Here is a piece of purely mechanical hardware. We’re not talking about wheel, pedals or shifters. We’re not talking about computers. We’re not talking about racing seats. No, my children, we’re talking about the best thing since sliced bread and radio cassette players.
Let’s be more serious now. Last year, after receiving my all-new Logitech G27, I realized it didn’t fit on my old wooden office desk. That gave me a great excuse to throw it away –the desk, that is- and buy something more convenient. But I had no guarantee that a stock desk would allow me to play AND work –yeah, sometimes we forget that last part. A racing seat specifically designed for the G27 would have been perfect to play, but I would have had nothing to hold my keyboard, my papers, my other gamepads and all the crap that was on my desk. Besides, I didn’t have the room to fit both an office desk and a racing cockpit at home.
The only solution was to create a modular structure. I built it from scratch, as I found no one with the same needs on the internet.
Special thanks go to:
- MRS Technologies (www.facebook.com/mrs.technologies) for the engineering and CAD consulting;
- Viale Heavy Duty Industries for the technical knowledge, the skills, the tools, the materials, the time and basically everything that allowed this project to be a reality now.
Step 1: computer-assisted design
Thanks to a former life spent in racing teams’ technical offices, I acquired some knowledge in CAD softwares.
It took me around 30 hours of CAD work to get the final design. I have never been a fast and efficient designer, which may explain why I quit this job…
Here is the first sketch. From the beginning, the whole structure had a floor with little wheels, for practical reasons –including setting it in the room and moving it aside to vacuum. With the same idea in mind, it was an “open” structure, supported by only one vertical panel, to ease the building, the cleaning and the wiring of all the electronic components.
In green, computer elements: monitor, keyboard, mouse.
In red, G27 elements: pedals, shifter –the wheel is coming in the next pic.
Did I mention it was modular? Well, here is the trick: the panel under the keyboard is mobile. When you use the keyboard, it is angled, so you can type without bending and hurting your wrists. Then, when you need to drive, you can set it back to a horizontal position and put the wheel instead.
Ergonomics played a key-role in this user-oriented design. The most important aspect was to avoid any tiredness or pain in the long run, when typing or driving. I used biometrical data and specific modules from the CAD software to get the ideal position for my own body. Most people can still use it because the seat can be adjusted… but you’ll see that later.
The finite elements model I ran showed an important bending of the top horizontal main panel, when loaded. As a consequence, I added an upright panel to the back of the desk, to make the whole thing stiffer. Also, the pedalboard received a stronger support.
Step 2: building
We used plywood panels with different thickness, depending on their function and placement.
As it has already been said, the whole structure has wheels. The “floor” is divided in two parts: one for the desk itself and one for the seat –the square panel you see at the bottom of the image. Later, they will be reattached together with three pins. Of course, you can remove the pins to separate the seat from the desk. Again, it’s very useful for vacuuming!
Now, the seat. Trust me, finding the right seat was the hardest part because I had set drastic specifications. I needed two armrests so I could… well, rest my arms when typing. This was a non-negotiable feature. A simple office chair would have sufficed BUT, as the armrests would have impeded my movements when driving, I needed retractable or foldable armrests. This is a common feature in some compact cars or sedans. BUT there is usually only one armrest. So I had to search into several junkyards to find an alternative solution. I bought two front seats from a Peugeot 307 SW and we transplanted an armrest from one seat to the other. This is my personal interpretation of Peugeot Sport.
The seat is supported by a metallic chassis. The adjustment mechanisms are still functional, which means I can move the seat up/down and forward/backward. Almost anyone can find a comfortable position to type and play. And I got a nice storage space underneath the seat.
The shifter can be vertically adjusted to any position, thanks to a simple telescopic system. When you drive, the shifter is set high. When you type, it is lowered to make room for the mouse.
The pedalboard is mounted on another metallic chassis. It is angled in order to have a realistic position of the pedals. My ankles say “thanks” every day.
Funny detail: the front “legs” of the chassis make a weird angle so I don’t hurt my toes when I put my feet on the floor, under the pedalboard.
After hours of sawing, welding and screwing, the desk was taking shape.
Here is a close view of the moving panel that supports the keyboard. To the right is a sliding panel for the mouse. When you need to set the shifter to a higher position, you slide the panel in.
Do I look good or what? Holes have been poked in the plywood panels for the computer/wheel/monitors cables.
Step 3: undercoat
Step 4: painting
Two to three coats were needed.
Step 5: installing it at home
In “desk” configuration, the wheel is pushed aside, without unplugging anything else than the USB cable.
In “racing” configuration, the keyboard is pushed back, the mobile panel is set to a horizontal position again and you can gently slide the wheel along your desk until it’s between the seat and the screen. Then it’s fixed with the built-in jaws of the G27 and two screws that go through the desk –the G27 has two threads underneath, for that purpose.
It takes less than one minute to go from working to racing, or the other way around.
The bass box –or whatever you call it– fits under the pedalboard. The low frequency sounds are better conducted by solid materials than air. So they resonate in the structure, including the seat, for a better immersion in the game. But as the whole structure is on wheels, with minimal contact to the actual ground, your neighbors may be less bothered… unless the desk touches a wall, like in this case
Finally, you can notice the importance of the holes I made for the cables!
Thanks for reading this topic. I won’t lie: I’m very proud of this modular desk. So far, I haven’t found any flaw, which is a victory per se. I love it. Feel free to ask questions, say anything about this project or share this topic around.