I’ll show you how we hacked an IKEA Norden table to create a DIY Cutting Table, and I’m sharing why it’s both the most functional and versatile piece in my craft room.
Fabric Cutting Woes
Since I learned to quilt, we have lived in several apartments. In the first apartment, I sewed on our dining table, cut fabric on our kitchen counters, and laid out quilt blocks on the top of the bed. I made do, and it worked.
In our next apartment, I had much more room to work with and a dedicated sewing/craft room to myself. But I found cutting fabric for quilts awkward no matter where I did it. Despite being just over 5 ft tall, hunching over my sewing table was hard on my back. But cutting with my mat on the floor was dreadful for both my knees AND my back.
Cutting fabric on the kitchen counter was the most ergonomic option. But it also meant I had to clear it to work on, and clear it off again for meal times. Plus, I had to transport everything back and forth to my sewing room.
So I needed to find a solution that was better for my back and that would stay in my sewing room. And although the room was a good size, it also doubled as a spare bedroom. Therefore, I didn’t have room for a really large cutting table to be out all the time.
DIY Cutting Table – IKEA Norden Hack
I did a lot of scouting around on the Internet for DIY cutting table ideas, particularly ones that were flexible and could partially fold up. I found a lot of brilliant ones on top of two dressers placed back to the back. This produced a table with similar depth and heft of a cutting table at a fabric shop. I’d love to have the space and permanence of something like that some day, but it wouldn’t work for my current needs.
Then I stumbled on a few versions of the IKEA Norden dining table that had been adapted into a cutting table. The beauty of the Norden table is that it is a gate-leg table that can have both ends up, just one, or none. It also has drawer storage on the ends, and comes in white, or birch.
Without changes, the Norden table is 29″ tall. It is 31.5″ wide, and when it is opened fully with both ends up, it’s 60″ long. When just one end is up, it is 36.5″ long. Best of all, when both ends are down, it is just 12.75″ long – super skinny!
In the other hacks I saw, the legs were raised to bring it to counter height. One had castors added to it so it was moveable. This seemed ideal to me. We kept an eye on the Norden table on the IKEA website for a while, and in a stroke of luck, it went on a sale with the IKEA family membership. We hurriedly snapped up a white one.
Then I sent all the example links to my father-in-law in advance of their upcoming trip to visit us. I knew he and my husband could figure it out together.
Raising the IKEA Norden Into A DIY Cutting Table
Adding height to the legs of the IKEA Norden table is challenging because the legs of the two gate-legs are much narrower than the four legs under the centre of the table.
In addition, we needed to create a wider surface than the width of the legs to be able to attach the plate of the castors.
The materials and method used to raise the height and attach castors to the bottom of the legs may not be the most elegant solution. But it is strong, sturdy, and functional, which is everything I need it to be.
It was a couple of years ago now that my father-in-law and husband customized this table, so I’m not sure exactly of the hardware that they used.
Each leg is supported with a chunk of 2 x 3″ wood (actually 1.5 x 2.5″) that is 7.5 inches tall. It is also cut out in an L-shape for the length of the leg to create a sturdier join than just attaching at the end. They put three screws through each overlapping section from the leg extension to the original leg.
Those leg extensions rest on 1 x 3″ wood bases (actually 0.75 x 2.5″) that need to be wider to support the base plate of the castors. For the four centre table legs, the bases have been cut to length to match the width between the pairs of legs, and attached with screws from the underside.
The two gate-legs have 2.5″ square bases placed under the leg extension. Because the gate-legs legs fold under and nestle beside the other table legs, you need to offset the bases. You also need to bevel the bottom of the gate-leg extensions so they don’t hit the others. See the photo below, with the gate-leg on the right.
Adding Castors to the IKEA Norden Table
We chose castors with brakes from Lee Valley. I believe they are the 00K2121 – Heavy Duty Polyurethane Swivel Castor w/Brake, 2″ x 2.5″. It was a bit of investment to add them, but it’s such an important part of the function.
