Working from home

Good Friday afternoon all and welcome to this working-from-home-and-obsessively-washing-hands edition of FAIC.

I am posting today from my recently-transformed spare room which is now apparently my office. Scott Hanselman started a great twitter thread of techies showing off their home workspaces; here’s my humble contribution.


We have my work Mac hooked up to two medium-sized HP monitors, one of which cost me all of $20 at a tech thrift store. The Windows game machine is under the desk. You’ll note that I finally found a use for my VSTO 2007 book. The keyboard is the new edition of the Microsoft Natural; my original edition Natural is still on my desk at work and is not currently retrievable.

I am particularly pleased with how the desk came out. I made it myself out of 110 year old cedar fence boards; when I bought my house in 1997 the original fence was still in the back yard and falling down, so I disassembled it, removed the nails, let the boards dry out, planed them down, and figured I’d eventually do something with it. I’ve been building stuff out of it ever since, and this project finished off the last of that stock.

Here’s a better shot of the desk.


The design is my own but obviously it is just a simple mission-style desk. All the joints are dowel and glue; the only metal is the two screws that hold the two drawer knobs on. The finish is just Danish oil with a little extra linseed oil added.

To the right I have a small writing desk:


Which as you may have guessed doubles as my 1954 Kenmore Zigzag Automatic Sewing Machine:


I have not used it in a while; I used to make kites. I might start again.

The manual for this machine is unintentionally hilarious, but that’s a good topic for another day.

Finally, not shown, I’ve got a futon couch and a few plants to make it cosy.

Stay safe everyone, and hunker down.

UPDATE ONE: Obviously I’ve been spending so much time in video chat from home, which is very unusual for me. Unfortunately my setup is such that there is a south-facing window right behind me that overpowers the built-in camera on my laptop even with the curtains drawn.

I took Scott’s advice and got an inexpensive 8 inch ring light, shown here with the room otherwise dark:


The ring light is dimmable LED and has three colour temperatures, so I can now control the specularity of the light directly on my face, and also do some light shaping with the little non-dimmable desk lamp should I wish to. On a bright day the window no longer washes out the webcam image.


Photo on 3-31-20 at 1.48 PM.jpg


Photo on 3-31-20 at 1.49 PM.jpg

The window is still an almost total white-out, but at least I no longer look like a purple-faced Walking Dead extra.

And good heavens do I ever need a haircut. That’ll have to wait.

UPDATE TWO: You cannot tell in the photo above but the ring light was held on to the monitor by a jury-rigged spring clamp, which is none of stable, attractive, or good for the laptop it was clamped to. In the spirit of Adam Savage’s One Day Builds, I give you Eric Lippert’s Five Minute Build:


Yes, it is a board (left over from the desk) with three holes in it. Quarter-twenty bolt in the back, wood screws in the front, done in five minutes.


16 thoughts on “Working from home

  1. I have created a very similar work space in my home. I’ve added a docking station so that I don’t have to plug in keyboard/mouse/monitor/sound every time I sit down to work.

    What I really want is a way to hook my docking station to my desktop so that when I want to game I don’t have to push around a bunch of wires.

  2. Pingback: work from home, week one, done – Andy's Blog

  3. Hi Eric,
    First, greets from 🇩🇪! Nice post!
    Greetings from my wife, who also likes to sew on a 1960s machine.

    I’m must build a new workstation and looking for impressions. Can you share some details from your machine under your desk please?

    • It’s just a stock mid-range Windows gaming machine; nothing fancy. Aside from the occasional game of Kerbal Space Program I do not put a heavy demand on graphics or computation.

  4. That is a nice desk. I especially enjoyed reading that you reused boards from your fence rather than just disposing of them. Those are always the most satisfying projects that I have done (using reclaimed lumber). Alongside refinishing projects in which I took something that looked terrible and restored it to something more pleasing to the eye.

    It looks like you had some fairly wide boards to choose from. Such good fortune!

    My wife will enjoy the reference to that Kenmore sewing machine. She prefers older machines like that over the modern electronic counterparts.

    • Thank you! The boards were nice and wide, but since each one had a different amount of surface damage, my initial planing down left every board a different thickness, so I had to take care to choose which boards were used for which parts of the desk so that I could run them through the thickness planer and get them uniform.

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