I’ve been using my custom built cutting table / sewing machine drop table for a little over 2 weeks. Before jumping in and sharing how we made this table (using hardware store materials), I wanted to give it enough time to test it out to know that it’s holding up, sturdy, and meeting my needs.
I *love* how the table came together and I am so excited that my machine is dropped to match the surface of the surrounding table for the first time. It’s already made a huge difference in my visibility and reduced my frustration as I am quilting. That said, note that we made a few design choices that affected how this tutorial is going to show making the table:
- Due to the way my bobbin loads (from the side), we opted to keep the large extension table. Therefore the table was built so that the sewing machine with the extension table installed is flush with the front edge of the table. On the plus side, we were able to keep the extension table with us while we were building the table, which made it very convenient to test fit and measure what we needed without having to bring the heavy sewing machine into a dirty shop environment.
- I had a large space in which I could also incorporate a cutting station into the table. Overall, the combined cutting / drop sewing machine table is 100″ long.
- We chose to work with readily available items at our local hardware store. Our hope is that you will be able to find similar options local to you. We purchased everything from Home Depot (again, we chose Home Depot because it is the closest hardware store to us by over 45 miles / 1 hour).
Step 1 – Plan
Our first step was developing a plan. We actually had purchased two 25″ wide by 74″ long butcher block countertops from Home Depot in Hawaii and ended up moving them with us to California. We made our plan for building this table based on using up the countertops that we already had available to us. While we were purchasing the rest of the material we needed for this project, we noted that here in California there were longer pieces of this same birch butcher block material available, so make sure to check out what your local hardware store has available related to the size you need for your project.
As a result of having two birch butcher block countertops, we knew we would be working with a non-continuous piece of countertop material in order to make the table as long as desired, so part of our plan included needing to incorporate a joint between the two pieces of birch butcher block. One of our first big decisions was where the joint between the two countertops would be best located. Knowing that the joint would need reinforcement, and that we would be reinforcing the table in the area where the drop section is for my sewing machine, we chose to put the joint behind my sewing machine so that we could tie everything together in one location. Making the joint by the drop table location also meant that the joint would be much smaller than the full 25″ width and not very visible as it would be tucked behind the sewing machine.
As you may choose to have a smaller table or you may find table top material that is one continuous piece for the size you need, you may not have to worry about having a joint in your table at all.
Step 2 – Materials and Tools
In addition to the butcher block pieces, we also needed:
- Wood Screws (we opted for #8 x 1 1/4-in long)
- Table Legs (we opted for 2 pieces of 1″ steel water pipe and two matching threaded flanges)
- Wood Screws to tie the table legs to the butcher block (we opted for #12 x 1-in long)
- Rubber Feet for the Table Legs (1-in rubber leg tips in black)
- Spar Urethane (to finish the butcher block – there are a lot of finishing options, this is what we chose)
- Aluminum Angle to mount the butcher block to the wall (we purchased three 36-inch long 1 1/2-in by 1 1/2-in angles)
- 3/4″ x 3/4″ Poplar (two 36-inch long pieces) to help mount the drop table
- 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ Poplar (in total 8-feet in length) to help mount the drop table
- Wood glue (not pictured) – Titebond II
- Drywall screws (not pictured)
The tools this project requires are:
- Cordless/Electric Drill
- Measuring Tape
- Pencil / Marking Device
- Carpenter’s Square
- Small Circular Saw
- Sand Paper
- Stud Detector
Depending on how you choose to make your table, you may not need all of the above tools.
Step 3 – Measure Twice!
As any quilter knows, taking the time to measure twice (or more) can save a lot of time and heartache due to a miscut. The plan for my table called for leaving 5″ of the countertop on the far right hand edge before the opening for the drop table. The 5″ gave us room to add the structure to the table needed for the drop table AND for the Aluminum angle that we would be using to mount the edge of the table directly to the wall in my sewing studio.
We decided to make the opening for the drop table 36″ wide. This allows extra space to the right of my sewing machine, and could also possibly allow some flexibility in the future should I purchase a different (larger / wider) sewing machine. The second dimension for the opening for the drop table was set by the depth of my Juki’s extension table: 13 1/4″.
