Frequently Asked Questions


Opendesk is a global platform for local making. It’s based on what we call Open Making - allowing designers, makers and customers to transact in an open way to create beautiful products on demand: made for you and as close to you as possible:

* For designers - publishing digital designs is a way to find a global audience without having to invest in inventory or marketing.

* For makers, the tested product designs enable them to efficiently make and sell products to their local community in low volumes.

By cutting out the middle man and using a network of local, small-scale professional fabricators, customers and small businesses can get design furniture made on demand in a cost-effective and socially responsible way.

With Opendesk we want to provide the leading platform for Open Making transactions and interactions, in a transparent, more personal and sustainable way, and leverages open source and digital fabrication to achieve this. Specifically, this means that on the Opendesk website you can choose to either download a design file and make it yourself (mostly for free) or get quotations directly from nearby fabricators to make and deliver a finished piece of furniture to you.

Designers decide how they license their own product designs - for example some designs are published without license restrictions (typically under Creative Commons Attribution or 0 licenses) while others are free for non-commercial use only, or paid-for downloads. We embrace open source because we believe that it can produce attendant benefits and a more ethical model of production without the intellectual property incumbency typically associated with 'business as usual'. This means that we’re able to host professional product designs which can be freely downloaded and made by people themselves, for example in makerspaces, Fablabs, Techshops or other suitably equipped facilities.

Our bigger mission is to create a viable business model for independent designers and makers. This is not at all incompatible with open source, so long as one offers a value-added service or quality of experience to justify any fees, that doesn't simply fall back on IP or exclusivity on each design. (at Opendesk, we don't ask designers for exclusivity) Instead, for any furniture order through Opendesk we charge a fee for the designer and for the platform, regardless of the specific license of a design. The design fee is then paid out to the respective designer(s) which provides them with a return on the work they do.

The specific technology we chose to start with is CNC machining, which in itself has been around for decades and is basically a computer-driven drill-bit that carves shapes out of wood. We’ve chosen to use flat sheets in common dimensions as our standard, and use birch plywood as our basic material.

This is possible via the Opendesk marketplace. If you add the products you're interested in to a basket you can then request quotes from makers. Once you have submit your request it will be sent out to 3 makers local to you who will then quote against your request, once you have received a quote you're happy with the job will begin.

Should you want to order a larger quantity of furniture (for example for your office) then it’s best to fill out a "workspace enquiry". We’re happy to help you with a floorplan and furniture choices.

On each design we provide indicative product prices that are based on average prices of past transactions with that design and include the fees for makers, designers and the platform. This feature is still in its early stage and will be updated per location as we receive more pricing data from makers and jobs.

Generally it is good to be aware that makers do not hold any stock/inventory, and that each product is made on demand specifically for you. This takes out an additional cost in the process and is less wasteful, but it does mean that makers will needs some time for fabrication (typically 1-4 weeks) and can not deliver instantly.

Great! If you’ve done your homework on CNC routing and know a bit about CAD/CAM, just download the file and adhere to any license conditions the designer has set. It’s important to know that the design files have been tested in Baltic birch plywood and are mastered for a certain material thickness; you can find this material thickness in the design file, but mostly it is 18mm which is slightly thinner than ¾”.

Before you do your tool-pathing, you’d want to make sure that you measure your sheet thickness and scale the drawing up or down to match your sheet thickness. Many furniture designs listed on Opendesk need to have a snug (tight) fit of the joints to provide good stability.

Makers listed on Opendesk are professional service providers who have mostly set up their businesses to manufacture parts and products for other companies, including design & build companies, carpentry shops and retail applications. In this line of work they are used to adhering strictly to material specifications, product dimensions and delivery deadlines and producing quality work is essential as they rely on repeat business and rarely invest in marketing. So in short yes you can trust them!

Every maker guarantees the craftsmanship, manufacturing and material used to produce a quality piece of furniture; by joining Opendesk they provide two months warranty on their products provided it is used and maintained in line with normal standards. Please let the maker know if you have any issues, but also copy us in so we can monitor and prompt a resolution to any issues should this be necessary.

For consumers/individual buyers the above is subject to any prevailing consumer protection laws (in certain countries including the USA and the UK).

