Conquering Thick Desks With Clamp-On Keyboard Trays

Clamp on keyboard trays have a ton of benefits. It’s no wonder why they are so popular on Amazon. 

If you have a thick desk however, you’ll find it hard to actually make one work. 

Like with most of these “desk clamp” type products, they only support desks up to 2 or 3 inches in thickness. This can be pretty annoying if your desk is 4 inches thick or more. 

For example, desks that have integrated drawers will be much thicker than 2 or 3 inches. Here’s an example:

ODK 47" Small Office Computer Desk: Home Table with Drawers Wood Storage Shelves, Modern Work Writing Desk, White + White Leg

Don’t give up just yet though! 

In this article we’re going to talk about methods you can use to try and get one of these desk clamping keyboard trays to work with your setup. 

Key Takeaways

  • Keyboard trays can give you more space and place a keyboard in a much more comfortable position. 
  • Ways to make a keyboard clamp-on tray include grabbing a VESA compatible keyboard tray and mounting that to a more conveient location. Other ways include extension brackets and more. 

Benefits Of Clamp On Keyboard Trays

Because some of the following methods will require a little extra motivation, let’s remind ourselves of the benefits that these handy clamp on keyboard trays have. 

Ergonomic Typing Position

First of all, most desks are too tall for most people. Let me explain.

A desk is the correct height when your feet are flat on the floor and your arms are level with the table. Just like this

According to the WorldPopulationReview.com, the average height in the USA is 5 feet and 4 inches for women, and 5 feet and 9 inches for men. If we take the value right in the middle we get 5 foot 6.5 inches. 

Now if we take that height of 5ft 6.5 inches and plug it into this desk height calculator, we get a desk that should be 25 – 27.5 inches tall. 

We did a little study of the average desk height, and found it was higher at 29 inches! You have to plug in 6 feet 1 inch on the desk height calculator to get 29 inches! This means most desks are too tall for the average person. 

Where am I going with this? 

Well chances are your desk is too tall, and using your keyboard and mouse on top of your desk is going to be a poor desk setup. This leads to pain in the wrists and awkward ergonomics. 

You’ll find you can’t type for long hours. 

VIVO Large Height Adjustable Under Desk Keyboard Tray, C-clamp Mount System, 27 (33 Including Clamps) x 11 inch Slide-Out Platform Computer Drawer for Typing, Black, MOUNT-KB05HB

A clamp-on keyboard tray drops your actual working height a couple of inches. This could put your keyboard and mouse at the perfect level! At least for the average person. 

Some of these clamp-on keyboard trays actually have adjustable heights so you can dial in the perfect ergonomic setup. 

Here is one example:

Also, if you happen to have the perfect desk height, there are keyboard trays that can extend at the same height of your desk, like this:

Frees Up Desk Space

When you move your keyboard and mouse to a new platform right under your desk, you gain a good amount of space on top of your desk. 

This is great for people who have really small desks, or need to maximize available desk space. 

You can probably tell that I personally like having a lot of room on my desk. It’s part of my minimalist desk setup goals. I made a guide on this minimal setup here

Dual monitor desk setup

More desk space gives you more breathing room, and lets you have more space to do whatever you want. Whether that’s adding a picture frame to your desk or a larger set of speakers. 

Anything is possible with more room! 

Stowable For A Clean Desk Setup

Most of these clamp-on keyboard trays have a ball bearing railing that allows you to slide your mouse and keyboard snugly under your desk when you’re finished. 

When you’re done with your day, your desk looks ultra clean! As you saw in my desk setup above, if I hid my keyboard and mouse away in a clamp-on tray, it would have a ton more room and be super clean. 

The stowable nature of these keyboard trays makes your desk look great at the end of the day. 

Hidden Keyboard and Mouse Cables

If for some reason you don’t like wireless keyboards and mice, I have good news for you. 

You can have the benefits of a wired connection without actually seeing any wires at your desk when you use a keyboard tray. 

The keyboard tray makes you route your keyboard and mouse wires underneath your table instead of on top of your table. Therefore out of sight! 

No need to charge your keyboard, change mouse batteries, or deal with any latency issues! 

If you do route your cables on top of the table, check out our guide on how to hide keyboard and mouse wires. We touch on a few more methods here. 

Use Clamp On Keyboard Trays On Thick Desks

Now that we’re pumped from all the potential benefits we can get from keyboard trays, let’s talk about how we can make these work. 

Use Larger Capacity Trays

The easiest step before moving to other options and methods, is to just find the largest capacity keyboard tray clamp out there.

