DIY Antique Desk From Vintage Singer Sewing Machines

5 Materials
1 Day

I saw one of these a few years back but it was well out of my price range. I patiently waited until I was able to find two matching sewing machine bases so I could make one of my own.
The first step is to find two matching antique sewing machines with their bases. The cast iron legs are easily removable from the sewing machine tops. There are four screws in each, just unscrew them from the tops and remove the sewing machines.

Save the screws if they are in good shape. They are usually over 100 years old and vintage. We reused ours when we fastened the desktop to the bases.
I opted to build a thick chunky wooden top to balance out the intricate iron legs. We used 4x4 untreated cedar, but any 4x4 wood would work, just make sure it is untreated wood.

Cut eight 4×4’s to 59 inches.

We wanted the desktop to look old and worn. So we damaged the wood with anything we could find that would add dings and gouges.

If you don’t want your boards to look old, skip this step.
Attach 6 of the posts to each other one at a time using the lag bolts and carpenter’s glue. To ensure the boards don’t split, drill a pilot-hole. Use a one-inch spade bit to start your hole and go in one-half inch.
Use a 1/4 drill bit to go all the way through your 4x4.
Counter-sink it so that the posts sit flush together. 3-4 lag bolts per post should hold it firmly. Don’t worry too much about measuring out where they go – just move the hole an inch or two for each post, so that your bolts don’t run into each other.
Use a socket wrench to sink your lag blots so the next 4x4 will attach flush.

Attach the two remaining posts to the ‘front’ and ‘back’ edges of the desktop, similar to how you connected the previous ones. Because these bolts are going to remain visible, you don’t need to counter-sink them, just drill a pilot hole.

You can put them wherever you think they look best. We put them at 4.5 and 14 inches from the end so that they sit right above the bases. You can see them in the photo above.

We spray painted ours with Rustoleum Hammered Metal before we attached them to the front and back.
To stain our desktop, we used vinegar & steel wool treatment that turned the cedar a dark, warm brown. You can see how the stain also picked up all the dings and bumps we added to make the wood look worn.

We then added three coats of semi-gloss polyurethane for protection.

The desktop is very heavy so be sure to have a helper when you move it around!

The lag bolts work very well holding it together and keeping it from separating. It is probably over-engineered but this desk has made it through 2 moves without breaking or separating.

If you want to see additional pictures and the full detail instructions head on over to the website.
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Laura Kennedy

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • Blu32466455
    on Mar 7, 2018

    Desk looks great!! Could you go into more detail on how to weather wood with tea and steel wool?

    thanks, Anita :)

  • Blu32466455
    on Mar 7, 2018

    Desk looks great!! Could you go into more detail on how to weather wood with tea and steel wool?

    thanks, Anita :)

    • Laura Kennedy
      Laura Kennedy
      on Mar 8, 2018

      You need to soak a 00 steel wool pad in 2 cups of vinegar to make the stain. I let mine sit for 48 hours uncovered. Once the stain is ready I filter out the steel wool.

      This stain reacts very differently with different types of wood. Cedar for instance goes a deep deep dark brown almost black, but pine will turn slightly grey brown.

      The tea is to add extra tannins to the wood. It's the tannins that react with the vinegar and steel wool. Just brew a very strong cup of tea and paint it on your wood, let it dry and then add the vinegar and steel wool stain coat.

      You don't have to use the tea, but I wanted a very dark rich stain on my cedar so I added the tea coat prior to the vinegar and steel wool stain coat. You can think of the tea as a stain enhancer.

      I would test my wood with the steel wool alone and then the steel wool with the tea to see what I like best.

      Best of luck!

  • Mary Kay Maples
    Mary Kay Maples
    on Mar 23, 2018

    redoing our study area in our home. This desk would be a perfect addition to it! My biggest reservations/concerns are where to look for the matching old sewing machines and where to find large chunks of wood for the top! Could you give us some suggestions in these areas please?

    • Laura Kennedy
      Laura Kennedy
      on Mar 23, 2018

      Hi Mary,

      It took me almost 7 months of shopping to find my two matching treadles. I found mine on Kijiji and Craigslist.

      I would put out the request to friends and family too through facebook and email. I was surprised how many people told me that they had these old sewing machines in basements and old garages gathering dust after I made mine.

      I know the singer sewing machines were a more popular model, especially in North America so I would keep an eye out for that style.

      Before you buy your first one, I would do a bit of research online to make sure that it is not a rare model, or finding a match may prove to be a problem.

      As far as the wood goes, you can purchase untreated 4x4's at a lumber yard or a hardware store like Home Depot, or Lowes. They should be pretty easy to find.

      Good luck building your desk!

Join the conversation

2 of 53 comments
  • Maymay
    on Apr 28, 2018

    Beautiful work. I love vintage sewing machines.

  • Michelle Hurlbut
    Michelle Hurlbut
    on Aug 9, 2018

    I plan on making a farm table like this. I have one base so am looking for another (mine is exactly like yours!) I think I'll use 1x6 for the top- I want it to be about 2' wide by 8' long with casters. Have been looking for a picture of a complete project like this! Thanks from Iowa!

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