Your Opendesk is made from a natural wood product and should therefore be very durable and age gracefully over time. However to keep your Opendesk in top condition please adhere to the following care guidelines:

* Clean your Opendesk using a damp cloth and mild detergent. The oils or varnishes used on your product will typically be water-repellent, however to prevent water-staining do not leave surfaces damp for prolonged periods - for best results wipe down with a soft dry cloth after cleaning.

* Avoid contact with extreme heat. Placing hot objects, such as very hot mugs onto the surface of your Opendesk may result in burn marks, which are difficult to remove without surface sanding.

* Avoid prolonged exposure to water or other liquids. Mop up spills promptly and where necessary wipe down surfaces using a damp cloth to prevent staining from coloured liquids. Take particular care of any cut plywood edges (end-grain).

* To prevent discolouration of the natural wooden surfaces of your Opendesk over time, avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. In cases where sun-exposure is likely it is recommended to move your furniture piece every 3-6 months (for example by rotating a desk through 180-degrees) to prevent differential discolouration.

If you take proper care of your Opendesk it should last for many years like any wooden furniture piece, however if your product is experiencing intensive use it may require a basic refresh to exposed surfaces after 12-24 months to ensure longevity. It is recommended to treat exposed surfaces such as table-tops with a light sanding by hand using a fine-grain sandpaper (eg. 400-grit) to remove any surface dirt and imperfections, before applying a single coat of Oslo Polyx-oil by hand or roller. For a perfect smooth finish, apply a light hand-sanding using 800-grit or 1200-grit sandpaper after allowing for adequate drying time to oiled finish. Your local maker may also be able to offer a call-out maintenance service on request.

No. When you buy from Opendesk you get a product which is made on-demand just for you, following your specifications, by a professional local ‘maker’.

While the product design and manufacturing specifications used by the maker are identical between makers, every product is made from real-world plywood sheets and hand-finished by the maker. Therefore minor colour and textural differences may occur between base material and minor differences in finishing may occur between makers. Of course you can expect the product will look very much like the furniture on the website and will function and feel the same.

Yes – although it depends on your request whether this is very quick & easy or rather requires a full redesign exercise. Making a product slightly smaller (or lower) is usually a small effort. Most designs are optimised to fit on a minimum number of standard sized plywood sheets. Extending dimensions or - for example - changing the shape of a table top are easy as long as the final design drawing stays within the boundaries of the sheet. A maker will be able to advise you on that.

Modifications that cause the design file to exceed these limits will need redesign (and ‘re-nesting’) which in most cases could be done by the maker. However, it is probably smart to contact the designer to see if he/she happens to have a variant available that matches your requirements; this is not uncommon.

It is easy to add text or a logo to any furniture, subject to some restrictions due to the smallest cutter (drill) being circa 1mm wide. Mention to the makers when you request quotations from them and see what they recommend.

For relatively minor modifications this is totally possible but, generally for major changes to a design or furniture in a custom shape we recommend that you get in touch with a competent designer (such as any of the designers who have products listed on Opendesk). We don’t have a standard workflow to support custom design projects, although you’re welcome to get in touch with designers and makers in the network to discuss this and make it happen!

* Makers - We work with professional, small/medium manufacturing companies (often with a proud local tradition) and refer to them as ‘makers’, ‘fabricators’ or ‘manufacturers’ more or less interchangeably. We prefer the term ‘makers’ as this is closest to Opendesk’s heritage in the so-called ‘maker movement’ and it can include anyone manufacturing our furniture - not only professionals in our network but also anyone using a download to DIY.

* CNC - stands for Computer Numeric Control which basically means digitally controlled. Manufacturing using CNC is a decades-old technology which in recent years has become more widely available and affordable.

* Plywood - is a flat sheet material manufactured from thin layers or "plies" of wood with adjacent layers rotated up to 90 degrees to one another. This means that the ‘wood grain’ (which provides strength) of each layer differs from the adjacent layer which makes plywood strong and less susceptible to warping and bending than single pieces of wood, as well as easier to produce and thus less costly. The various layers (‘plies’) are visible from the side of the wood, which provides a characteristic design feature to the furniture.


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Opendesk’s model is based on what we call Open Making. This is a model to allow designers, makers and customers to transact in a transparent, open way to create beautiful products on demand, close to the customer and in the most efficient way possible:

One reason to join is that the tested, high quality product designs make it possible to produce furniture in small batches without the usual overhead with clients and/or designers which many makers find difficult to do in a profitable way. We’ve noticed that customers, designers and makers all use a slightly different language – at Opendesk we try to overcome that by defining common standards (but with plenty of leeway to make it personal!).

