Previously in part 1 I covered how the desk was built. Obviously, without further work, I would end up in the same place with all cables running wild across the surface. Cable management and some home-made improvements were in place! There are no simple steps to follow or a procedure that fixes all the issues for everyone. This takes some planning and consistent management.
Apart from recording tasker videos (or Raspberry Pi ones), I do some raspberry prototyping, typing, and gaming (at some point I would like to develop the gaming channel as well). The biggest nightmares are all the cables running through the desk to connect the accessories, cameras, microphones, and performing Olympic grade acrobatics to find an empty USB slot to offload videos from a camera or a phone. I have to deal with this and all the extra wires that come in and out of the 4 raspberries I have.
Before I get to the cable management I have to decide what will be present on my desk, and how many extra cables I will have to deal with. I wanted to have extra USB hub I can simply plug-in devices to, that would also double as a charging station. Since I have USB 3.0 also available I’d like these to be present as well. Another constant annoyance is USB mic placement. I always have to come up with some awkward way of keeping it in position, while the cable is tangled around the keyboard.
From the Raspberry Pi side of things, I need a free and complete workstation to be able to work on raspberry projects at any time, while the RPI itself remains connected to the PC. Since the desk has a mid section and 2 wings, one of them will be dedicated to Raspberry tinkering.
The shopping list
I had few things I could repurpose for this build, however, it was clear to me I need to go shopping. I needed a self-powered hub, something to keep the mic in place, phone stand and few cables and connectors to keep the Raspberry Pi in place.
Amazon to the rescue:
- T-cobbler and ribbon for RPI
- Breadboard power supply
- Mic stand that can double as phone stand, and phone car mount
- phone stand (see a review here)
Also, I ventured to the local Maplin (electronic dept. store) to look at hubs.
I think at this stage my life was complete (it wasn’t, I’m still waiting for an extension lead).
Let’s cut some holes
I’d like to have the surface of the desk as flat as possible, while things are not in use. This means I will embed the hub and all the sockets I have. Cutting holes without a router is a pain! For this job alone next time I will consider buying my own. My first job was to put 2 USB sockets to my left. One will have 3.0 one will be 2.0 – mostly because I already own the extension leads, and only one is 3.0. I think I spent enough already!
Using the jigsaw and the driller to get through the board, and then cut the holes that will be big enough to fit the socket. Sadly jigsaw is not very precise and the effect is not most impressive. I use the hot glue gun to keep cables in place, and silicone to fill in the gaps around the USB. I might get some wood filler later, perhaps this will give me better-finishing effect.
My second hole is for USB hub. The shape of it is ideal (square) and I can easily cut the hole to the size of the hub. The messy bit is to carve out some space for the leads to go through underneath it. Again – ideally this is where you want to use the router. Hot glue secures the hub in place, and silicone fills the gaps.
The next up was the Raspberry. I gave up and I went to my neighbor to use the router. The cuts are clean, sharp and I’m looking at this nearly perfect job, angry with myself for not using the router before (I didn’t want to be a royal pain in the neck to my neighbor). The idea here is to keep the raspberry underneath the table and connect it to the breadboard with ribbon and cobbler when needed. As the cable slots nicely but firmly inside, I quickly discover another possibility. By marking ribbon GPIO I could use it also ‘as is’ with jumper cables. Both the ribbon and breadboard are nicely fitted on the surface of the desk. It should not be any obstruction when not in use.
I wish the orientation of the RPI slots were different now, running the LAN cable to my PC will cause small obstruction to the USB slots, but they are still usable. I guess it is my OCD kicking in here. I could put the entire PI station on the left-hand side to combat this issue, but I’d like to have access to the shelf where I keep most of my PI accessories. I guess with some nice cable management it will have to do.
Having a wireless keyboard and mouse is great. Since I got the upgrade (mechanical keys and fancy mouse to go with it) my wife is enjoying that freedom and I’m stuck with cables. My keyboard cable is braided and thick as a finger. I know I can cut a hole for it, I will hide it underneath the speaker. This should look nice. The mouse will have to stay as it is, same goes for the Nostromo pad, I keep moving them too much, and cable slack is needed. Since I have a phone stand, I know I won’t be moving it much, so I can hide this cable by putting it through a hole underneath the stand itself. Works nicely!
I think I’m done with making holes for now. All other cables will go through the cable management space I left at the back while designing this thing.
Getting rid of hanging cables
I sat underneath the desk staring blindly at all cables trying to figure out the easiest way to deal with it. Initially, I thought I would go with zip-ties, but if, for whatever reason, I want to disassemble part of my desk, I would have to cut it and start again. I settled for the small cable management wires. They are easier to undo, or add cables to, later. I used pins to create the hooks, and with some gentle hammer work, got most of them driven in, without bending.
It’s good to group cables, start from the far ends, and work your way towards the center collecting more wires that would join the same bunch. I made the hooks dense enough so that cables would be attached firmly to the desk. All this drops down behind the PC unit to connect to a variety of the sockets.
It was a little more expensive in total than planned, but it made me happy. At the present time, I’m thinking about the types of vinyl to cover up the MDF boards and waiting for an extension lead to sort out the power cables better. The desk, however, is already fully operational. I believe it creates much more space to work on – while taking less space within my office area.
I’m not a carpenter, I believe anyone with some decent plan would be able to do a custom desk for themselves. It takes time and patience. It is worth, though!
I will post another update when I decide about vinyl to show off the final result!