Introduction: Quilting Desk

About: Furniture builder and content creator who enjoys teaching. Please visit my site - - for more free plans and videos.

We recently built a new shop which included a large new area for my wife's quilting activities. My wife has been doing the hobby for years and had finally outgrown the original quilting desk that I built for her. Time for a new quilting desk.

The new desk is completely her design as she know's best what works for her. Thanks to mtairymd for the final CAD work and producing the plans which will be available on my website as well as at the end of this Instructable.

Because of the size and complexity of this project, the main quilting desk is 3 videos long and there will be a future Instructable on a utility cabinet that goes with this desk that includes a light box for tracing patterns as well as some additional drawer and shelf space.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


  • Table saw
  • Jointer
  • Planer
  • Track Saw (circular saw and straight edge could be used)
  • Router
  • Drill
  • Jig Saw
  • Band Saw (Jig saw can be used)
  • Brad Nailer (Optional)
  • Festool Domino (Optional)
  • Sander
  • Rasps
  • Chisels


  • 5 sheets of 3/4" Baltic Birch Plywood (cabinet cases)
  • 1 sheets of 1/2" Baltic Birch Plywood (Drawer sides)
  • 2 sheets of 1/4" plywood (Drawer bottoms and cabinet backs)
  • ~150 BF of 6/4 Alder (table top and cabinet trim)
  • ~ 8 BF of 4/4 Alder (Front shelf trim)
  • 16" Full Extension Soft Close Drawer Glides (21 sets)
  • Sewing Machine Lift
  • Drawer Pulls
  • 1/4" Plexiglass (Sewing machine surface plate)
  • Finish (I used General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Satin)

Step 2: The Base Cabinets

The base cabinets are constructed per the drawing. Each cabinet is a different size but, the construction is exactly the same for each cabinet.

The parts are rough cut to dimension with the track saw and then cut to final dimension at the table saw. All the cabinet sides are the same size so, cutting them all at the same time ensures that they're all the same. The tops and bottoms of each cabinet is the same width as the cabinet sides so, the length is the only difference.

Refer to the plans for locations of rabbets and dados that accept dividers as well as tops, bottoms, and backs.

The cabinets are constructed using glue and brad nails and clamped until the glue dries to ensure that they remain square. I listed the brad nails as optional in the tools list for this step as the glue alone would be sufficient for these joints. Adding the brad nails allowed me to remove the clamps a little sooner and move on to the next part of the project.

Note: I would suggest adding the glides for the vertical drawer prior to assembling that cabinet. I didn't do that which required a 90 degree drill to install later due to lack of space in that opening. Their exact location vertically isn't critical as long as one is near the top and one is near the bottom. Both glides get mounted to the same side of the cabinet.

Once the cabinets are complete, thin (~1/8") strips are cut to the exact width of the Baltic Birch plywood and affixed to the fronts of the cabinets to hide the plywood using glue and brad nails. Glue alone is sufficient to secure this edging but, some form of clamping would be advised to ensure a good bond.

I used Famowood wood filler to fill the brad nail holes and sanded all the trim to 180 grit.

Note: Do not install the cabinet backs yet. It's easier to install drawer glides in the next step if the backs are not in the way.

Step 3: Cabinet #1

Cabinet one is a small drawer cabinet that will be positioned just to the right side of the desk.

Step 4: Cabinet #1 Build

The cabinet is built per the drawings.

Step 5: Drawers

The drawers in each cabinet are different sizes. Refer to the plans for the sizes in each cabinet.

1/2" Baltic Birch plywood was used to for all drawer sides. 1/4" plywood was used for all drawer bottoms.

Note: These sizes can be easily modified to be any sizes you'd like/need.

When determining the actual needed widths of your drawers, it's important to take the measurements from the actual cabinet rather than the plans. Any error created when constructing the cabinet could create issues with the fitting of the drawers. The drawer glides requite 1" of space inside the cabinet. To determine the width of your drawers, measure the inside dimension of the cabinet and subtract 1" for the drawer glides.

I've added an additional video for step by step instructions for these drawers.

Install the drawer glides ensuring enough space between drawers. Refer to the plans for locations and the video for more detail on installing drawer glides.

Drawer fronts were cut to size and installed ensuring a 1/16" gab on all sides. The holes for the handles were predrilled in the fronts and these holes were used to secure the drawer fronts until screws could be added from inside the drawers.

After the screws are installed from the inside of the drawers, remove the screws from the drawer pull locations and sand the drawer fronts to 180 grit. Apply finish of choice and install the drawer pulls.

Note: Now install the 1/4" plywood back of the cabinet using glue and brad nails or screws.

Step 6: Cabinet #2

This is the backside of the quilting desk. It's an open self design that will fit some plastic containers. These shelves could be easily modified to fit just about any storage needs.

Build cabinet two per the drawings.

