How to Build a Monitor Riser

  • 01 of 10

    Build a Riser for Your Monitors

    Computer Monitor Riser with dovetailed drawers
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    Ergonomics are changing the way that companies are setting up their offices today. One issue that a number of very tall people face when they are seated at their desks is they have to look downward at their monitor.

    We've got a much better solution than propping your monitor up on books or a cardboard box. We've built a beautiful hardwood computer monitor riser that sits under one or two monitors to raise them up over five inches! Additionally, the unit includes two very useful dovetailed drawers that are large enough to hold magazines or papers. You could even use it to raise a television a few inches higher in your living room or bedroom.

    To complete these computer monitor riser plans, we used maple for the visible parts of the unit with poplar for the carcase and drawers. However, oak or another desirable hardwood would work well for the exterior, as would pine for the interior parts.

    This woodworking project will really show off your skills as a craftsman and is one you'll be proud to display for years and years.

    About This Project

    • Woodworking: Moderate
    • Finishing: Stain and polyurethane
    • Time to complete: 12-15 Hours

    Recommended Tools

    • Miter Saw or circular saw
    • Table saw or radial arm saw with dado Set
    • Cordless or corded power drill
    • Plate joiner
    • Router with 3/4" roundover bit
    • Dovetail jig and router bits

    Materials Needed

    • 15' of 1x6: Maple or oak
    • 7' of 1x4: Maple or oak
    • 24' of 1x4: Poplar or pine
    • 2 square feet of 1/4" plywood
    • 2 drawer handles
    • Pencil
    • Woodworker's glue
    • 1-inch wood screws
    • 1-5/8-inch wood screws
    • Finish nails
    • Stain color of choice
    • Polyurethane
    • Sandpaper
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  • 02 of 10

    Begin With the Drawers

    Cut the Dovetails in the Drawer Sides
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    The first step is to build the dovetailed drawers for the project, so we can set them aside for the glue on the joints to dry while we construct the carcase.

    For the drawers, you'll need four pieces of poplar (or pine) at 14" and another four pieces at 10 3/4" in length. All eight pieces should be ripped to a 3" width.

    Once you have the stock cut and ripped to size, you'll want to put construct the dovetails. Following the instructions in the owner's manual, set up the dovetailing jig of choice. 

    Cut the tails in the 14" pieces, followed by the pins in the 10 3/4" pieces of stock. Be sure to dry-fit the pieces together to make sure you have a tight fit (without being too tight).

    Tip: It is always better to take a little less off of the pins in the first pass than to take too much on the first pass and end up with loose-fitting dovetails. You can always re-adjust your dovetail jig (if necessary) and make another pass at the pins.

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  • 03 of 10

    Complete the Drawer Assembly

    Assemble the Drawers
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    When the drawer sides all fit together nicely, mark the inside of each piece with a pencil to denote each piece's relation to the other pieces, then disassemble the drawer parts.

    Next, we'll be cutting the groove for the drawer bottoms in the sides. You could perform this task with a stacked dado set in your table saw, but this would make the ends of the grooves visible in some of the completed dovetail joints.

    A more attractive solution is to install a 1/4" straight-cutting bit in the router in your router table. Set the fence 1/4" away from the bit, and make a pencil mark on the fence (perpendicular to the table) 1/2" on either side of the bit.

    Turn on the router and position the stock, angled so that the back of the piece rests on the table, but the front of the piece is just above the bit at the first mark. Ease the stock down onto the bit, then move the piece forward to the second mark. Lift the stock off of the bit, and you have a clean groove that doesn't cut through the completed dovetails.

    Next, cut the 1/4" thick plywood (for the drawer bottom) into two pieces 9-11/16" x 12-15/16". This should leave 1/16" space in the grooves to allow for expansion when the unit is completed.

    Now that all of the parts are ready for assembly, give each piece an initial sanding. It will be easier to sand the drawer now than after it is completed.

    Begin the assembly by attaching the front and back to one of the side pieces. Place a small amount of glue on all surfaces of each dovetail joint, and slip them together. Next, slide the drawer bottom into the grooves of the partially assembled drawer (no glue on the drawer bottom). Finally, attach the second drawer side (with glue) to finish the assembly.

    Place the assembly in clamps and cross-measure diagonally to check the unit for square. Allow the assembly to dry overnight.

    Continue to 4 of 10 below.
  • 04 of 10

    Prepare the Parts for the Carcase

    Cutting half-laps for the carcase
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    While the drawers are in the clamps, we'll move onto the carcase and the top of the computer monitor riser.

    Cut three pieces of hardwood 1x6 to 27" in length (we'll trim them to size later). If you have a jointer, you should joint each edge to ensure that they are perfectly flat. Then, line the three pieces side by side, alternating the end grain, and place a mark across the joints every six inches for biscuits. Cut the biscuit joints at the marks in each piece using your plate joiner.

