Cutting Table DIY // Closet Case Patterns
Tutorials

Cutting Table DIY

As promised, today I’ll be sharing how to make the greatest cutting table of all time. I may be a tad biased since I built this sucker with my own two hands, but after a few days of woodworking research I think this is one of the easiest, cheapest ways to build a mobile, durable cutting table that actually looks good.

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If you sew a lot, there are few things in the world more desirable than a sturdy table you can work at without stooping over. I have lower back issues from years of sitting at a desk and postponing yoga, and my dining room table was slowly killing me and my body. A comfortable working height is 36 inches for most people (hence why it’s the standard counter height in kitchens) so that’s what we’re aiming for here, although the shorter or taller among you may want to tweak the height accordingly. Just keep in mind that stools are designed to be used at 36″ and 42″ countertops, so sitting may be awkward if you stray too much from those dimensions.

The great thing about this project is that it requires minimal tools. You will have the bulk of the cutting done at your hardware store, which makes it much easier to get stuff home. This tutorial will provide you with a table that is 3 feet wide by 6 feet long. If you want something smaller, you’ll have to tweak the dimensions.

I had a few pieces that were a little too big so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes if you use the following guidelines. Here’s what you’ll need:

TOOLS

  • an electric drill with a drill bit to match your screws (I love this one – cheap enough that it’s worth it just for this project!)
  • an electric sander (I prefer one like this model – you can just use sheets of sandpaper rather than having to buy special shapes)
  • a level (I use a level app on my iphone)
  • measuring tape
  • a handsaw (something this simple is all you need)

LUMBER

  • one sheet of 3/4″ plywood for the tabletop cut down to 3 feet by 6 feet. I used spruce. You can also use pine or maple – just make sure you like the grain. Higher grades of wood are more pricey. This tabletop will overlap each side by about 2″.
  • one sheet of 3/8″ plywood in the same wood as above cut to 67″ x 31″. This will be the bottom level of your table. Make sure to find a sheet that isn’t cupping.
  • (6 x) 2×4’s that are 8′ long in spruce or pine. You will ask all of them to be cut at 5′-4″ – this will give you 6 pieces to act as your long support posts, and 6 additional pieces at roughly 32″ long. 4 of these will act as your vertical legs – the other 2 pieces should be cut down to 31″ to provide the additional horizontal support for your castors at the very bottom. Make sure your 2 x 4’s are nice and straight – you can eyeball them by looking down each side, or ask someone for help. Bowed 2 x 4’s do not a straight table make.
  • (1 x) 2×4 that is 10′ long in spruce or pine. Ask for 4 cuts of 24″ each (the saw takes off a little so you want to use a slightly longer piece of wood). These will brace your legs.

ADDITIONAL SUPPLIES

  • (4 x) heavy duty castors, 2 of them locking. I bought 3″ castors that had an overall  height of almost 4″. This plus your legs and the tabletop will give you a total height of just over 36″. This set includes everything you need.
  • (8 x) galvanized steel rigid ties exactly like this. You can find them in the hardware section of the Home Depot or buy them online. These are great because they let you join all your 2 x 4’s easily and accurately. I also think they look industrial and awesome.
  • A large box of #8 1 1/4″ long wood screws. Get at least 200 – each rigid tie takes 20 screws.
  • A small box of #8 3″ long wood screws, at least 20. You will use these to secure your long and short support posts.
  • 1 can of  stain, if you want it. I am in love with Minwax White Wash Pickling Stain– it lets the grain show through while lightening the wood. And it looks Scandinavian and sexy as hell. I don’t suggest paint for this project. It’s not a good finish for tabletops that get a lot of use – it will look terrible within a few months.
  • 1 can of water based polyurethane. I suggest Minwax Polycrylic; it dries totally clear. Most polyurethanes have a yellow tint.
  • A couple of foam brushes.
  • 3 kinds of sandpaper. At least 3 sheets each of 120, 150 and 180 grit. You will use each one at different times in the sanding/sealing process.
  • a dust mask
  • lint free cloths

Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY

All in, the supplies will cost around $200, not including any of the tools. I thought this was very reasonable, especially after looking into getting something custom made (OUCH!) It took me a day and a half to complete the project, a worthwhile investment to save my weary back muscles.