Step 7: Cabinet #3

This cabinet is all about drawer storage. Again, this cabinet could be altered to have just about any storage solutions you choose. Build cabinet three per the drawings and the drawers per the previous step.

Step 8: Cabinet #4

Build cabinet four per the drawings and the drawers per the previous step.

Step 9: The Vertical Drawer

The vertical pull out was constructed from 3/4" Baltic Birch plywood. It's built very similar to a normal drawer with the exception that the sides are secured to the face using glue and screws.

Refer to the plans and video for construction details.

This vertical drawer could easily be altered to fit your needs. My wife had some specific items she wanted to store so, was designed for those items. Many times, storage options get overlooked so, I have left a few videos at the end of this instructable that may provide some different ideas to consider.

Step 10: The Top

The first step for the top is to mill all the lumber flat and square ensuring that all the lumber is the same thickness.

Due to the size of this top, I constructed it in several steps to help ensure that the top was flat.

My boards were milled to 5" wide and each half required 8 boards to get to a total width of 40". I glued up 2 at a time using dominos (optional) for alignment. This was done this way so that if I encountered wood movement, I could still run them through the planer again and get them flat. I was fortunate and didn't have to do this but, I would do it the same way again on such a large top.

Once each half was built, I used a track saw (circular saw and straight edge would work) and a bevel gauge to cut the appropriate corner to 45 degrees. I then set the two halves together and marked for domino locations to be used for alignment.

I cut small pieces of left over plywood and glued them to the top along the 45 degree cut to be used for clamping the two halves together. Plywood was used because it's easier to remove from the top later without damaging the top.

Because this joint is end grain to end grain, I used West Systems epoxy for this glue up and allowed about a 12 hour curing time before removing the clamps.

Using a chisel, I removed most of the layers of plywood and then followed up with a sander to ensure all of the clamping block material was removed.

To attach the top, I pilot drilled from the bottom and secured with 1 1/4" wood screws.

The last step was to sand the top to 180 grit in preparation for finish.

Step 11: Cutting the Lift Hole

Each sewing machine will be a little different. It's important that your measurements are based around your machine. The measurements in the plans are based around the actual machine that my wife has.

Note: These inserts can be purchased from the sewing machine manufacturers. If you use one from the manufacturer, this will alter the size and shape of your opening.

1/4" plywood was affixed to the top using double sided tape and aligned to the cut lines for the opening. This essentially created a jig for a router and 1/2" spiral bit to create a groove 1/4" deep around the perimeter of the opening. A collet was used in the router to ride along the jig so, the plywood was set back ~ 1/16" to account for that offset.

Relief holes were drilled on the inside of this groove big enough to accept a jig saw. The inside portion was cut with the jig saw ensuring that the 1/4" deep groove remained. This "shelf" is what holds up the plexiglass insert for the sewing machine.

Rasps were used to clean up the sides and chisels were used to clean up the corners.

1/4" plexiglass was cut at the bandsaw to fit this opening as well as the specific sewing machine.

Step 12: Installing the Lift

Because each sewing machine is a little different, exact measurements for this step need to come from the desk itself.

2 layers of Baltic Birch plywood were affixed to the back of the front cabinet. As this cabinet only has a 1/4" back on it, it's important to ensure that the screws used to attach this get screwed to the top, bottom, and middle shelf of the front cabinet.

The lift also needs a small support block under it. The block is also made from 2 layers of Baltic Birch plywood but, could be made from solid wood as well. To determine the height of the block, subtract the length of the lift from the height of the desk. This will ensure that that the lift can be properly mounted to the underside of the top.

Once the lift is installed, cut a tray that fits on top of the lift and inside of the cut out in the top. Secure this tray to the lift following the manufacturers instructions. This is the tray that the sewing machine will sit on. Be sure to leave enough room for any cords and cables that may be required for the sewing machine.

Add the sewing machine to the tray and adjust the height as necessary. With the insert installed, it should be a flat surface all the way across the top.

Step 13: Finish

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal was used for the finish. 2 coats were applied to all the base cabinets and drawer fronts and 5 coats were applied to the top. After each coat cured, a light sanding with 400 grit paper was done to ensure that there were no dust nibs.

Step 14: Closing

This is a huge project that requires a lot of space. There are a lot of parts that have to come together in the end and they have to fit together correctly. I've included 2 videos above as ideas for drawer organization. Obviously, the videos were created for my shop space but, would work just as well for the drawers in the quilting desk.

My wife is super happy with her new desk and immediately started using it once I told her the finish was cured. It also didn't take her long to start organizing and filling the 21 drawers that were now available to her. She's even asked me to create some drawer organization components like I've done in my shop.

Next up will be a utility cabinet to go with this desk. The utility cabinet will have a light tracing box as well as a small cutting and ironing station. Stay tuned for a separate Instructable on that build!

Thanks for viewing!