We’ve scoured Amazon in search of the clamp with the largest opening, and this is what we found: 

3 Inch Capacity

2.7 Inch Capacity Center Clamped

3.15 Inch Capacity

Keyboard Tray Under Desk Large Retractable Adjustable Height C-clamp Mount Slider Platform Drawer Stand for Computer Home Office,Brown 29.5"x9.5"
  • COMFORTABLE: find a proper height that relieve stress on your wrists and shoulders for comfortable typing posture.
  • C-CLAMPS Design: no need to punch the installation with sturdy C-clamps that fixed directly to your desktop.(Before purchasing, please measure the thickness of your desk...
  • SIZE: 29.5x9.5x0.5in(75*24*1.2cm),Perfect computer accessory for the office, business, home office and students.
  • EASY TO ASSEMBLE :Installs in 5 minutes according the instructions,The tray holds weights up to 55 lbs.
Check Price on Amazon

It’s pretty difficult to find a keyboard clamp-on tray that supports desks beyond these desk thickness maximums. 

Make An Extension Bracket

The limiting factor with most of these clamp-on solutions is that they come with a bracket that is not long enough. In our recent article talking about monitor mounts for thick desks, we dive deep into how these clamps can be extended. 

The same method applies here. 

In that article, we pointed to a forum where a user actually made this extension plate. Here is a little visual on what extending a bracket looks like. 

desk clamp extension bracket

It will require a little touch of DIY, but working with your hands is fun! 

You can even draw out your bracket and send it to a company like SendCutSend. They can quickly cut flat metal plates to extend your keyboard tray. 

If you thought this would be expensive, think again. Their orders can be as low as $29 at the time of writing. 

Clamp Anywhere With A VESA Adapter

If you are not familiar with VESA mounts, check out our article on everything you need to know about VESA mounts

Basically they are a standardized mounting system that have a specific hole pattery which is compatible with a ton of mounting systems on the market. 

Turns our there is a VESA adapter for holding your keyboard and mouse too!

VIVO Deluxe Computer Keyboard Tray Holder Tray Only for VESA Mount Stand, Fits VESA 100x100mm Stand-KB2

This tray makes your keyboard and mouse able to be mounted pretty much anywhere that a VESA mount can go. You no longer have to depend on your desk edge right in front of you. 

If you have a desk leg, or a nearby shelf that has a clampable location, you can pair the VESA keyboard tray above to a VESA arm like this:

Or if you have a cylindrical pole nearby like a light stand or a desk leg, you can use a mount like this:

You still get all the benefits of a clamp-on keyboard tray. You might actually get more benefits because you no longer have those clamping plates in sight! 

If you go this route, I highly recommend browsing VESA mounts on Amazon. They might all look like they were made for monitors, but they will work with the above keyboard tray adapter as well. 

Find out what range of motion you need depending on your clamping location. The options are pretty limitless with the VESA system. 

Remove Drawers If Applicable

Desks with drawers lead to a pretty thick desk. If you have one of these desks and this is what is stopping you, consider what your desk would be like if you removed those drawers. 

If you get a center mount keyboard tray, you would only have to remove the center drawer. Here is an example of a keyboard tray that mounts right at the center with a single clamp. 

Rotating Keyboard Tray Under Desk - Klearlook PU Leather Keyboard Drawer Adjustable C Clamp,Ergonomic Mouse Keyboard Platform Extender,No Drilling,Easy Install Keyboard Stand,23.62"x 9.84"In...

This might not be a good solution for everyone. Some desks will look awful if a drawer is missing. Others might just look like a desk with some storage cubbies! 

See if your desk would work here. 

Consider These Alternatives Instead

These next solutions are actually compromises. If none of the above solutions spoke to you, one of these might be worth considering. 

Direct Mount Your Keyboard Tray

The nice part about the clamp on keyboard trays was the quick installation process. No drilling your previous desk or anything. 

But if your desk is too thick, a direct mount might actually be the best way. You do have to be pretty sure that you will use a direct mounted keyboard tray. Consider it a permanent addition (even though it’s not). 

If you decide to go this route, you get a huge benefit. You don’t have to see those ugly clamping points at the front of your desk, and you get all the other benefits too. 

Huanuo Keyboard Tray Under Desk, 360 Adjustable Ergonomic Sliding Keyboard & Mouse Tray, 25" W x 9.8" D, Black

Your hard work installing this keyboard tray pays off as it looks like a factory included feature. You don’t see any mounting points! 

Make Room On Your Desk

You might not like this solution very much, but it is the solution you can do right now for zero dollars! 

I highly encourage people to try out a more minimalist desk setup. It has given me a lot better focus at my desk, and the looks make my desk so much more inviting. 

Alex Drawer Setup

Taking things off of your desk to make room for that mouse and keyboard means you don’t have to spend cash on a tray, and you can get an ultra clean desk setup. Just wanted to plant the idea that you don’t have to get one of these trays with a minimal setup, and you might be glad you didn’t.

Photo of author

Dasun

I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!