Comparing Real Wood Tops for Standing Desks
When standing desks first came into popularity, the kinds of materials used for desktops and the selection of shapes, sizes and colors were very limited. Fast forward to today and an online shopper can now find an absolutely overwhelming array of choices, from ultra-cheap to ultra-premium, depending on how much your pocket book can handle. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you sort through all the options.
You can learn about all the different materials used in desktops—from simple and cheap powder coated MDF to commodity, high pressure laminates (HPL) and “engineered woods” like bamboo, all the way up to the premium categories of Surf(x) 3D lamination and handcrafted solid wood tops—by reading our Ultimate Guide to Standing Desk Tops.
In this comparison review, we’re going to look deeper at the most popular offerings in the category of real wood tops. But before we dive into the offerings from Fully, UpLift, and iMovR, keep in mind that buying a real wood top is a big investment. That’s why we’ve asked our expert review staff to put together this primer on everything you need to know before you plunk down $600-$2,400 (or more) on a posh top.
To start out, let’s take a moment to define exactly what “real wood tops” (a.k.a. “solid wood tops”) are—because pretty much all desktops (with the rare exception of some metal and glass tops) are made of wood in one form or another.
The Definition of a True “Real Wood” Desktop
What Counts as “Real Wood”
No standing desk manufacturer has yet to offer a true “single slab” desktop made from one very large piece of wood cut from the center of a very large tree. Such slabs are extraordinarily expensive and very hard to find. Whenever you do see them in a furniture showroom, they were typically locally-sourced after storms brought down a very large old growth tree. We’re going to limit this review to tops you can buy online that are more commonly available and more affordable.
So, what should you expect when you’re buying a “real wood” desktop online? In terms of construction these tops are made by taking planks of real wood, typically 0.75” to 1.75” thick and 4” – 6” wide, and edge-gluing them together to make a solid slab of wood. That means you will see a half-dozen or more separation lines in the grain of a typical real wood desktop. But it will be made of 100% real wood. This is far more cost effective than a true solid slab.
As a general rule, more expensive tops will be comprised of a smaller number of wider planks; less expensive tops will be made using a greater number of narrower planks. Walk into any fine furniture store, and this is what you’re going to see 99% of the time, whether it’s real-wood or veneer furniture.
If the lines in the wood bother you, then your best option may be to go with a 3D or HPL-laminated top where the wood grain is an image that is continuous. But let’s be honest, these look-alike tops are fakes. Some 3D laminations, like those made with Surf(x) vinyl, are so convincing that they give real wood a run for the money (and they’re actually more durable to boot).
But if the real McCoy is what you’re pining for, there’s no reason to settle. Having seen all these products side-by-side, we can tell you there isn’t any comparison in the beauty and character of real wood versus conventional laminated MDF. They look the part of their lofty price tags. How lofty? A real wood desktop will likely cost 2-3x what the same manufacturer will sell a conventional laminated-MDF desktop for—even more if you want something truly exotic like mesquite with a faux barkline, or a quarter-sawn white oak.
It’s worth taking a moment to explain that bamboo desktops, while often marketed alongside other natural wood products, does not fall in the same category as the products we cover in this article. Bamboo is in fact an engineered product made from a grass, and involves a hideously environmentally-damaging manufacturing process. “Engineered” means that many layers are glued and compressed together into thin boards, and those thin boards are then layered at 90-degree angles and glued again, to make something reasonably stable, at least for awhile. These bamboo products are infamous for delaminating and warping over time, and were never made of real wood to begin with. See our full article on the ins and outs of bamboo desktop manufacturing for all the details.
Country of Origin and Sustainability Issues
These days, customers tend to care a lot more about buying American over foreign imports, for a multitude of reasons. When it comes to wood products, many countries, like China, will absolutely devastate an ecosystem in the name of profits, whereas American producers have to comply with more environmental and labor regulations. Even the simple act of shipping heavy lumber around the world (versus between two cities in the USA) has environmental ramifications.
