A Year Behind The Rebel Desk

About a year ago I purchased a Rebel Desk adjustable sit/stand desk. In my now more desk-bound working life this was the first step in a plan to help me be healthier and happier in my home office.

I’ll begin with an admission of sorts; the events of my past have left me quite spoiled with respect to workspaces. Early in my career I was a television editor. Technically, an “online”editor…at a point in time when such editing suites were custom built to accommodate the technology of the day. Further, it happens that I had a hand in building and/or renovating several facilities. As a consequence, at least twice my workspaces were in fact made-to-order. Of course, that was only possible when funded by other people’s money.

In general the sit/stand desk has been a good thing. It has helped to address my tendency to fidget part-way through the day. I now have a habit of cranking the desk up for certain activities, down for others.

It’s a manually adjustable desk. This was motivated largely by cost. The Rebel Desk cost me around $800 with the Teak laminate top and keyboard drawer. Electrically adjustable desks were around double that price at the time.

The Rebel Desk adjusts from 30″ to 46″ in height. Measuring 28 x 48” it’s markedly smaller than my old desk, which remains elsewhere in the office. Yes, at 400 square feet I have what is perhaps an unusually spacious home office. There’s space for two desks, a small couch and a table for project work.

The faux Teak laminate is nice enough, although I had thought that I might some day make my own solid wood top if I wanted something nicer. This would allow for a slightly larger top, if that should be desirable.

Where my old desk was merely the location for my desktop computer, the Rebel Desk has essentially become a peripheral to the PC. They are as one. Of course, it wasn’t that way at first. It took some effort to adapt the Rebel Desk to my working reality.

The manufacturer claims that they have included conveniences like a “built-in outlet strip with USB charging” and “built-in cable management features.” These are in reality comprised of; two outlets, two USB charging ports, and two little plastic clips to hold any wires that might need to traverse the underside of the desk frame.

These things would only be adequate if your computing life revolves around a simple laptop or all-in-one computer. For anything more involved than a laptop, cell phone and perhaps one additional monitor, the built-in conveniences are wholly inadequate. This is where my DIY habit kicked in.

Adaptation #1: Power

On day one with the Rebel Desk I removed the built-in outlet strip, replacing it with a four-foot long outlet strip with 12 outlets. This reflects the reality of the desk’s burden, which is considerable. The outlet strip is attached to the metal framework on the underside of the desk top, so it moves up/down with the desk top. AC adapters either plug into the power strip directly or are lashed to it with nylon wire ties.

A network switch is mounted to the outlet strip, just under the desk top. This means that things don’t need slack loops in cables to allow for desk height adjustment. Everything goes up & down without getting caught or tangled.

Adaptation #2: Network & Mobility

My most recent changes to the desk have been to add the Ethernet-over-Powerline adapter and four large, Teflon carpet sliders under the desk’s leveling feet.

The Ethernet-over-Powerline interface eliminates the requirement for a wired Ethernet connection, without consigning the desktop devices to the vagaries of Wi-Fi. It provides a reliable network connection, suitable for IP telephony, Hangouts, etc. That leaves only a single power cord tethering the desk to the building.

The upshot of this arrangement is that I can quickly and easily slide the desk to any of several orientations in the space, which has several benefits.

Firstly, it allows me to be alter my position relative to the air conditioner. In the summer I prefer to be closer. In the winter, more distant from the AC unit.

Secondly, It allows me to easily change the background scene presented to my webcam. It’s effectively a change in set. This will be more effective once I’ve done some creative redecorating to emphasize the differences between the various camera perspectives.

Finally, there are times when we have visitors staying overnight. In such cases my office gets converted into a guest suite. The ability to move the desk readily allows us to put a queen-sized air bed at a logical location in the space. It allows both a more ideal working environment, and a a more comfortable guest suite.

Adaptation #3: Cable Management

The desk remains work in progress. I’d very much like to tidy up how cables are handled. As this is largely a cosmetic issue it wasn’t initially a priority. I can imagine making use of some finger-style Panduit duct, perhaps on the underside of the desk top. Or maybe some J channel is a better option?

I suspect that the most ideal solution would be to create a new, hardwood desk top. It would incorporate all the features necessary to accommodate all of my gadgetry, related cables and power supplies right into the top.

Maybe some day. Of perhaps my next desktop will be something like an HP Z1 G2 workstation? Maybe that would tidy up my desk. Nah, probably not.