THE PROCESS

  • Once you get everything home, you’ll need a good place to start sanding. I used my balcony. If you do it inside, try to seal off one room of your house because you will get dust EVERYWHERE! Start with your 2 x 4 pieces. Sand each long side with your 120 grit paper. You may have to work a little harder to sand off any of the markings on the wood. The only bottom and top edges you need to worry about are the ones for the 2 x 31″ pieces. These are the only edges you will see in this project. You basically want to sand off any splinters and rough edges and get a somewhat smooth finish but don’t go crazy. 2 x 4’s are notoriously imperfect.
  • Finish sanding the 2 x 4’s with your 150 grit paper. This prepares the wood for the stain.
  • Wipe all your wood down with a barely damp cloth to remove the dust. Once they are dry, use your foam brush to apply stain to all the long sides, rubbing it off with a dry cloth as you go. The only short sides you need to worry about staining are on your 2 x 31″ pieces.
  • Let your stain dry for a few hours and sand them again, this time with the 180 grit paper. It smooths down the wood that expanded and got rough from the stain.
  • Wipe with a barely damp cloth again and use a fresh foam brush to apply your sealer. Check when you’re done each piece to smooth out any drips. You’ll want 3 coats total; sand again with the 180 grit after the first and second coats to smooth out any bumps. It seems like a lot of sanding but it actually goes by quite quickly! I wrap my foam brushes in saran wrap in between coats so they don’t dry out. Pro tip: Blare some classic rock and feel like a badass while using your sander.
Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY

Sanded, stained and sealed 2 x 4’s.

  • You are going to repeat the exact same sanding process for your two sheets of plywood, but you only have to finish one side of each, since the other will be mostly invisible. Before you sand your 3/8″ plywood, cut each corner so that the plywood will hug your 2 x 4 legs with a handsaw. Be sure to sand the edges of the plywood well, since you don’t want your lovely fabric to catch on snags!
  • Now that you’ve got everything sanded, stained and sealed, we’re ready for the fun part. ASSEMBLY! Before we get started, you may want to remove the stickers from the rigid ties with some Goo Gone. The Goo Gone will also help remove any grime or oil on the steel – wash them with soap and water and let them dry.

Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY-3

  • Lay your 24″ pieces on the ground and thread your 32″ legs through the rigid ties. Add two long supports so you can make sure everything lines up.
  • Start screwing in the 1 1/4″ screws with your power drill. Make sure you go in nice and straight, and back off the drill when they tighten up so you don’t thread your screws. Don’t forget to screw the inside corners too.

Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY-4

  • Once your legs are screwed in, you’ll want to attach the bottom 2 x 24′ bracings. They should start 6″ from the bottom of your legs. Use a measuring tape, pencil and level to keep everything straight.

Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY-5

  • Attach the remaining long supports, using your 3″ screws.
  • Drill your 32″ cross bracing to the inside of each set of legs, making sure your 2×4 is level with the bottom of your legs.
  • Screw in your castors. In my case, I had one castor edge hanging out, but 3 screws per castor should be plenty if the same thing happens to you.
  • Flip that baby right side up. Shed a single, proud tear. And then turn up the classic rock.

Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY-7

Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY-6

You can get a little lazy sanding the edges of the 2 x 4’s that you know won’t be visible, take it from me.

  • To get your 3/8″ sheet of plywood in, you’ll have to do some creative angling but don’t worry, it will fit.
  • Lay your tabletop on the frame. I didn’t want to secure the table in case I wanted to pull it out and create room for my legs when I’m working, and also for ease of dis-assembly if I ever move to a bigger studio. If you’re staying put, you can use construction adhesive to glue it down, but I found using some silicone furniture pads available at the dollar store prevent it from moving around too much.

Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY-8

  • Finally, you can attach a bar to the sides if you’d like to hang your tools. I got a silver one with some S hooks at Ikea.

Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY-13

And that’s it folks! It’s a few days of work, but I cannot even begin to tell you how much this table has transformed my sewing practice. I don’t dread cutting anymore, and it’s a pleasure to unfold silk and watch it slip around on my beautifully varnished tabletop.

Closet Case Files- Cutting Table DIY-12

And if your friends and family think you’re a sewing superstar now, wait until you tell them you BUILT this!

Happy making!

Cutting Table DIY // Simple Studio Project // Closet Case Files
  • Great tutorial, I might use it one day.

    I use an old kitchen table my mom gave to me as a cutting table and originally it was 32 inches and it was seriously killing my back(Especially after hours of drafting) and I got fed up and remembered that the legs of the table can be screwed off. So I decided to look around in the local hardware store if they had similar legs that are 4 inches taller. They didn’t but had little 4 inch thingies that can be screwed under the legs. Instant win. But your table looks way cooler and sturdier. So I’m going to save up some money and probably make it myself one day 🙂

    • That’s a smart solution though! Let me know how it turns out if you end up making one!

  • This is rad! Congrats. I’m about to make one myself. I’m using an mdf top and four kallax shelving units (what used to be expedit) as legs so I’ll have secret storage. I can’t quite decide how big I want it to be overall though.

    • I’d go 36″ wide, since you can perfectly fit a large cutting mat on it!!

  • Adrienne

    I am SOO impressed by your table and this fantastic tutorial. You’re unbelievable.

  • Dee

    Oh it is so beautiful. When I move to a bigger house I’m definitely making one of these and I’ll also make a fixed sideboard/Worktop the same height as I prefer to sew/overlock standing up (I currently use my kitchen worktop – I then have to put it away every time….although I am guilty of leaving it out until my husband complains that he has no room to cook!)

    • Sewing standing up – that’s a great idea. Much easier on your back!

  • It’s looks great! I love it! I’m cutting on a combination of 4 bjorgso ikea shelve units. Works great for my space but it isn’t as beautiful as your table! Great job!

  • Can you just come round and make me one? Pleaze?

  • Cat Does It

    Incredible looking heavy-duty feminine table! This diy, if I may, is amiss in just two things from perfect: 1) a protective sheet to your beautiful hardwood floors and 2) the awesome soundtrack I know this takes to build 🙂

    • Thanks Cat! These wheels are actually hardwood friendly. And if only there was a way to blare Bruce Springsteen when people read this post….

  • Dear me guuuurl – you are a superstar. Im lucky enough to have a hubby that builds furniture for me all the time but let me just say you have made me feel terrible for always ‘outsourcing’. Not sure if I’ll ever be brave enough to tackle this on my own but you INSPIRE me! Rock on!

    • Oh don’t get me wrong – if you have someone you can sweet talk into making you this, GO FOR IT!

  • You’re a DIY superstar! Making furniture is one of my dream that I’m so sure I won’t be able to do. From now on I can look back to this post and dream that one day I will be like Heather Lou and make my own beautiful cutting table!

    • Aw shucks Novita! Thanks darlin’. Well, you DO live in Japan, which is not exactly known for having tons of space to stretch out and make huge messes out of wood, haha.

  • Beyond awesome. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Bella

    This is great. I have one, up on tall cans of beans, but would sure like to put wheels on it. Thanks!

    • Now that is a clever table fix! Never would have thought of using BEANS!

      • Bella

        Thanks; I’m sure the grocery store couldn’t figure out why there was a run on beans, but they are nice & heavy! http://bellaindustries.blogspot.com/2013/09/some-standing-issues.html Mine doesn’t have shelves though, as it’s an Ikea dining table originally. My father-in-law once built one for a professional seamstress friend & he had a drop-leaf ironing board on one side, too, plus a rack for rolls of fabric. (Obviously you’d need a large room/studio for all those extras.)