As we’ve seen in the case of bamboo desktop marketing and cheap reclaimed wood desktops “green washing” tends to happen a lot more with foreign-sourced wood products than with American-made. Bamboo is indeed a highly renewable crop that grows very fast, but the rate of growth of the grass is the least impactful aspect of converting it into a wood panel product from which a tabletop, floor board, or chair can be made.
While marketers may claim their imported woods come from certified sustainable forests, it’s not as easy to check those claims versus an honest, American-grown lumber source; there is simply no reliable international standard. In most cases these sellers don’t bother to mention their woods are imported, so be sure to ask about the country of origin of any real wood top you’re considering. The domestic real wood desktops we’ve found online are easy to verify as sustainable species, meaning more new trees are planted each year than are being harvested.
Taking a Different “Cut” on Real Wood Options
If haven’t toured a sawmill, you may not appreciate the differences in how wood planks can be cut out of a tree. A real tree has many imperfections throughout that present a range of figures, including strips, burls, mottles, crotches, curls, and butts. These imperfections give real wood its character. A “rustic cut” of cherry or walnut will include many of these features. On the other hand, a “select cut” of the same tree will be free from these small faults.
Naturally, it costs more to buy a select cut of lumber because there is less ‘select’ material in a tree compared to rustic. Some people really love the rustic look (and lucky for them, rustic cuts are cheaper). Others prefer the perfection of select cuts, and are willing to spend for it.
The important thing when buying a rustic cut desktop is to know that any natural defects in the wood have been properly treated with clear or naturally-colored filler before being sanded down and sealed, so they don’t affect the integrity of the surface. This is painstaking work, but done right the result can be striking.
Lastly, there’s the direction of the cut in relation to the growth rings of the tree. For example, a coveted premium selection is a quarter-sawn cut that shows a natural “flake” pattern in certain species, like white oak. Quarter-sawn wood is famously used in mission or arts & crafts style furniture and Craftsman style homes. As compared to rift-sawn and flat-sawn cuts that are less spectacular, quarter-sawn has growth rings at angles of 45 to 90 degrees to the wide surface. You can’t get as many quarter-sawn cuts out of a tree, so it is naturally more expensive.
What Goes into Making a Desktop, Besides the Wood
This is where we see significant differentiation between the purveyors of real wood desktops. Wood is wood, but how it is shaped, sanded, stained, and sealed is an entirely different matter, and we see a wide spectrum in today’s market. The adage “you get what you pay for, and you pay for what you get” applies as much to natural wood desktops as it does to the electric standing base frames holding them up.
For more money, you should expect a more beautiful and longer-lasting product made with more hands-on craftsmanship (versus industrial automation) and more honest, low-VOC stains and sealants. Compared to solvent-based chemicals, these products require more labor and time to apply, so they’re a bit pricier.
Fact: real wood desktops are more susceptible to temperature and humidity variations, scratches and dings than conventionally mass-produced desktops. Desktops made with MDF cores are more isotropically stable than real wood, meaning they have the same strength and thermal expansion properties in all directions, and are thus the least susceptible to dimensional changes with temperature and humidity, much less cracking or warping.
Durability and Real Wood “Character”
Real wood has greater strength in the direction of the grain and is weaker cross-grain. Its susceptibility to temperature and humidity variations varies greatly by species, with woods like maple and cherry being relatively soft and hardwoods like oak or hickory stiffer and denser.
There are two important things to note here. The first is that owning real wood furnitures means it is going to “build character” over time, with dings and scratches being more pronounced than on laminated desktops, and, frankly, that’s what makes them “real”.
The second is the way the wood is kiln dried, sanded, and sealed will make a big difference in its longevity. What you want to look for is a desktop that is completely sealed, including on the unseen bottom surface and even through the grommet holes. Some producers only seal the visible top part and edges of the desk slab, leaving the rest of the surface susceptible to humidity changes, and therefore making the entire top more susceptible to dimensional changes and warping over time. For the kind of money you’re going to be investing in real wood, be careful that you don’t get shortchanged on its longevity.
