Best Birch Standing Desk Reviews
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Birch: The New, New Thing in Solid Wood Standing Desks
With the popularity of natural hardwood standing desks on the rise—for those who can afford the very finest things in life—adjustable height workstations made with birch plywood have been rushing to market of late to create a more affordable alternative. So much so that we were compelled to create a separate reviews round-up category for them.
These birch sit-to-stand desks have a distinct Scandinavian design look to them, particularly around the edges where the multi-ply construction is visible, but on the top surface, they look very similar to much pricier maple. Because of how the wood panels are constructed they’re also extremely strong and stable, meaning they won’t have as much natural movement with changes in temperature and humidity, and are generally less prone to warping or cracking compared to some of the lower-quality, albeit less expensive imported solid wood desktops out there. (See our primer on solid wood desktops to learn more.)
Caveat Emptor: Not Every Birch Standing Desk Is The Same
Like any product, you’ll find variations in quality and price among birch standing desks, with the price and quality not always going hand-in-hand. With birch desks, you’re looking for a couple of key identifiers. The first is whether or not the birch is true Baltic birch. The second is the grade of the birch. If a manufacturer doesn’t mention these details or is vague about them, it likely means they’re using a cheaper grade.
For fine furniture, and especially anything you’re going to put on a pricey height-adjustable base, the top grade of Baltic birch (B/BB) is of course going to be the most aesthetically pleasing and the strongest. The grading refers to the exposed surfaces (listed as “face/back” quality), so if you’re comparing apples-to-apples you will want to be cognizant of the exact grade being used by the desk manufacturer, as quality (and cost) varies widely.
Again: if the grade isn’t mentioned in their marketing materials it’s probably a cheaper grade. Lower-grade panels can have voids in the core that could become problematic later, for example.
Here’s the official guide to these grading codes:
- B/BB: The face and back veneers are both single pieces. Face veneers are free of defects, clear and of uniform color. Back veneers can have 3-6 color-matched patches.
- BB/BB: The face and back veneers are both single pieces. Face and back veneers can have 3-6 color-matched patches and some light streaks. There may be tight pin knots.
- BB/CP: The face and back veneers are both single pieces. CP back veneer can have unlimited patches and knots, but can’t have open defects.
- CP/CP: The face and back veneers are both single pieces. Face and back veneers can have unlimited knots, repaired splits and patches.
- C/C: Front and back veneers can have patches, open knots, small splits. Voids are allowed in the core. This grade is not sanded and would be used for structural purposes.
Why Is ‘Baltic’ Important?
Baltic birch has been used for hundreds of years by European makers of fine cabinetry and musical instruments because of how durable, stable and precisely machinable it is. It also takes stains as well as any solid hardwood plank does. (But beware of some cheap simulations out there; real Baltic birch is sourced from the second-largest sustainable forest in the world, along the shores of the Baltic Sea in Russia and Finland.)
Baltic birch fits next to solid wood in regards to quality but is significantly less expensive, which is why we’re starting to see so many new standing desks offered with various types of birch tops. While technically a “plywood” this is not the same animal as you’ll find in the bins at Home Depot.
The birch plywood panels are made up of some number of 1.5 mm-thick sheets of veneer that are bonded together in alternating grain direction. This makes for a very precisely machinable piece of lumber that is exceptionally strong and stable, much more so than a plank of natural hardwood of the same thickness. It has the advantage of being much less susceptible to flex and movement from changes in temperature and humidity.
A 12-ply panel comprised of a dozen 1.5 mm veneers will measure out to about 0.70″ thick—as in the example of an iMovR Captain’s Desk pictured here—and is actually stronger and more stable than a 1.25″-thick slab of real solid maple.
Baltic birch also stands out with its lower environmental impact compared to natural hardwoods like maple, cherry or oak. It grows quickly and takes less than half the raw wood material to match the strength and rigidity of a natural hardwood plank.
Long story short: Over hundreds of years, Baltic birch has been proven to be the best variety, and also it’s the most sustainable.
Find The Best Birch Standing Desk
Even if all desks are not top-grade Baltic birch, regular birch plywood is still a solid option since it is attractive and strong enough to add stability to desk bases that otherwise aren’t known for it. Some vendors use a lower quality birch with a laminate on the facing, just to show off the ply wood edging of the core slab. We rate the best birch standing desks below:
The Captain’s Desk brings so much style, it could’ve skimped on the substance. By not doing so, this has become a true winner. It brings all the positives from the Lander Lite base, adds the beauty, durability and environmental sensibility of 12-ply Baltic birch, for incomparable style among today’s standing desk alternatives. If any standing desk can do so, the Captain’s Desk will make you feel things.
When you shop at a furniture store and they have one standing desk model off in a quiet corner, it’s probably not where you want to buy your standing desk. The only reason to buy this desk over another is if you love the birch top, but there are both better lifting bases and better desktops (including birch) to be had for the money.
The IKEA Knotten is great at what it is: A piece of furniture designed for storage in a foyer. The issue is when IKEA calls it a standing desk. It comes in one size and can’t handle either monitor arm or keyboard tray installation, so it’s in an ergonomic barren space. The desktop surface is very small. It is still an IKEA product, so installation is going to be a chore.