When you join Opendesk, you will start to receive enquiries from clients for a batch of furniture – or as small as a single piece. You’re asked to respond to these enquiries by providing a quote or by declining, similar to how you probably work on a daily basis. A client will typically get quotations from a number of makers but in our experience not necessarily choose the lowest quote.

Your quote should include a 38% markup on your costs: 8% for the designer and 12% for the Opendesk platform and 18% for the sales channel (currently the Opendesk website). This fee is then collected by us and we pay the designers.

We find that companies who have a suitable machine and work with plywood a lot are the best match for Opendesk. In terms of company size, different size companies are suitable for different jobs that come alog on Opendesk.

We find that very small CNC ‘jobshops’ can do very well on Opendesk and are particularly effective at smaller batch sizes delivered quickly. However for larger jobs it has become apparent that multi-CNC-machine workshops (often with a staff of multi-skilled carpenters) find it easier to deliver larger volumes within a limited timeframe, at consistent quality.

For makers who have the right equipment and skills to produce Opendesk furniture, there are no costs or fees to be listed on Opendesk and start receiving enquiries.

Designers, Opendesk and you earn money only when customers place an order and are happy with the result – and come back for more. One of the reasons we’ve decided to design for CNC manufacturing and plywood is that these are quite widely available and we can work with professionals without anyone having to invest in machines, tools, materials or inventory.

Note that Opendesk design files will include information on which bit size a design is mastered for.

Generally speaking, most designs require a bit smaller than 7mm diameter; this was chose because many makers work with either a 6mm bit or a 1/4” bit as their main tool for edges.

From talking with many other makers we find that picking the right plywood quality (affordable but with only minor imperfections) is an important part of getting the cost right and even the same grade from different suppliers can be quite different. Mostly grade B/BB works, but you’ll need to carefully examine the quality and size of the ‘plugs’ on both faces in each batch you order. With some plywood distributors makers have been able to find good quality BB/CP grade which has proven to be of more than sufficient quality.

We’re working with the assumption that you have your own method to safely transport your final products to your clients and if you’re confident that that would work for Opendesk customers then great. As a minimum, all loose parts should be wrapped in bubble wrap twice over. Where appropriate, bundle small components with large components to avoid pieces getting lost.

Of course, if the customer pays for delivery the products will remain in your care and ownership until they have been delivered and accepted, and it’s your responsibility to ensure the final quality – like with any other job you take on.

The fees are a 38% markup on the normal manufacturing costs of the maker: 8% for the designer, 12% for Opendesk platform and 18% for the sales channel (currently the Opendesk website). Theses fees is what keeps Opendesk going.

The normal manufacturing costs should be the sum of materials, cutting, sanding, glueing, parts assembly and finishing at commercial rates, meaning it should include the margin a maker wants to make on the job. The fee is calculated as a percentage of this, and then added to the total quote for the customer.

Not included in the normal manufacturing costs are local services such as delivery or assembly, and design alterations or other services provided by the maker. Don’t forget to add local taxes where applicable! Once a job is complete we will invoice you to collect the designer, platform and channel fees.

You’ll need to create a profile on our sister website “” using this link:

FabHub is a free online directory of digital fabricators, through which you could get B2B enquiries apart from the job enquiries you will get through Opendesk. This is especially useful if you also offer laser cutting or 3D Printing services. Even if you don’t: we use the Fabhub profile for Opendesk, so please create a profile and tick the box “list my services on Opendesk”. After your profile is approved, you will immediately be listed and users can submit enquiries to you.

In order to become a ‘listed maker’ (i.e. listing your profile on Opendesk as a maker and service provider), you will need to agree to the maker service agreement and complete our onboarding process.

We’re not a large corporation and we don’t have all the answers, so please let us know if there are some things we can do better.


