Local inventor unveils portable standing desk
MIDDLEBURY — Franklin Dean-Farrar is taking a stand for the future health of the American office worker.
Well, he’s not actually taking a stand, as opposed to making one, to support laptop computers in a manner that will allow workers the more back-friendly option of typing while standing instead while seated.
Dean-Farrar got the idea for his “Nomad Stand” soon after receiving a fancy standing desk for his computer at Middlebury College, where he works as manager of athletic operations and events. His new desk actually allows him, at the push of a button, the option of having a seated or standing work position.
“People came in and saw (the new standing desk) and asked how they could get one,” Dean-Farrar, a Brandon resident, recalled. “Having a standing desk … was awesome. It was unbelievable. I felt better.”
He unfortunately had to reply to interested parties that the high-end desk cost upwards of $1,500 — a sum that understandably places it out of the reach of most workers and many employers.
“It was really expensive,” he said. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’”
So Dean-Farrar thought he would try to make a basic, more affordable laptop standing desk for the masses.
“The challenge for me was to make something smaller and portable,” Dean-Farrar said. “I had three checklist items. I wanted it to be light, 12 inches tall and have some aesthetic appeal.”
He started to experiment with a cardboard box, to see if it could be manipulated into a reasonable standing desk to perch on top of a regular desk surface.
“It didn’t work,” he said.
He decided to shut himself in his garage for lengthy stretches last year to do some serious tinkering. Dean-Farrar put together a version using half-inch plywood.
“It was bulky,” he said. “It was a mess, but it helped me conceptualize something.”
Next, Dean-Farrar, turned his attention to aluminum and began welding his incarnation of a computer stand.
His design featured an X-frame foundation that could collapse for easy storage. But Dean-Farrar learned he did not have the necessary metalsmith skills, and that ultimately sent him back to wood. He found quarter-inch plywood to be just the right stuff.
“I started cutting, failing and trying again, and all of a sudden, I had a workable prototype,” Dean-Farrar said. “From that, it was probably another month of refining the prototype.”
He called that prototype the “Nomad Stand,” emblematic of the on-the-go lifestyle that many of us lead these days in work and play. Dean-Farrar’s creation simply consists of four varnished plywood boards with slots that can be easily assembled on top of a regular desk surface to fashion a standing desk station ranging from 9- to 12 inches high, depending on the height of the user. The height of the average office desk is around 30 inches, according to Dean-Farrar. So the Nomad Stand can ideally meet the needs of people up to 6 feet, 2 inches tall, he said.
The Nomad Stand weighs around 1.5 pounds and can fit into a standard laptop bag or backpack.
Though made of quarter-inch plywood, Dean-Farrar said the product is durable. He said the Nomad Stand stood the test of supporting two 45-pound weights.
Dean-Farrar also showed how the Nomad Stand can be assembled into a smaller viewing platform for a computer tablet and iPhone.
He has established an online Kickstarter campaign in an effort to raise the $5,910 he believes he will need to get his product teed up for an initial run. His campaign — which includes a narrative about the project and a video showing how to assemble it — can be seen at www.kickstarter.com/projects/1582767633/nomad-stand-live-intentionally-l….
As of this past Friday, 59 backers had pledged a combined total of $2,090 toward the $5,910 goal, with 25 days left in the campaign.
Partnering with Dean-Farrar will be none other than Maple Landmark Woodcraft of Middlebury. Dean-Farrar has met with Maple Landmark founder and CEO Mike Rainville, who has agreed to manufacture the Nomad Stand. Rainville’s company has the equipment to precisely laser-cut the Baltic birch plywood in a fraction of the time it would take Dean-Farrar to fashion it himself.
“We will be able to say they are made in Vermont,” Dean-Farrar said, a fact that he hopes will give the Nomad Stand extra cachet.
And at $50 a pop, the price is definitely less than current standing desks. He has high hopes for the device and believes the product could eventually blossom into a booming business.
Early feedback on the stand has been very positive, according to Dean-Farrar.
“They usually say something like, ‘That’s really cool,’ or, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that,’” Dean-Farrar said of the typical reaction. “It’s been pretty overwhelming.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].