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Thread: Tips to make old desk into quilting table

  1. #1
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Tips to make old desk into quilting table

    I have a lovely older wooden desk. The only problem that I have with it is that the top is too tall. Especially when I have a sewing machine on it. That adds what? 4inches? I've been reading how people have built up around the machine to make a flush surface, but I really need to bring it down 3-4 inches instead.

    So I was thinking about cutting the front of the desk. A regular rectangle just a few inches larger than my machine all the way around. Then suspending this cut out with the metal hanging tape that they use to hold your pipes and A/C units.

    That's all I can think of. I don't have a quilting extension table or anything like that. Just big desk and a sewing machine! Oh, the desk does have a drawer right there, and when I pull it out to experiment, I can set the machine right on the drawer and it's a good height. But I don't think it would support the weight of the machine and quilting for long.

    So any and all suggestions are welcome.. no matter how far-fetched or obvious to you (cause it's not to me!)
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  2. #2
    tmw
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    are you talking about the cabinet the machine is on now.? if so, can you cut the legs shorter? the tape you are talking about i s not as strong as it looks. or raise your chair.
    Thelma

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    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    No, the one in the middle. The big one just under the lamps. It's a terrible picture, I know. I tried to add another picture, but it's too big.
    I do raise my chair up as high as I comfortably can. I do have some nerve damage in my left leg so I can't sit with my knees much lower than my hips.

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    Super Member newbee3's Avatar
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    you could reinforce the drawer to make it strong enough then you could cut a or have cut a piece of plexiglass to fit around your machine

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    If you're talking about modifying the L shaped desk sitting to the left of your sewing machine, it looks like it has a single drawer. Many years ago, I cut a hole in my husband's sturdy1960's era desk for my Kenmore. I placed the piece that I cut out down in the drawer and set my machine on top. It brought the machine bed flush with the surface. I don't remember if it needed a scrim or two. That machine had a drop-in bobbin, so I didn't have to remove the machine from the desk very often except for cleaning. Now I sew with a vintage Bernina 830 with vertical bobbin access below the bed of the machine. If I didn't want the inconvenience of pulling the machine out of the recess each time I needed to change the bobbin, I would have to remove the drawer completely. Then you would have the complexity, relative to the construction of the desk, of bracing a shelf below the desk surface.
    Elizabeth

  6. #6
    Super Member Momma_K's Avatar
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    I'd hate to make adjustments to the deck! It's so nice looking!
    Thank You Lord for answering my prayers, in this I am truely blessed!

  7. #7
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elizajo View Post
    If you're talking about modifying the L shaped desk sitting to the left of your sewing machine, it looks like it has a single drawer. Many years ago, I cut a hole in my husband's sturdy1960's era desk for my Kenmore. I placed the piece that I cut out down in the drawer and set my machine on top. It brought the machine bed flush with the surface. I don't remember if it needed a scrim or two. That machine had a drop-in bobbin, so I didn't have to remove the machine from the desk very often except for cleaning. Now I sew with a vintage Bernina 830 with vertical bobbin access below the bed of the machine. If I didn't want the inconvenience of pulling the machine out of the recess each time I needed to change the bobbin, I would have to remove the drawer completely. Then you would have the complexity, relative to the construction of the desk, of bracing a shelf below the desk surface.
    Yes, there is the long, drawer that pulls out into your lap. I'll miss it when I modify, because it holds all kinds of goodies! My bobbin is in the front of the machine, which just adds to the fun of trying to modify the desk! Thats why I figured I'd just cut out from the edge of the desk instead of cutting a machine shaped hole in the desk top.

    I may just start using the lower part of the "L". I don't want to because I love having that there to hold the bulk of the quilt, but my shoulders are telling me to do it anyway! AT least if I do that, I am just going to have to tape some phone books together so I have an even surface!! Actually, I may just do that. The desk is incredibly heavy and I don't want to move it, but oh well! Quilting and comfort come first!

  8. #8
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Momma_K View Post
    I'd hate to make adjustments to the deck! It's so nice looking!
    It's a good, sturdy piece of furniture! I got it just so I could quilt on it, so I knew some modifications were going to have to be made! I just don't know the best way to make them! And it's all scratched up and covered in shelf paper, it's not as "nice" as it looks!