  • Linda

    Wooooooow!

  • truebias

    heather i am seriously blown away by this! you are a rockstar. i am so gonna copy you one day when I have the space.

  • lisa g

    wow! that is so much better (not to mention sturdier) than anything you could buy. it’s so beautiful, great work!

  • Eléonore D&D

    This is the most amazing cutting table, awesome job and thank you so much for sharing! I need to make one for my place (once the temperatures drop in south of France, we are living in a hammam right now).

    • That would make me so happy!! It’s definitelya sweaty project though, haha. I looked pretty rock n’ roll on my balcony covered in sweat and dust for 2 days.

  • sallieforrer

    Brilliant. I’ve been bugging Nick to make me a proper cutting table for awhile now. I might just send him a link to this post…
    Or just do it myself one of these days.

  • DebbieFerg

    Oh how I can dream.. however until I get my own place.. I keep a stack of bricks in the garden or conservatory and place two under each dining room table leg when I want to trace off or cut out patterns. Nice high table in minutes….. dining room table again in time for tea!

    • That is some pretty great McGyvering right there Debbie. We do what we gotta do to make.

  • Oh my goodness. You are absolutely incredible!!

  • This is amazing. Now I just need a room to put one in!

  • This is fantastic! My husband and I have been looking for one, and he would LOVE to make something himself!

  • *Applause* WOW!!!! That’s a thing of beauty. And odd as it sounds, I’d never considered buying one – everyone seems to just hack them out of IKEA materials (Which is also a great route, I’m sure!) My current cutting table is a kitchen table picked up off the street… with one wonky leg that doesn’t really support weight. That said, I’m short and it works surprisingly well! 😉

  • Nettie

    You are a total fucking badass and I’m glad to call you my friend!! The little girl who always loved “This Old House” that still lives inside me is weeping a little. *tears*

    • Hahaha thanks babe. I was obsessed with survival stories as a child, hence my penchant for toolboxes now I think…

  • lmcwethy

    This is awesome! I just bought a house where I will finally be able to set up my sewing studio, and I’ve been debating on whether or not to do an island. Now I won’t have to decide, because I can just wheel it off to the side! Thank you so much! 🙂

  • Lauren

    YES! Power tools! Classic rock!
    Seriously, thank you so much for this tutorial. As soon as I get my own place with a sewing room, I am on this. This is so much better than any cutting table I’ve seen for sale.

    • All the for sale ones are rickety pieces of crap. DIY all the way!

  • Katie

    This is awesome!! I love building useful stuff! Thanks!

  • guhhhhh it’s so beautiful and practical it makes me sick. I would love a table that I could walk all the way around. Mine is a decent height but it’s tucked in a corner so I only have one place to stand. Not to mention it’s so easy to cover it in junk that I can rarely fit my fabric on there. Anyway, GREAT JOB!! I’m so impressed and jealous.

    • Can your put your table on wheels? It makes ALL the difference!

  • THIS IS THE BEST!! Luckily my dad manages a hardware store so I can bring him this post and be like “Oh hai dad help me find all of these things please”. Good to know I can put it together by myself though 🙂 🙂

    • Lucky girl! I’d die if I had that kind of access to a hardware store; total DIY nerd. The only help I needed was flipping it before putting the table on.

  • Vancouver Barbara

    This is a wonderful piece of work. Apart from the extreme functionality, it is so beautiful. I love the white stain. And good to know that paint wouldn’t stand up. FYI you can buy little sanders that have a vacuum attached and suck up much of the dust.
    As we say on the west coast: “It’s Skookum”.

    • My sander did have the little vacuum! But it still got everywhere, probably because it was just a cheap one.

  • This is INCREDIBLE. I’m totally putting this on my to do list. Fingers crossed I can make enough “expendable income” this fall to buy the supplies and make one of these before winter sets in and the outdoors are unusable. You’re amazing.