Edging and Grommet Holes
The more basic real wood desktops will be simple rectangles, with hard, 90-degree edges all around. The more premium-priced tops will have an ergo-contoured edging that is more comfortable to lean against, and will be more resistant to dings along the edges from chair arms, etc. Putting contoured edges on a slab of real wood is trickier than shaping an MDF board for 3D lamination, and generally requires more hand-sanding to perfect, so expect to pay a little more for such niceties.
Most real wood tops are offered with the option of grommet holes for cable pass-throughs or for installation of optional devices, such as power nodes for bringing power sockets, USB sockets, or wireless charging surfaces to the top of the desk. On cheaper tops, these grommet holes will be rough cut and covered with plastic grommet caps, leaving a lot of surface area exposed to moisture in the air and from accidental spills.
As mentioned above, you really want these inside surfaces to be sealed and aesthetically pleasing enough to leave the cheap-looking plastic grommet caps off altogether. After all, being able to see the wood grain inside the grommet holes is one way you’ll be showing off the fact that your desktop is made of real wood, not laminated MDF.
The sanding of real-wood furniture may sound mundane, but it’s where a lot of the labor cost goes. Some tops are sanded by machine in a single pass, leaving a perfectly flat surface just like a laminated MDF board. And that’s fine, so long as you realize that your real wood top isn’t going to stay that way forever. The thing is you’re dealing with real wood here, which has real variations in texture throughout. Hand-sanding, while more labor-intensive, results in a higher quality end product that has a consistent “hand.”
Staining and Sealing
And that brings us to the all-important differences in staining and sealing. You’ll usually see several stain options on a particular species that is being offered by a desk maker. This can range from a light/medium/dark stain to as many as 10 different stains. In stained woods, you can find a wider array of tones to better match the look of your office or home decor, from browns to reds to blues to blacks. The lighter the natural color of the wood the more stain options will be offered for it (maple, the most popular real wood species for desktops, takes the cake in this regard).
Stains and sealants, necessary as they are, come in a wide range of toxicity, from solvent-based concoctions that’ll outgas nasty VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to non-toxic water-based products. A premium quality real wood top will be finished with a KCMA-rated waterborne sealant, ensuring long life by reducing the effects of humidity changes on the wood. This low-VOC finish protects the natural wood from moisture, chemicals, abrasion and marring, while being safe for workers and the environment (plus it reduces the use of solvents for application and cleaning).
Machine-processed versus Hand-crafted
When it comes to craftsmanship versus automated production processes, you might have guessed by now, our expert reviewers have a strong bias to the handcrafted process. It is definitely slower to produce but like mama’s famous spaghetti sauce, it’s the loving attention that goes into every detail that you just can’t find in a recipe book. Every piece of wood has its own character and humans are still better at drawing out each wood specimen’s natural beauty than machines are.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not against machining in certain parts of the process. For example, a good desktop will be pre-drilled for the hole pattern of the base it will sit on, and this should definitely be done on precision CNC equipment with resolution of at least one-thousandths of an inch. It’s important that the top not only sit correctly on the base frame to avoid tweaking it and damaging the lifting actuators over time, but also that the top itself is well-protected from warping by virtue of humidity and temperature changes. A good, all-around seal is imperative, and will add a gorgeous shimmer to the surface.
What About Reclaimed Wood?
Shopping for reclaimed wood desktop options is an entirely different process than shopping for desktops made of virgin wood. The quality control and stability (resistance to warping) of these materials is highly variable, and thus we strongly recommend avoided lesser-quality reclaimed wood slabs on top of pricey, delicately-tuned standing desk bases. When it comes to reclaimed wood you get what you pay for, and with more money you get a more beautiful and durable product, with nicer finishing touches—i.e. species and stains to match the tone of your decor, smoother surfaces, softened edges, plentiful size choices, grommet hole options, etc.
