How to Build a Desk with 1 Plywood Sheet

A plywood desk on saw horses
What You'll Need
Tape measure
10'x5' sheet of 3/4 inch thick plywood
Cloth rag
Paint and stain
Wood glue
Pneumatic nail gun and nails
Corner clamps
Circular saw
Kreg jig and screws
Eye protection
Personal protective gear as needed.

Creating a desk from a single sheet of plywood may sound like a reach, but if you have a plan and stick to it, you can make this simple structure in two short sessions. This guide will show you the basic approach to making a simple plywood desk from scratch.

Not all types of plywood will be great for this job. A 10x5 sheet of plywood with a thickness of 3/4 inches is a good starting place. The 3/4 inch thickness is the important part—using lighter plywood might make your desk unstable.

Step 1 - Measure and Cut The Pieces

Using your tape measure and pencil, measure and mark the plywood into segments. The aim is to subdivide the plywood into seven surfaces and four legs, creating a basic open cabinet structure with two dividers.

The pieces should include a top and bottom, a back, two sides, two spacers, and four legs. You can choose any relative dimensions you prefer. It's easiest to match the top and bottom, sides, and dividers to each other, with the back as wide as the top and bottom, and as tall as the sides plus the thickness of the top and bottom. If you have enough material, double up each of the legs for added strength.

Mark both sides of the wood for an easier time cutting. Once you have your pieces drawn, it's time to slice. If you have access to a circular saw, that's a good tool for this task. Cut on an even, elevated surface and follow the straight lines as precisely as possible.

a circular saw next to a piece of wood

Step 2 - Sand and Paint The Pieces

Once you've divided up your material, give it a light sanding, paying special attention to any jagged edges. Smooth out any sharp spots, but don't sand so hard you start interfering with the measurements.

Wipe the surfaces down with a rag to clear any sawdust, then paint or stain depending on your preferences. Some people like a few pieces to be a different color from the rest of the desk for visual flair.

After staining the plywood, spread them out in the sun to dry. Depending on the product you used, this may take up to 24 hours.

Step 3 - Prepare For Assembly

When all seven pieces are dry, make the final preparations for assembly. Mark all the spots that need screws and nails using your pencil. For a clean look to your connections, you can use a Kreg jig to add pocket holes on each spot.

a kreg jig on a cutting table

Step 4 - Assemble The Pieces

Assemble the cubby before adding the legs. First, apply a thin line of glue along the back of the top piece and the back piece. Attach the top and the back pieces precisely and use the clamp to keep them in position.

Attach the other pieces using nails, or screws. A pneumatic nail gun is a helpful tool for this phase. After adding the side pieces and the crossbars, you should end up with a cabinet-like box.

Step 4 - Finish The Edges

To make a smooth final touch to your cubby, attach some plywood faces to the edges using glue—press hard for them to stick.

Step 5 - Attach the Legs

For maximum stability, affix the legs using deck screws.