Custom Sewing Table with lift (Project #8)

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zannej

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Back burner project that is inspiration for me to clean up the front room and get it organized.
Prices on the storebought tables are insanely high. They want $600+ for some particleboard/mdf garbage. I even tried looking for ones on marketplace (there is no craigslist for my area- I've looked). Found nada.

So, I decided I want to build one. I'm still trying to decide on the size and configuration, but I know I want it to have a sewing machine lift so I can raise and lower it as needed. Bottom level with tabletop for some things, sewing surface level for others, and tucked away completely underneath when not in use & we want to use the table for folding and cutting.

Ana White had some craft table plans that were an interesting starting point. It needs major modifications though. I want the cubby/shelf open to the inside on the right (explanation on that later). I want a folding leaf on the left edge so it can be folded up or down to stretch fabric. Where the sewing machine sits, I want various drop-in leafs. First is for when the machine is at it's highest point and I want a perimeter to make the top as smooth as possible around the platform that sits on a lift. Second is a leaf that goes around the machine when it is slightly down to have sewing surface at table height. Now, this may not be necessary if the top and bottom are the same shape but some of the machines taper. I looked in to acrylic inserts but couldn't find any at a decent price & they can be a pain to cut (melting plastic does not smell nice). Last insert would be a whole smooth top to match the rest of the table.

Behold the redneck sewing machine lift as my inspiration (I would want something to secure the base horizontally so it couldn't slip)
1623204638119.png

I looked in to the lift mechanisms specifically for sewing machines and they were very expensive. Cheapest one I saw was $170 or so before shipping was added in. They generally range from $240 up. I could probably build the entire table for less than that. Another reason to rule out those lifts is that they only have set parameters for stopping and you have to manually set them & it's a pain. So, I searched for solutions on how to make a lift. Came across a post & some pictures where someone used an automotive scissor jack and made a hand crank out of wood. This was just the sort of redneck solution I was looking for.

Actual sewing lift mechanism:
1623204693445.png

I could probably use some sort of Simpson Strongie angle brackets or something for the underside connection, and maybe an actual shelf bracket or two with the hypotenuse piece for extra support (more toward the back of the platform).

On the flooringforums, Highup said I would need some sort of stabilizing guide to make sure it raises evenly. Initially I was looking at rods and thinking of cutting holes in the platform to fit over them but I wasn't sure if they would glide smoothly. I started looking for ball bearing tube thingies that could fit inside the holes (although I wasn't sure how to attach them) and that led me to find a kit with two 39" rails that have a rod welded to flat pieces with screw holes. It comes with 4 glides and they have flat backs with screw holes. So I could screw a scrap of plywood to the back a little larger than the glides so I could attach them to the platform (still considering different methods/location of attachment). The rails I looked at are long enough that I could cut them in half and still have room to spare for the jack. I think the jack lifts about 13" or 14" and the rails would be 19" cut in half. The nice thing about the scissor jack is that I could raise and lower the sewing machine incrementally to get the desired heights.

Instead of having the type of lever handle used in the inspiration picture, I want something that hopefully won't have as much play-- a hand wheel crank. I got the inspiration from seeing router lifts (and from the type of crank for raising and lowering saw blades and so forth). Looked them up and they were kinda crappy and I couldn't figure out how to attach them. Didn't have the handle that let the grip spin for easier turning. Saw some examples of wooden ones using carriage bolts but they required the sort of squared part right below the head to be dremeled away. Then I found a broken paper towel holder on the floor (thanks, cats). It has a round base like a wheel and a dowel with a cap at the end. The dowel came out of the hole in the center. I could use the center hole to somehow affix it to the jack. I can use the dowel (cut shorter) put off to the side more as a handle. Additionally, I found that a hollow metal tube that was the handle for a silicone serving spoon (spoon end fell off bc the plastic broke) fit around the dowel perfectly. It's loose enough that it can spin. So it could be the sleeve for when we turn the handle, the sleeve spins to make it more comfortable. I could leave it as-is (sort of chrome colored) or put grip tape on it.

These are the slides with ball-bearing glides:
1623207324062.png
These are the pieces for the handle:
1623207421754.png

I am considering putting a folding leaf on the left side of the table so it can make the table larger for laying fabric and cutting. But it depends on the ultimate size of the table.
Inspiration image:
1623207693046.png

Image collage of my lift mechanism ideas:
1623207750845.png

I'm getting brain freeze.

Any suggestions/input?
 

zannej

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In addition to the slides, I want some angled shelf brackets on the right side.
1623283778609.png
On the left side, I can space shelves and have scrap wood blocks that can pivot in to rest under the edge of the shelf at specific locations to support the weight of that side just in case. They will act sort of as locks. I can still have slides attached to vertical boards on either side to help make the up & down movement more smooth. A woodworking magazine recommended cutting plastic tubing to make bushings around bolts.
1623284106636.png

Brain is freezing again. LOL.
 

hashbrown

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You have a massive amount of projects swimming around in your mind. It would overwhelm me, but I can only think about I project at a time. I think about one until I figure it out complete it and go to the next. I wish my brain worked well enough for multiple projects like that and be able to complete my work as well.
 