The supply of raw material for manufacturing reclaimed wood desktops is highly unreliable, as you might imagine. Suppliers need to wait for old structures to come down, and then spend a lot of time sorting out the usable pieces from the scrap. It is in effect a “spot market,” especially if you’re looking for hard-to-find species or top quality specimens. So for this reason it is not uncommon to see 6-12 weeks delivery time for higher-quality, made-to-order desktops. If the warm and storied look of reclaimed wood appeals to you it’ll be worth the wait, trust us.
In contrast, lower-cost reclaimed wood tops that ship the next day from inventory are generally imported from China. These are most commonly soft species like elm or fir, that have a bad reputation for warping and cracking. Some online marketers will make specious claims that their reclaimed woods are “heartier” and more scratch resistant for having endured decades of exposure to the elements. They may fool some of the people some of the time, but not anyone who does even a modicum of research on the subject. These cheap tops are mass produced in China and only available in one or two varieties and three sizes at the most.
There are many factors that go into the hardness, stability and surface durability of a desktop, including the species of wood and how the planks are bonded together to make a slab, plus the numerous finishing steps required before it can be sold to a desk manufacturer. For these reasons we wouldn’t dream of buying a reclaimed wood top without warranty coverage. A savvy shopper will consider the hassle and expense of replacing their desktop after it fails—that is, if they’re able to talk the seller out of their default position that “we don’t cover normal wear and tear.”
Some marketers try to position reclaimed wood as a “guilt-free” option for those concerned with the sustainability of our forests. Don’t fall for this chicanery. With today’s sustainable domestic forestry, the process of fashioning a stable new desktop from reclaimed wood of highly-variable source and quality is actually more resource intensive than creating one from a new, sustainably-grown tree. We can’t always say that about imported virgin woods but at least in the USA the most popular species for making desktops, such as maple, oak, cherry, walnut and hickory are all responsibly forested in smaller quantities than are grown anew each year.
If you’re buying a reclaimed wood top you’re going for a look. Our advice is to shun the gimmicky commodity imports and seek out desktops that are architectural grade, domestically sourced, and that you can order to the exact specifications of size, species, stain, and finishing options you desire. It’s worth the money and worth the wait to get something of heirloom quality and warm beauty.
Understanding the Offerings in Real Wood
There are three prominent vendors of real wood tops for standing desks today—Fully, UpLift, and iMovR. As our faithful readers know, WorkWhileWalking and iMovR have a unified origin story, and we were excited to announce their entrance into the solid wood top standing desk game. Both Fully and UpLift pair their real wood tops with a commodity Jiecang base, made in China. To our minds that’s a little like installing a Ferrari alcantara interior in a Ford Fiesta, but both companies have had great success with real wood tops. iMovR, in contrast to the other two, pairs its real wood tops with their state-of-the-art American-made Lander base, which arrives 99% pre-assembled, is packed with high-tech features like a built-in health coach and Bluetooth-sync’d smartphone app, and features an industry-leading ten-year warranty.
In terms of real wood tabletops, Fully and UpLift offer four standard sizes and iMovR offers eight, in 6” increments that include 41”, 47”, 53”, 59”, 65”, 71”, 77” and 83”. UpLift does offer custom-sized tops cut to the inch to meet your exact needs, if 6” won’t get you close enough. Fully and UpLift do not warranty their tops for anything other than shipping damage, and iMovR puts the same five year warranty on their real wood tops as they do on their 3D laminated desktops.
Fully – Maple Option
On their Jarvis desk line, Fully offers three real wood options. The most popular is their maple desktop, which comes in five different stains. It comes in four sizes: 48”, 60”, 72” and 78”. The tops are plain-Jane rectangular in shape with optional dual grommet holes, but no ergo-contouring. Fully uses water-based, all-natural stains, which are then sealed with a polyurethane clear coat. Fully sources these maple tops from sustainable forests in the US midwest.
