Singer Sewing Machine Shelf and Drawers

When I saw the rusted old sewing machine base/frame as I left an antique store earlier this month, I knew I would buy it the next time I was there and crossed my fingers that no one else would have bought it in the meantime!

I was in luck.  A few weeks later, I was in town and made the purchase.  I was prepared to pay up to $40 so didn’t even bother to bargain when the guy said he’d sell it for $30.  Probably should have.  But I was pretty pumped just to have it in the bed of my truck as I drove home.  Every project I work on is a moving target until it’s finished, meaning that the design I start with may or may not be what I wind up with. This project evolved from only a desk with a small shelf below to a full-size shelf with 2-3 shelves and 2-4 drawers below using spools of thread to cover the threaded rods on which the shelves would sit. So after a couple more trips to Lowe’s and a trip to AC Moore to get little wooden CD crates on sale, I finally had everything I needed.

The thing was filthy – caked with mud and rust.  The part I dreaded the most about this project was cleaning the frame before I could do anything else.  So on Friday after work, I gathered the following to clean and paint it:

  • Hose w/ a spray nozzle
  • Car washing supplies- sponges, brushes, soap, and a bucket
  • Paint scraper (not sure of the real name – we used it when we painted our house to peel cracked paint, etc. off the walls)
  • Paint can opener (the one you get for free when you buy a big can of paint)
  • Rust remover
  • Steel brush
  • Rags
  • Spray paint primer (rust-resistant)
  • Hammered steel look spray paint

I began the cleaning process by spraying the entire frame to loosen the mud, then scraped off what I could….scraped some more…and then scraped even more.  Next, I used the car washing supplies to wash off more mud.  I washed the frame 2-3 times before I was satisfied enough to move on to the next step.  This step alone took several hours.

Once the frame was clean and dry, I covered it with the rust remover and followed the directions on the back of the bottle- basically, by the time I finished covering one section with the rust remover, it was time to begin scraping, scraping, and scraping that area with the steel brush to rub off the rust.  Which also rubbed off paint in some places.  It took a few hours of repeating this process over and over, section by section – some areas more than others – with the frame resting upright, on its side, back, and front in order to ensure I got all areas clean and rust-free.  After I rinsed and rubbed off the excess rust remover and dried the frame, I dragged/carried it back down our uneven brick sidewalk to the garage.  It’s quite heavy.

Finally ready to paint!

I originally planned to use regular gloss or semi-gloss black spray paint with a black primer, but came across a Rust-oleum Hammered Steel look paint, so went with it instead of the gloss/semi-gloss.  I began by priming, then came back an hour or two later with the Rust-oleum.  Two or three coats did it…I had to turn the frame onto all sides to make sure I covered every little nook and cranny with the paint.   I did not use a sealer of any kind over the Rust-oleum.

In the process of painting


Finished painting!

Once the frame was ready and waiting to dry, it was time to work on the panels for the shelves.  Here’s what I gathered for the shelves:

  • Wood planks, cut to size (3 of the same size, and 1 extra to fit below them)
  • Wood stain
  • Hammer
  • Paint can opener
  • Paint scraper
  • Mallet hammer
  • Polyurethane sealer
  • 2 paint brushes
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood planks for shelves (4 total)
  • Wood CD crates for drawers (3 total)
  • Small wood squares for drawer fronts (3 total)
Supplies I used to beat up the wood

I began by hitting the wood planks and squares with the hammer, paint can opener, paint scraper, and mallet hammer in random places to begin the process of ‘aging’ the wood (I referred to multiple resources from Pinterest for assistance on this part).  Since the frame is old, I wanted the wood to look like it could be, too.  After sanding the edges down, I painted on the wood stain, let it dry, and repeated on the other side of each plank.  Then, I sanded them down in random places to thin out the color and create some lighter spots.  Once I was happy with how the wood looked, I moved on to the polyurethane and gave each piece 2-3 coats of polyurethane.  It was really humid here this week, so it took forever to finish preparing the wood.

Here are the supplies I used to assemble the shelf:

  • Singer frame, prepared and painted
  • 3 full size wood pieces for shelves, stained
  • 4 x 5/16″ threaded rods, washers(4), and hex nuts (24- 6 per rod)
  • Lots of wooden thread spools of various sizes (for covering the threaded rods)
  • 1 small wooden wheel, painted (to replace the missing wheel on the Singer frame)
  • 2 x 2″ wooden blocks (to use as part of the base for the lowest wood plank (on which the drawers sit)
  • Various screws, drill bits, hammer, garden gloves, hammer, etc.
  • Drill

To begin assembly, I marked the spot to drill holes for the bottom plank and drilled through.  My progress was slowed as the largest drill bit I had was 1/4″ so had to get my hands on a larger one to make holes large enough for the threaded rods to fit through.  Oh, and I had also never used a drill before.  But after a couple minutes of fiddling, I had figured it out.

Once the holes were drilled, I used the first plank as a template to drill the holes in the remaining 2 planks.  Then it was time to put the plank on the frame.  From there, I centered the drilled holes over those in the frame, lowered the threaded rods through, and screwed a hex nut onto each rod, with a washer between the plank and the frame on each threaded rod. 

After I lowered the first plank onto the frame, I prepared the wooden spools so that they would fit over the threaded rods. I used the 5/16″ drill bit for this, then went back and opened up a larger area on one end of 20 spools (5 per rod) to allow them to fit over the nuts and fit flush with the wooden shelves (see below).

I then dropped the wooden spools over the threaded rods, keeping the height even as possible.  When the spools had reached the right height (about 15″ above the bottom shelf), I added the second shelf, followed by more spools, then the final shelf, leaving rooom for one last spool at the top of each rod to cover the top nut.
To install the lowest shelf which would wind up being the base for the drawers to sit on, I had to
 use two 2″ wooden cubes (one on each side) to strengthen the area on which the base would sit

To create the drawers, I gathered the following items:

  • 3 CD crates, stained
  • 3 small squares, distressed and stained
  • 4 pieces of skinny molding, stained (to use as guides for the drawers)
  • 3 small wooden thread spools (to use as drawer pulls)
  • 3 screws
  • wood glue
  • Clamps (3)


I put the drawers all in where they would go and to the best of my ability, got the fronts of the drawers attached to the CD crates and used wood glue to attach them.  I used the big clamps to hold the fronts to the crates while they dried.  Once they were dry, I added the drawer pulls (see this blog for more info) and put them into place so I could glue on the skinny molding (I’m sure there’s an actual term for this stuff.  I found it in our garage, leftover from the previous owners of our house and it worked perfectly.  Plus, it was free and saved me a trip to the store!).

Preparing the drawer and glueing on the guides

Once the drawers were in, I was finished! 

After eight working days, it was a relief to finally see the finished product. It now sits (after being disassembled to lug it upstairs) in our guest bedroom. Adding it to the bedroom allowed us to get rid of an ugly TV-less TV stand, so…it was a great change all around!
Time:  40ish hours (including drying time and trips to hardware store to have wood cut)

Cost:  ~$125 (base + wood + crates + screws, etc!)

Thanks for reading (or skimming) this page! 🙂