Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ironing Board Top and Cover for QUILTERS

by Bob Buchanan

In talking with quilters recently, I discovered that they truly despise the expert design of the common ironing board. For ironing fabrics for quilting, you need as much working space as you can get, and the common ironing board with all its graceful curves for ironing shirt sleeves doesn't lend itself to efficient fabric ironing. For quilting a rectangular piece of fabric, you need an ironing board with square corners to be most efficient. So I was talking to the staff at Nuts and Bolts Fabric ( in Edgemont, SD last month. They showed me a modified ironing board top they had built. So I bought some special silver ironing board top material and decided to try and make one too.

Materials needed (determine your sizes by measuring your ironing board):
Half sheet of 1/2 inch plywood (2' x 8')
One 8" 2x4 stud
Special silver ironing board cover material* - 2 yards
Padding - wood blanket or batting
Tacking strip - about 14'
Tacks - 3/8 inch
Screws - 1 1/4" long

*Note: The silver ironing board cover material is referred to as "Silver", 100% cotton, Therma-flec, made by James Thompson Co. It usually comes in 44" wide.


So here's the candidate ironing board. It has a long sloping side and a big curve on the left end. The effective maximum usable width for ironing fabric is about 32 inches.

So I purchased a 4' x 8' sheet of 1/2 inch maple plywood at Menard's that had some damage on one corner that was marked down from $48 to $12. Looked like a deal to me. I cut it down to 23" x 62". This gave me room to add a 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" cleat around the perimeter of the ironing board and 1" of space on each side to tack down the padding material and cover.

Then I ripped an 8' 2x4 into two pieces 1 1/2" square, ran them thru the planer to get nice smooth sides, and then cut the pieces to length to fit around the ironing board. I traced the ironing board onto the back of the top. Then I marked the locations of the cleats, and clamped them in place, one at a time. Each time, I turned the ironing board top over and drilled holes for screws, then drove screws into the cleats from the top side of the board. Some people like to glue the cleats on at this point, but I like to leave my options open, in case I need to make changes to the layout before its too late, so I skipped the glue. You can glue it later if you want.

I just had to add something in here that would let me use my new bandsaw, so I traced the curve of the ironing board end onto a piece of 2x6, and cut a nice curved piece. It adds a touch of class to the project too.

I routed a 3/8" chamfer on the edges of the surfaces of the cleats that might be handled. Then I sanded them to remove any rough spots and make it easier to keep clean and free of threads. A natural "un-finished" finish sometimes referred to as a Sam Maloof finish seemed appropriate for this project.

Next I added the foil, padding, and cover to the top of the board. Jerry at Nuts and Bolts Fabrics ( suggested that I put aluminum foil as the first layer to prevent moisture from warping the plywood top, so I added some nice thick aluminum foil to the top. I used the kind that you buy to cover the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. I held it in place with a few small pieces of 3M blue painter's tape. It took two passes of 18" wide foil to cover the top. Then you put down a couple layers of padding. We used two layers of an old wool blanket, but you can also use batting that all quilters have on hand for building quilts.

Then we got to use our upholstery training from the Trident Adult Education classes in Anaheim, CA, that we took back sometime around 1985, to attach the special silver cover material to the bottom of the ironing board top. We made cardboard tacking strips by cutting matboard into 1/2" strips and attached the silver cover material and padding to the board with 3/8" tacks.

I used 2 yards of the special silver ironing board cover material and about 14 feet of tacking strips. I made the tacking strips from matboard. (You can buy the silver material from Nuts and Bolts Fabrics in Edgemont, SD -

After whacking in the final tacks, we turned the top over and tested it on the ironing board.

Just one more time, here's that touch of class under the left end of the ironing board for those who like to look at the underside of a project after its all done. (Real woodworkers would run the cleats continously around the outside of the ironing board with no gaps, but that adds weight and not much functionality.)

So the final project is now in place and ready for ironing all those quilting fabrics. The effective usable maximum width for ironing fabric went from about 32 inches up to 62 inches. Wow - almost doubled! Probably a worth-while project.

The end.