Inspired by Neal Stephenson's REAMDE and reinforced by "Not Invented Here"'s http://notinventedhe.re/on/2012-1-17/regarding/Walkstation, I decided that a treadmill desk would make the perfect addition to my home office. So, armed with a garage full of underutilized tools and Craigslist, I set to work.
I had found a 48" round oak countertop on Craigslist about a year ago for another project that never quite came to fruition, so I was good to start with that. So my next step was to find a treadmill. I began by posting an ad for anyone wanting to get rid of a used treadmill for about $50 (or less). I got a few hits, but I guess that "you get what you pay for" hold true. I ended up with a $20 treadmill with some structural damage that I was confident that I could fix. Once I got the housing off and saw all the broken welds, I realized that it just wasn't worth it. So, back to Craigslist -- but this time anticipating to pay a bit more. So, this time, I just looked for what people were selling, and I ended up finding exactly what I wanted -- only $115 and 15 miles away.
So, I got it home and started mentally (and, soon after, actually) disassembling it. The control panel would come off pretty easily, although there was no way to unplug it -- the cables were fastened to the control boards at the motor and at the controls. So, it just kind of hung there. I then removed all of the plastic cup-holder segments, and also the fairly-heavy-duty metal back panel. Then, it came time to attach the table top. This fully-circular table top was a bit unwieldy, so, I cut about a 1ft segment off of what would become the back. Then I moved on to figuring out the ideal placement on top of my now-naked-looking treadmill. I underestimated how much work this would actually be, and probably should have just called someone to help. But I am nothing if not stubborn as hell, so I just muscled through it.
The control panel that originally attached to the vertical supports was at an angle. Therefore, the vertical supports had no reason to have a top surface that was conveniently parallel to the ground. This 45° slope was going to cause me some problems, since I was going to have to rig up a bracket to attach the desk top at its highest point. For this, I ended up getting some hinges and attaching them to the metal supports and the table top. This worked out pretty well, since I could either flip it up vertically (which I anticipated needing to do to get it in the house) or lay it down the slope of the handles of the treadmill while I was working on other parts. So, now for the trickiest part of the project: bracing the front of the desk up to being level with the ground (and being strong enough to hold 2 23" widescreen monitors).
I went down to my local Ace Hardware and after some chatting with the sales associates, ended up with 2 fairly thick angle irons and a decent handful of self-tapping sheet metal screws. Oh, and a hack saw. I proceeded to cut off a 1 1/2" segment from each side of the angle irons, bent it down, and those would be my cross braces for the front of the desk. So, I drilled the holes into the vertical supports of the treadmill, angled these braces as close as I could get to being positioned as I had envisioned them, and fastened them in place. They held remarkably well. So, I then taped two levels to the top of the desk, got it as level as I could, and marked the screw holes I would need to attach the braces to the underside of the table. So, I rigged up some 2"x4"s to hold it in place while my hands were otherwise occupied with drills and such, and it came together. Although the table was still not as sturdy from front-to back as I would have liked.
Fortunately, from my first treadmill, I had a long piece of steel that was appropriately-sized for me to attach to the underside of the tabletop. This shored up the surface just as I had hoped.
I spent the next few evenings sanding and staining the top. It came out really well, and I'm hoping that the polyurethane will protected it from all of the computer equipment that I will have sitting on top of it for the foreseeable future. The control panel was still hanging there, but if I was ever hoping to get it through the doors into the house, I would have to rig up something when I got it in place. So, after finally calling up a neighbor to help me out, we detatched the angle braces, flipped up the table top, and moved it into the house last night. Once I was sure it was where I wanted it to live for as long as I plan to own this new piece of productivity/workout equipment, I took the fairly-heavy-duty metal back panel, attached it to the underside of the now rather-inaccessible handle bars, and mounted the control panel back to it. Glad I had some self-tapping screws left over.
So, there it is. All-in-all, about a 10 hour job, about $160 in parts and equipment, and spread over a 3 week period (for no other reason than having other stuff to do). And, this entire blog post was written while walking on it. I guess the only problem that I have is that the desk is a bit tall for typing, so I'll probably mount a simple keyboard and mouse tray for it. Overall, I'm very happy with it, and I encourage all mechanically-inclined people who spend significant time in front of a computer to do it. It's amazing how easy it is to forget that you're walking at 1.5 mph while your brain is otherwise engaged.