Knowing that my desired full table width was 100″ long, that the full 74″ butcher block was being used for the left hand side of the table, that the drop table opening would be 36″, and that we wanted to leave 5″ after the drop opening, we were able to mark out our initial cut lines on the butcher block countertop pieces. Your dimensions will be a bit different based on your needs, but for this table, for the left hand piece, that meant cutting out a 13 1/4″ deep by 15″ long section from the forward right hand corner. For the right hand piece (pictured above), that meant making a 26 long piece with a 13 1/4″ deep by 21″ long section cut out from the forward left hand corner.
Step 4 – Cut Carefully
Taking the butcher block outside, we clamped it securely to a sturdy work surface. Then, using a combination of a small circular saw and jigsaw, we carefully rough cut about 1/8″ inside the marked lines. It took two of us for this part; my husband cut and I held the scrap piece of butcher block that was being cut out of the corner (to keep it from splintering and cracking into the main part of the countertop we wanted to use). As you can see in the photo above, my husband did most of the first, rough cut with the small circular saw, but when it came to the square corner, he switched to using a jigsaw and cut a somewhat rounded corner. We will come back later with a router to clean the edges and corner up. It’s better at this point to leave a bit of extra material for the router to clean up than to overcut with the saws.
Step 5 – Test Fit
Because we will be building this table into the corner of my studio, after rough cutting the right hand side of the table (the side that goes into the corner), we took that piece up to the studio to see how it fit. Not all rooms are built to have nicely square walls and corners. To get the table to fit more snugly to the corner, using the hanging hole in my add-a-quarter ruler, I pressed the ruler against the far right hand wall and traced the contour of the wall along the top of the table. We then recut the right hand edge to get the fit in the photo you see above. That meant that the table lost somewhere between 1/8″ – 1/4″ in overall length, but it means that I won’t be collecting a lot of lint in a gap between the table and the wall as I sew and quilt!
Step 6 – Join Left and Right Table Pieces
If you are able to work from a continuous piece of table material, I want to quickly mention one thing about the above photograph before you skip ahead to the next applicable step. The table surface is upside down / wrong side up, and we have used the aluminum angle brackets to mark out the spots on the underside edges of the table that will be up against a wall with the width of the aluminum angle. This visual guide is something we recommend you also mark to use to help plan out spacing.
In addition to marking out the area we need to avoid for the wall to table angle brackets, we also had to identify the spacing required for the joints to make the drop table. Note the two pencil marks on either side of the joint area marking out where the popular pieces will be installed for the drop table. Once we knew the rough area we could add a doubler to reinforce the joint, we took a piece of scrap butcher block and cut it down to fit in the allotted area. We predrilled and countersunk holes for the screws that would attach the doubler to the underside of the table pieces.
With that complete, we then clamped the two pieces together with a piece of aluminum (but you could use anything that is long and flat) to keep the back edge straight.
In addition to using screws, we chose to glue the doubler to the underside of the joint in the table. To prepare to glue the pieces of wood together with Titebond II, we placed a thick strip (1/4″ wide) masking tape across the joint so that glue would not drip down and end up on the top side of the table surface. In the photo above, you can see that we test positioned the doubler to the joint and traced its outline We then applied glue to both the underside of the table and the doubler surface and used a squeegee to evenly spread and distribute the glue on both surfaces.
Once both glued surfaces were joined, the doubler plate had a tendency to want to “skate” and move around a bit. I held two corners in position using the reference pencil lines and my husband mechanically fastened the pieces of wood together using long screws.
Step 7 – Route Edges of Drop Table Opening
After letting the Titebond II cure, we turned the table over so that it was right side up again and set up to route the edges of the drop table opening. Routers require setting up fences to bump the router against to achieve the best results, and we used a combination of scrap metal and the aluminum angle we purchased to mount the table to the wall with a lot of clamps to get the fencing set up, but you can use anything straight like scraps of wood. Although not pictured, we moved the table top outside to do this very dusty and dirty work.