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The CNC (Computer numerically controlled) manufacturing process requires thinking about designing in a particular way, as well as making designs that are as easy and efficient as possible to reproduce remotely via our distributed manufacturing model. As its’ essentially about a computer moving a drill-bit around a sheet of material - cutting out shapes that will later fit together - considerations include standard material and machine-bed sizes and the efficiency of fitting or ‘nesting’ parts on these, standard material thicknesses and how these can vary, the range of available router bits for cutting, standard joints and connections to make robust junctions, and how to produce production-ready CAD. We aim to reduce hardware usage as much as possible to make Opendesk designs as easy to make and assemble around the world without the need for additional parts – in fact the majority of our current collection is completely hardware-free!

We are focusing on sheet materials, and for now largely plywood, with a preference for FSC certified Baltic Birch. Lots of other material can be used, such as pre or custom-laminated plywood, MDF and Valchromat, but also recycled plastic sheet and other fibre boards. However, as plywood has very good structural properties and is the most universally available, we encourage starting with it!

A standard sheet of plywood measures 1220 x 2440 mm (8x4 ft in the USA!) and an oversize sheet is 1525 x 3050 mm (10x5 ft).

Plywood is available in a large range of thicknesses, but the vast majority of Opendesk products are designed for 18mm. That said, you could also work with the standard 6,9,12,15, 21 & 24 mm - as these are readily available in most regions. It’s worth thinking that a design with more than one thickness of plywood used will make the manufacture more complicated and possibly less materially-efficient.

There are a huge number of available drill (router) bit sizes and shapes available for cutting sheet material. The standard bit diameter we recommend designing for is 8 mm – so internal corners would need a minimum 4mm radius. This really needs to be considered and implemented into the design process – including the production-ready DXF cad file. Smaller sizes down to 4mm are possible - but the rule of thumb is that they can only cut 2.5 times their diameter in depth. Larger Bits sizes also allow for the quicker cutting - and as faster = cheaper, this is a good consideration for keeping the overall production costs down.

All designs hosted and made through Opendesk are sent as DXF files. We use this file format as it’s the most universally usable by CNC-machines and their CAM software worldwide! We ourselves use a combination of Rhinoceros, Autocad and Sketchup – but you are of course free to design with the software of your choice, as long as it can export a clean DXF :) In terms of Autocad standard export functions we highly recommend using a version 2000 export if available. We would also ask that when drawing, you close all polylines.

A basic 3-axis CNC machine has a number of standard operations, as illustrated. These include:

* Cutout: the tool (drill-bit) will go through the whole thickness of the material. The cutout operation can be done outside the line to create components or inside to create a hole.

* Pocket: the tool will cut down to a specified depth, leaving a given thickness of material. In an 18mm sheet you can create a pocket of depth from 1mm up to 17mm, for example. Similar to a cutout, a pocket can be cut inside or outside of a drawn line.

* Holes: the machine simply drills a hole. The diameter of the hole as well as the depth has to be indicated. Holes are mostly used to dowel-joint two elements that need to be glued together.

* Chamfer: a chamfer can be added to the side of a component to create a bevelled edge (such as on a table top for instance). Standard angles are 30,45 and 60 degrees, with other angles requiring custom-ordered or made cutting bits.

It’s possible to operate the machine on one side of the sheet and to then flip the sheet over to machine the reverse side. This enables hugely increased options in the way the product is designed & made/assembled, however double-sided machining increases the cost of making and hence the price of the final furniture piece - as it requires more time & programming from the maker.

It might seem obvious but it’s impossible to create an internal square corner as tools are round drill bits! A dogbone is a commonly-used name for various ways to draw internal corners for CNC. It means adding an 8mm circle onto each internal corner. As illustrated, there are different ways to do it - just pick your favourite!

As we all know, sheet materials - however manufactured or engineered - still vary in thickness. Designs often need rigid connections – but in other locations may require looser intersections of parts; for example a sliding drawer. With this in mind we have developed 4 standard tightness of fit that we think will help to get the right fit in the right place:

A > Mallet-Tight (-0.60mm pinch)

Use this for structural elements that need to be rigidly connected to create a stiff frame. As the name suggests, carefully malleting together is required to get the parts really tight.

B > Press-Fit (0.00)

Use this for parts that need to be snug, but not super-tight. These should be able to be pressed together by hand with a bit of effort.

C > Push-Fit (+0.20)

Use this for parts that need to grab together, but only lightly. Think pushing Lego together :)

D > Slide-Fit (+0.50)

Use this for parts that need to move past each other smoothly, like a drawer or hinged door.Getting these different fits right means drawing to the indicated tolerances (in brackets). These need to be added to the drawing regarding the type of connection wanted – and if used correctly has a huge impact on the structural integrity and makeability of the final product.

