Tuesday, September 6, 2016

DIY yardstick table top

A couple of years ago I came up with an idea to make an accent table using reclaimed yardsticks as the top and a cast iron Singer treadle sewing machine base as the bottom. I had been searching for a complete Singer treadle table (with wooden top and those coveted drawers), but couldn't locate one in decent shape at a price I was willing to pay.  About the same time I noticed some interesting projects on Pinterest using yardsticks... And so the idea came about to meld the two into one project!

Singer sewing table bases are not too difficult to find - a recent search on eBay yielded 149 listings - it just depends on what you are willing to pay. The yardsticks, however, proved a bit more difficult to source.  Lucky for me (!) I have an uncle who enjoys frequenting the large weekly auction near his home to search for all types of treasures, so I gave him the task of finding a mess of vintage wooden yardsticks for me - all sizes and colors were fair game.  It took about a year, but he was able to find several bundles :)

yardsticks - check
table base - check
willing and helpful husband - check!
My project idea gave him the perfect excuse to bust out his new compound mitre saw.  Thank heavens he's always up for helping me make my crazy project ideas a reality!

The first step was to cut a 5/8" thick plywood base for the yardsticks - mine measures 18" x 31".  We added a couple of one-by-fours on the bottom of the plywood base to securely hold the treadle base with longer screws.  (I had spray painted the boards and the plywood base bottom a dark brown before this step to give the underside a more finished look than just raw wood.)

Then I sorted through my yardsticks to find the stain colors and words that I preferred.  You definitely want all the yardsticks for this project to have the same thickness in order to create the smoothest tabletop possible.  I arranged them in a rough layout (shown below) and we began cutting one at a time starting with the front edge.

And here is the fabulous new saw in action cutting those yardsticks to size :)

Each cut-to-size stick was held in place on the plywood with wood glue, tiny finishing nails, and clamps. (We started the process at the front edge to be sure it was straight.  You can fudge the back edge a bit if necessary, but not the front!!)

The yardstick along the back edge is a 1" cube (and it's actually straight and level - not sloping up to the right as it appears in the photo).  It provides a small lip at the back to prevent anything from falling off the back of the tabletop and does a nice job hiding the 3/16" of exposed table base on the back left that somehow remained when we finished (oops).  Finally we added yardsticks to the front and both sides of the table top to hide the plywood base.

Two coats of clear polyurethane were used to deepen the wood tones and ink colors.

And there it is - finished and ready to assume residence in our living room!

I'm still on the hunt for the perfect table lamp(s) and other pretty things to showcase on it, but the table is now located where I can see it every day.  It turned out EXACTLY as I had pictured and planned - I LOVE when that happens :)  Most of the yardsticks I used are from businesses in the area where I grew up, so that gives the whole project special meaning.  Maybe some of them were even used by Elsie - I remember that she had several wooden yardsticks in her basement sewing area.  There is one new yardstick in the bunch - it's from a lovely fabric store (Bolt & Spool) in Cleveland where Thing 2 attends college.

I still have quite a bundle of vintage yardsticks that I can use in other projects.  Any suggestions??


  1. Fabulous .... Love your ingenuity, patience and the finished project is a thing of beauty. ��������

  2. Your table came out beautiful! I too have a treadle base but can't find nearly enough yardsticks no matter how many thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales I frequent. You could cover an old coffee table and then top with heavy glass to protect it, or not.


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