How to Make a DIY Keyboard Tray in 10 Easy Steps


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If you’re a gamer or a professional worker constantly spending hours upon hours of your everyday routine on a computer, then it’s possible you’re risking long-term muscle and joint pain and diseases. That’s why using a keyboard tray is the best option you’ve got.

You might be wondering, what’s a keyboard tray and how can I get one for my computer setup? Well, if that’s the case, then you’re in the right place because that’s what I’m here to tell you.

In this article, I’m going to talk about keyboard trays, how they work, the ergonomic benefits of keyboard trays, their usage, and how you can make your own DIY keyboard tray for cheap, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money on ready-made ones in the market. Therefore, make sure you read this article till the end before you make your buying decision.

How to Make a DIY Keyboard Tray in 10 Easy Steps
Image by: u/sunbir8

What is a Keyboard Tray and How Does it Work?

Sitting at your computer desk, typing away on your keyboard for long periods of time can be super exhausting and hurtful for the wrists at times even. Using a keyboard tray is an appropriate solution for this problem.

A keyboard tray is an ergonomic moveable surface setup that you can place your keyboard and mouse along with other things on, depending upon the surface area. You can tilt it, move it around, push it under your desk, and it is supported by a mechanical arm setup usually.

Keyboard trays used to be quite common at the start of the 2000s but lost their way somewhere in the 2010s but now since people are paying more attention to ergonomics and want to reduce risks of diseases like carpal tunnel syndrome, keyboard trays are coming back into fashion.

Using a keyboard tray can be pretty beneficial if you’re sitting at your desk for a long time every day. From steel surfaces to wooden boards, you can find a lot of variety in the material of a keyboard tray and how it’s made. 

Ultimately, I’d surely suggest that you use a keyboard tray with your computer setup because it will be a step in the right direction from an ergonomic standpoint. 

Problems with Long-term Keyboard Usage

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If you’re not caring about keyboard and computer ergonomics, you can be susceptible to a lot of diseases in the long run. You might think these problems aren’t serious but they’re incredibly important to think about. Let’s take a look at the long-term keyboard usage problems you might face if you don’t think about ergonomics and keyboard trays.

  • Posture – When you’re sitting in a non-ergonomic position at your computer desk, you might bend your back to reach the keyboard and mouse if you don’t have a retractable keyboard tray. In the long run, your posture may become bad and uncomfortable if you continue to sit like this for long periods of time.
  • Wrist Pain – Using the keyboard for long hours without a wrist rest or ergonomic palm rest can be exhausting. Your wrist can get hurt and even become swollen or develop stress and pain over the long run if you’re not taking enough ergonomic measures to deal with this problem.
  • Muscle and Joint Diseases – This goes all the way throughout the body. If the height of your computer and keyboard desk isn’t at the optimal position, it is possible that you might have to raise your arms above natural position which can cause discomfort and even cause temporary and permanent muscle and joint diseases like carpal tunnel syndrome as well so ergonomic measures must be taken.
  • Shoulder Pain – If you’ve got a smaller keyboard than your shoulder frame, then you’re going to have to opt for a closed-up shoulder position or down shoulder position which can be quite problematic and uncomfortable if you have a broader shoulder frame overall.
  • Finger Pain Without the comfort of a keyboard tray and an ergonomic keyboard setup, your fingers might need to bend and move in unnatural positions which can ultimately create finger problems or temporary pains that might cause you to stop working for days. 

Therefore, you should always try to make sure that all ergonomic measures for your computer setup are taken so you can stay healthy, happy, and comfortable while using your computer.

Benefits of using a Keyboard and Mouse Tray

Now that we know the different problems we might encounter without a keyboard tray, getting one would be the right decision. If you’re still not sold on getting a keyboard tray, here are some of the best benefits and advantages that come with keyboard trays, so let’s take a look at them:

  • Work and Play Comfortably – When you have an adjustable and retractable keyboard tray, you can simply adjust the tray according to your posture and sit comfortably while you’re working or playing for hours and hours without having to worry about any problem.
  • Efficient Typing – Without a keyboard tray, you might not be able to type as fast as you’d like. But if you’ve got a keyboard tray, you can bring it near your arms and make sure it is in the right position so that you can type quickly and efficiently.
  • Better Posture – If you have a keyboard tray, you’ll be able to sit comfortably with your spine straight and posture comfortable and decent while you’re typing. This will reduce any chances of your posture becoming uncomfortable and bad over the course of long usage of the computer system.
  • Stay healthy – Keyboard induced diseases and syndromes are very real and if you want to stay away from them and avoid them completely, the best course of action would be getting a keyboard tray so that you don’t face any muscle discomfort or joint pain temporarily or permanently at all in your computer usage sessions.
  • Ergonomic Computer Setup – A huge part of an ergonomic computer setup is keyboard usage ergonomics. When you’ve got a keyboard tray, you’ve already made your computer setup quite ergonomic and you won’t face any problems because all your upper body including your shoulders, neck, back, arms, fingers, and everything will be completely comfortable using the keyboard.

