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When It’s Too Expensive, DIY (a Keyboard Tray)

Like almost every room in our home, over time, we find that there are things we need, things we didn’t need after all, and, of course, things we’d like to have. But no matter what, we always find ourselves needing a solution for just a smidge more space. As you can imagine, the studio was no exception.

Even if I’m not painting, I’ll work from the painting table. I hide my drop cloth in Skar, keep my portrait supplies on the shelves, and I’ll bring my laptop from it’s resting place on the fauxdenza to my larger table. I strategize my portraits for the week, catch up on my accounting, and wrap up any bloggie loose ends.

Lately, though, I’ve felt as if the fauxdenza (also dubbed the task station) has been under utilized. If it’s the kind of day that I’m up and about, running between the studio and kitchen, the kitchen and back patio and the patio back to the studio (yes, those days happen!), I’ll often stick to working from the faux – erm, task station, if only for its eas(ier) access to the door.

A few weeks ago, I realized things would make much more sense if we added a pull-out drawer to the fauxdenza – a keyboard tray of sorts – to allow extra space for my laptop and drawing tablet. If we did so, I’d also be able to tuck everything away during my shipping process – a process that uses every single surface in this whole room. (It’s like a tissue paper, brown-box, label printing bonanza.)

Thinking I could easily buy one on Amazon, further research proved that keyboard trays are f*ing expensive! We had 36″ of width to play with, and – you guessed it – we wanted to utilize every last inch of it. The problem was that we only had a 12″ depth. A standard tray had an average depth of at least 14″ and an average cost of $80+ (and that’s on the low end).

So, we made one! And it was easy! Scott ordered these variable height platform slides from Rockler in the 12″ depth, and we picked up a yard of solid, sturdy red oak from Home Depot. After a quick sand to smooth the edges, I painted this guy Behr’s Juicy Passionfruit the same day I prepped our printer station:

A bit of math proved that we could have a tray of 32″ wide, as the slides took up about 1.5″ on each side. We actually had Home Depot cut our 12″d oak to 31″w, so no additional cuts were needed when we got home.

After Scott showed me how our sliders would work (above), we held each side of the slider on the ends of our “tray,” and marked the spots where our screws would go. After pilot holes were drilled…

… we were ready to attach the platform slides:

When it was done, it looked like a keyboard tray I’d buy myself – only, we paid less than $40, it was completely custom to our needs, and it was Juicy Passionfruit!

Scott eyeballed the placement, and I did some quick measurements until it was centered. After quickly marking the spots where it would be screwed into the fauxdenza, Scott secured everything in place.

That’s it! The red oak is sturdy enough for pressure from my elbows, and it’s a great little hiding nook for my laptop when not in use.

I’ve been working and practicing with a drawing tablet, and on those days, I slip my laptop on top of the task station, and I work with the tablet on the tray. (We even scored an external display on Craigslist for a steal, and we’ll eventually mount that to the wall. Nothing will actually lay on the faux-top itself, allowing us to gain precious workspace!)

Similar to our pull-out record player on the media wall, we love the subtle hint of color the tray provides. It mimics Grandma’s chair on the opposite side of the room, and it even picks up on the other orange-y accents on our shelves.

The only downfall we can find (and we’re thinking this should have seemed obvious) is that while the sliders themselves are 12,” the tray does not pull out a full 12.” There’s about 2 inches where the rails overlap with the brackets for stability and safety. We could have counteracted this by installing the entire system a few inches forward under the fauxdenza, but by doing so, the front of the tray would have stuck out. We debated this for a few minutes, but ultimately decided to stick with a flush front (and the loss of inches doesn’t affect my work flow in the least).

I’ve been trying to convince Scott that we need to add a pull-out tray to the painting table, and this room will be bursting with tricks – the rolling printer, our table on casters, a filing cabinet on wheels, and trays pulling out from every which angle – oh, the possibilities!

Where are you finding and adding extra space?

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  • Carrie @DreamGreenDIY7.24.12 - 7:47 AM

    That’s a genius (and lovely) solution!! You guys are the best small space problem solvers…You should write a book =)ReplyCancel

  • EDGE7.24.12 - 9:52 AM

    LOVE THIS! such a great space saver! I have a suggestion to make up for the 2″!

