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Making a sewing extension table

by on Jan.19, 2007, under Don't Hit Your Thumb

If you or your spouse likes to sew, then this may be a great project for you. Sewing extension tables give you much more room, at the correct height, to make sure your sewing is its best. Commercial extension tables designed for your sewing machine can easily cost more then $100 and are usually made of clear acrylic. If you don’t happen to already have a designated sewing room or just want one for it’s portability, an extension table is easy to build and functional.

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I made this one for my wife out of cherry veneer plywood with solid cherry legs. I started with a quarter sheet of 1/2 inch cherry plywood (2 ft by 4 ft). I cut that sheet down to a more desirable size of 28 inches by 20 inches.

Next I measured the opening I would need to cut out for the sewing machine. This will obviously vary for your machine, but mine was 3.5 inches wide by 9 inches long. Note that the width will be increased from 3.5 inches to 4.5 inches to accommodate a piece of solid wood that will recieve a coved profile routed into it. This will ensure a tight fit up against the machine. This step may not be necessary for your design depending on how the freearm of the machine is designed. Read the full post here to understand what to consider.

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Next, cut out the two long sides of the notch out using the band-saw.

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Then cut-in towards the end cut and make as straight as possible. I also used a scroll saw to begin this cut and then finished with the bandsaw.

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The corners would benefit from being rounded so fabric doesn’t get snagged. To do this, I used an arc template and traced lines on each corner. A compass could also be used. Mine were 2 inch radius arcs. Cut the corners using a scroll saw and sand smooth. Â

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At this point the general shape is coming together. The next step may or may not apply to your situation depending on how the freearm is designed. Below you can see how this machine has an arc or radius edge along the front (the back didn’t have one). If you didn’t account for that in the extension table, then a gap would exist between the machine and the table. This would not be desirable as material would hang-up on it when you transitioned from table to machine.

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To address this, add a piece of solid wood along the front edge that has a shape or profile that matches the machine edge. Fortunately this wasn’t difficult to do. Choose a piece of wood that closely matches the grain pattern of the plywood veneer. I then use the drum sander to reduce the thickness to match the plywood. I let the solid wood piece be just slightly thicker for now until everything is glued up.

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Next I chose a 3/8inch cove bit to route a profile along the piece of solid wood. I used a table mounted router to do this accurately and safely. The picture below to the right shows the profile cut into the piece. I took two passes to sneak up on the final depth I was looking for. Note that you do not want to make the top edge come to a sharp thin edge as it will be weak and prone to damage. Keep the edge 1/16th to 1/8th inch thick.

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Next cut the width of the solid piece you just routed, to a width that provides a snug fit with the machine. A few test fits and cuts will produce perfect results.

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I happen to also have a straight non-routed edge piece along the back side. Once both pieces fit well, they can be glued into place. Once dry, sand the table surfaces smooth.

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Since plywood edges are not nice looking, hardwood edging that matches the wood type is applied around the perimeter using an iron. The edging comes with heat activated glue pre-applied. The inside edge of the cut-out also needs edging. Trim this piece to match the profile of the solid pieces using a x-acto knife.

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Work your way all around the table, heating and pressing in 6 to 8 inch increments. Allow each section you complete, to cool a little before proceeding. Then use a block plane and sander to trim and smooth the edging to match the surface.

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With the table top complete, it can be finished however you prefer. For cherry projects I use nothing but oil & urethane, like that from General Finishes. You can’t go wrong with this choice. Like the can says… “3 coats are recommended” and I agree. I chose a gloss finish for fun. Usually I use satin, but it’s all personal preference.

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With the table basically done, the legs are all that remain. They are pretty short ones and probably will have to be custom made due to the very short length. I used 1 1/4 inch cherry dowel from Rockler. I measured the height of the freearm on the machine and subtracted the height of the levelers. Mine were 2 1/2 inches long. I purchased necessary hardware from Rockler as well, including t-nuts and threaded posts. I began by drilling holes in one end to receive the 1/4-20 threaded inserts which were pressed in using a vice. These will receive the levelers.

I then drilled a hole on the other end to help screw in the threaded posts which had wood screw threads on one end and 1/4-20 threads on the other end. On both ends I also used larger forstner bits to create a recess that would hide the threaded insert on the one end and the blind T-nut on the other.

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The threaded posts needed to be cut shorter as the length exceeded the thickness of the plywood. I ended up cutting off a 1/4 inch. The completed assembly is shown below. These legs can also be sanded and finished using the oil-urethane to match.

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Finally, four holes were located on the bottom of the table to receive the blind T-nuts that will allow the legs to be fastened to the table. Note, the legs are intended to be removable. The T-nuts are pounded or pressed into place using a hammer or press. The only leg that probably needs to be critically placed is the one right in front of the machine. The smaller corner of the table needs support inside of the end cut.

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Below you can see how the legs will mount as well as the finished product. Use the levelers to get the table at just the right height. One additional suggestion would be to use blue thread-locker (just a dab) to keep the levelers from shifting around undesirably.

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All in all it turned out pretty well and only took a weekend to make. Try making this for your favorite seamster or tailor.

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