Getting a Keyboard Tray for Your Computer Setup

If you’re not using a keyboard tray already with your computer setup, you’re risking your own health and well-being, so you should definitely get one for yourself at the end of the day.

But the problem is that keyboard trays can be quite expensive and if you’re getting a table with a built-in keyboard tray, that can cost the average worker and gamer a lot more than they can afford.

So, what’s the right way of dealing with non-ergonomic keyboard usage if you can’t afford a keyboard tray? Well, you can always Do-It-Yourself and make a keyboard tray from scratch. It’s not as difficult as it might seem.

Instead of spending a lot of money getting a keyboard tray for your computer setup, you should build it yourself, and to help you with that, I’m going to provide you a complete guide for building your very own DIY keyboard tray.

Building a DIY Keyboard Tray in 10 Easy-to-Follow Steps

Who says you can’t get a keyboard tray if you want one? Well, you can say I’ll DIY it. That’s because it is that easy and doable to simply DIY a keyboard tray if you’re not looking to go over the top.

For this design, we’re going to go a more standard sliding keyboard tray route that looks elegant, is firm, and provides all the ergonomic benefits you’d want from your keyboard tray while you work and play on your computer.

Now, there are a lot of crucial and vital steps that you’re going to have to follow to get this right but don’t worry because there’s quite easy to follow and understandable. So, let’s get building!

Tools Required

Before you start cutting up stuff and working on your DIY keyboard tray, you’re going to need to take care of the tools. You’ll find most of the tools in your toolshed inside your house so it’s not going to be very expensive, this DIY project. Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • Hand Drill
  • Nuts and Bolts
  • Surface Board
  • Drawer Sliders
  • Rulers
  • Cutting Saw

One thing to note before you start your procedure is that you can use whichever material you’re comfortable with. There are metal keyboard trays as well as wooden keyboard trays available in the market. Metal keyboard trays cost more, are more durable, but harder to deal with, if you’re not a professional. 

But starting off with a hard piece of wood would be great because it’s firm, durable, looks great, and at the same time, easy to cut and shape and build with.

Now that you know all that you’re going to need to get started with your build, it’s time for you to take a look at the 10 amazing steps for building your own DIY keyboard tray and following all the steps so let’s get to it.

1. Taking Measurements of the Table and the Surface Board

First of all, you’re going to need to get material for the board. You can use older computer table surfaces or you can go out and buy a piece of wood if you want to, you’ve got a lot of options.

Next, you’re going to take your ruler and you’re going to start taking measurements. You’re going to first measure the width and the depth of the table you’re going to attach the keyboard tray to.

Then you’re going to want to make marks on the surface of the material you’re using. Make sure you do all this with a ruler and a marker because you don’t want uneven cuts otherwise you might end up losing the piece of wood that you might be used for making the keyboard tray. 

So, make sure you put width and depth marks on the piece of wood that you’re going to use as your main surface board for the keyboard tray. If the tray surface is thick, that’s better because it will be more durable that way.

2. Cutting the Surface Board Accordingly

Now, before doing any cutting, you need to make sure safety is a priority. Keep your cutting tools away from the reach of kids or anyone who isn’t good with handling tools for DIY projects.

Once we’ve established a safe working environment, we can get to the second step which is the cutting of the surface board according to the measurements you’ve taken with the ruler.

Try taking your time and using the cutting saw to slowly make smaller cuts before you get to the proper measurements because ultimately it will be helpful for you if you want to make perfect cuts.

Once you’ve reached the marks, slowly but accurately and precisely cut the edges off of the surface of the keyboard tray and now you’re good to move to the third step of the DIY project.

3. Sanding the Edges

If you have a work shed or garage, then you’re going to want to make sure you choose to work there so you can deal with all the itsy bitsy pieces and the dust without making a mess in your home.

The saw is surely going to make some clean cuts but the thing is, the cuts are still going to be quite uneven if you touch the sides and edges of the keyboard tray surface board.

It’s time to sand the edges of the keyboard tray surface board. You can use a professional sanding desk but if you don’t use simple sandpaper would be enough as well.

