DIY Bookends – Sewing Machine Bookends

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.

Singer sewing machine stripped of its parts

Singer Model 99 is a good size for DIY bookends!

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 :).

Model 99 Singer sewing machine on shelf

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).

Stack of books in messy basement

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

[If you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered (disclosure): Clicking on the affiliate links below means we may receive a commission. We earn from qualifying purchases which we proudly donate to Alzheimer’s research. But don’t worry, you don’t pay a cent more! Thanks for helping to support our fundraiser!]

For this project you’ll need:

DIY Bookends Video

For all the details, please watch this video or proceed to the step-by-step tutorial below.

DIY Bookends

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.

Finger pointing to straight line on green tape wrapped around sewing machine before cutting for DIY bookends

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.

Upside down sewing machine clamp to a table

There are two ways to remove the bolts. Some makers drill them which sends sharp metal shavings flying.

An red X through a drill bit drilling out the bolts of the sewing machine

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.

Silver marker being put onto the bolt 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.

Close up of bolt showing the marking has shifted after loosening

Now take a hammer and impact driver and smack it to break the bond of the paint.

Tapping the bolts underneath the sewing machine bed to loosen them

See here how the silver Sharpie marking no longer lines up?

Finger pointing to bolt showing how the marks have shifted

The bolts can now be unscrewed later, as you see on the video!

Loosening bolts under the sewing machine bed with a screw driver

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.

Vice grips on the end of the sewing machine

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.

Hands holding removed shaft from sewing machine showing the nick mark where it would't cut

There’s barely a scratch where we attempted to cut!

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.

Hacksaw cutting through top of sewing machine for DIY bookends

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.

Metal shavings on white paper beside sewing machine being cut for DIY bookends

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).

Block of wood on sewing machine bed as hammer is tapping it to remove for DIY bookends

A few taps and it’s free! Perhaps I’ll think up a way to use the base for something else!

Hand holding top part of sewing machine separated from the base for DIY bookends

Check the cut edges of the two pieces to see if there are any bumps that need to be flattened!

Two halves of sewing machine for DIY bookends on table covered in newspaper with cut shaft in foreground

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.

Finger pointing to metal nub where pieces were cut apart for DIY bookends

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.

Dremel in the process of grinding down the nub

Now polish the silver metal pieces if desired. Our favourite metal polish for sewing machines is Autosol Metal Polish.

Tube of Autosol metal polish with decorating silver sewing plate

It may seem clean enough, but look how much black tarnish comes off the cover plate  after polishing!

Decorating sewing plate attached to the arm (needle side)

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.

Hand holding left side of the metal shaft that has been cut for the DIY bookends

And this one goes on the opposite side.

Hands holding cut metal shaft for right side of the DIY bookends

Put each respective shaft piece back through the centre the halved sewing machine sections. They each get re-fastened with a set screw.

Finger pointing to the area where the metal shaft goes back

Now, you can start to put the rest of the metal pieces back onto the sewing machine body.

Right side of cut sewing machine with hand wheel attached and metal plates in foreground waiting to be attached

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!

End of the sewing machine showing the inner workings of the needle assembly

Wood Plugs

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.

Green painters tape over one end of the cut sewing machine with an X-acto knife cutting around the inside

Stick the template to wood and cut out with a scroll saw or jig saw.

Hand putting the wood plug into right side of the cut sewing machine fro DIY bookends

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. Both wood plugs in place

Book Ends

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.

Stack of red books from The Book of Knowledge to make the ends and bottom of DIY bookendsThe 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.

The Book of Knowledge standing beside metal bookend for the DIY bookends

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?

Right side of sewing machine sitting on DIY bookends

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!

Finger pointing to a gap between the DIY bookends and right side of cut sewing machine

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.

Hand holding a foam ball against right side of sewing machine and tracing around with pencil

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.

Foam piece in place between the gap of the DIY bookends and sewing machine

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.

Hand holding fabric wrapped foam with pins sticking out and container of glue on table

Now glue the fabric to the foam.

