Proper height, length and setup of a worktable will make your upholstery projects come together faster with better results. Upholstery relies on large, organized pieces of fabric that are often on heavy rolls. If unmanaged, the fabric becomes wrinkled, crooked or catches on splinters or worse. Build a simple upholstery table and your projects will be more efficient without too many surprises.
It's always necessary to bend and stretch when applying fabric to almost anything. Your table should be at an adequate height so that you don't have to bend down, while at the same time low enough so that you can reach across it without too much trouble. A height of 30 inches is just about right. Larger projects also require adequate width so that you can turn them at any angle, and long enough to accommodate fabric, or maybe even two projects side by side. A single sheet of 3/4-by-48-by-96-inch laminated particleboard is just about the right surface area for an upholstery table. Don't use plywood or anything without a slick, laminated surface; laminated particleboard is perfect. It has a permanent hard, slick surface that allows projects to slide at will, without hooking fabric on splinters, cracks or rough surfaces.
Use screws to build a rectangular frame out of two-by-four studs. The frame should be slightly smaller than the laminated particleboard, so that there's an overhang around the perimeter. This prevents fabric from catching on rough studs, and gives hand-hold area if you need to move the table around. Run at least one stud horizontally across the center of the frame to add strength for larger projects such as couches that might need extra support. Cut larger, four-by-fours for legs and screw one into each corner and one centered on both sides to support the middle. Place the laminated particleboard on a flat surface, place the frame on the particleboard upside down and screw it to the frame. Flip the table over when finished attaching the top.
Upholstery fabric typically comes on rolls, with a cardboard tube through the center similar to that on a paper towel roll. Custom upholstery tables are equipped with a fabric dispenser that is attached to the end or sits on top of the table that allows you to pull the fabric off as needed. Build a dispenser like this for your table using a piece of 3/4-inch steel conduit or pipe. Cut two pieces of 3/4-inch plywood about 24 inches square. Cut two more pieces 6-by-24 inches and screw them to the bottoms of the square pieces to act as feet. Drill 3/4-inch holes centered through the larger pieces for the pipe. Stand them up, slide one end of the pipe into one hole in the plywood, slide the roll of fabric onto the pipe and then slide the other end into the other plywood stand. Roll the fabric off the tube as needed. Place the fabric dispenser on one end of the table and remove it as needed. Use clamps to secure the dispenser to the table if desired.
If you're storing rolls of fabric, its handy if you have access to it at any time, instead of digging through stacks and stacks of partially used rolls. Install a shelf halfway up the legs if desired. Use it to store fabric that you might be using, or fabric that you use often. Tools such as staple guns, pullers, hand tools and scissors are better off on a shelf or in a drawer behind the table in order to keep smaller staples and items organized and all in one place. Build a simple shelf by cutting some 2-by-4 blocks about 12 inches tall. Staple or screw them to the insides of the legs, flush with the floor. Insert a piece of laminated particleboard between the legs, resting on the tops of the 12-inch blocks. You can screw the shelf to the tops of the blocks, or leave it as-is for easy removal.
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