Have you ever gone down the rabbit hole of looking for the perfect sized piece of furniture or wished you could just do it yourself? This has been me looking for a work sewing desk for the last three years. I wanted, at the least, 72″ long, 20″ wide and 30″ tall. These are pretty much the sewing desk measurements that the old treadles opened up to. When I did find a desk on my internet search I realized I would need to buy two of them and that put the cost out of my price range. Plus, I promised myself I would not buy any particle board.

Being in a hive of artist has it advantages and when Glen, a very talented potter, sold me two vintage treadle stands that needed a little love I took them home. I washed them and sprayed the heck out of them with primer before using flat black Krylon spray paint. It was a lot of fun getting into all of those grooves and angles with spray paint. I believe I had to go back to Ace for a third can of spray paint.

Once they were cleaned up they looked so beautiful! Tiny me getting them in and out of the car was fun as they are quite heavy.

Part one cost, $50 for the treadles, $18 in spray paint.

I grabbed my tape measure and was off to find something, anything to top the desks with. An hour at Mendelson’s did the trick. They really do have everything! I could have bought an office table and just used the top. A nice door would have worked, but the ultimate would have been two pieces of decent wood. Sandy Mendleson the owner helped me himself and let me know everything in the store was 30% off because they want to sell the building. I scored the two best pieces of wood I could find. My project was made even more meaningful when Sandy told me the wood was reclaimed from the walls in an old Dayton building. The wood only cost me $6.

Oh, the photo with the green containers would have worked perfectly for my sewing pattern collection. Another rabbit hole I could have avoided.

I planned the entire project down to the last detail. It’s not my first time working with wood. I took a year of woodworking in high school and made some really awesome stuff. I had a great teacher at Fairmont High.

I drilled pilot holes for my screws first and marked the underside of the board to remember which top goes to which treadle before sanding and staining.

On a sunny and hot summer evening I sanded the wood. I started with a rough grit, then medium and last a fine grit all in the same direction of the wood grain. This workout took almost 3 hours.

Then back to Ace Handyman for more supplies. Did you know if you have a business you get a discount there? Armed with my list I bought clear polyurethane, a new brush and the right size wood screws. The helpful sales clerk was quick to let me know the polyurethane was the finishing coat. I did that on purpose because I did not want a stain. I wanted the wood to look as natural as possible. The cost for part two of the project was under $20.

Finishing the wood was my favorite part. I did one coat on the bottom and 2 heavy coats on the top. What a difference it made!

Good by cardboard tables and thank you for your awesome 5 years of service! I took the treadles and tops to my Rosewood gallery separate and screwed them in there. It was the only way they would fit in my car.

Once at my studio everything went together in minutes. The last thing I did was rub all over my new fantastic wood with steel wool and test my desk on a personal sewing project.


Here’s my amateur mistakes, on both tables one of my pilot holes was not correct and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I drilled them with the stand on the wood. The next thing is that I poly-ed the back of the tables first and that left a faint darker line on each edge of the top. Last, one treadle is almost 1/2″ taller than the other as you can see in the pictures.

This project cost me under $100 for both tables. I saw the same tables for sale on etsy for $600. If you include my sweat equity into this, these tables are priceless.

Behind the scenes~

If you are local come volunteer at Art on the Commons with me.

Call Claire at Rosewood for more information 937-296-0294. Most shifts are only two hours.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!

Tracy McElfresh
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