Hand squeezing glue between fabric and foam

We love Aleene’s Tacky Glue for this step.

Fabric wrapped foam with pins sticking out and container of glue on table

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!

Hand showing both sides of fabric wrapped foam as it dries with pins sticking out and bottle of tacky glue in background

Assemble Bookends

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!

Right side of DIY bookends showing pin cushion with two red pin stuck in it

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.

Overview of needle plates on DIY bookends

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.

Needle plates positioned on DIY bookends

Before you screw anything in place, if you want to be sure of your placement, use some Alien Tape.

Hand holding end of sewing machine showing Alien Tape on wood plugHow 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.

Left side of DIY bookends

Left side of DIY bookends

DIY Bookends Reveal

Place your books in between the two halves of your DIY bookends and finito!

Sewing machine bookends

You’ve got yourself an awesome pair of Singer sewing machine bookends made with real books! That ‘pincushion’ really saved the day.

Decorative DIY bookends

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!

Inside the pages of the The Book of Knowledge showing 1945 copyright

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.

Thrift store books for DIY bookends

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!

Pinnable image for DIY bookends

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!

  1. Repurposed Takeaway Dish Polystyrene Casting Mold – A Crafty Mix
  2. How Anyone Can Make a Modern Hairpin Leg Desk – Tea and Forget me Nots
  3. Easily Change Up a Wood Bead Garland for each Season – Fifth Sparrow No More
  4. DIY Bookends – That’s us!

45 thoughts on “DIY Bookends – Sewing Machine Bookends

  1. AbSooooooLutely brilliant, Sara. I love these bookends so much. Totally unique. Thanks for the detailed tutorial. It’s going to help a lot one day when I find that non working Singer.

    • Gosh, if only you lived closer, we could send one your way lol! Now to find room on the bookshelf for ours lol.

  2. This is so clever and pretty. Especially how you filled the gap. Seems like it was a lot of work but glad it was worth it.

    • Actually, if we had figured out how to remove that shaft from the get-go, it really wouldn’t have been too much work at all. Also, I really didn’t want to cut through the pretty Singer logos, but that would save the time of having to make the pin cushion. So I guess we worked out all the kinks so it goes smoothly for the next DIY’er that wants to give this a go lol.

  3. Super genius, love it. Pinned
    I visited you via Handmade Monday #328
    If not already part of SSPS, and are interested, find my entries: Texas Caviar and No Bake Flourless Pecan Balls
    You will find the linkup information (1) In the Top bar under Blogging: Weekly Senior Salon Pit Stop (2) In the sidebar: Click on 2nd image; (3) under the “Recent Posts
    We hope to meet you there virtually.

    • Thanks so much Esme! We are part of the SSPS – see you there 🙂

    • Thanks so much Kristin! Don’t be using your daughter’s quilting machine for this lol!

    • You know how it is lol! Always gotta think on the fly when you’re a blogger!

  4. What a fabulous upcycle, I love the result and also the detail you shared in how you made it happen. Love love love it. Did I mention that I love it? 😀

  5. Too cool! A neat recycling idea….yea who knew you could do that to one of those. Happy Pink Saturday!

    • Happy Pink Saturday right back! Thanks for dropping by Amy!

  6. What a super clever DIY…. love it!!
    Thank you for sharing this project at Create, Bake, Grow & Gather this week. I’m delighted to be featuring your DIY bookends at this weeks party and pinning too.

    • Thank you so much Kerryanne for stopping by to let me know; so excited to be featured this week!

    • That’s awesome Beverly – thank you SO much for the feature; so excited 🙂

  7. Wonderful project idea! I DO have to take exception to the comment that the Singer 99 is not desirable, though. The 99 and it’s sister machine the Spartan are highly sought-after by quilters and other sewists looking for a reliable machine to convert to a handcrank. Please, if you want to make bookends, be absolutely sure that any antique or vintage machine you use is truly unsalvageable. The only way to determine this is to rely on a professional sewing machine restoration expert. While a machine restoration may be beyond your own capabilities, the loss of treasured old machines is a loss of an important piece of our history.