Having brakes is so handy when the floor slopes slightly and the table wants to move on its own. You can also prevent the table from moving when you’re cutting, or create stability when you don’t want something to get bumped. The castors also swivel, which is really helpful for turning the table in any direction.
The castors were screwed through their plates to the wood bases. With both the extra leg height and the castors, the table is now 36.25″ tall. Standard counter height is 36 inches.
Finally, my father-in-law also came prepared with a paint sample that he colour matched for IKEA white. It took me a while to get around to painting the wood legs to match, and I was too lazy to fill holes. But the colour is a very good match for the IKEA white melamine foil that’s on top of the particleboard.
I’m so grateful to my father-in-law and my husband for giving up their time and getting creative to save my back and create this functional piece for me. It has truly become the workhorse of my craft room.
You might also enjoy another DIY project, turning a bifold door into double doors.
Read on to find out more about how I use this versatile DIY Cutting table.
My Current Sewing/Craft Room/Office
Since they transformed my table, we have moved into our current house. In this house, I still have a sewing/craft room to myself, though it is smaller than the previous one. Luckily, it has hardwood floors which is helpful for moving the cutting table on its castors.
In the past year or so, I’ve also started oil painting, as well as working from home on my blog. Therefore this room also functions as a full time office where I do writing, editing, planning, and the bulk of my photography. That’s in addition to sewing, quilting, and other crafts. (I do most needle crafts on the couch though).
I have a sewing table for my sewing machine that I also use for some other projects and a place to set things. And I have a small desk that functions as my office space, and also where I oil paint. There is one other small section of wall space beside my desk, a space under the window, as well as the floor space in the middle of the room.
Luckily, my DIY cutting table migrates around and shape-shifts as needed based on whatever I’m doing at the time.
How I Use the DIY Cutting Table
Both Ends Down
When I’m not actively involved in a project and things are tidy (a rarity, really!), I prefer to keep the Norden table with both ends down and tucked under the window. I’ve had a couple of new plants in quarantine recently and they enjoy sitting on the table in the sun. I also started some seeds in the spring on the top of the table in the sunshine.
Other times, I’ll move the closed table against the wall with my desk so it’s out of the way. I also do this if I want to use my ironing board under the window.
One End Up
Probably most often, I have one end up and leave the table under the window in the light. I often set a lot of things on the table as I’m planning my projects.
As well, my 24 x 36″ cutting mat fits pretty well on the table with one end up. I now cut most of fabric for quilts like this in the light by the window.
I’ll also use the white surface and the light from the window to take photographs from above for the blog.
Or I can move the table back against the wall to get photos from the front for the blog.
Two Ends Up
Generally, if I open up both ends of the table, I move it into the centre of the room so that I can access all sides of the table. This becomes especially helpful when I want to lay out large pieces of fabric and cut out clothing patterns. It also works well for assembling printed sewing patterns, or drafting my own sewing patterns. Anything to save myself from kneeling on the floor! I love cutting with my rotary cutter and homemade pattern weights.
Having the table fully opened up is also really helpful for painting projects. I painted my doormats and barn quilts on the table like this. In addition, having a moveable table is so handy because I can move it around to find the light. However, when I was sealing the barn quilts, the instructions said to avoid direct sunlight. It was so helpful to be able to just move the table around as the light moved.
Drawers for Storage
There are three drawers on either end of the IKEA Norden table. Any storage is beneficial, though they aren’t the most versatile shape and size of drawers. Mostly I keep some sewing tools in there for pattern drafting, as well my tailor’s ham, etc.
You might also like 11 Tips for Multi-Purpose Craft Room Organization.
Best Versatile DIY Cutting Table
Without this cutting table in my craft room, I would be hopelessly lost. I do not have room for another table to be out and open all the time. Therefore, I really appreciate that I can make this one very small and tuck it out of the way.
I use this table on a daily basis, and sometimes in more than one way. The functionality of the castors and the choice in sizes means it’s like having many tables in one. If you’re looking for a super versatile and functional cutting table, I highly recommend trying something similar.
I want to hear from you. Where do you cut your quilting fabrics or do other crafts? Do you prefer something counter height or something lower? Do you prefer something you can move around or something stationary? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,