While these are relatively inexpensive compared to the domestic real-wood tops from UpLift and iMovR, they do cut cut quite a few corners on the quality. Most importantly the tops are only sealed on the visible surfaces. While staining the bottom side of a desktop is not something you should expect, sealing is. This protects the wood from variations in humidity that can eventually cause it to warp.
Since Fully doesn’t provide a warranty on its desktops, this lack of comprehensive sealing is a yellow caution flag for our expert review staff. When you’re in the price range of real wood desktops, you’d expect more of an heirloom quality in craftsmanship. But as we said above, you get what you pay for. This is the low end in domestic, made-to-order, real wood tops. The maple tops ship in 2-3 weeks.
Fully – Premium Oregon White Oak Option
The Jarvis is also offered with a super-premium Oregon White Oak top, in the same four sizes but no stain options, that costs about twice as much as the maple tops. Fully is based in Portland, Oregon, so this top has a nice backstory to it in terms of how it is grown and harvested. The tops are also plain-Jane rectangles with no ergo-contouring or the option of grommet holes. The Oregon White Oak desks ship in 4-6 weeks.
Fully – Reclaimed Wood Tops
Fully has long offered a reclaimed wood desktop, albeit with many caveats such as “unpredictable variations in dimension,” and “even more wacky fun, adding age, weathering, and even species to the list of variables.” This option is listed on fully.com as “out of stock” at this writing, and hasn’t been available in many months. We can only speculate that the many customer complaints we heard about Fully’s reclaimed wood desktops have made it untenable for them to provide a reasonable quality product for the price.
One limitation of evaluating Fully’s real wood options from afar is that they do not offer color sample kits as their two competitors do. You can tell only so much from a small photo on a website, especially given the variabilities of color representation on different LCD monitors.
UpLift started offering only premium-priced domestic real wood tops, still on the same Jiecang base as Fully uses in their Jarvis desk line, but has recently also added less expensive foreign-sourced options. Like Fully, they only offer these tops in four sizes: 48”, 60”, 72” and 80”.
UpLift – Stocked Wood Tops (Imported)
The new “solid wood” offerings are designed to hit a price point nearly identical to what Fully charges for their minimally-crafted, albeit domestically-sourced maple tops. These include pheasantwood, ash, African mahogany and acacia, plus a premium walnut.
One big advantage of these imported offerings is that they ship relatively quickly, being stocked at UpLift’s warehouse rather than being made-to-order as with Fully’s and iMovR’s real wood tops or UpLift’s “Special Order” tops. UpLift does not disclose the countries of origin or anything about their production processes, nor does it provide a warranty on any of its tops, including these real wood varieties (other than for shipping damage).
UpLift – Special Order Wood Tops – Upscale Options
On the upscale end UpLift has what they call their “Special Order” wood tops, which are made using domestic real wood. These are priced in a similar range to iMovR’s real wood tops but lack the nicer touches like ergo-contouring and don’t come in as many sizes and colors. Grommet holes are offered as an option, unlike Fully’s maple tops. The real kicker, though, is that UpLift now quotes 10-12 weeks lead time for all of these domestic real wood tops. That used to be the exception, not the rule.
UpLift also no longer seems to offer their “Custom Solid Wood” tops that could be ordered to the exact inch. The new Special Order offering generally comes in just three or four standard size options, including 48×30, 60×30 and 72×30.
This seller does more real wood species than the other two makers, in a wide range of prices, ten of them in all: cedar, mesquite, ash, cherry, maple, walnut, pecan, white oak and sipo mahogany. But these all come in only one finish; there are no stain options. In contrast, iMovR offers only 8 species but these translate to a total of 36 options because of the additional staining options they offer on each species. And Fully offers only maple, and only in five stain colors.
UpLift sneaks in an imported “premium bamboo” top (versus their ultra-cheap, bottom-of-the-line bamboo top) into this custom solid wood category-though as we say above, bamboo is a grass that is engineered into a wood panel, not a real wood. It doesn’t really belong in this category with domestic real wood tops. No details are provided on what makes this premium bamboo better than the super-cheap standard offering.
