I have too many vintage sewing cabinets in my stash, as well as too many wayward drawers. It seemed like it was time to marry a cabinet and a drawer to make a new and useful writing desk.
Thrift Store Sewing Machine Cabinet into Writing Desk
I picked this sewing cabinet up in early November—I know this because I posted it in my December 2016 Recent finds, but because my car is in the background, I know that it was prior to buying my new truck!
Design stage of new Writing Desk
Like I said, I have way too many drawers. I did some testing to see which drawer configuration might look best to customize and transform this sewing cabinet. The one on the right was the winner! I have no idea where that drawer came from.
When repurposing or changing up a vintage sewing cabinet, there are a couple of options. You can leave the lid in tact and possibly glue it down like I did way back in the day on this green sewing cabinet side table, or you can remove the lid, then the frame, and re-attach the lid making it look more natural, being only one board thickness instead of two board thickness.
Disassemble Sewing Machine Cabinet
After removing the lid it was time to remove the frame that actually held the sewing machine in place. Each machine is different. The disassembly was very easy—simply removing some pocket hole screws.
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Once I removed the screws, it was obvious that there was some glue holding the frame to the cabinet. My favorite small pry bar and a hammer easily broke the two pieces loose.
This piece was discarded as it is no longer useful. Sometimes I do keep hardware off these old cabinets, but not this time.
Make repairs and Sand
Because I will be reusing the lid, I used my orbital sander to smooth out the surface. I started with a heavy grit (60) then went to 150, and finally 220.
As I was preparing to reattach the lid to the cabinet, I noticed that the glue residue as well as some wood chips were in the way. I used the orbital sander to remove the height so the lid would sit flush.
Attach the sewing cabinet top
Gorilla Wood Glue was used on all four corners and along all the edges of the cabinet.
Since the lid had been sanded pretty, I used some scrap vinyl wallpaper to protect the surface as I prepared to reattach the cabinet to the lid.
Instead of using the original screws, I used new pocket hole screws in the original pocket holes.
With the Gorilla Wood Glue and the pocket holes, this lid is very secure on the sewing cabinet frame.
How to make a repurposed drawer cubby
Now it’s time to fix up the repurposed drawer cubby. Sometime in the last year or two I got an old free chest of drawers. These are the drawer fronts and drawer parts from that chest of drawers.
I chose these pieces because they were sturdy, a good size and thinner stock that the new lumber I have in my stash. I suppose in the back of my mind, I’ve wanted to do a drawer cubby ever since Mindi did her Old Drawer Cubby Organizer. Mindi uses drawers like nobody I’ve ever seen !
The first order of business was to rip down the pieces on the table saw, essentially removing the groove that originally held the bottom of the drawers.
This is a “dry fit” to see how I really want the cubbies to look.
Clamp, Glue, and Nail drawer cubby boards
To make the cubbies complete, I used Gorilla wood glue, some Irwin quick clamps, and a Ryobi nail gun. In the bottom right image, you can see I added some wood glue to the back of the drawer, and slid the divider in place. I nailed all of the pieces in place—if you look closely, you can see the finish nails right where I’m sliding this divider in.
Not shown—I placed the drawer onto the lid of the sewing cabinet, and it didn’t quite look “finished”. I found this small piece of blue trim and mitered the corners on my miter saw. In the top right image you can see that I had to cut away a portion of the drawer in order to allow the mitered corners to actually meet. I used a box cutter. More wood glue and more finish nails, and the trim is in place.
Attach the drawer cubby to the sewing machine cabinet
Testing the fit of the writing desk again with the thin blue trim now in place, much better! It’s time to attach the cubby drawer to the lid of the sewing cabinet.
First order of business? Wood glue! I use this technique often. After applying the wood glue, I used my nail gun to sort of perform as a “clamp”. Because there was no way to clamp the drawer to the lid until I got it secured. Three pops of the nail gun, and I can tilt the unit onto it’s back to secure the wood screws through the lid into the bottom of the drawer. (bottom right image)
Paint Writing Desk
Finally, time to paint! I knew I only had time to get one quick coat of primer on this cabinet by the end of this work day. I mixed up some diy chalky paint primer with some plaster of paris and Behr paint (Naval) in semi-gloss. As always, I use a mesh paint strainer to alleviate any clumps or problems.
I prefer to paint the underneath side of my repurposed furniture pieces first, using my Homeright Finish Max.
It’s so much easier to get the underneath sides with it laying down, then trying to tilt the sprayer in an unnatural position. There’s nothing more embarrassing than for someone to load a project into their vehicle and seeing a “naked” portion of the piece. I prefer to paint vertical portions with the sprayer. I sprayed the top of this cabinet while it was still laying on the ground, rather than letting the paint “fall” onto the top (horizontal) portions.
Navy Blue DIY writing desk
This is after one quick coat of the diy chalky paint primer in Naval. You can see how little overspray there is with the Finish Max on the drop cloth.
I waited and waited for a warmish day to put the final coats on this sewing cabinet. I shoot for sunny and 48°. It happened to get to 50° recently and I was giddy about getting to paint! This time I was using the Naval semi-gloss sans plaster of paris.
- Warm your project in the sun
- Make sure your paint is not too cold (use warm water from the house to dilute if necessary)
- Allow your sprayer to warm in the sun as well.
During the break I was forced to take due to cold weather—I patched, caulked sanded, patched and sanded again. I like to use brown craft paper all over the first coat of the diy chalky paint primer prior to painting a second coat of primer or semi-gloss.
This is after one coat of the semi-gloss (Naval), and I’m loving how it looks!
I used Krylon spray paint (black satin) on the original hardware.
voila! It’s gorgeous, don’t you agree?
Where would you use this writing desk? Do you have any suggestions for the 3-4 sewing cabinets I have left in my stash?
Related Content: See More Desk Projects Here
Gail Wilson is the author and mastermind behind My Repurposed Life. She is obsessed with finding potential in unexpected places and believes that with a little hard work and imagination, any old thing can be made useful again, including herself!
Gail reinvented herself during a midlife crisis and has found purpose again. She hopes you will find new ideas for old things and pick up a few tools along the way.