Monday, March 15, 2010

DIY Ironing Table

I made myself an ironing table this weekend!

I had yearned for a large table that could be used for ironing and steaming for a long time.  All of the shops I have ever worked in have had ironing tables, not boards.  And as I was setting up my studio space in my garage at home, I told myself I would have one someday.  I finally got around to making one.

What's the difference between an ironing table and an ironing board?  Well, first off, a table is a lot bigger.  The surface of a board is relatively narrow and long--it's designed for pressing garments that are already made.  The board itself may vary in width and length, but invariably it's too narrow to actually work on garments that are being constructed.  Why?

Because sometimes you need a surface that's big enough for a garment to rest on evenly, without falling down over the edges.  When you're pressing a seam, the last thing you want is for the weight of the garment to be pulling the piece off over the edge and onto the floor while you are trying to hold onto a hot iron.   And the potential for a nicer pressing job is increased when the fibers aren't being pulled down by gravity in directions you don't want them to go.  I've discovered that ironing most things is a lot easier when the surface of the board is working with me rather than against me because it's too narrow...

Secondly, most fabrics need to be washed and pressed before constructing anything, otherwise you've doomed the garment to Dry Clean Only Purgatory.  Even a simple cotton blouse shrinks in the wash--imagine if the fabric wasn't preshrunk before it was constructed?  Chances are it wouldn't fit the way you'd want...  And pressing those yards of fabric after it's been washed is a lot easier when you can lay it all out flat on a surface that's big enough to accommodate it...  A good ironing table is usually wide enough to handle most fabric widths when laid out flat, and pressing more than 12" at a time is almost a necessity...

So I'm partial to ironing tables, not boards.  Boards have their purpose, but a good table can do anything a board can do (if used properly) and more.

Most of the ironing tables I have seen are constructed by scene shops--2x4's and bolts, sheetrock screws and homasote...  Very nicely constructed, and incredibly sturdy, but not much fun in a home shop when they may need to be collapsed down and shunted out of the way, or even moved from one location to another.  Moving an ironing table usually requires a truck, U-Haul, or a friend with a very wide SUV!

I decided to make mine a bit more practical...

I found a set of shelves at Home Depot that I liked.  Too short, but good in a pinch, and the surface can be raised at a later date with some simple boards/bricks to get more height.  I bought two.  And a door.  Hollow core, 28" wide, 7" tall.  All told, the entire cost was under $70.

Getting the door home was a challenge, but I got it to my studio and proceeded to lop off  1.5 feet with my jig saw.  Kinda messy in the end, but effective.  If the door had been solid, My poor jig saw wouldn't have been up to it, but this el-cheapo hollow core door had innards of cardboard, so it went very quickly.  You can't buy a sturdy slab of wood at a cheaper price, really...

Then I assembled the shelves, and rested the door on top.   I put padding on the surface of the door (I specifically got one that didn't have the beveled panel insets for decoration) which consisted of some spare fleece car blankets, yardages of felt, and some spare cotton fabric yardage.  Then I covered it all with yet another layer of sturdy cotton and staple-gunned the fabric to the underside of the door.

And voila!  Instant Ironing table!  I can collapse it down when I want, and press yardage when I desire.  And the shelves are already coming in handy for my pressing supplies and other stuff!  Woohoo!

Next step--an industrial iron!  Right now, I have a very cheap steam iron that works great, but requires frequent cleaning, runs out of water too soon, and has a shut off timer that doesn't work well for home sewing/crafting...


  1. You know the difference between a girl and a guy who wants an ironing table? He builds one! I'm so impressed. I'm just noticing your blog looks very bright and you've changed something? I know it's the same template as mine. Has it always been like this?

  2. Hm. Jane, I dunno... I use "Minima Lefty Stretch" as my template, but it's essentially the same template as yours (which is, MInima, correct?). Yours has much more white space on the two sides, where mine "stretches" to fill in that space. I changed it a couple months ago because I was looking for a template that could do more than the one I had, but it has it's own issues (for example, none of the icons for Followers appear anymore with this template, so I removed that gadget). I'm happy with it, but I'm not sure if it's brighter or cleaner than yours--if anything, your additional white space makes yours seem much more spacious to my eye.

    Thanks for the comments about the ironing table! I haven't used a jigsaw in years, but it was so fast! Putting the whole thing together took about an hour--a lot less time than if I had tried to construct it all from scratch. In the end the surface is pretty low to the ground, but I'll be looking for mechanisms to raise it up soon. Different shelves would have different heights, and that may be an option in the future, but for right now it's doing fine by me! : )


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