I plan on making a large l-shaped desk out of an ikea counter top and a desktop then making legs out of 2x4s. I was planning on integrating shelves onto the desk legs as regular drawer unit can get expennsive(see pictures below). Im afraid of the table swaying or racking(I think thats the right term) and was wondering if I could use paracord to diagnolly brace the legs to prevent this as Ive heard that steel cable can be used, but its expenisve this is what i am planning with the diagnol braces and this is it from the back Im using the 98¨LILLTRÄSK and the ~40¨ linnmon for the tops with 2x4s for the legs. the diaganol lines you see is about where I would roughly put the paracord. I was also thinking about some L-shaped brackets to join the 2x4s and the legs together. but would the paracord be enough or should i use some steel cable/find some other way to prevent racking.

brackets i may use

Im making the design on a website called sketchup and it the formats it says i can export it are ¨3ds¨ ¨collada¨ ¨dwg¨ in 3d and 2d ¨dxf¨ 3d and 2d ¨fbx¨ ¨kmz¨ ¨obj¨ ¨vrml¨ and ¨xsL¨ im not sure what would be best. I may update the question if its needed. And thanks for any help.

  • A) the Sketchup logo was obvious :) (most folks here are familiar with it) and B) the screen grab you provided works perfectly - no need to try to export the file in any of the other formats. I believe that those are for transferring the drawing to another CAD program and/or sending it to a 3D printer.
    – FreeMan
    May 11 at 15:05
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    I've never bought, owned, lived with ......or for that matter even seen for sale..... a table with cord cross-bracing. Does that tell you something? To spell it out, the details of conventional table construction are A) perfectly adequate as-is, without any additional stiffening elements needed and B) abundantly well described online. Take-home message is don't reinvent the wheel when you don't have to.
    – Graphus
    May 11 at 15:50
  • As an alternative to paracord, 1/16" or 1/8" stainless steel rope cable is plenty strong enough, not expensive, and is available at big box stores. It can be looped around screws attached to the 2x4s using cable connecting clamps. The look is good and it definitely will not stretch (which is important for such tension brace members.
    – Ashlar
    May 11 at 16:18
  • If you (eg) push to the right on the bottom of the left-most leg, what resistance is there?
    – George
    May 12 at 2:17
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    If you're going to IKEA, why not buy some Ivar braces from metal? They are cheap and a bit stiffer. May 13 at 9:03

Im afraid of the table swaying or racking...and was wondering if I could use paracord to diagnolly brace the legs to prevent this

No. Real, military-spec paracord is required to stretch a minimum of 30%, and is therefore not a good choice for preventing racking.

Ive heard that steel cable can be used, but its expenisve

Sure. Even steel cable stretches a little, but far less than paracord, and of course it's far stronger as well.

There are plenty of other options. You can use wooden or metal strips as cross braces. One of the most effective ways to protect against racking is to add a solid panel to the back of the piece. A 1/4" sheet of plywood or even Masonite (tempered hardboard) nailed in several places to each leg adds a lot of strength.


Your paracord idea will work great for cross-bracing to prevent racking, IF:

  1. It doesn't stretch. (I did a quick search on paracord and couldn't come up with anything indicating how stretchy it is/isn't.)

  2. You can pull it tight. For this, you'll need some sort of turnbuckle or a tautline hitch knot to tighten it. I used to use the tautline hitch when camping to pull the ropes tight to the tent stakes - it works quite well.

You may be a bit overkill on the amount of diagonal bracing you've designed in, but better too much than not enough! If you wanted, you could probably do one diagonal at each corner and try that. If it's not stable enough, add another diagonal. Lather, rinse, repeat until you get satisfaction.

The shelf supports would be a good way to attach the legs to the desktop(s). Do be very aware that most IKEA desktops are hollow-core. That means that there's a cardboard grid between the top & bottom layers. It's great for resisting compression, like when you set your monitor or elbows on top of the desk. It will NOT hold a screw, though. Usually, there's about 1" or so of solid material around the outside edges of the desk. You must put all your screws into this solid material, or they just won't hold.

  • Paracord is plenty stretchy ;-) "The all-nylon construction makes paracord somewhat elastic"
    – Graphus
    May 11 at 15:47
  • @Graphus I was figuring that it was, but didn't see a statement to that effect. Your DuckDuckGo-fu is better than mine...
    – FreeMan
    May 11 at 15:49
  • First page dude, first page. [And BTW, Wikipedia entry lulz]
    – Graphus
    May 11 at 15:53
  • le sigh... reading skillz < woodworking skillz
    – FreeMan
    May 11 at 15:59
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    @armando19, you don't need the cable (or any other cross bracing) if you build the leg assembly right. As I say above, there's a reason most tables don't have 'em.........
    – Graphus
    May 12 at 7:08

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