Fold out desk hinges

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Forum topic by Dustin posted 06-02-2016 04:32 PM 346 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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128 posts in 164 days

06-02-2016 04:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: desk hinges fold out desk

Hi, all, I’m starting my first big project in a while (and the first one I’ll be posting here on LJ’s!) and was hoping to get some input.
A friend of mine and I are tackling building 3 units of book cases, 30” wide by 84” tall. The two outter units will be identical, but the middle unit will have approximately the middle third of it occupied by a panel for a fold-out writing desk. I’m looking for hinge solutions to this, and have found several things like these:

The idea, of course, is to fix these to the top of the panel when it’s folded out, and to the inside of the book case. Any idea if something like this is strong enough to do the job? It’s only supporting the weight of a laptop and whatever stress would be applied by writing on it.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, as well as alternate suggestions and ideas (we’re not dead set on any particular design just yet). And hopefully, in the next 4-5 weeks, we’ll have some results to share with everyone!

Thanks in advance.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

8 replies so far

View DerekJ's profile


80 posts in 311 days

#1 posted 06-02-2016 04:57 PM

How deep is the desk surface going to be? Based on 1/3 of 84” I’m imagining around 27 inches? If that’s the case, I’d be wary of the solution you posed as the only method of support since they are only 7-1/2 inches long. That leaves over 20 inches of unsupported desk in front of the hinge, all taking the weight of a person writing – also consider that when people right, they often lean on the desk while thinking or waiting.

I’d definitely consider using the support in compression rather than tension so you have more than 4 screws supporting the panel, and then maybe combining it with a piano hinge along the back for some additional support?

I’ll think about it and see what I can come up with in my head during my next conference call ;)

-- Derek ~ Omaha, NE

View Dustin's profile


128 posts in 164 days

#2 posted 06-02-2016 06:46 PM

Thanks for the response. I should have clarified on some of the dimensions. My buddy is wanting this to be 30”x30”, though I’m trying to sway him towards a 24” depth (I just find rectangles a little more aesthetically pleasing than squares). I am intending to include hinges on the bottom of the fold-out panel as well, but didn’t know if there were some like the ones above that were more size-apporpriate for the project.
An alternate idea I had was to do bottom hinges only, with some pull outs underneath the panel to support the weight of the desk, not unlike the supports you might find on a drop leaf table.
Like I said, we’re not married to any one solution just yet, so all words of caution and suggestion are greatly appreciated!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View darinS's profile


676 posts in 2291 days

#3 posted 06-02-2016 07:45 PM


I did something like this years ago for my son. One thing I did was add chain to the inside to help take up some of the weight. Only 4 small screws going into your desk will not hold much, especially since they will be very close to the hinge side.

Derek’s idea of something in compression is good also.

-- They say many people die because of alcohol. They never realized how many of them are born because of it.

View Dustin's profile


128 posts in 164 days

#4 posted 06-02-2016 07:50 PM

I like the chain idea pretty well, perhaps coupled with a piano hinge that will work nicely.

Now all I have to do is sell my very picky buddy on it :p

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View RobS888's profile


1981 posts in 1269 days

#5 posted 06-02-2016 09:07 PM

I bought a pair of these for a fold down luggage table

I find them only OK, they have very little lateral support, so they wiggle side to side. I wouldn’t lean on the table.

I would look for something like this. There is a latch near the end to lock or unlock.

-- I always suspected many gun nuts were afraid of something, just never thought popcorn was on the list.

View Dustin's profile


128 posts in 164 days

#6 posted 06-03-2016 11:45 AM

Thanks, everyone, for the responses and suggestions. It seems like the general consensus is that a desk of this type would be better off folding up from the bottom of the case, rather than down from the middle, due to the strain it would place on the hinges and the hardware holding them. That being the case, I may forego the locking hinges, use a piano hinge on the top of the panel, and some fold down legs that will store out of site behind it when closed.
Can’t wait to get this drawn up and moving!

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View JBrow's profile (online now)


754 posts in 344 days

#7 posted 06-03-2016 02:14 PM


I can envision two different approaches for incorporating a writing surface on a project such as that you describe. The first is a fold-down writing surface; the design you are considering. The alternative approach is a slide out writing shelf (sort of like a drawer but expressed as a flat panel). In this approach, the writing surface slides into/out of a cavity. About a third of the writing panel would remain in the carcase and structured within the carcase to support the cantilevered writing surface. If the writing surface is not deep enough, the writing surface could feature a hinged extension surface which folds out and down to extend the surface.

There are a couple of old and classic design principles that could be considered if you stick with to fold down design and are still working through the proper proportion of the writing surface. The first is called the Golden Mean rule and pretty much guarantees an appealing appearance. One dimension of a rectangle is multiplied by or divided by 1.618 to arrive at the second dimension. For example, a rectangular panel that is 30” wide would either be 48.5” or 18.5” long. I have learned the hard way over time that trying to adhere to the Golden Rule yields much better looking completed projects.

An alternative proportioning method is the Fibonacci sequence (which I have not used), yielding proportions similar to those of the Golden Mean. In this method, adjacent numbers in the Fibonacci sequence dictate the proportion of an appealing rectangle. The Fibonacci sequence is

1 , 1 , 2 , 3 , 5 , 8 , 13 , 21 , 34 , 55 , 89 , 144 , …

For example, a rectangle measuring 21” x 34” or 34” x 55” would have an appealing appearance.

Both methods are discussed in more detail by Fine Woodworking

In the end, a scaled drawing of the book cases will be very helpful in deciding the proportions of the writing surface.

View Dustin's profile


128 posts in 164 days

#8 posted 06-03-2016 02:45 PM

Ah, JBrow, as a math undergrad, I’m a little embarassed that I didn’t think of using the Golden Ratio! This will make for a much easier selling point for my buddy, who is (to a lesser extent) a mathematics enthusiast.
As an aside, I just downloaded the trial of sketchup last night, and am looking forward to playing around with it to do my layout there.
And one small note (sorry, obsessive nerd here): the Fibonacci sequence doesn’t just yield proportions similar to the golden mean, but rather the convergence of its ratios is the golden mean.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

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