  • Ayida

    I can’t get over how awesome this is. I don’t have space to even put my sewing machine right now and I have to drag a patio table across the yard into the house to even sew. This my dream. You! Gahh..!!

    • Thanks Ayida! You should sew on that patio table outside when the weather is nice!

  • A lovely thing you’ve made! My mom taught me how to sew, but my dad taught me all the other power tools. So I have a lot of dresses and a lot of chairs, two sewing machines, a serger, a table saw and a five foot, floor standing drill press. However, my cutting/layout table is one of those plastic topped folding ones (six feet long) cause I am short and I can rotary cut all day long on that sucka! (and then I sand it down). I have found that the act of folding it up makes my family a little less cranky about all the sewing. It also makes me clean up. Can’t say that about the workbench I built…..

    • So jealous of all your power tools! I’d kill for a drill press and a table saw…..

  • mokosha

    looks real good! i wish i have a studio of my own, so i can build a similar table.. luckily, at the moment i mostly sew in my friends studio, and he has a pretty fine cutting table (his table has a metal table top, so we use magnets to stop fabric from shifting while we cut it, such a simple but fab idea)

    • Holy shit, that is the smartest idea EVER!

      • Andrea Carlson Anderson

        I am going to make this table! Ive never cut on metal- would I be able to use a rotary cutter on metal or should i just buy a 3×6 cutting mat?

        • Charlotta Norby

          You need a mat

  • Jodie Tip

    This is amazing, what else can you do!?. I just wish I had a sewing room large enough for a huge, portable table! I make do with a 1.5m IKEA desk which I have to share with my printer. This would be wonderful, as would wooden floor. Thread, fluff and carpet are not friends 🙁

    • No indeed! The way I work, I’d be stepping on hidden pins EVERY day!

  • Wow! I am SO impressed! You are a woman of many many talents! Can you make one for me too, haha 🙂 (joking!)

    • Sure. I’ll just hope on a plane to Perth!

  • THIS is a masterpiece! Gorgeous. If only my sewing room was big enough to accommodate… one day! Thanks for the fantastic instructions 🙂

  • Shelley C.

    I’ve been looking for a work island for my kitchen and this looks perfect!

    • I use something similar for a work island in my kitchen – it’s an old woodworking table I found in the garbage and put on castors. My advice for moving this into the kitchen would be to make it narrower if you’re tight on space. You only need 36″ if you’re working from both sides or using it as an eating space as well. Kitchen counters are on average 24″ wide – 30″ would be perfect for a kitchen application! I’d do four coats of sealer on the tabletop too. If you wanted a more “butcher block” look, you can buy a wood counter top at Ikea that mimics the look.

  • Natalie @sewoutnumbered

    That is soooo cool…you’re a freaking SUPERSTAR!!!!

  • Amy

    Well, blow me away. BLOWMEAWAY. I really love this. You are going to make a lot of people very happy with this post. I’ve considered a lot of different options to replacing my fold-down craft store table but this is a pretty sweet idea. What I especially love is the storage underneath, which every other DIY I’ve looked at never seems to have. So needed. Hmmm, already have most of this stuff except the actual wood…. want to go home and build! We have a table saw but I don’t know the first thing about it.

  • Amy

    p.s. please tell me you were rocking to Bruce and wearing a bandana while doing this!

  • This looks great! I’m thinking maybe I should ditch my couch and just have a cutting table instead? Or move to Montreal so I can have a bit more space?

  • Meigan

    Fantastic job. This looks great and very sturdy. I love the look (and function) of the steel corner ties.

  • This table is awesome! I’ve been eyeing the great DIY Craft Table by Ana White for a long time (http://ana-white.com/2010/09/modern-craft-table), but it just seems to complicated for a DIY newbie. This one seems doable!! And just as gorgeous. Do you have a rough estimate on how much you spend on all materials? 🙂

    • TOTALLY DOABLE! A few people have already made it to great success. I think I spent around $200 for supplies, plus I bought a sander.