We design for standard plywood sizes, so for efficiency it’s important to fit all parts of a design onto these sheets. Fitting the parts around each other like a jigsaw is commonly referred to as nesting the parts. Doing this in a smart way means minimising waste through an efficient use of material, but as a guide the pieces should be spaced a minimum of 15mm apart. Imagine playing Tetris without the soundtrack (although you could always play it!).

When preparing a design file there are some important rules to follow and guidelines to consider:

* It’s important to check a file in order for it to be ready for a maker - it’s the designer’s responsibility.

* Layers in the DXF should correspond to the different machine operations. We have a template DXF file with a library of layer names, and we’d really like you to use these!

* No doubling up please! Would be great if you could get rid of all duplicate layers or lines in the drawing.

* Curves: We really do need all curves to be closed, and not facetted. There should be no intersecting curves either – sorry!

* 3D Model : it’s really helpful to build a 3D model from the production drawing to check connections between components and dimensions fit – it’s the best way to find this out – and better to find out before we cut it out!

Layering identifies different actions the machine should take when cutting. To explain (apologies if this is obvious) they include the following:

TOP – a cut into the top side of a sheet

REV – a cut into the reverse side of a sheet

Pocket – depth specified

Cut – depth specified, relates to material (eg 18mm cut for 18mm material)

Fillet – depth specified on line along which a chamfer is to be cut

Radius – radius dimension specified on line along which a radius is to be cut

Inside – the tool will be inside of the line drawn (eg for an internal hole of pocket)

Outside – the tool will be outside of the line drawn (eg for cutting out a part)


This is the layer to use for a pocket of 12mm deep that’s on the top side of the sheet and the area to be pocketed will be inside the line/region drawn. We’d really like you to put your design into these layers when it’s ready to be sent over to us to have a look at!

We personally look over all the designs that we receive, and assess them based on a series of the principles we’ve applied to our own designs – principles that we think make things as easy and efficient to reproduce remotely as possible though our distributed network of makers. We’re calling this approach Open Making, and some of the principles include:

> How does the design fit into our current focus on workspaces?

> How efficient is the design in terms of material use?

> How easy is the design to make and assemble?

> How ready is the CAD for production?

> Has the design been previously prototyped?

> How efficient is the design in term of machining time?

> How does the design visually reflect the efficiency of its production?

We strongly encourage designs mastered for a single thickness of material, and suggest 18mm as it is the most commonly available plywood thickness. However it is possible to do it if both sheets are nested efficiently (ie that designs are based on a whole number of sheets).

We do encourage and aim to design out hardware and fixings. Primarily this ensures designs will be easy to make & assemble anywhere in the world - without having to source special hardware from third parties. But we are open to designs that require fixings if they are universally available and really necessary!

We have chosen to focus on workspace furniture as there are lots of people out there looking for beautiful and uplifting solutions for their office or workplace – and who often really like the idea of both having this made locally and getting their company logo or other small customisation added. Anything from desks and storage solutions to meeting & breakout space furniture ideal. If it compliments something that we already have, or adds a new function or clever capability to the workplace that’s even better :)

This is something we’re working on right now – we’ll share this up to everyone when it’s done!

As a designer we’d like you to submit your design (as a CAD file and 3D model) in a state that’s as close to production-ready as possible. This means quality-checking it yourself following the steps above - especially in relation to using our DXF template. If you’re able to protype yourself and send photos, that’s even better! Amongst other considerations, we’ll make a decision around the suitability of your design based on how ready it is to prototype and how ‘makeable’ it is. If we do decide to take your design forward, we’ll take on the task of prototyping it again through one of the makers local to our East London studio. We like to get our hands on everything we make available!

Once your design is prototyped, we’ll arrange for photos and supporting information (making and assembling guide etc) - but anything you are able to provide to assist will be a huge benefit (we are a small team with limited resources!). Just to reassure you, if your design does become available via Opendesk we understand that you cannot control or take responsibility for the actual production by our maker network. We make it clear that makers always need to check the file they’re about to cut, adjust to the material they’re using, then build & deliver it professionally to the satisfaction of the customer.


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