Computer Riser Stand

November 29, 2013 — 8 Comments
iMac Riser Stand: Installed

The almost-finished project

I recently replaced my 27“ iMac with… another 27” iMac. What I love most about these computers is the ability to use them as an external monitor with a MacBook Pro. This gives me the power and “consistency” of a desktop machine for personal use, but also a very capable mobile setup for work that can be used comfortably for design when I’m working at home.

Apple apparently decided that in order to mount the new iMac on a monitor arm via a VESA adapter (as I have been doing for the last decade or so), I’d have to buy a completely different computer–a special version of the iMac that has a built-in VESA mount. For all sorts of reasons, I did not want to buy a computer that could only be used on a monitor arm, but the stock iMac posed a problem:

Height Problem

The “normal” height of the iMac does not clear the top of the MacBook Pro’s screen. First world problem, I know.

Impetus to make something!

I didn’t want to turn this into a massive project, so I limited myself to one weekend’s worth of spare time. Not wanting to use most of that time drawing in SketchUp like I usually do, I took only a few measurements: the amount I’d have to raise the iMac to clear the MacBook Pro’s screen; the width of a Wacom tablet I wanted to store in or under the stand; and the dimensions of the iMac’s base.

The weekend prior, I had glued up some panels from some cherry boards I had in the shop. I intended to use those panels for another project, but they were about the right size so I co-opted them for this one.


I cut them down to a few inches larger than the tablet, then flattened and thicknessed them to a little under 1/2 inch.

I decided to go with a very small drawer in the top of the riser and an “open garage” for the tablet below. This would allow me to keep index cards (which I regularly sketch on or take notes on) and pens in the top drawer and also allow me to take the tablet out easily–without removing anything in front of the riser to open a drawer. Also, I figured this approach would make the piece look more like what it was supposed to be–a monitor stand–than a box on top of which the monitor sits. I decided I’d have the grain on the sides of the riser running vertically so I cut the sides appropriately, using the remainder of that panel for the shelf below the drawer.

The only real hiccup I encountered was when deciding to use Dominos to join the shelf to the sides. The minimum depth setting on the Domino was greater than the thickness of the sides. So with some small sections of a cutoff piece and some double-sided tape, I made a shim for the Domino which worked perfectly.

Domino Shim

The rest of it came together easily with handtools, hide glue and nails. I had a box of wenge offcuts, one of which I used as the front for a drawer made of pine sides. I’ve never worked with wenge before–what a strange material to plane and cut tiny half-blinds into.

Riser Drawer Parts

The bottom is aspen, thicknessed to just under 1/4“ then glued and nailed into rabbets, making the drawer just over 1–1/4” tall inside. The drawer doesn’t extend all the way to the back of the shelf–a drawer that long would be useless. So it slides into its opening until it’s stopped by a piece of cherry that I just glued to the top of the shelf.

A little shellac and a coat of wax and I was done. Total time in the shop–maybe a little over 7 hours. Without a design to work from, I wasn’t particularly efficient on this project—the Domino shim detour, the futzing around with various orientations for the sides and shelf, but I think it turned out alright.

iMac Riser Stand
iMac Riser Stand: Front
iMac Riser Stand: Drawers

It gets my iMac up over my MacBook Pro as intended…


…but looks decent when nothing’s in front of it.


I’ve carved a few drawer pulls out of apple wood but haven’t found a shape I’m happy with. I’d like the pull to be small and curved but have a hand-carved look to offset the hard geometry and machined look of everything else (including the computer equipment). In the end I think I’ll end up with a small half-circle or oval of some sort mounted vertically in the center of the drawer. The other option is to forego the drawer pull altogether and recess the shelf a little so that I can pull the drawer open from underneath. Had I spent a little time in SketchUp prior, I probably would have designed for this and would have made the drawer taller to cover the recessed shelf, as I like the cleanliness of that approach. But a bit of apple in the middle somehow seems appropriate.

And in case you’re wondering–the fact that the house still needs end tables has not escaped me.

8 responses to Computer Riser Stand

  1. Beautiful. Would you sell one like that?

  2. Cool little project. What did you use as your backdrop for the glamour shots? Is that paper or cloth? Any quick photo tips or sources for photographing furniture for non-photographers. I understand this might be a loaded question but I thought I’d ask. Thanks Narayan.


  3. @ It’sMe: I suppose I’d sell one like it, but my going rate for giving up a weekend of time with the family is pretty steep. Probably cheaper to buy a woodshop 🙂 (but in all seriousness, I really just make stuff for myself)

    @Shawn: Hey there. I used a cyclorama like this one: We bought one for the Studley project, and I liked it so much I purchased one for myself. There are a number of ways to achieve similar results, though. Google “light tent” for more DIY setups.

    I’m not sure I can answer the photography question in a comment. I might do a blog post on it some day but it’d be good to do that after I’ve made some furniture. Shoot a message to Megan Fitzpatrick–I think photographing furniture would be an excellent session at a future WIA (for someone else to teach :))

  4. Dude, this is perfect. Just knowing to google “light tent” is good enough for what I’m trying to understand. The lighting in my basement is piss poor at best and it makes my blog photos look lame. I think I have a bit of a creative eye for photography but I lack some of the technical know-how.

    My comment was a thickly veiled attempt to get you to do a blog post on photographing your work. You got me. I’ll hit up Megan because I think it’s a great idea for a WIA class.

    Thanks again.


  5. What did you end up with as your height?

    • 3.5″ was the final height. I was planning 4 but I wanted more overlap between the black screen bezel on both machines. By the way, it’s a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro (I imagine the height for a 15″ or for either of the Airs would be different).

  6. Have you tried forming the pull similar to the base of the iMac? You could mimic that graceful form by flipping it horizontally or something. Just a thought.

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