These DIY bookends couldn’t be more unique and the heavy cast iron is perfect for holding your book collection in place! The unique twist is that these bookends are actually made from a sewing machine supported by books!
You may know by now that Hubs’ most recent hobby is restoring vintage sewing machines. Sadly, some are beyond repair. As a matter of fact, Hubs had already stripped the usable parts on this one to save to repair other sewing machines. He was just about to scrap the rest to recycle the metal. But not on my watch! For this month’s IBC Challenge, I couldn’t wait to resurrect this vintage sewing machine into DIY bookends!
The Singer model 99 we’re making into bookends does not have a reverse feature. In our experience, the people who inherit these, and don’t realize what a work horse they actually are, often don’t feel that they are as desirable as other machines. Nothing could be further from the truth. But that’s why Hubs ends up with a disproportionate number of these models that are given to him free.
On the bright side, they have come to the right place because Hubs is passionate about restoring these. As a matter of fact, when he’s not getting them into the hands fo people that will appreciate them again locally, he often converts them to hand cranks to donate to third world countries that need and appreciate them (see alternative gift giving). As I write this, he is busy working on a shipment now!
The 99 is smaller than most other models (a 3/4 bed) making it a great size for DIY bookends. Or so we thought! You’ll see our miscalculation later – but we made it work.
Here’s a similar machine with all the doo-dads still attached. When you disassemble the machine before cutting it, be sure to note where everything goes back. Record a video or take pictures. Be sure to put all the parts into separate bags and mark them. Of course, I have an ace up my sleeve because Hubs knows these machines pretty well :).
IBC – Don’t Scrap It Challenge
It’s time for another International Bloggers Club (IBC) challenge and this month our theme is Don’t Scrap It. Along with the sewing machine, we’re also upcycling The Books of Knowledge (more about them later).
The IBC is a group from all over the world who challenge each other every month to make something using a common theme. You’ll find our friends’ don’t scrap it ideas at the very bottom of the post. So don’t forget to check them out before you go. And if you don’t have time to browse today, pop back in later in the week to pick up where you left off. For last month’s Broken Dreams challenge, we made this ceramic air plant holder when I broke my grandmothers vintage serving plate.
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How to Make Sewing Machine Bookends
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For this project you’ll need:
- Full coverage eye protection / safety goggles
- Impact driver (for loosening screws/bolts)
- A hacksaw and extra replacement blades
- Penetrating oil (for the bolts and hacksaw blade)
- Painter’s tape
- Heavy duty clamp
- Dremel with a grinding wheel
- Black and silver Sharpies
- Plastic and paper (to catch metal shavings)
- Utility or X-acto knife
- Duct tape
- Scrap of wood
- Clear silicone
- Spade bit
- Wood screws
- Metal bookends (or make wood ones if you prefer)
- Autosol Metal Polish
- Scrap of fabric, foam ball and fibre fill (if you need to make a pin cushion)
- Alien tape (optional)
- Aleene’s Tacky Glue
- Scroll saw or jig saw
DIY Bookends Video
For all the details, please watch this video or proceed to the step-by-step tutorial below.
Remove all parts from the machine so you just have the metal shell. Put the parts into separate bags so you know where it all goes back.
Tape around the part you want to cut. By leaving all the wording fully legible after cutting, we ran into a slight glitch (more about that later). These designs are often really pretty and hand painted! We drew a straight line onto the tape with marker as our guide.
Loosen the Bolts
Now it’s time to loosen the three bolts holding the base; the base is not needed for the DIY bookends. However, we’re only going to loosen them and tighten them up again. That’s so it will hold everything as we cut; then we can remove the bolts after.
If you watch the video, you’ll see we practiced on another machine first to get our technique down.
There are two ways to remove the bolts. Some makers drill them which sends sharp metal shavings flying.
But here’s our trick for removing the bolts with no mess. Instead of drilling, use an hand impact driver. An impact driver is a specialized tool (not to be confused with a screwdriver) that comes with a variety of bits for slotted and Phillips fasteners.
What is a Hand Impact Driver?
A hand impact driver is a manual tool used for loosening stubborn screws, bolts, or other fasteners that are difficult to remove. It is particularly useful when dealing with corroded, rusted, or overtightened fasteners. In this case, the bolts can be difficult to remove on a vintage sewing machine because the whole machine is dipped in black Japanning paint, seeping into every nook and cranny.
The hand impact driver operates using a combination of downward force and rotational torque (i.e there’s an inside gear that tries to turn it every time you hit it). It features a specialized bit holder that accepts screwdriver bits or hex bits, and a handle or grip for applying force.
To use a hand impact driver, you insert the appropriate bit into the holder, align it with the stuck fastener, and apply downward pressure while simultaneously putting pressure on the direction you want the fastener to turn. The impact driver’s design allows you to strike the end of the handle with a hammer or mallet to deliver sharp impacts that help loosen the fastener.