As you can see in the photo above, we rounded the inner corners and the right hand outer corner (the near corner of the photo above). Because my sewing machine’s extension table has rounded corners, I opted not to round the left hand outer corner as much and instead chose to break the sharp edge to leave as minimal a gap as possible with the sewing machine and extension table in place. Also note in the photo above that we used sanding paper to break the sharp edges of the table.
Step 8 – Test Fit
The next thing we need to build for the table is the framing for the drop table surface. In order to make sure we knew the correct depth to set the drop table, we test fit the sewing machine extension table into the freshly routed surface. The important thing for you at this step is to determine how much drop you need in the table to match your specific sewing machine. Ours ended up being nice and flush at a 3″ drop.
Step 9 – Make Drop Table Supports
To make the drop table supports, we started by gluing the 3/4″ x 3/4″ strips of poplar to the edge of the 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ poplar planks. This time we simply tightly clamped the glued surfaces, wiped away any excess glue that squeezed out of the joint, and waited to let the glue dry (we did not use screws, only glue, for this step).
In total we made three drop table supports: one for each side and a piece for the back. We did not run the support across the full width of the drop table in the back. By centering the back support, it left a gap through which the power cord for my sewing machine and the cord to connect the foot pedal could easily pass through. We cut a 45-degree angle on the back of the two side supports, so we had to pay careful attention to the location of the 3/4″ x 3/4″ poplar for each of those pieces when we were gluing them together.
Once the drop table supports were made, we pre-drilled and added countersinks along the 3/4″ x 3/4″ poplar (that will be used to fasten the drop table supports to the bottom of the table) and along the 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ poplar (that will be used to fasten the drop table supports to the drop table base). You may notice that we drilled an extra hole in the side support in the foreground of the photo above. Now that it is installed, no one would ever know it has an extra hole. 😉
Step 10 – Positioning Drop Table Supports and Drop Table
Using a large remnant of butcher block, we created a slightly oversized base for the drop table. We made the opening for the drop table 36″ wide by 13 1/4″ deep and we cut the drop table base to be 36 1/2″ wide by 13 1/2″ deep.
To position the drop table supports, we turned the table upside down and placed the drop table base on shims to make it the correct depth to match the height of my sewing machine’s extension table (for us, 3″ as mentioned earlier). Once we had the drop table base positioned where we wanted it with reference to alignment with the front edge of the table and as centered to the left/right of the opening as possible, we clamped the drop table base and the rear drop table support together.
Step 11 – Install Drop Table
First, we fastened the drop table supports to the bottom of the table using the #8 1 1/4-in long wood screws, then we fastened the drop table supports to the drop table base. The photo above is the moment after we removed the clamps and saw the drop table fully installed for the first time.
One note about the drop table supports: we like the fact that the 3 1/2″ deep poplar allows for variability of positioning of the drop table. Again, while I have no plans to purchase a new sewing machine, if I do, we might have enough adjustability in the drop table to get it to position to something else in the future is a plus in our book.
Step 12 – Predrill Table for Leg Support Flanges
The right hand side and the back edge of the table will be supported using the aluminum angles screwed to the walls in my sewing studio. Because the table is so long, we also opted to add 2 legs to the table: one in the forward left hand corner and one just to the left of the drop table (closer to mid span of the table). Prior to finishing the surface of the table, we wanted to get all of the underside work finished, so we located and then predrilled the table leg support flange screw locations to make installing the legs easier.
Step 13 – Finish Table Surface
Once we knew the table was not going to be upside down again, we spent some time using sand paper to give it a nice final finish. Then we applied two coats of Spar Urethane to finish and seal the surface.
We followed the directions on the urethane and allowed the first coat to fully dry before lightly sanding the surface again and then applying the second and final coat.
Step 14 – Locate Studs in Wall and Position Aluminum Angle
While the urethane was drying, we moved into my sewing studio and planned out the position of the aluminum support angle along the wall. To do that, we needed to know how tall I wanted the work surface of the table top to be. As I am fairly tall (5′ 7″), I like my cutting mat to be 36″ above the floor. Subtracting off the thickness of the table (1.5″), we made reference marks and then used a laser level to mark the top of the aluminum angle at 34.5″ around the table perimeter. Then we used a stud detector to locate the edges of the studs in the wall. Finally, we positioned the three pieces of aluminum angle along the wall in ways that allowed them to tie into as many studs as possible. There are two 36″ long angles along the back of the table that each tie into three studs, and the shorter right hand side angle was able to be mounted to two studs.
