The work table/cutting table is complete.
This table is nothing like what I had before. In New York my table was 4' x 8' and it was covered with a custom-sized rotary cutting mat that I had ordered from cutting-mats.net.
But I did not bring that table with me for several reasons.
1. That table was too wide for the new space and it was both too wide, and too tall for me to work comfortably. My previous table was 42" high and 48" wide. A better table would be around 37" to 38" high and 42" wide.
2. Although the large seamless rotary cutting surface was great in many ways, I also found it incredibly frustrating. It ends up, that except for quilting or cutting small geometric pieces, I don't usually use rotary cutters. I prefer to cut garments with long shears. I prefer to draw on my fabric and cut directly from the drawn patterns with shears. I pay far more attention to what I am doing with shears than I do with a rotary cutter, when my hands tend to run far faster than my brain can register what they are doing.
3. Delicate and problem fabrics slip on the rotary cutting mat but not so much on a cloth-covered surface, and I can always place a rotary mat over the padded surface when I want to use it.
My original plan was to make a table that was 42 inches wide by 8 feet long. But my room is long and it gradually occurred to me that a longer table might actually be better. It started with the fair linen. I am in the altar guild of my church. The woman who has cared for the linen for many many years needed to take a sabatical, and I offered to fill in. Now I love caring for fine linens and find the process of caring for them and ironing them to be a very mindful and calming way to spend some time. As I was ironing a linen one day, the same time I was planning my cutting room, it occurred to me that if my work table were 9 feet instead of 8 feet long, I could lay the long altar linen out flat for ironing without having to drape or move it.
After that day I couldn't get the idea of a 9 foot table out of my mind. It is not necessary. I don't even know how long I will be doing the linen, if this is a temporary or long-term assignment. Yet while I am doing this I have linens spread out on this surface at least 4 times a month and I have the space. The table is long enough that I can do pretty much anything I want on it, I can spread out 3 yards of fabric for cutting. I can work on two projects at once. I can block a sweater and still have room to work on something else.
And so my work table is not exactly what I originally planned. Even though I had issues with my slippery former table, it didn't really occur to me to pad a table until I started planning how I would put this table together. Maybe I'm just ready to accept how I actually work rather than how I think I should work. I think I am happy with the result. Only time will tell, just as it took me some time to figure out what I didn't like about my previous table. But I might just have it right this time.
This new work table is made from 1/2 inch plywood. Over the plywood I placed two layers of 1/2" thick wool batting which was compressed to 1/2" during the process of stretching the cover over the top. The cover fabric is cotton twill printed with a 1" grid. The entire process worked well. However, if I were doing it over again, I think I would use 3/4" plywood, or have a proper table top built. 1/2" plywood is a little too flexible and unstable at this length, although it doesn't really matter because it is completely supported by cabinetry underneath and I have no real reason to move the top. It should last for several years before this becomes an issue. When I do need a new top, or to repad this top, I will enlist another pair of hands to help with the stretching and lifting.