UpLift – Faux “Barkline” Option
On the cedar and mesquite species UpLift offers the unique option of having a faux “barkline” on either the front edge of the top, back edge or both, intended to make it look like a super-expensive solid slab with a “live edge”. Except that it’s still made of planks edge-glued together, so that kind of dulls the whole live edge impression. We’re not sure who would like to have an uneven user edge on their standing desk, but this is definitely a unique look that only UpLift offers. This might be a better match for a conference table than a desk.
Our review staff is throwing down a yellow caution flag on these tops, however, given the disclaimer language on UpLiftDesk.com’s website: “If the air in your area is especially dry, your wood desktop could be at increased risk of cracking and splitting. Wood naturally expands and contracts depending on the amount of moisture in the environment, and without enough humidity, the moisture in your desk can evaporate, leaving it vulnerable to warping… If your desktop does crack or split, we’re happy to send you a repair kit to fill the affected areas. If potentially repairing your wood desktop isn’t something you’re comfortable with, we recommend that you take a look at our Bamboo, Eco, or Laminate desktops instead.”
Warranty & Shipping
Like the lower-cost imported solid wood tops, these premium domestic tops come with no warranty coverage, and there’s no disclosure as to the chemicals and processes used. For this kind of price, a consumer should expect a completely sealed piece of wood that avoids a premature end due to warping or cracking.
While the company does not offer color samples that you can keep, they do offer a “rentable” box of solid wood color samples for $45 (if you hold onto it, they’ll bill you $300).
Depending on how you look at it, one big differentiator for these UpLift solid wood tops is that they are 1.75” thick. Most desktops used in standing desks are 0.75” to 1.25” thick, so these will weigh substantially more than you might expect. The good news is that the extra thickness makes them less susceptible to dimensional instability or warping from exposure to humidity. The bad news is that the larger sizes of some of these species will put a serious strain on the Jiecang base, or at least significantly limit the weight of other items you can add to your desktop. It also means you’re paying for a lot more embedded shipping cost in the price. And you’ll want to make sure you’ve got some help getting the top off the pallet, unboxed, and assembled to the desk base.
See the end of this comparison review for guidance on calculating the weight of any given desktop from these three manufacturers. But let’s just take one example here. While the Jiecang base is marketed as sporting a 360 lb lift capacity it came nowhere close to being able to handle that kind of weight in our lab testing. And that’s before considering the side loading stresses imposed on a typical standing desk base. An 80”x 30” pecan table top will weigh a whopping 155 lbs. Even getting that kind of top into your office will be a strain, but this is more than twice the weight of a laminated MDF desktop, and really pushing the limits for a commodity, Chinese-made standing desk base.
UpLift – Reclaimed Wood Tops
UpLift has been through a few different reclaimed wood desktop offerings the past couple of years, obviously in the search of reasonable quality at a competitive price point. Like their head-to-head competitor Fully, UpLift has had a bit of a rough history with the durability and stability of their reclaimed wood tops. The last version of this offering was 1.5″ thick. with a plywood backing to reinforce the old wood against potential warping or cracking. The ones they offer now are not domestically sourced, though this is not indicated anywhere on the website; they are imported. As such, one advantage to these tops is that they do ship from stock.
Currently UpLift offers three “colors” of reclaimed wood fir: rustic, smooth and aesthetically-flawed ($200 less if you can deal with the flaws). Each is available in 30″ depths and widths of 42″, 48″, 60″, 72″ and 80″ with some exceptions. All tops are 1.5″ thick and grommet holes are optional. Note that fir, elm and other softwoods are not going to be as strong and stable as oak and similar hardwoods, but they generally cost a lot less.