    Add a piece of wood to the front of your tray with piano hinges. That way you get an extra couple of inches and when you push the tray in, you can fold it up and whatever is on your tray is concealed!

    My mom lived in an old farmhouse that had a cutting board like that. When you pulled the knob a 3in “front” folded down and then the cutting board pulled out.

    Just an idea! I’m crazy about your blog fyi :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.24.12 - 9:59 AM

      Carrie, you are so sweet. Thank you!

      Edge, now THAT is genius! Holy cow, seriously. And thank you!ReplyCancel

  • I love this! It’s a great DIY! I love that you personalized it with a pop of color.ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlin7.24.12 - 8:55 PM

    So cute. We needed 12″ deep cabinets for our built-in desks in the guest room, and so I totally understand the frustration and crazy price tag problem. You guys had a genius solution- well done!ReplyCancel

  • Henry8.10.12 - 6:35 PM

    The brackets are $40 with shipping.

    The plank is $7+.

    The paint is $7+.

    Please provide realistic price ranges as the brackets alone are more then the estimated total of less than $40.


    • Kim8.11.12 - 4:18 PM

      Hi Henry, the price quoted in our post is what we paid, perhaps they were on sale? We also had a promo for free shipping. Thank you for the input though!ReplyCancel

    • william12.1.21 - 7:59 AM

      you can also buy them at a hardware store such as home depot or lowes for very low pricing.ReplyCancel

  • Ram M11.28.12 - 9:50 AM

    You can buy the slider/brackets for $12.87 in HomeDepot.

    Keybaord SliderReplyCancel

    • James A12.15.16 - 1:37 PM

      I am interested in custom making my own keyboard tray and saw this clicked on link Home Depot said they discontinued the brackets. Any suggestions on where else I can get brackets?ReplyCancel

      • Kim12.15.16 - 1:59 PM

        Definitely try hitting up all the hardware store – don’t discount Rockler, Ace Hardware or Lowe’s! Amazon might have some options, too.ReplyCancel

    • Zam1.24.18 - 10:57 PM

      Yeah. Drawer slide prices varies, I can get as cheap as $2 in my country or over in china website. But it can pricer, like $40+ for a good one.ReplyCancel

  • Kim11.28.12 - 10:01 AM

    Hi Ram,

    Thanks for the link! For us, we were unable to find sliders in the very short length we needed (12″) at a standard store. Like most things in the studio, we had to pay a little more to get the right size and fit.

    For a deeper desk, those are perfect and a steal though!ReplyCancel

  • Natalie B.12.21.12 - 1:54 AM

    Love, love, LOVE what you’ve been doing!

    I was wondering, do you think a 40″ wide keyboard tray is feasible? The specs for the drawer slides you used state a max keyboard tray width not exceeding 24″ despite the 75 lb. load capacity.

    I need the 40″ to fit my full-size keyboard, mouse (sometimes mice), G13 Gamepad and Logitech T650 Touchpad. My Upton desk’s 40″ tray fits the bill (side mounted, no repurposing) but it doesn’t fit my 27″ iMac and two PC monitors, and I’m tired of using mismatching furniture as a workaround.


    • Kim12.21.12 - 8:41 AM

      Hi Natalie,

      I think that something that wide would likely need a deeper keyboard tray, so the plank of wood you use is more sturdy – and you may need to purchase thicker wood from a local lumber yard as opposed to Home Depot or Lowes. Or, you could purchase 2x4s from Home Depot, and reinforce the bottom by framing it out with 1x2s so it can support extra weight (or even leaning your arms on the tray)!

      Hope that helps! Let us know how it goes!ReplyCancel

  • Natalie B.12.21.12 - 1:07 PM

    Thanks, that does help. I was thinking about using the 18″ or 20″ deep slides. The Desk is 24″ deep and I like that a deeper keyboard tray gives you room to store little stuff (pen tray, post-it notes) behind the keyboard/mice. I guess the other concern is that the Desk I’m looking at is 3/4″ thick laminated high density wood. They sell their own keyboard trays for it (28″ is the widest, sadly) so presumably it’s thick enough for installation.