  9. #9
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    Can you clean out the drawer and place your machine in it? This would lower it a bit. You could remove the feet if they are removeable or cut the legs down if not. You could also have someone build you a platform that does under the desk and about 4 feet out into the room for your chair. Make it big enough that you don't roll your chair off the edge though. Good luck.

  10. #10
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tartan View Post
    Can you clean out the drawer and place your machine in it? This would lower it a bit. You could remove the feet if they are removeable or cut the legs down if not. You could also have someone build you a platform that does under the desk and about 4 feet out into the room for your chair. Make it big enough that you don't roll your chair off the edge though. Good luck.
    Cleaning out the drawer would work, but I'm not sure it's a good long-term plan. I think the weight would eventually bend the tracks it's on.
    The desk doesn't have "legs", they are like walls. I've thought about cutting them down and then I remembered the terrible job I did when I cut the bottom of a door. It was terrible! Platform is a good idea but too much trouble. I have a hard enough time keeping my chair on the rug and it not rolling the rug up in the wheels! I'd hurt myself bad!!

  11. #11
    Super Member jgriinke's Avatar
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    I don't see why the cutting into the top wouldn't work. Or, instead of cutting into the front - cut out a rectangle a little bigger than your machine - give it more space in front, so you can move your machine back when you need to change the bobbin. I have an old office desk that my DH did that for me. I do have a machine with a drop in bobbin, so I don't have the problem of changing bobbins.
    I did have to do away with the drawer under the cut out, but with all the other drawers it has - I've had no problem finding new spots for the stuff that was in there.
    I also, never bothered with a plexiglass piece to put around the machine.
    Just do what works and enjoy it!

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    I have one now. It is an OLD desk. Husband cut out a hole for my serger. It sits in the drawer. Don't know if he had to re-inforce the drawer or not. Perfect height.

  13. #13
    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgriinke View Post
    I don't see why the cutting into the top wouldn't work. Or, instead of cutting into the front - cut out a rectangle a little bigger than your machine - give it more space in front, so you can move your machine back when you need to change the bobbin. I have an old office desk that my DH did that for me. I do have a machine with a drop in bobbin, so I don't have the problem of changing bobbins.
    I did have to do away with the drawer under the cut out, but with all the other drawers it has - I've had no problem finding new spots for the stuff that was in there.
    I also, never bothered with a plexiglass piece to put around the machine.
    Just do what works and enjoy it!
    Can you post a picture? I just can't figure out how to mount something to hold the machine in place lower

  14. #14
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    Since you know the drawer makes for a good height for your machine, I would cut a rectangle hole in the top, not to the edge, and place the machine down on the drawer. (If you go to the edge, I'm afraid it would be uncomfortable when you are quilting and leaning over the machine.) I would attach a board or metal straps, whatever you can, under / across the bottom of drawer, to support the drawer and machine. You will then be in heaven - machine at proper height for quilting and the L-shape in the perfect spot to support your quilts. How would it be to remove the front of the drawer? Then you could access the bobbin from the front, but keep the sides and bottom of the drawer in place to help support the machine. If that doesn't seem feasible, as others have said, you can just make the hole large enough for your hand to fit in and access the bobbin from above. My machine is placed in a hole in a quilting table a family member made for me, and the hole is sufficient to reach the bobbin. I traced the rectangle hole and the outline of my machine on a big piece of newsprint, took it to the local glass shop, and they made me a plexiglass insert that fills the space between the table and the machine. It works out really well. While I was at it, I had them make a solid insert, without the hole for the machine. So, when I need the table for sandwiching, I can remove the machine, put in the solid insert and have the large surface I need. It also works well as a tracing table when I put a light on the shelf under the plexiglass. Good luck! Please post pics when you finish. ETA: the glass shop only charged me a few dollars for the plexiglass inserts - a bargain when you see how much custom sewing machine inserts are!

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    Can you place foldable legs under the drawer for support? Then you can use the drawer safely without cutting anything.

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    Super Member AshleyR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pasovasz View Post
    Can you place foldable legs under the drawer for support? Then you can use the drawer safely without cutting anything.
    Hmmm.. maybe I could find or make a small table (or shelf....) that is in the front and then just build up around the machine to make it flush with the desk top. I can see this as a total possibility!

