Wood Carving Station From Old Sewing Table




Introduction: Wood Carving Station From Old Sewing Table

About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

I recently took up power wood carving, and realized quickly that I needed an all-in-one station to make things easier. This is what I came up with: a power carving station built from an old sewing table.

If you have a similar need, hopefully I've shared enough detail covering my project that you'll be inspired to make your own.

Here's the list of built-in functions I wanted this carving station to perform:

  • Dust collection
  • Storage for tools and in-process projects
  • Backboard for posting reference photos
  • Hanging motor support and bracket for hand piece
  • Adjustable lighting
  • Lightweight and semi-portable

So far it's been great and I'm very happy with how it turned out. What it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in function.

It's small enough that I can move it around easily and tuck it away when not in use, but accessible enough to pull out for quick work on random projects.

I bought this Foredom woodcarving kit a while ago, which has been awesome. I also picked up a variety of burs and carbide cutters from various places, but my favorite store to deal with was Treeline. They were just so pleasant that they deserve a mention.

See the photo notes for details on the various parts of my power carving station. Now let's get to this!

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Step 1: Acquire an Old Sewing Table

To simplify things, I wanted to use an existing table and modify it to fit my needs.

This particular old machine and table turned up in my local classifieds for $50 several months ago, and I jumped on it. I'd like to eventually give this old Bernina machine a full restoration, but for now it will go into storage.

Step 2: Disassemble Table

Old sewing tables come in all shapes and sizes, but this basic flip-top style is quite common. I see them regularly in thrift stores with and without machines included.

If you have found this tutorial and are planning on making yourself a power carving station from an old sewing table, you'll obviously have to modify yours as needed. I'm just showing what I did with mine to present the general idea and share some tips.

I began by removing anything that was attached with fasteners, but almost parts were kept and put back into use in some form or another.

Step 3: Modify and Build Underside for Storage

Using some scrap wood, I closed in the underside of the table to create a storage area. Clamps, glue, pocket screws, regular screws, and brads were all used for this step.

The flat bottom piece had to be placed inside the cavity prior to attaching its support cleats to the case, as shown in photo 3. Then with the cleats in place, the bottom piece was screwed to the cleats from the topside through the opening in the top of the table.

Step 4: Enlarge Top Opening

The top opening of the sewing table was enlarged to accommodate easier access to the storage area.

This was done with a jig saw. The size was cut to match the original front-to-back width of the top hinged cover piece, which will be re-installed over this opening with the hinges in the back.

Step 5: Prepare Top Side of Dust Collection Port

A dust port was created in the top panel at what will become the front, overhanging edge of the work surface.

This was done by carefully measuring for location, clamping the piece to my table saw, and raising the spinning blade into the wood. The blade was turned off, lowered, and the piece moved with the fence, and the process was repeated until I had made a groove four blade-thicknesses wide.

Step 6: Move Hinge Locations, Assemble Top Work Surface

The top piece was placed in its new position, and the hinge locations were transferred from it to the case. These areas were then marked and notched out with a small trim router.

Hinges were then re-installed with screws fastened into pre-drilled holes.

Step 7: Add Pieces to Enlarge Work Area

The old door and the other loose piece removed earlier on were trimmed and re-installed on the top to create a wider work surface that was flush with the new hinged top/storage access door. This was done with glue and screws installed from the inside of the storage area.

Step 8: Dust Deflector

This idea was just a test, but I really like the way it turned out.

It defects most of the billowy dust downward to the dust port, and out of my face and chest. It's no replacement for good eye and lung protection, but it helps the dust collection effort immensely.

It is made from an 11" by 14" piece of acrylic that rests into a groove cut along the front edge of the top piece. The cut is about 3/8" deep and was done on the table saw with the blade set at about 25 degrees.

Anyone who knows table saws will recognize this as a dangerous cut to make (especially with a non-riving-knife-equipped saw, which mine is.) Proceed with extra caution if you intend to make a similar cut.

Step 9: Backboard + Motor Hanger

When carving, it's nice to have a place to hang up reference photos for what you are carving. If you've got a rotary tool with a separate motor, such as the Foredom tool I have, you need a place to hang up the motor.

This is my solution to both needs. It is made from some 1 1/2" pieces of pine and a small piece of vinyl-covered 1/4" MDF. The pine pieces were glued and screwed to the case, and the MDF was screwed to these support pieces.

The extending section to the right is for the motor to hang on. I was originally going to just hang the motor on a screw-hook, but ended up making a much more solid and secure metal bracket for it. This is covered in a later step.

Step 10: Handpiece Bracket

A small bracket to hold the hand piece was made with a half-piece of 1 1/2" PVC. This was cut on a band saw with a narrow blade.

For the notch cut, the PVC piece was mounted to a scrap piece of wood in order to be able to manage it safely.

Step 11: Dust Collection Port, Underside

Underneath the hole cut out for dust collection, I needed some kind of airtight area to transfer the dust to a plastic adapter that fit my dust collection hose. The plastic adapter was purchased at a woodworking store for a few bucks.

A simple, tapered wooden box was created for this purpose out of some scrap pine. The plastic adapter was fastened to this with screws and a ring of adhesive to make a good seal.

This entire piece was attached to the underside of the table top with screws fastened from the top side of the table. This also got a bead of adhesive to ensure a good seal.

Step 12: Motor Bracket

I originally had the motor hanging on a screw-hook, but I wanted something a little more solid and secure.

After making a template out of cardstock and testing it out, I fashioned a metal bracket using some metal from an old steel street sign I happened to have (which was legally acquired, if you're curious).

See photo notes for details on this.

Step 13: Finishing

I gave the entire thing a quick once-over with some stain to make it look somewhat clean and finished. The dust collection port got a coat of flat black spray paint.

Step 14: Carve in Comfort and Style!

Add a decent stool or chair and an adjustable lamp, and you're done!

Here's my first real carving project: a wooden piggy bank. I have a full instructable that covers the complete project here.

I'm a novice woodcarver, and this was built to fit the needs I foresee as a complete newby to the craft. So I would love to get some feedback and suggestions from any experienced power carvers out there.

Thanks for taking a look!

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    12 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I am also going to use your ideas. I really like the size. I would add a magnifying light, but I have been a hand carver on small pieces. I plan to move to power this year. I will also find a holding device to hold the wood. My hands fatigue. Ideally, it would be a lazy susan that locks. I'll look at Treeline. Thanks for sharing!


    Reply 4 years ago

    Good luck, let me know how it goes!

    A carving vise is on my wish list, but it'll probably be a while before I get one . . . so many hobbies, so little cash! :)


    5 years ago

    Excellent stuff! I shall be using some of your ideas on my future workbench. Thanks for sharing :)

    I'll have to send this to my brother. Totally up his line (he works with harness machines for sewing leather.)


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, thanks for the comment! I've seen some those manly sewing machines, they are so bad-ass.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    The pig is made from layers of wood that were glued together, then carved down to what you see here. I haven't worked on it for a while, but I plan on doing a full write-up on it when it's finished.


    Nicely done. If you end up working with an especially dusty project you can convert it into a completely covered hood like they use for chemistry experiments. All you'll need is some more plexiglass and some big rubber gloves if you want to seal things in tight.



    but bigger. Nice job on your project!


    5 years ago

    lovely project..very informative indeed