It doesn't matter what it is; if it's made out of cast iron, I like it (the one exception being cast iron waste stacks, those can be pretty nasty). Sure, if you beat on cast iron enough it'll crack or break, and if you expose it to water long enough it'll corrode, but for my money there isn't much that screams old-school, rock-solid like cast iron.
We had a relatively slow week this week, mostly due to the number of jobs I had to get out and bid. Bidding a lot of jobs makes for a chaotic schedule, which makes for a lot of down time. And with that down time this week, I figured I might as well do something with the old treadle sewing machine that was not-so-recently donated to me.
I needed something to use for the top of the piece, and since I was running low on any new material I could use, I turned to the pile of doors I've grabbed from the south city alleys around my house. I'm not into digging through anybody's garbage, but when I see doors laying by the dumpsters, waiting to be picked up and taken to the dump...I grab 'em, as long as they're solid wood and not too beat to hell.
Anyways...I had a couple narrow single-panel doors that I never could think of anything to do with, so I ripped 'em apart, cut the rails to the size I needed and glued up a slab. While that was drying, I cleaned the old cast iron treadle stand with some TSP, and spray painted everything with a couple coats of primer, a couple coats of semi-gloss black, and then a couple coats of a satin clear coat. Somehow, the semi-gloss paint and satin top coat ends up as a sheen right in the middle, which I like; it's not so shiny that anything looks brand new, but it's not so dull that it looks like something's been sitting in the attic for the past 400 years.
With the slab glued and ready for whatever was to come next, I thought about the shape of the table top. The treadle stand is nothing but curves and arcs and circular shapes, so I didn't want to do anything too square or rectangular. Luckily, I built something similar several years ago and still had the template that I made and used for the top, so I grabbed it and got to work.
The template I have is just a piece of plywood that's already been cut to the exact size and shape of what I want. I traced the outline of the template on the glued-up slab, and used a jigsaw to cut away the bulk of the material I didn't need. From there, I clamped the template to the slab, and used a couple different flush-cut pattern bits in the router to follow the outline of the template and leave the slab in the exact shape of the template. Then...sanding. Lots, and lots of sanding.
I could have cleaned up the slab to the point that there was nothing but bare wood - pine - left, but these old doors had about 8 layers of old paint, and I'm sort of a sucker for leaving those colors exposed. These doors had been painted white, pink, blue and a couple shades of green over the years, and a little strategic sanding exposed all the colors while still yielding a relatively smooth surface. Once everything was sanded, I threw on a couple layers of wipe-on satin poly (you couldn't pay me enough money to apply polyurethane with a brush), which did a nice job of both protecting the surface and accentuating the various colors.
After all the sanding and whatnot, there wasn't much left but assembly, and that amounted to using all of 4 screws to attach the top to the treadle base. The top isn't perfect - some of the old dowel pins used to attach the door rails to the stiles are exposed, and there were a couple holes leftover from hinge screws that didn't appreciate the router action - and leaving all the old paint on there definitely isn't a look a lot of people go for...but there are pretty good odds you won't find another little treadle desk or table quite like this one (and maybe someday I'll get an actual camera, instead of using my iPhone, so the picture quality isn't so janky).