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  • It doesn't have to be elaborate...

    Finding a Place to Work

    Or Build a table, or invest in knee pads and a soft floor...

    Have you ever gotten up in the morning and found that your knees were sore to the touch but you didn't know why? After all, you couldn't remember injuring them...but, still it's good to have all those pieces cut out, isn't it? Did you spend the day before cutting out patterns on the living room floor? If you're lucky, your back doesn't hurt too.

    Get off the floor...that's the best advice I can give you on this subject. Whether your workspace is the dining room table or a door laid across two sawhorses, if you are able to work standing up you'll love life so much more.

    Over the years I have accumulated a variety of tables, some with drawers under them, some with shelves, but the best one I've ever used (and still do) is a clean sheet of plywood 36" wide, 3/4" thick, and 6' long.

    The nice thing about a plain plywood sheet is that it can go anywhere. I have it set on a couple of old filing cabinets down in the basement, but if I seriously need more room it's no great matter to move it into the garage on sawhorses.

    Now, mind you, it's not so simple as going to the lumber yard, buying a 4x8 sheet of plywood and expecting it to be ready to use. The first piece of lace you try to cut will teach you the folly of that (the rough surface will snag the fabric).

    Preparing a Plywood Workspace

    • Buy a sheet of 3/4" x 48" x 96" BCE plywood, and have it cut to the size you want. I figure it this way: as long as I have room for and the width of my pattern paper + room for tools.1 The lumber yard will be so grateful you bought from them they'll probably cut it to size for you.
    • This step you can skip, but you'll love it if you can do it: Using a 1/4"' round-over bit in a router, round the edges of the plywood. If you don't have a router, proceed to the next step.
    • Sand the surface with medium (100-140) grade sandpaper. Make sure as you sand that you gently round over the edges (don't try to make them noticeably round with the sandpaper...they just have to be not sharp); especially the corners. If you care to take the time, round the underside edges as well. A power sander will help.
    • Brush on several (at least four) thin coats of gloss polyurethane finish (follow the directions on the can).2 Let the finish cure for three or four days. If you're careful - don't work the polyurethane like you would paint - you can even use the quick-drying polyurethane.
    Method 2: skip all that and cut a piece of 1/4 hardboard the same size as your plywood and lay it shiny-side-up on the plywood, and make that the surface. A little bit of contact cement to hold it in place: the advantage to this method is that as the surface becomes scarred and dirty, you can rip off the piece of hardboard and replace it.

    Whichever method you choose, set the board up on sawhorses, lay it across your dining room table, your bed...anywhere there's space. If you ever get around to putting permanent legs on the thing, figure the ideal top height this way:

    Stand up straight and bend your arms up at the elbows. The distance from 1-2" below your elbow to the floor is how high you want the top of your table.


    1 Be careful how wide you do actually go. You need to be able to reach the edge that's away from you without straining.
    2 Polyurethane goes on very well if you heat it first. Boil a pan of water and take it off the heat. Set the can of polyurethane (with the lid off) into the hot water and let it sit for fifteen minutes.


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