How Peter Martin, AKA "The Desk Kid," Spends a Summer Weekday

The student-mechanic handles everything from MIG welders to belt sanders before going to bed in the early morning.

Peter Martin works an MIG welder outside his garage-turned-workshop. "I’m never scared by the tools," he says. "I mean, the people in the Youtube videos I watch just go for it. So I do too."

By Ashley Wang     Photo editing by Zoë Wong-VanHaren

September 6, 2018

When Peter Martin says he spends a lot of time in his garage, he means it in its most extreme sense. Of course, his garage certainly can’t be confused as an ordinary one, seeing as it’s stocked to the brim with heavy-duty machinery, motorized vehicles, and heaping piles of tools and spare parts. It’s his own personal workshop; his little creative bubble where hours and days are lost track of when he’s in there tinkering and grinding out the not-so-glamorous specifications of his projects.


Genius — or something of that same vein, at least — has transpired in this garage before. His clever motorized school desk, which he rides around town on occasion in lieu of the more traditional car, is a testament to that. It's reached something of a celebrity status among his peers, giving rise to his rather identifying moniker, "The Desk Kid."

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I haven’t really been eating lunch... or breakfast. I usually wake up at 11 a.m. so I end up just skipping those meals. So I eat one meal a day, basically. It’s not ideal.

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I basically come in here—my garage-turned-workshop—the minute I wake up. I can spend up to eight hours in here. That was the most I’ve spent here, just working continuously without leaving the room.

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I started working on this bike sophomore year. It started off as a normal bike, but I’ve been trying to motorize it. It’s taking way longer than it should, especially since my philosophy is getting things done so I can move on to more things. The only reason I’m still going with this is because I’ve ridden it before and the feeling is amazing.

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I draw things out a lot. Most drawings are failed designs. The things that work out are usually improvised.

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I spend hours thinking about where things go. Sometimes it’s for aesthetic purposes and sometimes it’s crucially important for the function.

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I’m never scared by the tools. I mean, the people in the Youtube videos I watch just go for it. So I do too. But my first time using a welder I did burn myself.

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I always keep the door open so my friends can come in. But it’s not lonely when I’m alone. I’m just so focused on my work. Plus, I have my projects to keep me company.

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We find a lot of things in the trash. Mostly spare parts and old machinery we can take apart and use. Dumpster diving, I guess it’s called. Not the greatest term, but that’s what it’s called.

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I lose tools a lot in here. I’m trying to find the 5 mm Allen wrench right now, actually. But I know it’s somewhere in here. Things always turn up.

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My dad pops by occasionally. He did aerospace engineering in college, so he knows a bit. He comes over to check up on us or offer input. He helped me along this process and showed me how to use all the tools. He was a big influence.

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Everything really just started with the desks. It’s interesting being known as the desk kid. It’s not bad. It’s nice that people see my work.

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When we drive our desks to Jack in the Box, people roll down their windows and stare at us. Especially at drive-throughs. People behind us all have their phones out. It’s crazy. But people in the drive-through windows are never phased at all. They’re not like “damn,” just “$7.95."

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I took physics last year, and it was the first time that I felt like things related; that I felt like things applied. It was my first time taking an honors class, and I struggled the same as I would struggle in a regular class, so I didn’t really struggle at all.

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Last night I slept pretty early. Well, early for me, since it was 1 in the morning. I played Rainbow 6 for a few hours.

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