Years and years ago, when Jef and I first started dating, I noticed that whenever he sat down, he also put his feet up. He’d prop them up on low walls, other chairs, railings, etc. He insisted that he felt uncomfortable with his feet down. He had to put them up.
I thought it was kind of odd.
Fast forward ten years later, I’m planning the layout of my van. Jef says, “I think it’d be cool to put in a dinette so that we’ll have a place to eat and work.”
“No way!” I reply, “A dinette won’t let me put my feet up! I want to be comfortable when I’m eating and working. A chaise with a lap desk is way better.”
He bursts out laughing. “Remember when you used to give me a hard time about putting my feet up?”
Yeah … I don’t know what happened. Somewhere along the line, I stopped being able to sit in a chair with my feet flat on the ground. I’m more comfortable sitting in a chair cross-legged or with my legs tucked up onto the seat. And I’m most comfortable in the classic La-z-boy position—reclined, with my feet up.
So that’s why I didn’t put a dinette or a dedicated work space in my van. Instead, I had plans for my own unique workstation:
What you’re looking at (next to my curious dog) is a DIY, low-tech way to suspend a tablet computer in the air at perfect ergonomic viewing height, plus a laptop tray from Linens ‘N Things (no longer available but here’s a similar one on Amazon). The keyboard is a bluetooth Kinesis Freestyle2 keyboard.
The tablet holder is a bit crazy looking, but it was super easy to assemble. It took less than an hour using wood scraps, a scrap of copper wire, some screws, and a rubber band. The black plastic gizmos are all various Ram mount components.
I guess it’s pretty evident that I’ve stopped caring about craftsmanship.
Well, the truth is that I didn’t know if this was going to work. The Ram mount joints are actually meant for much smaller items, like cell phones, so I wasn’t sure that they’d be able to support the weight of my computer (a Microsoft Surface Pro 3). I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making it look nice just to have it all go to pieces.
Now that I know that it works, I may eventually redo it in a way that looks better.
There are a few reasons why I went with a DIY tablet holder instead of an off-the-shelf one:
- the holder had to anchor to a surface up high and hold the tablet down low
- the holder had to be adjustable to different viewing angles
- the holder had to lock in place so that the tablet wouldn’t move if the van was parked on uneven ground
- I didn’t want to spend more than $30
The way this particular holder works is pretty simple. The tablet sits on two screws in the front, and the copper hook has slight tension on it keeping the tablet in place. The three screws on the back are so that I can use different rubber bands and adjust the tension. The copper hook was a leftover piece of 8 gauge solid copper wire; I bent it into shape with pliers.
For those who are looking into doing something similar, I highly recommend Ram mount parts. They’re very sturdy, and they’re highly adjustable. The only downsides are that the positioning can droop after a few hours if you don’t crank the adjustment handle down hard enough, and they can be kind of expensive. I also would not recommend the lighter duty parts (the ones that use 1 inch balls) with anything heavier than a Surface Pro 3. Laptops will definitely require something sturdier.
So far, this is the most comfortable work station I’ve ever used. It is kind of a pain if I have to keep getting up to get water or snacks, so I generally just keep everything I need in the storage area to my left.
Oh dear lord.
I’m these people.