Sunday 21 August 2022

Singer sewing machine table

The finished product



The Beginning

This old Singer sewing machine belonged to my grandparents, and then spent years left in my parents garage until I got interested in leather work and took it, wondering if it might be usable for that.

Although the machine itself seems mechanically sound the electronics seem to be trashed.

Using it trips the circuit breaker, the belt from the motor to the machine was hanging together by a thread, so all in all, not very successful.

To begin with, I removed all the electrical pieces - the machine can still be hand-operated without them, and I wanted to make use of it, so I could always return to those later.

I'd seen similar sewing machine models that were part of a table or cabinet set-up, with cast iron legs and treadle operated.

I'm told that this machine originally used to have one, back when it was my grandparents', but they have since been lost to the sands of time.

I was hoping to be able to recreate that, but it seems they are rather sought-after by trendy people turning them into side tables, which has pushed the price up considerably.

So, instead of going for an accurate restoration, I opted for an 'inspired by' build. 

The base of the machine is quite thick, due to the mechanical workings underneath the machine, but for using it on a worktop, the step can be quite annoying, so my idea was to make a butcher-block style surface, which the machine can be recessed into.

I opted to build my own butcher block from pallet wood, to keep costs down, and to give myself an excuse to buy a planer/thicknesser (still worked out cheaper than just buying a butcher block!)


I'd aimed for a maximum dimensions of 100cm x 50cm table surface, in order to fit the space I'd allocated for putting the table in my home.

The bulk of the butcher block construction is simply, plane, thickness, trim, glue, clamp, wait, repeat.

Rather than build one solid block and cut the recess for the sewing machine in, I decided to build the block in four different sections - full-length front and back sections, and then two shorter side sections, leaving a gap in the middle to form the recess.

This allowed me to cater for space constraints in the workshop, tool limitations (maximum width of the thicknesser), and to make use of the shorter lengths of pallet wood.

I also opted to offset the recess to move the machine towards the right of the tabletop, to increase space on the left hand side, which is where the sewing would be done.

The four main segments - the blue area is where the sewing machine will be recessed



Once that was done, the edges were straightened up and some strips of mahogany were attached to the end to cover the end grain, and tidy-up the design.

3 coach bolts were added and recessed on each side to provide some mechanical retention and also to add to the rustic-industrial aesthetic.

The gap in the middle was by design slightly smaller than the footprint of the sewing machine - this allowed me to cut a rebate to size and provide a platform for the machine to sit on.

Additionally the machine has 2 hinges, which although I needn't use them (as I have access to the underside of the machine from under the table top), they are cast into the frame of the machine, so had to drill recesses for them also.

I also cut recesses for the latches from the original case, and mounted those into the surface, so that I could use the lid from the case.


By this time I'd managed to find a set of the cast iron treadle legs, but unfortunately without the treadle. Nonetheless, they still made a good stand.


Tuesday 9 August 2022

Multi-tiered triangular planter

I'm pretty sure at some point I said I was done with making planters, but, here we are, here's another.

It's a multi-tiered, 4-segment planter made from pallet wood and arris rails from a dismantled fence.

I've always liked the idea of mixing differing heights in gardens, like with the firepit project, and as we're aiming for a zero(ish) waste approach to the garden, planters are a great means of re-homing soil that is displaced from other projects.

The triangular arris rail is an example of letting the available materials influence the design of the project. In my original sketches I'd planned for a square design, but finding the arris rail led me to using triangles, which actually fits better as the planter is intended to go in a corner.

Likewise, the pallet wood influenced the sizing, as the sizes of the triangle are 120cm, which is a standard footprint for a pallet.