Make sure you get all the edges of the keyboard tray. After you’re done, try and feel the edges and you’re going to see a major difference in the smoothness of the surface board, trust me on this one.

4. Painting the Surface Board to Match the Table Color

You might be thinking, this DIY keyboard tray project has taken quite an artsy turn! Well, no DIY project is complete without a touch of customization and if you’re building a keyboard tray, now’s the best time to do so.

Painting the surface board for your keyboard tray isn’t essential but it is common and it gives your keyboard tray an elegant or wacky look depending upon what you prefer.

You can simply go for a spray or a polish paint on the wooden surface and be done with it if you want a matching keyboard tray that fits into your computer desk setup perfectly.

But if you’ve got art on your mind, you can use stencils, draw animated characters, paintings, and a lot of other stuff to truly make the keyboard tray feel like it’s yours and it has something that represents you.

5. Attach the Drawer Sliders

Now the tricky part comes but no worries, it looks more difficult than it actually is. You’re going to attach the drawer slides onto the painted surface so it can resemble a keyboard tray more.

Firstly, you’re going to attach the inner race of the drawer slider onto the keyboard tray and be vary of the fact that they point in the same direction on both sides. 

Next, you’re going to attach the outer race with a tab on the inner race of the keyboard tray and check if the sliding mechanism works perfectly in unison when you move it.

If that’s done, you’ve got yourself a proper working drawer slider mechanism that will help your keyboard tray slide forward and backward whenever you want to use your computer.

6. Make Markings under the table for fixing

This step is pretty much self-explanatory but I’ll still give you all the details you’re going to need to know before you accidentally make any unwise decisions and mess up the keyboard tray.

Take a torchlight or if your table has RGB set up under it, that’s cool too. You’re going to go under the table and make markings for the bolts that you’re going to drill in the table for the slider.

Make each marking on both sides carefully and make sure the parallel markings are completely in-line so any bad angling and problems while fixing can be avoided because that’s something we really don’t want now that we’re so close to getting to use our keyboard tray.

7. Fix the Keyboard Tray under the Table

If you love your hand drill as much as I do, fortunately, it is time to whip out that beauty and get to some handyman work. Take your nuts and bolts and get under the table for the fixing job.

You can deal with the fix yourself but if not, you can get help from a friend or a relative in your house. You’re going to use the drill to make the bolt holes in the table.

Now that the holes have been made. You’re going to gently place the keyboard tray under the table and put the bolts and nuts through the drawer slider and tightly fix them under the table.

Make sure you make the bolts tight and the durability of the connection is perfectly held so that the keyboard tray doesn’t just fall or tip over when you put weight on it.

8. Oiling the Drawer Sliders

Drawer sliders like door locks require smoothness between the sliding mechanism to work well. So, what we’re going to do now is oil the drawer sliders under the table before we start using the keyboard tray.

You can use motor oil or any other kind of oil or even lube to reduce the friction between the inner and outer races of the slider. That’s going to make the sliding even quicker, easier, and simpler.

So, use a ketchup and mustard bottle or a motor oil bottle with a nozzle so you don’t spill any of the lubricants on the floor and just gently apply the oil at the right spots and you’re all done.

9. Testing the Sliding Keyboard Tray

It is time to test the beauty that you’ve created. You’re going to do a couple of tests on the sliding keyboard tray. The first one is going to be the slide test. You’re going to essentially pull and push the keyboard tray and see if there’s any angling issue or problems with the sliding motion of the tray.

Then you’re going to put a bunch of weight on the keyboard tray and see if that rattles or shakes the tray. If your tray is good on both these tests, time to move to the final and best step of all!

10. Enjoy Working and Playing on the Keyboard Tray!

You’re all done with your amazing-looking super-durable and ergonomically perfect keyboard tray. Now, you’re going to put your favorite figurine, keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals on it and use them with ease.

There’s going to be no ergonomic issue or any kind of muscle pain or problem with this epic tool and you’ll be able to play games on your computer and work on your projects for long periods without feeling exhausted or messing up your posture. So, have a great time with your keyboard tray and enjoy using your computer ergonomically!

Conclusion

Having a keyboard tray on your computer table can be a lifesaver if you want to avoid wrist pain and muscle discomfort after long periods of gaming and working on the computer.

With the aforementioned steps, you can prepare, assemble, and fix a working DIY keyboard tray under your computer table and make working and playing much more ergonomically correct for your body.

I hope that you learned a lot from this guide and that you’re going to utilize your knowledge and get to work and build a high-quality durable and functional keyboard tray that saves you a lot of money and gets the job done. Good luck with your building!

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