The impact generated by the blows helps break the bond (i.e. the Japanning paint) between the fastener and the material it is threaded into, making it easier to remove the screw or bolt. Once the bond is broken, if the bolt is still being stubborn, you can add some penetrating oil and let it seep in.
Hand impact drivers are commonly used in automotive repair, construction, and other applications where stubborn fasteners need to be released – like these DIY vintage sewing machine bookends.
Mark the Bolts
Before using the impact driver, use the silver Sharpie to run a line from the three bolts onto the bottom of the sewing machine.
Here’s how it will look. The silver marks show up against the black and will allow you to see when the bolt moves and is ready to unscrew.
Now take a hammer and impact driver and smack it to break the bond of the paint.
See here how the silver Sharpie marking no longer lines up?
The bolts can now be unscrewed later, as you see on the video!
After loosing the 3 bolts, move onto the next step.
Sewing Machine Shaft
The shaft running horizontally through the arm of the machine is what holds the hand wheel and needle assembly onto the machine. It needs to be removed to saw through the cast iron body.
However, we had a heck of a time figuring out how to remove it. At first we tried vice grips but only managed to remove one screw.
So we gave up on the shaft and decided to cut through it like we saw another blogger do on video. It looked easy enough so how hard could it be? Turns out, it’s very difficult to cut through. And because it’s hardened steel, it will dull a number of blades and slow down the process immensely.
After 10 minutes of making no progress with the hacksaw, you can see that Hubs barely even nicked the shaft. So it it was back to the drawing board to figure out how to remove it!
Every sewing machine is a little different and we finally figured it out. If you want make these DIY bookends, watch the video starting at the 5:31 timestamp to see how to remove the arm shaft on this 99 model! It will save you tons of time and aggravation.
Cutting the Sewing Machine in Half
Before starting to cut, protect the table surface with paper and oil the hacksaw blade. We also wrapped the base in plastic to protect it (in case I find another use for it).
Cut along the line on the tape. Veering off your line may leave a noticeable gap against the bookend so be patient and keep vertical as you saw.
Those metal shavings are fine, so be sure to wear eye protection in case the wind picks up while you’re working outside. It wouldn’t be fun to get that in your eyes.
If the hacksaw dulls as you are cutting, put in a fresh blade. But unless you try to cut through the shaft, one blade should suffice.
Remove the Sewing Machine Bed
Wrap up the paper with the metal shavings and clean the table top first before removing the sewing machine bed. Alternatively, work on the garage floor.
Since you already loosened the bolts, go ahead and finish removing them. Once you’re ready to remove the base, add a piece of wood before giving it a few taps with a hammer (remember it’s also sealed with the factory finish).
A few taps and it’s free! Perhaps I’ll think up a way to use the base for something else!
Check the cut edges of the two pieces to see if there are any bumps that need to be flattened!
Grind and Polish the Metal
If you are left with any metal burrs (we have a bump at the end of the cut where the two pieces separate), it will need to be smooth to sit flush again the book ends.
Use a dremel with an abrasive attachment to grind it smooth. Again wear eye protection and we’re also covering the surface areas for easy cleanup of the metal shavings.
Now polish the silver metal pieces if desired. Our favourite metal polish for sewing machines is Autosol Metal Polish.
It may seem clean enough, but look how much black tarnish comes off the cover plate after polishing!
Cut the Shaft
To put all the pieces back onto the sewing machine so it looks like it still works, you will need to cut the shaft into two pieces.
Use a dremel to cut each side of the shaft. When deciding where to cut, keep it shorter than each section of the sewing machine (i.e. subtract more than the width of the wood plug you’ll make in the next section). If you happen to cut the shaft just a bit too long, as long as it doesn’t extend longer than the cut, use a spade bit to drill out a hole in the wood plug.
This cut piece goes on the needle side of the machine.
And this one goes on the opposite side.
Put each respective shaft piece back through the centre the halved sewing machine sections. They each get re-fastened with a set screw.
Now, you can start to put the rest of the metal pieces back onto the sewing machine body.
The hand wheel side is pretty easy to assemble. If you want to see how to reinstall the parts for the needle bar, watch the video!
Create a pair of wood plugs so you can attached the two halves into the bookends with screws.
First, make a template by placing painters or duct tape over the two areas that were cut. Use an X-Acto knife to cut away the inside, leaving a template of the inside dimension of the two hollows in each piece of the sewing machine.
Stick the template to wood and cut out with a scroll saw or jig saw.
Sand as necessary. Once you’re happy with the fit, add clear silicone to permanently hold the wood plugs in place. Wipe away any silicone from the edge that will rest up against the bookends.