  • Lois

    I just wanted to say “Thank You” for posting this table and the instructions. My husband and I actually just finished building one and I love it! He helped me put it together but I honestly can say I could’ve done it all myself. It looks great, is the perfect size, and was really economical and simple to build. I love the look of the corner ties and the white stain. Also, the storage underneath is great. Thanks again!

  • JA Reil

    What are the dimensions of the table? Trying to get an idea if I have enough space in my new sewing area. I want to build an ironing stand as well. Absolutely hate my ironing board. Not big enough for quilting.

    • It’s 36 wide, 66″long and 36″ high. Of course, you can make it as big or small as you need it but I would strongly suggest not going lower than 36″ in terms of height!

      • JA Reil

        Great, thanks!

      • Jan Humphreys

        I’m looking for a table for a sewing machine to sit on. I think the 36″ is too tall and will make my arms at the wrong angle for sitting. My chair adjust but it’s still to tall. Was there a specific reason for not lowering it. I won’t be using this table for any standing projects, just sitting

  • AnnCP

    Your table is awesome!! I grew up making drapes and our table base was welded metal – which is great – but cant be disassembled. This is a great alternative.

  • Kim

    When the table top is off how narrow can it be? I need it to fit back through a bedroom doorway.

    • The base will be approximately 31″ wide, but you can easily narrow it by shortening the cross braces.

  • Cari Guthrie

    Love this!! Great job 🙂

  • Hey, I have a question. That bottom sheet in the image you’ve got cuts on the corners, so it fits around the posts but you don’t list out the measurements for those! What are those measurements?

    • HI Jeremy. I just eyeballed it! Roughly cut out openings for the legs that were slightly bigger than the posts themselves…

  • Tyrone Lamont Butler

    I built this table for a lady named mrs. Rosa at church and I keep attempting to post pictures of it but it keeps saying its to big.

    • Awesome work Tyrone! I love the dark stain.

  • Tyrone Lamont Butler

    Here it is

    • etta sargent

      very good, great job

  • Elizabeth Halpern

    Just saw this post through the link on your site. What a great table. I found some plans in an old 70’s edition of the “Vogue Sewing Book” for a similar type of worktable, but yours seems easier to make. I think I need to build one of my own. Thanks for a great tutorial!

  • etta sargent

    I am going to make this table I am going to put it in my loft which is my sewing room

  • Drew Marold

    As a woodworker, I would recommend you take the time to sand and seal all the surfaces, even the ones you won’t see. You don’t need to stain them, though it wouldn’t hurt. The reason is if you have wood sealed on one face, and not the other, as the humidity changes the different side will absorb water and different rates, and that can lead to the 2x4s twisting/cupping/bowing. It’s not that much extra work in the long run, and it will add years of life to your table.

    • Wonderful suggestion Drew, thanks for sharing your wisdom 😉

  • RubyJane

    Hi there – question please …. I’m a clothing designer doing small runs – cutter is cutting mostly knits. Can’t afford to buy a table found your blog. He’s cutting 50-100 garments a week – do you think this would be durable enough for that kind of abuse?
    Thank you
    Ruby

    • If he’s cutting with one of this electric saw things, probably not…. But in that case you could just use a masonite top since I think that’s what most industrial cutting tables use. Otherwise it should be sturdy enough.

  • Carol Breaux

    Hubby and I just finished my table! It was my Christmas present, and I love it!

  • Valente Zapata

    I’m almost done my Cutting table. Just wanted to thank you for the inspiration. The build kit works so beautifully.

  • Sharon McKay Kirby

    Thank you. Love this. Youngest son just moved out of the house and I finally get a sewing studio. I have been searching for a good diy cutting table and this is the best I have found. My husband and I will be building it shortly as mama cannot wait to have her own space.

    • Yay! So happy to hear this is helpful for you. Enjoy your new sewing space!