    Apply some glue in each slot and add biscuits, then clamp the entire assembly together and allow to dry.

    For the carcase, you'll need four pieces of poplar (or pine) at 24-1/2" and four at 12-1/4" in length, all ripped to 2-1/2" in width. You'll also need two pieces at 12-1/4" in length, ripped to 3-1/2" width for the center slats.

    We'll be creating two identical frames using half-lap joinery, one for the top of the carcase and another for the bottom. When completed, each frame will resemble a square figure-eight.

    Begin with one of the 24-1/2" pieces. Make a center mark 12-1/4" in from the end, then measure 1-3/4" each direction from that center mark and scribe a line square to the length of the stock. Scribe another line 2-1/2" in from each end. These marks denote the material that will be removed for the half-laps. Repeat these marks on the other three longboards.

    On each of the six remaining boards, you prepared earlier in this step, scribe a square line 2-1/2" in from each end. Again, this denotes the stock that will be removed to create the half-laps.

    Set up your radial arm or table saw with a stacked dado set, using a few chippers in the middle (the width of cut will only affect the number of passes you'll need to make to create the half laps). Set the depth of cut to exactly half the thickness of the stock you're preparing to cut.

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  • 05 of 10

    Begin the Carcase Assembly

    Assemble the Carcase
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    Cut the half-lap joints according to the scribe lines on each part. Test the joints to ensure that you have the appropriate depth and width on your cuts.

    We'll need a few more pieces before we can begin assembly. Cut two pieces of maple (or oak) at 14-1/4" long, ripped to 3" width. Then, cut two pieces of poplar (or pine) to 13-1/2" long, ripped to 3" width.

    As with the drawers, it would be a good idea to do some initial sanding on all of the parts of the carcase before assembly. Some parts will not need sanding, but the interior of the carcase where the drawers will slide will need to be smooth, and it will be difficult to do after the carcase is assembled.

    To assemble the carcase, you'll need a few scrap pieces of stock (we used some old 3/4" plywood from a scrap pile). Beginning with the five parts of one of the frames (that you cut in the previous step), apply a small amount of glue to each of the half laps in the two long pieces and spread it around evenly throughout the joint. Set these two pieces into their approximate positions, on top of the scrap stock. Then, fit each of the three adjoining pieces into place and wipe off any initial glue run-out.

    Cross-measure diagonally to check the unit for square. Then, using a drill bit with a countersink, drill a couple of pilot holes through each of the four corner joints, 3/8" in along the 12-1/4" edge, and affix to the scrap using 1" screws.

    After those eight screws are inserted, mark a centerline 12-1/4" from the end along each 24-1/2" side to denote the center of the unit, and countersink a hole 3/8" on each side of the centerline (one pair of holes in each of the two center half laps). Again, use 1" screws to secure to the scrap through these holes. Wipe off any remaining glue run-out and set aside to dry. Complete the second frame in precisely the same manner.

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  • 06 of 10

    Complete the Assembly of the Carcase

    Clamping the center piece
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    After the glue dries, remove the screws from the outer half laps of one of the two frames. Set the scrap wood you used for the backing aside.

    Stand one of the 14-1/4" pieces of hardwood on edge and align it with one of the short sides of the frame. Put the other 14-1/4" hardwood piece in place on the opposite edge to keep the frame parallel with the table. Set the two pieces so they are flush with what will become the back of the frame (they should protrude out of the front of the frame by 2").

    Using the same bit you used to affix the frame to the scrap, drill through the counterbored holes on the perimeter of the frame into the vertical pieces and affix them with 1-5/8" screws.

    Next, remove the screws from the center half-laps. Align the two 13-1/2" pieces side by side, one on each side of the centerline, flush with the back of the unit (protruding 1-1/4" out the front side). Again, these should match up with the screw holes from the center half-laps. Pre-drill and affix with 1-5/8" screws.

    Now, flip the entire unit over and attach the opposite frame in exactly the same manner. The carcase will now be complete.

    At this point, we'll begin to add some hardwood trim pieces to the carcase. Cut two pieces of hardwood to 24-1/2" long by 2" wide. These two pieces will be attached to the top and bottom of the carcase at the front of the unit, right next to the frames. Align them flush with the front and sides of the side standards, then pre-drill and counterbore pilot holes before attaching to the carcase.

    Lastly, before we can add the hardwood skin to the unit, we need to affix a trim piece to the center standards. Cut a piece of hardwood 3" in length by 1-1/2" in width. Simply glue this piece to the two center standards and hold in place with a clamp, as shown in the picture above.

