Intro: Build a Versatile Sewing and Craft Table
This is a heavy-duty, multi-purpose mobile crafting and sewing table with built-in drawers.
It includes t-tracks which allow a modular secondary work surface to be fastened to the top that sits flush with a sewing machine for handling large sewing projects.
A sewing machine is mounted to a custom base around which the modular panels fit. Any sewing machine can be used in this table setup, although each machine must be mounted into it's own custom base (this meets a specific need I had, as explained in the coming steps).
The t-tracks also allow any number of other fixtures to be created and mounted to the table top for other creative uses, so this table is useful for much more than sewing.
This is a bit of a niche project but something I've needed for many years.
In this Instructable I've tried to include a lot of ideas and tips that might be helpful if you are interested in making something similar. Please enjoy, and share your thoughts and comments at the end.
Thanks for reading!
Step 1: The Problem!
Here's the backstory of WHY I made this:
I like old sewing machines and enjoy sewing with them, as well as tinkering on them and fixing them up.
At any given time I have about a dozen old sewing machines. I'll occasionally buy them through classified ads, but sometimes people will just give me old machines they have kicking around. I'll clean them up and make sure they work, and then either give them to family members or sell them back through local classifieds.
It's not a money-making effort and I wouldn't recommend it as such, although I do probably break even; it's just one of many hobbies I enjoy.
There are certain makes and models that I've become fond of, so I keep a few of these in good working order for personal use. Over the years I've been through various sewing setups and even made a few custom sewing tables, like this one (which has since been given away).
The problem is that a custom sewing table typically only fits the one machine* it was made for.
What I needed was a versatile, single sewing table that I could put any machine on and have a large work surface to use at a moment's notice. If the table also functioned as a regular non-dedicated sewing table as well, then that would be even better.
I stewed on this dilemma for quite a while trying to figure out how to make this a reality.
*some older flatbed-style machines (which I primarily work with) have common bed sizes and hinge locations, but several of mine are different from one another.
Step 2: The Solution!
I eventually settled on this design which provides the things I was after.
This is a closer look at the finished setup, and what it consists of:
The main table has a laminated top that came from an older office table.
The new frame was made from 2x4s. The drawers and bottom shelf are baltic birch plywood, and the whole thing sits on heavy-duty locking casters. I can roll this out to my garage and sew out there if I wanted to, and I probably will at some point!
The secondary, modular sewing surface was made from a pair of used hollow-core doors with new laminate added to the tops.
Individual bases are made for each sewing machine, which fit the modular work surfaces externally and are custom fit to each machine internally. I have made a few matching tops for theses bases as well, so they double as complete portable storage cases.
Adjustable support clamps were made to attach the laminated work surface panels securely to the main table.
The larger back panel serves as an out-feed surface for especially large sewing projects (like quilts), or as an additional cutting/pinning/prep surface. This is supported by a pair of adjustable-height roller stands (these) that I bring in from the workshop when needed.
Step 3: Make a Plan
I began by setting up a machine on my worktable in the shop and fitting things around it to get a feel for what kind of setup I was after.
I knew I wanted to use the top from this old office table, but had to figure out the sizing and placement of everything first, as well as the ideal height for the add-on work surface panels. These measurements will vary depending on your individual materials and machine, so I'm not being too specific here.
In the end though, my machine location is set in about 5 inches from the front edge of the right side of the table.
Step 4: Trim Table Top
I began by trimming my existing table top down to the desired size, which is 26" by 60". The height of the finished table is 30".
When cutting through laminated surfaces, remember that you want the blade to cut into the laminate to avoid chip-out.
This means on a table saw, the laminate surface should be on top.
When using a circular saw, the laminate surface should be down.
Step 5: A Sturdy Frame
A frame was built using doubled-up framing lumber ("2-by-4s").
The edges of each piece were trimmed using a table saw to remove the rounded edges of the boards, and to make them 3" by 1 1/2". This way I end up with a neat looking and very solid 3" by 3" construction.
Glue and screws were used to fasten all boards together, with the addition of clamps as needed. All screw holes were pre-drilled and countersunk.
