Building a custom sewing/craft table with lift for sewing machine

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zannej

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Since I keep yabbering about this in another thread I figured I'd make a dedicated thread for it.
I have the general idea: A desk-like table with shelves (maybe disguised as drawers with door fronts). Sewing machine will be set more to the right and there will be more space on the underside of the table on the left. This is to allow more leg room. It will have a custom-made lift to raise and lower the platform that the sewing machine will sit on. The range of motion is around 15.7" (so close to 16").
It will be fairly tall-- maybe 35 to 36" (so my mom can stand in front of it without having to bend too far or use a tall chair that we have- cost $5 at a closeout sale).
This is an earlier sketch of the desk (not to scale obviously)
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It is likely the actuator will be almost touching the floor at the bottom and may have to be mounted to a back-piece as it has pivoting mounting brackets and I've seen some attached to walls.
Someone posted this image showing the gildes farther apart. I'm not certain which would offer the best stability.
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I want to use a small 16" stroke linear actuator that can lift 225lbs. It will be put in the center at the back of the platform on which the sewing machine sits. I will have shelf brackets with bars on the hypotenuse as extra support. There will be rail guides on either side of the platform. Either behind it on opposite ends or next to it on back ends. I want to go with carriage style (12mm rod welded to a rail that has screw holes on the sides). Comes with linear ball-bearing glides to make it move up and down smoothly.
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I'm kicking around the idea of a center T-rail sort of like the kind for miters/routers that can have a hex or T nut fit in the rail. But I'm not sure if this is really necessary. I found a pair of the carriage rails for under $30. The actuator is a little over $40. A 12v power supply w/ wire jack is about $11. Momentary 12v switch is about $11. Even with a 10pack of wire connectors for $8 it still comes in cheaper than the $170 (bare minimum price-- most I saw were well over $200) I saw for the non-electric official lifts that require you to push down to pop the thing and it locks only in 2 specific spots so you have to adjust it to change and it's a pain. Also, there's a chance it could pop loose while using the machine. The switch will be much easier to use.
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The idea is to have 3 different heights for the machine:
1. On top of the table
2. Slightly recessed so that the top of the sewing machine's sewing surface is level with the tabletop
3. Machine completely recessed under the table

I can have a leaf that covers the empty gap and one that goes around the machine.

I'm also thinking of adding some sort of chains that will catch the platform should it ever drop unexpectedly. Maybe like this (2 on each side with 3 chains to the sides). I'd go with a better S-hook though.
1623548977809.png


Worst case scenario, I could add a center guide later if the side glides are not effective enough.
1623551421302.png


Any thoughts?
 
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highup

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Virtually everything that I've ever constructed myself ended up costing more than just buying it. It may have turned out better for my particular use and needs, but by the time you buy a few extra drill bits you didn't have an extra screws and extra brackets and saw blades and blah blah blah. It's never cheap constructing things yourself unless you have the tools such as table saw jigsaw all the different bits you need and a blades you need and most of the materials you need before you start building a project. If you can find a pre-made lift, then figure out a way to build that into the table. You would still need to build legs under the lift and a table on top of the lift.
Metal conduit is super cheap and could be used has guides, but you still need a lift that lifts equally on both sides of the table so it doesn't tweak out of shape or bind. That's going to be difficult to do.
if the maximum not a lift is only going to be a few inches maybe a wedge type mechanism can be made.
 

zannej

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Thanks, highup. My main beef is that the lift mechanism itself (the ones on the market) are not user-friendly and don't work the way I want them to. So to me it's worth it to make my own.
The sewing tables I saw that I liked were over $600 but were made of crappy materials like mdf and particle board. I refuse to pay that much for that garbage (I hate mdf and particle board). Even if my project ends up costing more in the long run, it will be sturdier and I'll have the satisfaction of having made it.

I'll have to see what sort of lumber I have lying around to see if I can use any of it for this project.

I'm trying to think of the best way to mount the actuator. If I did it where the base is flat on top of a block of some sort that sits on the floor or is attached to the rear of the desk, I might need a way to make sure it locks so it can't pivot. Same with if I put the top part flush against the underside of the platform. I suppose I could fashion my own brackets and tighten some bolts down- maybe even make something out of wood.
Or I could hang the actuator using it's brackets on the back parts. Or at least on the lower portion. I don't think it would support as well attached to the backside of the platform. I could sandwich the brackets with angle brackets... Or, I could use angle brackets as the mounts and drill the holes larger for the attachment to the actuator if need be. I already have a bunch of angle brackets. If I do mount the bottom to the back panel I would put a reinforcing block/leg underneath. Good thing I have enough cardboard boxes to make a giant template and build a cardboard version of the desk just about. LOL.

I do have a tablesaw, a jigsaw, a router, sander, etc. I also have a chopsaw for metal.
 

zannej

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I like some complicated things. Others not so much.

I checked out the barn and there is some lumber I might be able to use for the build. It's not in the best shape but I can see what can be salvaged. Will have to get a pic at some point. There's also some metal but I didn't get close enough for a good look.

I need to figure out how to run my planer without tripping a breaker.
 

highup

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I'm wondering if you can change a 15 amp breaker into a 17 amp breaker if you cut some threads and install a nylon screw in the right place inside the breaker.
Sometimes I think way too far outside of the box. 😁
 

zannej

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I will have to check the breaker box to see. The roof leaked and exterior wall on the north side deteriorated. I will have to fix the exterior wall, check to make sure studs are ok, and get roof fixed. I had someone who was supposed to come out to do an assessment of a roof replacement but he's been too busy to come out. I'll have to ask him again and maybe show some pictures and get some measurements. If I hadn't messed up both of my ankles a few years back I could do it myself. But my tendons pop out so I can't stand on steep inclines.

I think I might have some sort of metal tracks down in the barn and possibly somewhere in the workshop. I'll need to do more exploring. also need to get my chainsaw and cut a small tree that is starting to get in the way of the workshop door.

I was looking at Ana White's plans again and realized the desk she made for sewing/crafting looks to be 37-1/4" tall. So a 36" high desk might not seem so odd. I plan to put 2" locking castors on the bottom. The ones I was looking at are a little under 3" high. So I would subtract about 3" from the height of the wood portion. I would either need 8 castors under each part of the side shelves or I would need to come up with a good support system. I'm trying to come up with a design. Absolute worst case I could use the hardwood dolly things I got cheap at harbor freight and add a locking wheel somewhere. But, I could just build my own with the right castors. Need locking ones for very edges and non-locking for the rest.

I fell asleep and forgot to hit "Post" on this.
 

zannej

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I may have found an easier solution to the castor situation- so long as the castors are within reach. This was my inspiration pic.
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Instead of blocks like that along the center, I could have the castors in the center of the ends.
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