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  • 07 of 10

    Add Hardwood Sides to the Assembly

    Mitered Butt Joint
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    With the carcase complete, we'll skin the sides and back with hardwood. Cut two pieces of hardwood to 16" in length and another to 26". Rip all three pieces to match the completed height of the assembled carcase, which should be exactly 4-1/2".

    These three pieces of stock will connect to each other using mitered butt joints. Miter a 45-degree crosscut on the back and one of the sides, and then put them into place on the carcase to ensure that they fit properly. When you have a clean mitered butt joint, mark the opposite end of the back piece for the miter, and repeat the process on the other side.

    When both miters are perfect, cut the two side pieces to length and attach to the carcase using finish nails.

    At this point, it would be a good idea to test the drawers in the carcase. Remove the drawers from the clamps, and slide them into and out of the carcase. If there is any impingement at any points, be sure to mark them on the drawer, as you can adjust this with a sander later.

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  • 08 of 10

    Trim the Table Top to Length

    Trim the top of the table to length
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    Remove the clamps from the tabletop assembly (assuming, of course, that it has dried overnight).

    Using a clamp-on straight edge and a circular saw with a sharp finishing blade, trim one end of the unit square to the long edges of the top, as shown in the picture.

    Then, measure 25-1/4" from this cut edge, and trim the top to length using the straight edge and circular saw.

    Measure the width of the tabletop, and if it exceeds 15" in width, trim an even amount off of each side so that it meets the final 15" width.

    We also need to prepare the drawer fronts for final assembly. Cut two pieces of clean 1x6 hardwood to 12-1/8" x 4".

    Sand both the tabletop and the drawer fronts, as once again, it is easier to sand before assembly.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Ease the Edges

    Ease the Edges
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    Before we can perform some final assembly, we'll need to ease the edges of some of the hardwood pieces. To perform this step, put a 3/4" roundover bit equipped with a roller-bearing guide on the tip into your router in your router table. We won't want to use the entire profile of this bit, as we're only looking to ease the edges, rather than round them over completely.

    Set the depth of the bit so that the roller bearing guide rides just barely above the middle of the piece of stock. Use a scrap piece of 1x4 or 1x6, and ease both sides of one edge of the scrap. Adjust the depth of the bit until you've found an edge that you like.

    We'll begin by easing the edges of the tabletop of the computer monitor riser. Lay the tabletop flat on the router table and ease the edge all the way around the tabletop, before flipping the top over and easing the opposite edge, once again, all the way around the tabletop.

    Next, ease only one edge of the two drawer fronts. You'll only want the front edge eased as opposed to both the front and back, as this will look better in the finished assembly.

    Finally, you'll need to create a piece of molding for trim. Find a piece of 1x6 or 1x4 leftover from the other cuts, that is at least six inches in length (we'll trim it to width in a minute). Ease both sides of one of the 6" edges of this piece.

    With the edges of this trim piece eased, rip the eased edge of the board to 3/4". This creates a 3/4" piece of trim that will be attached to conceal the end grains of the two side skins attached to the carcase.

    Cut two 3" long pieces out of this trim piece, and attach to the two side skins with glue and finish nails. Because of the chance of splitting the trim piece when nailing to the unit, pre-drill a very small pilot hole in the trim piece for each nail before attaching.

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  • 10 of 10

    Final Assembly and Finishing

    Attach the drawer hardware
    The Spruce / Chris Baylor

    In the final step, we'll attach the top and the drawer fronts, sand and finish the unit, and finally attach the drawer handles.

    Begin by turning the carcase upside down. With changes in the environment, the tabletop may expand or shrink across the grain, so we'll want to attach it in a manner that allows for movement. Reach through the open sections of the bottom frame and drill an elongated hole for a 1" screw in each of the four corners. The hole should be elongated so that the top can move if expansion occurs across the grain.

    Move the carcase out of the way and place the tabletop on the work surface, face down. Put the carcase on the tabletop and align it so that the reveal on all four sides is equal. Attach the tabletop with a 1" screw through each of the four elongated holes.

    Next, to attach the drawer fronts to the drawers, turn the carcase over, put the drawers into the unit and place the fronts in position. Then reach underneath the carcase and slide the drawer out (through the opening in the bottom frame) while holding the front in place. Clamp the front to the drawer assembly and then attach it permanently with two 1" screws.

    At this point, the woodworking is complete. You'll want to sand the entire unit thoroughly, using progressively finer grits of sandpaper. As always, complete the sanding with a hand sanding for a perfect finish.

    Remove all sawdust with a shop vacuum followed by tack cloth or a clean cloth with denatured alcohol.

    If using Maple or another "soft" hardwood, be sure to use a pre-stain wood conditioner before staining the piece. Use a wood filler to fill the nail holes as well.

    Apply the stain of your choice, and follow it up with a few coats of polyurethane to protect the finish.

    Finally, attach the drawer handles to the drawer fronts and put this piece to good use.