Updated: May 26
On episode 18 of The Sew Much More Podcast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech (air date June 26, 2019) host Ceil DiGuglielmo is joined by Workroom Tech owners Susan Woodcock and Rodger Walker to discuss worktable construction.
A professional worktable is one of the most important tools in the workroom. It's used daily for rolling out bolts of fabric, cutting, ironing, measuring, and more.
Susan Woodcock opened the podcast by sharing how the tables at Workroom Tech were developed. "When we set up Workroom Tech two years ago, we wanted worktables that were affordable and could be easily disassembled if we ever moved to another space. So many students have asked us for details on the table construction. We recently added a new classroom and that gave us the opportunity to build another worktable and record the steps".
What Makes Workroom Tech's Tables Different
Rodger Walker joins the podcast to explain how the tables are constructed. The table base is made with shelving units. Rodger shares that this creates a lightweight construction method with less wood, that is easier to assemble. "We used heavy-duty, 5-tier, adjustable shelving units with 2' x 4' drop-in wood shelves; 6' tall, but they come apart in the middle so you can use them as two units".
You can find shelving units like this at your local home improvement store.
Assemble the shelves following manufacturers instructions, creating two units; one for each end of the table. Set them apart so that they create a 4' x 8' footprint for a 10' long table, or a 4' x 7' footprint for an 8' long table (shown below). Use furniture caster cups under each upright support.
Build the table top with OSB plywood and 2" x 4" lumber. The 2" x 4"s will create a frame, inset 2 inches from the edge. The frame is inset so that you will be able to use table clamps on all sides of the table. Be sure to allow space between the 2" x 4"s to fit around the upright supports on the shelving units. Screw the plywood to the frame and set the table top on the shelving units. (5'x8' tabletop shown below).
Plywood (OSB) is used to box the shelving units, which braces the table so it won't wobble:
Cut two pieces OSB plywood 1' x 4'
Cut two pieces OSB plywood 9" x 8 feet. For a shorter table, shorten accordingly.
Secure the OSB plywood braces with bolts to the shelving frame. Pre-drill holes in each end for the bolts. OSB braces must be bolted to all eight table legs, in two directions, as shown in the photos below. 3/8"x1" carriage-head bolts work well. Use washers on the nut side.
The shelving units will be braced in two directions, as shown.
L-brackets are used to secure the table top to the bracing panels along the sides, and are attached to the tabletop frame lumber.
Underlayment for Pinning
For drapery workrooms, being able to stab pins into the table is an important feature. A pinnable underlayment is added to the top for this purpose. Insulation boards like Celotex or Homasote, or acoustic ceiling tiles can be used. Rowley Company is another source for worktable underlayment. For the worktable shown here, acoustic ceiling tiles were secured face down to the top with construction adhesive. (Be cautious if you climb up on the worktable. You could dent the underlayment).
The table is approximately 37.5 inches tall, once the padding and underlayment are added. If a shorter table is needed, the upright supports can be cut down before assembling the shelving units. It is important that the table be tall enough to prevent back strain.
Finishing the Table Top
To complete the table, canvas is stretched over a firm padding. Susan shared the different finishing materials used for the worktables at Workroom Tech. "For the tables in the main classroom we purchased a full bolt of thin, polyester batting at a local store and used two layers over the underlayment on each table. The most recent table used the table padding and canvas from dofix". The dofix padding is a dense polyester fiber and is shipped compressed and folded. Use steam to flatten the padding and remove wrinkles. Cut the padding even with the table edge.
To complete the table top, heavy canvas is stretched and stapled over the padding. Susan shared the different table canvas options. "For the three worktables in the main classroom we used the printed grid canvas from The Workroom Channel . The plain table canvas from dofix was used for the last table we built".
When you purchase the printed grid canvas, there are detailed instructions and video available from The Workroom Channel. The canvas is pre-shrunk and has very little stretch. Stapling the canvas requires two people to make sure it is accurate and pulled evenly. "I love the grid canvas," Susan said, "it's such a time saver when cutting fabrics, or making Roman shades". You can see how the grid canvas is used to make cutting multiple pieces like bias strips easier.
When using a plain canvas, the material needs to be stretched. Susan suggests starting on the center of one side, stapling under the edge of the table and then stretching and stapling on the opposite side. Continue stretching and stapling each side to the corner. Finish the corner by neatly folding under the ends.
After the canvas is in place, lightly sponge and then iron with a high heat setting and steam. This will allow the canvas to shrink and tighten to the table top. Note: This step is NOT used on the printed table canvas.
Keep your table canvas clean with routine vacuuming, and spot cleaning.
This style of worktable has wooden sides. To cover with fabric, staple the fabric with tack strip along the bottom and flip up and staple under the top. Customize the sides of the table for efficiency with shelves, tool pouches, hooks or magnetic strips.