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November 7, 2016#4 Hardware

A Workstation Stand

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With special thanks to Blake Patterson over at BYTECellar, I came across an article of his from 2005 that inspired me this weekend.

In his article, My Commodore 64…and The Stand… he shows how the desk can really be tidied up by a bit of clever woodworking. In most of the Commodore 8-bit line the computer's main board is tucked away underneath the keyboard. One inconvenient problem is that when the cables, cartridges, and other add-ons, like uIEC/SD and DigiMax, start sticking out the back, it becomes very difficult to find the right place to put a monitor.

One solution has been to just use a C128D. Its flat computer housing and detached keyboard are a more modern arrangement. The monitor can sit on the computer's top, and one old trick is to rotate the main case 90° clockwise so the ports and power switch come out the right hand side. Unfortunately, C128Ds can be hard to come by. Plus, we need a good solution for all the flat 128s and C64s we have.

My stand differs somewhat from Blake Patterson's, but it is clearly modeled and inspired by his design.

Four angles on a wood monitor stand

Here's how I built it. I actually was able to build two out of the same set of materials. The wood is pine, picked up from the local Rona for about $30. One piece is a 20" x 36" sheet, 1" thick. The other piece, which I only used half of, is 4' x 7", also 1" thick. I cut the sheet in half to get 2 top sheets, 20" x 18" each. Then I cut the the 4' plank into four 1' x 7" pieces.

The trick to what makes this stand so useful is that beautiful angle, plus the over hanging top ledge. One of the 1' x 7" pieces cut diagonally, lengthwise, makes two angled side pieces that are 3" on the back end and 4" on the front end, and 1' long.

Diagram showing lengths of side pieces

The top shelf piece should be wider than it is deep. And the two side pieces should have their 3" high side butted up against the back with the diagonally cut edge upwards, against the top sheet, so the 4" front edge is perpendicular to the desk.

I used masking tape to hold the two sides in place while I pre-drilled six holes. Through the top sheet and into the sides, three screws per side, evenly spaced. Then I put the 2" wood screws in by hand to give better control. Using a drill to put in the screws can easily overshoot and either split the wood or bury the head of the screen deeply into the soft pine top sheet.

Because the sides are only 1' long, and the top sheet is 18" deep, you get a nice 6" overhang. For a flat C128, this is perfect to extend over that deep back section of the keyboard computer. With a monitor on top, the center of gravity is still above the sides so there is no risk of the whole thing tipping forward. And 20" wide gives approximately 18" of width between the two sides. This is enough to allow the back of the 128 keyboard to fit between the sides.

As my design is somewhat larger than the one used by Blake Patterson, I noticed one problem. Those Commodore CRT monitors are quite heavy. And a 1" thick pine sheet that's 20" wide starts to bow in the middle under the weight. So, these stands require a reinforcing piece on the underside. I happened to already have a few pieces lying around. Cut them to 18" long so they fit between the sides. Then I pre-drilled 6 holes in this support piece to make sure it doesn't split, but did not pre-drill into the bottom of the top sheet. I then put six 1 1/2" wood screws through the pre-drilled holes and securely into the bottom of the top sheet. That really makes it solid and ready to go.

Final photo of the stand in use

The end result looks great. I haven't sanded and stained it yet, but that's next on the list of things to do. It really cleans up the table and nicely hides the cables. But getting to the cables and cartridge port for swapping out the expansion configuration is as easy as just pulling the keyboard forward. Now that I've got a beautiful workstation, I can get back to coding.