Easy DIY trestle desk

Trestle desks are not only spacious and stylish, they are also easy to make and perfect for any study, studio or student’s room.

desk 1

Do this project over a weekend as a family project. The grown ups can cut and assemble while the kids can stain. The completed desk will cost around R1500 if you buy ready-made trestles, or make your own using PAR pine and save money.


1 solid pine slat door – 32mm thick (new or recycled)
2 pine trestles – 800mm wide (or make your own)
4 PAR pine planks 20 x 69mm, 2400mm length
40 wood screws 5 x 30mm
Wood stain (we used antique oak)
Wood filler (to match colour of stain)
Clear varnish
Wood saw, jigsaw or circular saw
Drill / Driver plus assorted bits
Countersink bit
2, 4 and 6mm drill bits
120- and 240-grit sandpaper
Tape measure and pencil


desk 8


1. To make the shelves: measure and mark two pine planks into six equal pieces 400mm long. Measure and mark a third pine plank into 2 pieces 400mm long and 2 pieces 800mm long. Using a saw, cut the pine planks as marked and sand corners and edges.

desk 2
When sanding the corners fold the sandpaper into three and place on a flat surface. Lightly rub the corners of the plank over the sandpaper. This makes it easier to handle.

desk 3
2. Stain individual planks with wood stain as per the manufacturer’s instructions and allow to dry.

desk 4
3. To assemble the shelves: place seven planks on a flat working surface with 50mm gaps; the overall length of the planks should measure 800mm. Centre the 800mm (single) plank on top and lightly pencil mark its position on the lower planks. Using a 2mm wood bit, drill two holes 30mm deep at the location of each bottom plank position.


4. Remove the 800mm plank and, using the 4mm wood bit, make all the 2mm holes larger and place the plank back into its original position using the pencil marks as a guide. Screw the top plank to the lower planks. Turn over assembly – the shelf is now complete. Repeat steps 4 and 5 to make the second shelf.

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5. Stain testle legs and allow to dry. Adjust the rope on the trestle so that the 400mm-wide shelf is adequately supported.


Wear rubber or disposable gloves when using wood stain.

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6. To form the desktop apron, mark and cut the remaining plank to the length of the door. Sand the edges of the plank.

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7. Measure and mark five equally spaced holes 20mm down from the top edge of the apron plank. Using the 4mm bit, drill countersunk holes through the apron plank. Position the apron on the front edge of door and, use a 2mm bit to drill pilot holes through the pre-drilled holes into the door – ensuring that the top of the apron is flush with the desktop. Screw into postion. Fill any holes with wood filler and sand smooth when dry.

desk 7

Use water-based varnish; it is easy to apply and you can clean the paintbrush under the tap and reuse it for your next DIY project.

8. Sand and stain the completed desktop and allow to dry. Varnish the completed trestle legs, shelves and desktop as per the manufacturer’s instructions and allow to dry.

9. Assemble your trestle desk, then stand back and admire your handywork. Be prepared to spend future weekends helping your friends make one for themselves!


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