers.

Keep in mind that even though paper won't slide off this stuff, paper will slide on itself, so keep a clip on the bottom of such a stack, or put only a page at a time on the rubber.

Or you could try another tactic which I used successfully for years: at a stationery get a clipboard-type copyholder that's fastened to the end of a spring-loaded arm, and anchor this arm on a shelf or table next to the chair in such a way that the whole assembly pivots out of the way when not needed.

Incidentally, when you want a recliner part way down but not all the way, put it about 6 inches from the wall when fully upright, and when you're reclining it with the handle, it will stop against the wall before completing its recline. I found a neck pillow essential here, properly placed so when you look at your laptop screen your neck isn't strained.

To move on to desk building, get a 1 foot by three foot piece of 2-inch Styrofoam and
Tacky Glue the rubber to it after filing the corners slightly with a file so they're slightly rounded. Then get 6 pieces of 2-inch Styrofoam 18 inches long by 6 inches wide.

A handsaw or electric kitchen knife will cut the stuff, but wear goggles and a dust mask and be prepared to vacuum a lot of static-prone little Styrofoam particles off everything, including your clothes.

Still using Tacky, glue the 18-inch pieces on top of each other in two stacks of three. Let these desk legs dry for 24 hours, then mark the 18-inch sides of the legs diagonally from the 12-inch mark at the top of the stack to the 18-inch mark at the corner of the bottom of the stack. Cut the diagonals off so that these legs are 12 inches deep at the top and 18 inches deep at the bottom. Trim off the sharp lower corner so that the new depth is 17 inches.

Sit on the chair with these legs on the armrests (sharp point toward you) and put the desktop on them, using a Sharpie to mark the intersections of top and legs, once you're happy with the positioning. Glue the legs under the top and then glue pieces of 6-inches-wide, very soft -inch foam on the sharp side of each leg all the way up to the desk's top to prevent shedding. Also because of shedding, duct tape the sharp corners.

Sit in the chair with it reclined as much as you need it to be and see where (or even if) it will bump against your torso and mark the bottom edge of the desktop accordingly. Now see where your wrists/arms will touch the edge of the rubber desktop and mark the top edges accordingly right where the rubber meets the Styrofoam. Get a half-moon file and serrated kitchen knife and round off the marked edges until they're comfy. The edges against the rubber are harder to work with, but you'll like the edges filed or cut a bit so that the rubber which rests on the Styrofoam here will sink a bit and give your arms a break. Smooth off any Styrofoam rough spots and if any part of the desk sheds annoyingly in the future simply brush on some Tacky Glue and let it dry.
Building a Styrofoam Desk