The Maiden Voyage of My SKARSTA

Monday, May 02, 2016

Today is my first day of experimenting with a standing desk at home, something I've wanted to try for years, but haven't for lack of space. (I'm not of the mind that sitting is a death sentence; I just find doing so for long stretches to be extremely uncomfortable.) I've had the home office clear enough for a few weeks now, so I looked for cheap options last week and settled on IKEA's "SKARSTA," the name of which makes me think of someone saying "ska star" in a poor attempt at a Jamaican or British accent. A major reason for choosing this is that it is enough like what I want in a standing desk that I can use it for a long time if I like standing, but it can be lowered enough to be useful for other purposes if I don't, or if I choose a nicer desk later on. This will be my initial mixed review of this handsome, but inexpensive desk.

While Pumpkin was in the supervised play area of our local IKEA, my wife, my son, and I looked at the desk, which I was sure I'd be unable to take home that day. (The 47" x 28" tabletop would, with added thickness for components make for a box just big enough not to fit in the cargo space of our station wagon.) After I showed Little Man how the hand crank of the store model adjusted the height of the table top, I got some good news in the form of the ordering information: the table top was packaged separately from the support components. I correctly surmised that I'd be able to take everything home that day, so that represented a savings on delivery costs or time for a second trip. I was happy to be able to just bring home the table that day, and possibly even assemble it over the weekend. I ended up doing that yesterday as I streamed an EPL match on my desktop and Pumpkin entertained herself with some of the puzzles and games I keep in the office.

Assembly was, for the most part, a breeze. The trickiest part was figuring out how far apart to space the legs (which can, with a different spacer bar setting, accommodate a larger table top). I looked a a picture of the completed desk to figure this out since neither setting made sense out of that context. I think that, except for a problem I encountered at the next-to-last step, I'd have been able to assemble the whole thing in 30-45 minutes without kids around. The end result is serviceable for my purposes.

Here's the assembly problem I ran into: The desk has a telescoping leg on each side with an internal mechanism for height control. These are linked together with a gear-driven rod to enable uniform height adjustment with a hand crank. The hand crank consists of a metal driving rod attached to a white, enameled handle. The driving rod has a hexagonal cross-section the same size as or slightly smaller than the larger of the two Allen wrenches included in the kit for assembly, and must be threaded through a hexagonal hole in one of the legs. This is the second-to-last step in the assembly, and one would think it would have taken maybe a second or two, but it ended up taking much longer, in terms of trying to figure out what was wrong and how to finish the assembly. (The aforementioned Allen wrench went in and out smoothly.) The end of this rod has a small notch cut around it to enable screwing in a stop to keep it from pulling all the way out during height adjustment. My best guess as to why I couldn't just slip the rod through the hole is that the rod was bent slightly at this notch or the very end was rotated a bit, misaligning the hexagonal cross sections on either side of the gap. But I tried calling IKEA support before ultimately resorting to a mallet. IKEA support is horrible: You get verbal diarrhea about tipover straps that you have to sit through before ever hearing a menu, which asks for a zip code (which a second call revealed never gets associated with your phone number) so you can be sent to your local store, which ... never answers, although you do get to hear about tipover straps again.

Past that hurdle, I find that height adjustment works perfectly, but that the method of affixing the table top to the legs is wanting. Plastic snaps. Really. These popped off constantly as I tried to thread the hand crank, although they seem adequate to the task of keeping the table top from sliding around. I will need to strengthen that connection (or install a different table top) if I end up using this for another purpose, especially if it involves the kids using the desk.

In sum, I think this table is adequate for its stated purpose. It gets extra points for transportability from the store, but it (and IKEA) lose points for customer support, which instructions suggest with a phone icon (but no number). It may be poor for other purposes, especially for children, and it will need some disassembly for any move. I plan to use it strictly as a standing desk. (I will sit at my rolltop when I don't wish to stand.) Those who wish to use this desk for sitting and standing should purchase a high chair for sitting since hand-cranking would get tedious quickly. Overall, I am happy with the purchase, but would offer only a qualified recommendation to others. I strongly dislike hate the table top snaps (one of which popped out during edits when I leaned on the desk -- I am not a heavy man); I regard my difficulty with the hand crank as bad luck. That said, IKEA could take some lessons on voice mail from USAA.

As for standing while writing? It's okay. So far, my ankles like it about as much as my posterior likes sitting, but I am just starting the experiment.

-- CAV

Updates

Today: Corrected title and several typos. 

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