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Using Solid Wood For DIY Wood Standing Desk Tops

21 April 2021

We covered the Laminated Desk Toppers in the previous article on the DIY Standing Desk. In this article, we will discuss the solid wood desk toppers and why it is the most preferred. 

Solid Wood Desktops

For the choosy buyer, there is no substitute for real wood.  Having a real wood desk topper for them feels natural and organic. In recent years, more and more real wood options being offered by standing desk manufacturers. They can be expensive like somewhere between $2000 or more in hard-to-find wood variety.

Due to their high raw material costs, real wood tops are not stocked in different sizes and shapes like HPL or 3D-laminated. Their durability may not last too long depending on how much lacquer or other sealants are used to protect the top.  But they can always be restored if they look battered, while the worn 3D laminate or HPL can’t be restored. 

Restoring the wood desktop is a very intense and costly affair. The higher the cost the better and longer the desk topper will last. Depending on the skill of the craftsman, it can be a true work of art.

While it is a solid wood product, the reclaimed wood involves more careful examination when it comes to separating poor quality from top quality. We will try to help to distinguish between the good ones and the bad ones.

The difference between Natural Wood vs. Hardwood desktop

People have the tendency to use the term hardwood as the same for solid natural wood, but there is a difference. Hardwood is from dicot trees. They are usually found in broad-leaved temperate and tropical forests. In temperate and boreal locations, they are mostly deciduous, but in tropics and subtropics, they are evergreen. 

Whether hardwood or softwood, it is important to any buyer should know everything about how it is made. Whether the species is highly sustainable or harvested in excess of its new growth rate. And where it comes from, and the process in making it from raw material to a finished, sealed, precision-machined tabletop.

 Key Differences Between American-sourced and Imported Solid Wood Desktops

The more exotic-sounding and inexpensive a desktop on sale, the more chance it came from outside the USA, where the environment is sacrificed for short-term profits. Highly sustainable materials grown in the USA are likely maple, cherry, walnut, hickory, red oak, and white oak, for example. 

Cheaper solid wood products, like imported ones, use sealants that are solvents-based. These are toxic to the environment, and the people using it. It is advisable to avoid these products. The foreign-sourced solid wood desktops offered online by standing desk makers will include pleasantwood, rubberwood, wheatwood, African mahogany, and acacia. 

Most of these desks will be label as “made in America” even though the tops are imported. Be sure to ask the question on the first attempt, and don’t depend on claims of a standing desk being American made unless explicitly described.

Difference between Solid Wood vs. Engineering Wood

A solid wood desk topper is made from a single plank of wood with no glued planks or layered veneers. It is made from a monolithic slab of hardwood is very expensive because there are only limited desktop-sized, uniform pieces available from a single tree that have no knots or other defects. These are sourced locally.

Besides the cost, there are two other important issues with using monolithic solid wood slabs for a standing desk topper. First, a large solid slab will have a lot of defect patching, as epoxy fills and bowtie braces, due to the fact, the bigger the slab the more difficult it is to find one without some defects that affect the integrity of the whole board.

Second since natural wood has natural “movement” (expansion/contraction at a different rate with the grain versus against the grain, leading to warping and cracking) a bigger singular slab also needs a strong metal fitting frame underneath. This is to allow the movements while maintaining the integrity of the slab. This is very difficult to do and no guarantee it will still retain its shape while growing.

It’s should be noted for the DIY aficionados who want to fashion a solid monolithic desktop from a fallen tree in their backyard, for example, that engineering for metal reinforcement around the board needs to understand very thoroughly. Natural warping of the board with temperature and humidity variables not only affects the integrity of the surface but can also cause undue torquing forces on the lifting base and ultimately premature failure of the sensitive electromechanical components in the lifting columns.

Most sellers of solid wood desktops for standing desks will offer a fairly simple product—a rectangular slab with hard corners and edges, and the option of adding grommet holes. Unlike HPL and other top materials, which almost always come with grommet holes for cable pass-through, most buyers of solid wood tops opt to have no grommet holes, preferring to look in their natural state. They want to have advanced features on solid desk wood tops that include ergo-contoured edges and faux “barkline” edging on the front and/or back edge of the desktop.

On the other side, engineered woods are a completely different design. They are made from thin layers of wood glued together in alternating grain direction.  This gives the plank strength so it wouldn’t warp. Examples of engineered wood are bamboo which would become woody fiber transformed into thin planks. Because they are too flexible, they are bonded by layers of thin sheets of bamboo in alternating “grain” directions to provide a modicum of strength for use as desktops. 

In the case of engineered wood panels, the expensive natural wood is applied on the top, bottom, and sides of the panel. In the middle of the desktop are layers of cheaper “plywood” to give the desktop strength. This is similar to a veneer top, where a very thin sheet of expensive natural wood is glued to an inexpensive MDF core and then treated with stain and/or a protective seal coating. 


We have covered the solid wood desktops and why it is so expensive. Additionally, this is preferred by desktop users. to find the best standing desktops for your home or office setup, Go to

In the next article, we will discuss a lower-cost alternative to solid wood: Baltic Birch.