    If I go through with this, I’ll let you know how it turns out. Happy Holidays!ReplyCancel

  • Han5.10.13 - 11:30 AM

    Hi, how did you attach the brackets to the table? do you drill a hole first then screw it ? thanksReplyCancel

  • Kim5.10.13 - 1:13 PM

    Hi Han! Yes, drilling a small pilot hole first will help guide the screw in properly (and straight).ReplyCancel

  • […] shelf rail track – iBuyLa_Tmall_****** Angent – Online Shopping at in Singapore When It’s Too Expensive, DIY (a Keyboard Tray) | Yellow Brick Home […]ReplyCancel

  • Ron B10.22.13 - 2:07 PM

    Thank you for this post. I know the original post was written over a year ago, but I find myself in need of just this bit of advice and help. My Mom purchased a desk off of craigslist a month ago or so, and it didn’t come with a keyboard tray, and it was driving her bonkers. The prices of ready-made keyboard drawers are slightly outrageous (ok, more than slightly.) Thank you again, I knew it was possible, just wasn’t sure how to go about it.ReplyCancel

  • Kim10.22.13 - 2:34 PM

    Ron, no problem! We’re actually making another desk for ourselves, and I’ll be purchasing the same sliders again!ReplyCancel

  • WhyzGuy Studios11.17.13 - 8:02 PM

    I was looking for DIY plans to build a sliding shelf identical to yours. This was very helpful. Awesome tutorial, thank you.ReplyCancel

  • […] 3. Slide-Out Laptop Tray […]ReplyCancel

  • stephanie5.7.14 - 2:14 PM

    This is amazing — as I’ve envisioned doing the same thing for over a year! But alas we only have TEN inches to work with and these gliders for that depth have proven impossible to find (at least for me).
    If anyone out there knows of some, please share the source!

  • Annabelle6.22.14 - 10:57 PM


    That looks really awesome!! I’ve got a cintiq 12″ that I use and am looking for something just like that except maybe about 16″+ w. Only thing is I’ve got a desk with a 18mm metal frame running underneath and is 4.5 cm away from the edge of the desktop. Would that require a 14″ d slider?ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.23.14 - 9:10 AM

      Hi Annabelle, if you check the link to the product, there are many different sizes. I would double check the space you have before placing your order, but keep in mind that the sliders themselves take up about 1.5″ each!ReplyCancel

  • Candi11.23.15 - 11:57 AM

    Love it! I’m putting the finishing touches on our combo craft studio and homeschool lesson room and realized that it would be great if paper cutters and the like were mounted where I could quickly & easily access them but tuck them away when not needed, this looks like the perfect solution!ReplyCancel

  • Tierra Mckinney4.3.16 - 8:15 AM

    thank you! I am transforming a third bedroom into a walk in closet with space to film my diy tutorials and I wanted to tuck my laptop away when filming!ReplyCancel

  • […] will be scratch that, is the ability for heavyduty storage. For almost two years, we’ve been. When it’s too expensive, diy (a keyboard tray) yellow. Thanks, that does help. I was thinking about using the 18″ or 20″ deep slides. The desk is […]ReplyCancel

  • Alex7.7.16 - 3:28 PM

    The Variable Height Keyboard Platform Slides page says maximum tray width is 24in but you said yours is 31in.

    I am planning have one of these trays for my (piano) keyboard. Do you think the slide will handle that (12lbs weight, 4in height, 40in width and 12in depth)?

    Thanks a lot,

    • Kim7.7.16 - 3:40 PM

      Hi Alex! The max width might have changed since I first wrote this post. The slides we used… well, I’m not sure I would put 12 lbs of weight on it! I’d check Rockler for other options that could handle a larger load. Perhaps a slide down tray with a hydraulic hinge could work for your application!ReplyCancel

  • […] Rockler 12″ Keyboard Slide. .  In searching for reviews on the product, I came across Yellow Brick Home’s experience with it, which confirmed my intent to go ahead and get it.  You can’t beat the price, $34.99; but […]ReplyCancel