    • Thank you Carol! I appreciate your feedback and you are absolutely right about the 99. I misspoke when I said these weren’t desirable and that wasn’t my intent!

      What I meant to write was: “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. As I write this, he is busy working on a shipment now!”

      I didn’t realize that these are sought after by quilters and sewers to convert to hand cranks, so that is so interesting. Do you know why they’d be converted here when we have electricity?

      This particular machine truly was unsalvageable and not beyond his capabilities. We’d never upcycle a piece for the sake of writing a blog about it. As a matter of fact, when we upcycled this guitar ( I waited 7 years for one to come along that was beyond saving. We are definitely on the same page in that respect!

      I don’t agree that the only way to determine if a machine is unsalvageable is to rely on a professional sewing machine restoration expert. Hubs used to restore vintage cars before learning about sewing machines. He’s so passionate about restoring these beautiful vintage machines that he has become the person that people actually bring their machine to when the ‘experts’ can’t get it working. He’s like a dog with a bone; if he can’t get it working then no one can.

      Just because someone is a ‘professional expert’ doesn’t mean they know more than someone who has the passion to learn on their own. I guess that’s a misconception that I take exception to lol. Experts who are running a business don’t take anywhere near the care and time that my husband does. And that’s only because they have to make a profit and time is money. My husband, on the other hand, takes these machines apart piece by piece and cleans everything in an ultrasonic cleaner then meticulously replaces anything that’s worn or broken and puts them back together. He takes the time to hand polish every inch and also rewire foot pedals that are a dangerous fire hazard. He rebuilds motors with parts he saves from machines, like this one, that can’t be brought back. He donates many of these and, more often than not, his only reward is the smile of the person who will use, love and cherish it for another umpteen years.

      As much as his hobby has taken over our small house and I long for the days when we had more open space, I’m truly proud of what he’s accomplished with this passion project of his :).

    • Thank so much Donna! We’re all about saving things from landfill :).

      • I have 2 vintage machines that I would gladly donate to you to repurpose into something that someone could use. We take road trips a couple times a year and could drop them off. this year it is Utah in July,
        New Mexico in Oct. and probably Az in winter. What state do you live in?

        • That’s a generous offer Jackie but we’re in Canada! Your road trip sounds so fun; it’s been ages since we were in the US!

    • So glad you love these Cecilia; I was hoping you would!

  8. What an amazing project! I am in awe with your creativity and you and the Hubs skill in this upcycle. I’ll be sharing you as a feature pick at next week’s Home Imagined Link Party!

    • So excited to hear that we’re being featured Melanie! Thank you for letting us know. 🙂

  9. You always have some of the most amazing ideas Sara. I have had an idea for bookends, but I never thought to use actual books to complete the look. I am in love with the sewing machine idea. I love that your husband takes such care in restoring them. Another bucket list item for me, learn to sew!

    • Thank you so much Cara! It was so rewarding figuring out how to use the books as ‘book’ ends; if anything, I live good pun :). I hope you fulfill your bucket list! I love sewing and really must do more of it!

  10. Hello Sara! We’re excited to feature this post on the Fabulous Friday Link Party tomorrow! Thanks and we hope to see you there!

  11. So very cool Sara! I love your and your Husband’s passion and all the detailed work that went into not just the project, but also this post. Thanks for linking up at the Fabulous Friday link party. WE are so happy to be featuring you this week.

  12. This is one of the cutest and most clever bookmarks for a sewer, seamstress, sewing room that I’ve ever seen! Well done you two!

  13. This is amazing! Thank you for sharing it with us on Farmhouse Friday. I wanted to feature it but can’t consistently get the photos to load. Might be my browser. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  14. How unique is that? Love it!! By the way, I found your post at a party and wanted to let you know that I host parties too. Won’t you drop by and linkup with me?

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