Neb

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In addition to the slides, I want some angled shelf brackets on the right side.
View attachment 67901
On the left side, I can space shelves and have scrap wood blocks that can pivot in to rest under the edge of the shelf at specific locations to support the weight of that side just in case. They will act sort of as locks. I can still have slides attached to vertical boards on either side to help make the up & down movement more smooth. A woodworking magazine recommended cutting plastic tubing to make bushings around bolts.
View attachment 67902

Brain is freezing again. LOL.
I am interested in your progress. Please post photos as you proceed.

Ben
 

zannej

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@hashbrown, I have a hard time focusing on just one thing. My brain is always going in 100 different directions. Maybe it's why I'm so tired a lot. LOL. But my train of thought zips from one thing to another. I wish I could focus on just one thing.

@Neb, someone on the houserepairtalk forum asked me why I wasn't using a linear actuator instead. I know what both terms mean separately but have never heard of it together so I looked it up and he may be on to something. A linear actuator may be just what I need. I saw people made router lifts with them. Found one that has 16" stroke and supports 225lbs. It's designed to work in chair lifts and medical devices. The 16" range should give me more options for height should machines change. It would probably still need some sort of guides/slides, but I'm wondering if I can sort of fashion my own ones somehow instead of paying $41 pre-made ones that come with glides. Although, the Pre-made ones are long enough that if cut in half I could have 4 slides and it has 4 ball-bearing glides. It would still come out cheaper than the official sewing machine lifts and I wouldn't have to push down on it and let it pop in order to move it and have only specifically set heights. If I get a 12v dc power brick and a momentary rocker switch all we would need to do is push the button up or down to move it. It would be much more convenient.

I figured I could get some shelf brackets with hypotenuse bars to add extra support to the platform that holds the machine. I did want some extra stop-blocks just in case to hold the table steady on the sides when it is stopped in place. My first thought was to have shelves just below each height and then have rectangular blocks over bolts that can spin out, but I realized that would make it hard to adjust if I change machines. So, I was thinking I could get a long continuous threaded rod and some hex nuts to go on top of and below the blocks so I can adjust the height up or down as needed. I wonder if 1/2" pvc will fit over 3/8" threaded rod. I will have to go to the store and see. I hope they have some loose hex nuts that I can experiment with.

This was my sketch of the threaded rod idea (obviously not proportional and I didn't draw the plastic tubes):
1623376195568.png
1623380437903.png
I need to revise my crappy desk sketch to include the changes. I hope that the actuator can be offset to the back so it doesn't get in the way of legs. I'm hoping the shelf brackets will help with that.
Updated sketch
1623384478182.png
1623384526189.png

I know I've repeated some of my thoughts here. LOL. Trying to get things straight in my mind. General ideas in my head for the table:
  • Shelves on both sides but more space to the left
  • Linear actuator at center back of platform for sewing machine
  • 12V DC 5amp power brick to power actuator
  • Momentary 12v rocker switch to control actuator
  • Shelf brackets to support platform
  • Linear rails and glides (or smooth rods and some sort of glide- depending on what is affordable/easy enough to do)
  • Leaf insets for various heights and customizable to shape of sewing machine (can make template from tracing machine on cardboard)
  • Threaded rod with adjustable stop blocks on right side to set various heights of platform
  • Nonslip surface for sewing machine feet under table

Things I need to figure out:
  • How to mount the linear actuator
  • Where to put the power brick (maybe mount it so it won't fall?)
  • Where to put the serger and how to deal with swapping it out with the regular machine (maybe have a door on the right side shelf to store it and have a tray it sits on that can easily be set on top of the table while sewing machine is down)
  • What height to make the table
  • What size to make the table overall
  • Should it have locking castors to make it mobile?
  • What material to use to build it
  • What size & type of guides and glides to get or make
 
Last edited:

zannej

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So, I checked measurements and realized the linear actuator I had chosen was too tall at the base. The platform would not be able to go low enough for the machine to be under the table completely. I found another model that is short enough (and also less expensive-- but the height is what ultimately why I chose it). The mounting brackets can pivot so I could mount the lower bracket to a brace behind it. It can further be secured/stabilized vertically with pipe straps (which I believe I already have). At lowest extension the actuator is about 18" at the highest it's around 32". Table will have to be at least 30" high (maybe a little more) so a tall chair will be needed. Will be easier to mess with fabrics on it while standing up though.
This is my plan for actuator setup
1623407302691.png
I can test it out without rails to see how smoothly it moves- will need to find a way to lock the top bracket in place so it stays square instead of pivoting. I may add some small chains with hooks that attach to the sides of the platform so if for any reason it starts to fall, it will be caught. But, having some sort of track it's locked in to might be good.

I'm thinking of getting some sort of drawer glides instead of the cnc type tracks.

I can get a 3/8" threaded rod, some 3/8" nuts, and 3/8" washers all under $7 from Lowes. I can put the blocks on the rod as emergency stops.

For the guide I'm debating whether to get a single rod with glides and holders for $9.79 and try to use just a single guide, or if I should spend $7.99 more to get a a pair of the same size rods (so I'll have a spare in case one bends) and use the glides from the first one.

Since 8mm is not very big, I think 2 might help with support. But it will be a pain to get them lined up evenly. Might be necessary to make sure the lift moves smoothly.
 
Last edited:

zannej

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So, I just might have the lumber I need to build this if I can salvage some old wood that is sitting down in the barn (up on a rack). It needs to be planed down but my planer trips the breaker for some reason. I need to find the planer actually... It's a mess in the workshop right now.
 

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