See photos for details. Building frames in this manner is a lot of fun, and you can do some pretty cool stuff with this approach. I'm incredibly proud of the frame I made for this skeeball game, which was built using this same doubled-up-2x4 approach, and is worth a look if you're curious.
Step 6: Frame Finishing
Dowels were used to plug all of the screw holes, and the frame was coated with boiled linseed oil.
A lower shelf was added that was made from baltic birch plywood.
Step 7: Drawers
Simple drawers were built using birch plywood. These were glued and tacked together with a pneumatic brad gun. Dimensions will depend on your own needs, but the build techniques are easy to duplicate.
These are hanging drawers, so the drawer guides were fastened to the top edges of the drawers. The photos show more details and notes.
Step 8: Add Casters
I decided to spring for nice heavy-duty locking casters for this table, as I can foresee wanting to roll this out of the craft room and into the workshop sometimes.
The table itself is beefy enough to handle some workshop usage, although I'd be more careful to keep the top clean and undamaged unlike a typical workshop table.
The casters were fastened with 2-inch long, 1/4" lag screws into pre-drilled holes.
Step 9: Add T-Tracks
Originally I had not planned to add t-tracks to this, and thought the work surface panels could just sit in place on top of the main table. But I realized I wanted to leave no potential for movement, so having the ability to lock everything down was the best option.
The tracks I used are Kreg brand (these), but any similar style can be used.
To cut the groove for the tracks, a straight board is clamped to the table and a router is used. This requires some thought and careful measuring. Be sure to hold the router firmly against the guide board.
The tracks are then screwed in place.
Step 10: Finished Main Table
Here is the finished main table with the drawers in place.
The table top was attached to the frame with screws fastened from the underside.
I was tempted to add drawer faces and handles, but I liked it like this. Just simple and functional!
Step 11: Hollow Core Doors
In many past projects I've used reclaimed solid core doors. They make excellent workshop table tops. In fact, the white table in these photos was made from two used solid core doors.
However for this project I wanted easily removable table top panels that were strong, but lightweight. I went to my local ReStore and found these two used interior hollow core doors.
They needed some heavy modification to work though, but it wasn't that hard.
The doors were cut down to size as needed using a table saw. The interior support for these doors comes from cardboard that is glued in place. Anywhere there were cut edges, I just pushed the cardboard back a little so I could add new edge support pieces made from scrap wood. These new edge pieces were glued and nailed in place with a pin nailer (this).
Step 12: Add Laminate
I also bought some Formica brand laminate from my local ReStore. I got a 10-foot roll for $4, which was a great deal!
Laminate was applied to the panels with contact cement. For a perfect guide on how this is done, you should check out this Instructable by the talented Makendo: DIY Laminate Countertops
A couple things that made this process go smoother were:
Step 13: Finishing the Panels
The edges of all the panels were sprayed with a few coats of lacquer. To do this, I had to first mask off the new laminate tops.
T-nuts were epoxied into the bottoms of the panels in various locations to fasten to the support blocks shown in the next step.
A hasp was added to the underside of the two large panels so they could be connected. Additionally, dowels were added with corresponding holes along the edges of the panels as well (see photos).
Step 14: Support Clamps
12 support blocks were made to hold up the laminated panels to create the flush sewing surface.
Half of these were made with knobs that are used to fasten the supports to the laminated panels and to the t-tracks in the table. These were made with birch plywood, t-nuts, bolts, and carriage bolts.
The carriage bolt heads were ground down a little on two sides so they would slide into the table's t-tracks. This is a much cheaper option than buying specific t-bolts to use with the tracks.
Pieces of a spongy rubber yoga mat were glued to the support blocks with contact cement to add some dampening padding.
T-nuts were epoxied into half of the wooden knobs, and the other half had bolts epoxied in. The bolt-knobs are used to connect the supports to t-nuts epoxied into the underside the laminated panels, while the t-nut-knobs attach with the modified carriage bolts to the t-tracks in the table.
I know that sounds confusing. The photos show what words are hard to describe!
Step 15: All Done
The finished table works like any other table most of the time. But when I want to work on a big sewing project it converts in a matter of minutes.
I've been extremely happy with it!
Questions, tips, and feedback are always encouraged. Thanks again for reading!