Step 15 – Prep Table Legs
There are lots of other ways you could choose to make legs for your table, but we chose to use steel water pipe that is threaded on the end. One word of caution if you also opt to consider using steel water pipe: we found that the combination of pipe and pipe flange was very important to pair correctly. In the hardware store, we took the time to test fit flanges to 36″ long pieces of pipe. Then we rolled the pipe back and forth along the top of our shopping cart to see if the flange remained flat or if it wobbled as the pipe rolled. We mixed and matched until we had 2 pairs of pipe and pipe flange that seated squarely with one another. As you can see in the photo above, when we got them home, I marked the sets so that we knew which flange and pipe to pair together in the final installation.
We originally thought we could use lower cost steel conduit from the electrical aisle, but it turns out that the threads on the end of the conduit don’t work with the flanges from the plumbing aisle. And there were no flanges meant for the conduit in the electrical aisle. For that reason, we got steel water pipe and flanges from the plumbing aisle because they threaded together nicely.
When we were ready to finalize the table legs, we first very firmly screwed the pipe into its pre-determined matching flange base. Steel water pipe has a tapered thread, so there will be some thread still visible when the pipe is fully engaged into the flange. With the flange and pipe connected, we then measured from the flange down the length of the pipe and cut the pipe to create two 34 1/2″ long legs. There are lots of ways to cut the pipe including saws and roller pipe cutters, but you can probably have the nice people at the hardware store cut the pipe for you in the plumbing aisle.
Then we pressed on a rubber leg tip to each of the cut pipe ends to finalize the base of each table leg.
Step 16 – Mount Aluminum Angle to Sewing Studio Walls
In preparation for installing the table in my sewing studio, we mounted two of the aluminum angles to my sewing studio walls. Because we were not sure how flat and square the walls in my studio are in relationship to the floor, we opted to only put one of the rear angle brackets along the wall with a single screw into a stud. That allowed the aluminum angle to “float” temporarily during assembly. Due to the tight access from the drop table, we chose to go ahead and fully mount the right hand side angle to the wall. This photograph is a weird perspective; trust me when I say the angle is actually level (we did check prior to bringing in the table)!
Step 17 – Mount Table in Sewing Studio
With the angle installed along the wall, we brought the table into my studio. Once in my studio, we put the table on edge and mounted the two table legs to the bottom of the table (getting the table up stairs and into my studio with the legs on might not have been possible). Then we carefully lifted the table into position. Thankfully, it fit snugly into the corner of my studio! With the table in place, we predrilled all of the holes before using the remaining #8 wood screws to fasten the table to the aluminum angle.
Note that we did install the third aluminum angle and used a level and the reference marks we made on the studio wall to make sure it was positioned correctly.
Step 18 – Admire Your New Table and Move In!
And just like that, I was excited to admire the new table, move in, and start quilting!
My Juki TL-2200QVP Mini fits perfectly on the drop table, and all of the tools I need for my machine and piecing nest perfectly to the right of my machine. All of the main thread I use (50wt Aurifil) is easily at hand on the thread rack to my right, and I am really pleased with how solid the table feels while the Juki is being used. Some of my previous desks have had a tendency to bounce when I run my Juki at faster speeds, and while I don’t use the rabbit setting on my machine, I am quite pleased with the table setup.
In addition, the cutting mat is at the perfect height for me, and I love the workflow of my cutting mat, ironing station, and sewing machine. And when needed for quilting, I’ll be able to move the ironing station to be perpendicular to the left of my machine to help hold the weight of a quilt.
For more details about my new sewing studio, you can visit my previous blog posts:
I hope this tutorial helps you feel confident modifying your sewing table or building your own drop table using materials you can find at your local hardware store. If you would like a nicely formatted PDF of this tutorial, you can purchase it for $2 in my pattern shop. Happy quilting!