  • Aarthi8.5.17 - 2:40 PM

    Hi, I have bought a height adjustable table. The minimum height is still a little taller for me while in sitting position. With an iron rod running across the bottom of the table, the max clearance I have is 11inches under the table. How do I install a keyboard tray? the ones I see online come with atleast 12 to 14inch trailer. Please advise.ReplyCancel

  • mark5.23.18 - 12:24 PM

    i need a custom made table for my computer set up, is it possible to make the slide out wood for the keyboard and mouse to be on, to make the slide out wood height adjustable? could this be possible somehow? would like it to be like 40 inches wide and 350mm in depthReplyCancel

  • A. Yilksden7.6.18 - 5:02 AM

    With this product, what you see is what you get. I only wish it was a little bit wider to be able to hold two 8-1/2 sheets of paper side by side. It provides the perfect eye level I wanted for my monitor.

    A. YilksdenReplyCancel

  • TPB8.18.18 - 11:31 PM

    Years late, but I did this with some keyboard tray slides off of Amazon for $15 and a 36″ x 12″ finished Rubbermaid shelf for $8 from Amazon. $40? Yikes, you didn’t even try and that was in 2012! :-)ReplyCancel

  • Rachael Clayton10.7.19 - 10:01 AM

    Same thing happened to me, can’t believe how expensive a plastic keyboard tray is!ReplyCancel

  • […] Full tutorial is here. […]ReplyCancel

  • David3.19.20 - 8:59 AM

    Thanks for the idea of these keyboard racks. They’re perfect for many applications. My daughter wants a desk (great father daughter project), but doesn’t want the keyboard tray. She wants a lower desk at keyboard height with a monitor stand to raise the vision line to a good angle. Any thoughts on how well that would work?ReplyCancel

  • Ken Martin Kvandal7.9.20 - 6:49 AM

    Any suggestions for a fully slid-out, slid-in locking mechanism? I might have gotten myself some overly loose rails, but they keep sliding back in while playing the keyboard.ReplyCancel

    • Gene11.19.21 - 1:26 PM

      Many drawer slides are self-locking. That is to say, they have detents in the fully closed and fully open positions, and it takes a bit of extra force to get them to start moving. For the best feel, use full-extension soft-close drawer slides. Full extension means you can pull the drawer out completely. Cheaper sliders usually allow 75-90% extension. Soft-close slides incorporate damping mechanism – you can close the drawer forcefully, but at the end of the travel it will slow down by itself and finish closing in a gentle way. All these features come at a price, of course…ReplyCancel

  • Howard9.12.20 - 7:45 PM

    I’m contemplating something similar. Instead of putting under the desk I was thinking about putting out under a monitor riser on top of the desk. Maybe with a wide column in the middle or on each side so I can house the cords from the laptops. ReplyCancel

  • […] All your need for this DIY project is some sliders so as you can move your tray in and out, a piece of wood, and a couple of DIY tools. Get the steps here. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Create or Use a Keyboard Tray: If you have a keyboard, it can take up some of your valuable desk space. You should try to move the keyboard off your desk and to a tray that pulls out from below. Yellow Brick Home provides a tutorial for creating your own DIY keyboard tray. […]ReplyCancel

  • William12.1.21 - 8:43 AM

    been almost 10 years since this was posted!!! I’m a high school student with a very very limited budget, especially since I’m working on building my own pc right now. I have a floating desk mounted to my wall that has room for a laptop, but not quite a monitor and keyboard combo. I’ve been trying to find these slider drawers for a while and I’ve thought about making it myself in the past but never thought of using the variable height platform slides. I love your design and just wanted to say thank you for the innovative ideas that you and Scott have decided to share with the world. Was able to find all I need for under $25 because of you!ReplyCancel

    • Scott12.1.21 - 9:10 AM

      Thanks for the kind words, William! So glad we were able to lend a hand a decade later!ReplyCancel

  • […] Via Yellowbrickhome […]ReplyCancel

  • JT9.29.23 - 11:28 AM

    What’s the maximum expandable gap between the bottom of the desk and the top of the keyboard tray?ReplyCancel

    • Scott9.29.23 - 4:36 PM

      Apologies, but we no longer own this home, otherwise I’d measure for you. Sorry we can’t be more helpful!ReplyCancel

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