  17. #17
    Senior Member tangledthread's Avatar
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    Could you stack some 2x4's together and raise the "floor" for your feet instead of trying to lower the table? Would your chair raise enough? Then just make a plexy glass table for your machine?
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    We are planning on making this modification to the 2 desks in my sewing space too. And, I was getting ready to ask this same question. Interesting feedback.

    Question. Some of the smallish sewing tables for sale that have cut outs, but no electric or air lifts, have a system that uses a hinged platform with some type of adjuster thing (my friends has a chain). Can you buy these hinged platform contraptions? Cause that would be a really simple solution. But, I have not seen them for sale anywhere.

    One of my desks has a keyboard 'drawer'; but, it won't support a machine.

  19. #19
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    I did the same thimng with a computer desk. The front of the drawer tilts down on hinges. You could do that so you can get at the bobbin. I store small things along the sides. Good luck!
    Quote Originally Posted by elizajo View Post
    If you're talking about modifying the L shaped desk sitting to the left of your sewing machine, it looks like it has a single drawer. Many years ago, I cut a hole in my husband's sturdy1960's era desk for my Kenmore. I placed the piece that I cut out down in the drawer and set my machine on top. It brought the machine bed flush with the surface. I don't remember if it needed a scrim or two. That machine had a drop-in bobbin, so I didn't have to remove the machine from the desk very often except for cleaning. Now I sew with a vintage Bernina 830 with vertical bobbin access below the bed of the machine. If I didn't want the inconvenience of pulling the machine out of the recess each time I needed to change the bobbin, I would have to remove the drawer completely. Then you would have the complexity, relative to the construction of the desk, of bracing a shelf below the desk surface.

  20. #20
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    Cutting a hole(just slightly bigger than your machine size in the top would be easier. Brace it with 2x4 frames or metal straps attached to maintain the stablity of the machine. Keep the drawer and adjust the size of the drawer space as the hole would require.

    On the left side of the desk, get a large piece of clear heavy duty plastic and make a light box type structure to even our the surface height.

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    What you could do. The middle area where you chair goes into you could put one of those sliding shelve units in. What I am talking about is the kind they use in kitchen cabinets where the shelve slide out.
    The best solution to the problem is cut the legs off. My husband has to cut down every cabinet I get because they are just to tall for me.

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    Raise your chair, then add a footrest to keep your legs at a comfortable level. This would have to be custom made to suit you, and don't forget to make sure the foot pedal has room as well. Good luck!

  23. #23
    Junior Member Drw52372's Avatar
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    Here is instructions from Quilt in a Day on how to turn an farm table into a sewing table. I'm sure it would work the same for your desk. http://www.quiltinaday.com/freepattern/
    DRW

  24. #24
    Senior Member MdmSew'n'Sew's Avatar
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    Since the el piece is the right height, I would see if someone could move the drawer to the left side of the desktop (most of these pieces are modular, so moving the drawer may not be a problem), then turn it so the desk is along the left wall and the el section is where the desk now sits - a lot easier than cutting and fussing, you'd still have the extra space while quilting, wouldn't lose the storage space in the drawer, and a whole lot easier, I would think. If you were piecing, your machine could be anywhere on the el work space, so you have plenty of room to manage all the pieces, etc. around the machine as you work, if you were quilting, you could move it so it was right on the edge where the two pieces come together, so the quilt doesn't fall into a chasm and get bunched up. Or maybe just move it closer to the joint, and add a phone book or something to make a 'bridge' to the desktop. Just not my phone book, it's about 6x8" and 3/4" thick - will be good for strip piecing but not much use when trying to create height!
    Last edited by MdmSew'n'Sew; 05-09-2012 at 06:07 AM.
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  25. #25
    Super Member MaggieLou's Avatar
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    I have an old executive desk I use as a sewing table. I can use the center drawer to put my machine in and it's pretty much level with the desk top. It also has two pull out shelves on each side. I've debated about having my DH cut a section out of the top for my machine but I would hate to lose the top of the desk. If you cut a hole in the desk top, make sure you cut it a little larger than you need and mount a shelf to sit your machine on just deep enough to keep your machine level with the desktop. Use the piece you cut out to replace in the desktop if you move your machine. That way you still get the use of a level desktop without a hole in it.
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