If you’re considering UpLift’s reclaimed wood option, be sure to read all their FAQs and disclaimers, especially given that there is no warranty provided against the warping or cracking of their reclaimed wood or solid wood tops. UpLift’s warranties also do not cover labor, just parts. In their warranty caveats they state “Imperfections that occur naturally, such as those sometimes found in reclaimed or solid wood desktops, do not qualify for repairs or replacements” and “If your desktop is looking dull or scratched as a result of normal wear and tear, your warranty also covers expert advice from our woodworker on care and restoration for your desktop to keep it looking its best.” We find that UpLift’s hyperbolic marketing claims about this wood’s stability and durability when contrasted with their warranty disclaimers merit the Pinocchio Award. Bottom line: caveat emptor.
As we discussed in detail in the section on reclaimed wood above, it’s hard to find the perfect size and color/tone of reclaimed wood for your decor because there are so many inconsistencies in supply. Recently they’ve Douglas Fir is offered in 48”, 60” and 72” at a thickness of 1.5”, and Teak is offered in 48” and 60” with 1.25” of thickness). Everything we cautioned above about the trepidation a consumer should have when buying a reclaimed wood top applies. However, UpLift has mitigated the problem somewhat by adding a plywood backer to their reclaimed tops. This makes them thicker and heavier but less likely to warp or crack. It’s also a cost-cutting move.
As our faithful readers know, WorkWhileWalking and iMovR have a unified origin story, and we are excited to announce they are the newest contender in the real wood standing desk space, coming out with the most robust line of options yet, and with all the usual trimmings they are known for. iMovR was slow to jump into the real wood category, but they have set themselves apart in several ways.
iMovR – 36 American-grown Species and Stain Combinations
Six domestic, sustainable wood species are offered including maple, cherry, walnut, hickory (aka pecan), red oak, and a very distinctive quarter-sawn white oak. The cherry and walnut are offered in both rustic and select cuts. Multiple stains are offered on each species for a total of 36 options, in eight different sizes ranging from 41” all the way up to 83”, for a total of 288 color/size combinations.
Unlike the plain-Jane rectangles offered by Fully and UpLift these iMovR tops are ergo-contoured on all four edges, making them more comfortable to lean against and less susceptible to dinging from chair arms, not to mention jaw-dropping gorgeous. Options include dual grommet holes that are completely stained and sealed, and iMovR’s popular, built-in SteadyType keyboard tray (patented).
The iMovR tops are handcrafted in Michigan through a detailed seven-step process using honest waterborne stains and sealants. The result is a stunning “shimmer” and luxurious “hand” when you compare these tops to others in the same price range.
Stained and Sealed
Unlike the Fully and UpLift tops, iMovR completely seals their desktops, even through the insides of the fully-finished grommet holes. In fact you wouldn’t want to cover these grommet holes with cheap, ugly plastic caps, you’d want to show them off. But most importantly, the multi-step sealant process is designed to protect the wood from humidity changes that can cause partially-sealed tops to crack or warp. This is indeed a true heirloom-quality finish, and for only a very slight price premium over UpLift’s domestic solid wood offerings.
99% Pre-assembled Lander Desk Frame
In further stark contrast to Fully’s and UpLift’s offerings, the iMovR tops are sold with a state-of-the-art American-made “Lander” base. The Lander line is factory pre-assembled and tested, allowing users to get their new standing desk going in a matter of minutes with no tools required (see our Lander Desk Review for full details and video of the assembly process).
The ultra robust packaging these tops come in will take significantly longer to pry open than the desk will take to assemble the entire desk. While we want to whine about the packaging the fact is we’ve seen so many tops damaged in shipping over the years that we have to appreciate the attention to detail and expense iMovR has gone through to ensure a great customer experience.
The Lander desk is loaded with other high-end features that make a lot more sense when packaged together with a real-wood desktop, like a smartphone app that connects to your desk via bluetooth, a built-in “health coach,” ultra-quiet motors with a blazing 1.6 inches-per-second transit speed, and a lab-verified 360 lb weight lifting capacity. The Lander’s stability and 55” top-end height range is unparalleled; there’s just more American steel in this base than any other we’ve ever tested.
iMovR offers 4”x6” real wood samples for $5 apiece plus $3 shipping and handling fee, which they’ll deduct off the cost of your desk if you buy one.