Now, let’s make the book ends. Just like we made this upcycled book shelf, we’re going to make book ends out of real books. This set of The Book of Knowledge was given to my Dad when he was 10 years old! I saved them from getting tossed out when my sisters and I were clearing out the house.
The trick is to hide metal book ends inside the books for support! We made the one you see below by bending sheet metal 90 degrees. If you buy them, try to get ones that are perfectly smooth.
If you prefer to make wooden book ends, this video from another maker shows how at the 6:07 minute mark.
Embellish the books if you wish or leave as is. Open the front cover of the vertical book and wrap it around the metal. For the horizontal book, wrap the back cover around the metal. You can add double faced tape the insides of the covers to help hold in place.
Mind the Gap!
Set the right half of the sewing machine on top of the book. Do you see our mistake?
There’s a big gap between the book and the sewing machine. Thats because of the way the base flares out at the bottom – and also because it’s a shorter 3/4 bed machine. You wouldn’t have this problem with a longer bed machine. Since we do prefer the smaller size, we’ll show you what we do to fix it!
On many of the old machines, we find fabric around the arm. It provides a place to put pins as you remove them to sew. That results in what’s called pin rash on the arm – lots of scratches from years of sticking pins in the fabric. So our solution is to create a ‘pin cushion’ to fill the gap using a styrofoam ball.
Measure the gap. Use a hacksaw and utility knife to cut and shape the foam ball to the same width. Then wrap with fibre fill.
Cut a strip of fabric wide enough to cover the styrofoam with some excess. Then use the longest stitch on your sewing machine to sew along both sides of the fabric. Gather it as necessary and wrap the foam ball, cutting and folding in the raw edge where it overlaps.
Now glue the fabric to the foam.
We love Aleene’s Tacky Glue for this step.
Pin as you glue and let it dry. Note to self: next time insert the pins a little beyond where you glue so the pins don’t become permanently glued in place! Needle nose pliers will help remove the pins if they do become stuck!
Glue the pincushion to the wood plug. Position the right half of the sewing arm on the base of the book lining up the pincushion vertically too. Pre-drill from inner side of the metal bookend through the book, pincushion and into the wood plug to secure. Then screw in place.
Stick some pins in to match the books!
On the other side, centre and position the plates onto the books. If you want them to sit flush, as they would on a real sewing machine bed, trace the outline and cut out the cover with a utility or X-acto knife.
Attaching the Left Arm
Measure down to see where the right arm meets the top of the book. Then add a piece of painter’s tape on the left side so you know where it should line up.
Before you screw anything in place, if you want to be sure of your placement, use some Alien Tape.
How to Make Sewing Machine Bookends
Now eyeball the placement in relation to the other half. Once you’re happy with it, remove the Alien Tape (it will gum up the drill bit), and predrill through the metal, front cover and into the wood. Two screws should do it to permanently fix in place.
DIY Bookends Reveal
Place your books in between the two halves of your DIY bookends and finito!
You’ve got yourself an awesome pair of Singer sewing machine bookends made with real books! That ‘pincushion’ really saved the day.
Didn’t I tell you these would be unique bookends!?
About the Books
The Book of Knowledge set is really perfect for this project because red is the main colour of the Singer sewing brand and they are thick and sturdy. These books were published in 1945 so they are 78 years old; the exact age that my father was when he passed away!
By the way, with Father’s Day coming up, I just wrote about this homemade gift for dad in honour of all dads everywhere :). If you need a unique idea for Father’s Day, check it out!
It’s not always easy to upcycle something that has sentimental value, so we would suggest scanning thrift stores for hard cover books you can use guilt-free.
DIY Bookends – Lessons Learned
A 3/4 bed machine is a good size for a bookshelf. Any bigger and you won’t have much room for books, which is the whole point. However, if we ever do this project again, we’ll likely cut right through the logos and skip having to make the pin cushion; maybe a true 50/50 cut?
I would also spend more time searching for a way to remove the shaft. Every machine is a little different. However, many parts are typically held in place by hidden setscrews. So take time to find those, and you’ll save a lot of time in the long run (and wear and tear on hacksaw blades)!
Sewing Machine and Table Ideas
Wanna see what other cool things you can make with sewing machine parts? Check out this thread holder and this DIY earring holder. We also have tons of unique sewing table ideas you won’t find anywhere else!
Pin DIY Bookends
Pinning is always welcome and appreciated!
Don’t Scrap it Challenge
As upcyclers, we don’t let anything go to waste – especially things that others might be tempted to scrap! So be sure to check out these don’t scrap it projects from the rest of the IBC team!
- Repurposed Takeaway Dish Polystyrene Casting Mold – A Crafty Mix
- How Anyone Can Make a Modern Hairpin Leg Desk – Tea and Forget me Nots
- Easily Change Up a Wood Bead Garland for each Season – Fifth Sparrow No More
- DIY Bookends – That’s us!