Setting up a fabric cutting table doesn't have to be difficult. There are lots of DIY cutting table tips that can help, no matter how much space you have to make a custom table. When setting up your cutting table, the most important factor is the table height for both comfort and ease of use. And while you can always build a custom table from scratch, it's often easier to modify an existing table for your specific use.
Fabric Cutting Table Height
Working for even short periods on a cutting table that's too high or too low can make your back, shoulders, and arms tired and sore. As a general rule, a cutting table should be about waist-high to prevent stress on your upper body. Using that as a starting point, experiment with different heights to find the perfect table position for your body and the type of work you do.
Tips for Raising Table Height
If your existing cutting table is too low, chances are you can raise the legs, saving you the trouble of rebuilding the table or creating a new one. For example, folding banquet tables make handy stow-away cutting tables, but they're usually too short for comfort. Simply slipping pieces of closely fit PVC pipe over the ends of the legs can give you the height you need. The pipes are removable, so you can still use the table for parties or temporary dining space as needed.
Another way to raise a cutting table is to use plastic bed risers, placing one riser under each table leg. Risers come in various heights and are designed for stability. As with PVC pipe extensions, you can remove the risers to bring the table back to standard height.
Cutting Table on a Table
If you don't have enough room for a separate table, you might be making do with a dining room table or kitchen table. The problem is, standard dining tables are too short for most people to use as cutting tables. One solution is to build a short cutting table that stands on top of your dining table.
Depending on your height and the height of the dining table, the cutting table may be only about 5 to 8 inches tall. Size the table slightly smaller than the width of the dining table and a few inches larger than your cutting mat. The tabletop can be a piece of 3/4-inch plywood, MDF (medium-density fiberboard), or particleboard. For legs, you can use sawed-off coffee table legs (sold unfinished at home centers) or wood dowels or PVC pipe stuck into wood blocks glued to the underside of the tabletop.
You can keep the cutting table at one end of your dining table and leave the other end open for everyday use, and keep your patterns and tools underneath the cutting table. If you have company stash the cutting table in a closet or under a bed.
Double-Duty Cutting Table
Using the "table on a table" idea—or creating a custom table—you can make a large table surface that serves as a cutting table and an ironing board so you can cut and press in one place. For example, if you have a large rotary cutting mat that measures 30 by 36 inches, cut a piece of 3/4-inch plywood to twice that width, at 60 by 36 inches. Add PVC or wooden legs, or simply lay the plywood onto an existing cutting table. Cover half of the table with cotton batting and stapled-on fabric to create an ironing board top. Leave the other half plain for a cutting surface.