Things to Know About Real Wood Desktops
The first thing to note is that your desktop will not look exactly like the one in the picture. Every tree is unique, as nature intended. Even if you do order a sample piece for color matching, you should be fully aware that grain patterns and color tone can vary widely. This is all fine and good; it’s a testament to real wood’s unique character.
Depending on the kind of sealant, lacquer, or polyurethane used to give your desktop a nice protective sheen, these can take a month or more to cure to their full hardness. You’ll want to avoid tightly clamping monitor arms to the desktop, for example, or at least insert a piece of felt in between the metal and the wood and leave loosely tightened to avoid damaging your still-curing top. After a few weeks, you can tighten things down, but just be aware that real wood is softer than laminated desktops, so don’t get too aggressive on the clamping.
Stained tops will not be stained on the bottom surface, which no one ever sees. But they should be sealed to protect from humidity damage on the top, bottom, edges and inside the grommet holes, to maximize the lasting value of your investment. Some are, some are not, as we’ve noted above respective to each manufacturer.
If you’re looking at adding a particularly heavy desktop to your standing desk base, you’ll want to make sure it can really handle the total weight and weight distribution you plan to lift. Read our complete guide to Why Weight Ratings on Standing Desks Really Matter, and then check the weight of your prospective desktop using the table below. Note that the ruggedized cardboard boxes these tops are typically shipped in will add a lot to their weight and dimensions for shipping purposes.
For comparison’s sake, most standard desktops are made with an MDF core that will weigh roughly 4.25 lbs per square foot (assuming 1” thickness; adjust accordingly for thicker or thinner tops). There is some variation in this with lower-quality (i.e. lower-density) MDF boards such as are often found on Asian imports; they can be up to 20% lighter.
Solid Wood Top Weight Comparisons
A note about how much a real wood desktop is really going to weigh. There will be natural variations in growth and moisture content from piece to piece, that just goes with the territory. Also the advertised thickness of these tops are based on the raw lumber dimension before sanding and application of stains and sealants, so if your 1.25″ desktop comes in at 1.2″ after finishing there will be slight variance from the published weight. We’ve provided the weights below so that you can evaluate approximately how much load each desktop will place on the lifting base. See manufacturers’ websites for shipping weights including packaging and pallet, as these will be greater.
Fully’s Solid Wood Tops (1.25” thick)
Maple: 3.75 lb/sq ft
Oregon White Oak: undisclosed
UpLift’s Solid Wood Tops (1.75” thick)
Cedar: 4.4 lb/sq ft
Mesquite: 8 lb/sq ft
Ash: 7 lb/sq ft
Cherry: 5.3 lb/sq ft
Natural Maple: 8.1 lb/sq ft
Walnut: 5.6 lb/sq ft
Premium Bamboo: 6.1 lb/sq ft
Pecan: 9.3 lb/sq ft
White Oak: 7 lb/sq ft
Sipo Mahogany: 6 lb/sq ft
UpLift’s Solid Wood Tops (1.25” thick)
Maple: 3 lb/sq ft
Cherry: 3.65 lb/sq ft
Walnut: 4 lb/sq ft
Hickory (Pecan): 5.25 lb/sq ft
Red Oak: 4.4 lb/sq ft
White Oak: 4.75 lb/sq ft
iMovR’s Solid Wood Tops (1.25″ thick, Lander)
Cherry: 3.6 lbs/sq ft
Maple: 4 lbs/sq ft
Walnut: 4 lbs/sq ft
Red Oak: 4.6 lbs/sq ft
White Oak: 5.0 lbs/sq ft
Hickory: 7.5 lbs/sq ft
iMovR’s Solid Wood Tops (0.75″ thick, Lander Lite)
Cherry: 2.2 lbs/sq ft
Maple: 2.4 lbs/sq ft
Walnut: 2.4 lbs/sq ft
Red Oak: 2.75 lbs/sq ft
White Oak: 3.0 lbs/sq ft
Hickory: 4.5 lbs/sq ft