A padded pressing board – and how to make one

Today I finally made the padded pressing board for my pressing station: something I had been meaning to do for months.

My pressing station is a wooden topped 3 drawer unit from Ikea’s Varde™ range of free-standing kitchen furniture: nice and sturdy, with a solid wood top (and because it is designed for kitchen use, you can also load up the drawers without the bottoms sagging out!). It is a good height for me for pressing, at about 90 cm. I wanted to make a padded pressing board to go on top: a couple of extra centimetres added height was not a problem.

The pressing station, without the padded pressing board

The pressing station, without the padded pressing board

The top of the unit is 105 by 65 cm, so I made the board itself a little smaller: 103 x 63 cm, so that it wouldn’t stick out over the edge once it was padded or get snagged on as I went past to my stash, which lives just beyond the pressing station.

I wanted a large, sturdy pressing zone, not to soft and not to hard, and where the continuous pressing wouldn’t badly affect how the padded board looked.

So what did I use and what tools do you need to make a padded pressing board? (There is a complete list of tools and materials at the bottom of the post).

I used a hardwood marine ply-board, 18 mm thick (so it wouldn’t be affected by steam and heat and wouldn’t warp). I had it cut to size (103 x 63 cm) at the wood merchants, as they can do that in a couple of seconds for 1 Euro, and then I lightly sanded all the edges so that it wouldn’t be sharp against the cloth. In the photo the board looks curved, but that is just camera distortion: its really a perfect rectangle!

The marine ply, ready for padding

The marine ply, ready for padding

For the first layer of the padding I used Insul-bright™, a product that combines a thin batting with heat reflective qualities (it’s used for oven-mitts and that sort of thing).  I wanted a product that would reflect the heat back up to the surface, and also provide a bit of protection for the ply, so that steam wouldn’t easily get through to the ply and cause staining etc.

Insul-bright, manufactured by the Warm Company

Insul-bright, manufactured by the Warm Company

I used the Insul-bright with the thick side down, so that if moisture does get through to the ply side, there is fibre there to soak it up!

A close-up of Insul-Bright

A close-up of Insul-Bright

But I wanted to press onto a cotton batting, so the next layer was Warm Tater™ 100% cotton batting, the sort you use to make pockets for microwaving potatoes. Because it is made to be regularly in contact with heat. I figured it was just right for a pressing board: also it is densely woven, but still quite thin and smooth.

Warm tater batting

Warm tater batting, manufactured by the Warm Company

I made the top cover from Iron-Quick™, a woven aluminium with a cotton backing that is used for ironing board covers and casserole cover liners etc. It is very thin and sliver grey in colour. You use it with the aluminium side out.

Last of all I used large piece of thick felt of provide a backing for the board. Mine was red, because that was what I happened to have handy, but any colour will do!

Red felt

Red felt

Step by step:

First, assemble your tools: for dealing with the padding layers you will need scissors, a quilting pencil (grey) a quilting ruler (1 1/2″ wide), and an Olfa point cutter and a self-healing mat can also be useful. Ironically, you will also need an ironing board and a warm dry iron and a pressing cloth!

Cutting and measuring tools

Cutting and measuring tools

For attaching the padding to the board you will need a staple-gun, a small hammer, a pair of pliers and either double sided carpet tape or all purpose glue. I used an electric staple-gun: I don’t think a hand powered one would be strong enough to penetrate the hardwood ply. The hammer is useful if a staple doesn’t quite go in 100%: a light tap will send it home. If you mis-staple, use the pliers to remove the staple, and begin again.

 

A staple-gun, hammer and pliers

A staple-gun, hammer and pliers

You also need a good, clean, sturdy working surface: I used my fold out quilting table, and good lighting. I made the padded pressing board in my studio, where I have full spectrum light.

And very important: eye protection goggles: they can be nasty things, staple-guns!

Eye protection: don't staple without it!

Eye protection: don’t staple without it!

The first thing I did was to lightly press the Insul-bright (use a pressing cloth, don’t press directly onto the Insul-bright), the batting and the Iron-quick fabric, to get all the creases out. The felt was on a roll, so didn’t need pressing.

The three fabrics for the board: left to right: batting, Insul-bright and Quick Iron

The three fabrics for the board: left to right: batting, Insul-bright and Quick Iron

Then I spread the Insul-bright smooth and flat on the table and laid the ply board on top of it, the side that is going to be the back of the board is facing up for the whole of the following procedure. Then I used the ruler and the quilter’s pencil to mark a line 1 1/2″ out from the edge of the board all the way around. Because I didn’t want a lot of bulk at the back of the board, so that it wouldn’t sit unevenly when it was finished, I only let the Insul-bright overlap onto the back by about 3/4″.

Marking the line on the Insul-bright

Marking the line on the Insul-bright

The board lying on the Insul-bright, with the 1 1/2" line marked

The board lying on the Insul-bright, with the 1 1/2″ line marked

I then cut along the line with scissors. Now is a good time to put on your goggles. Make sure you read and follow the instructions for your staple-gun. When you lie it down between tasks, put the safety catch on. I folded each of the corners up the side of the board and over to the back, and tacked them in place with a single staple. Then I folded the sides of the Insul-bright up onto the back and stapled them in position with a couple of staples on each side. Just enough to hold it in positions and hold it taut.

The Insul-bright folded over the sides and up to the back and tacked in place.

The Insul-bright folded over the sides and up to the back and tacked in place.

I lifted the board and checked that the Insul-bright was taught with no big wrinkles. Then I smoothed the batting down on the table, and laid the board on top of it, with the Insul-bright side down on the batting.

The board covered with layer no. 1: Insul-bright

The board covered with layer no. 1: Insul-bright

I tacked the batting into the sides of the board, not into the back: that way I didn’t risk hitting the staples I used for the Insul-bright, and I didn’t want to have the added bulk around the edges of batting on the back. To make this process easier I stapled the batting along one long side in a few places, and then lifted the board onto it’s edge, so that I didn’t have to staple sideways into it.

Stapling the batting into the sides of the board

Stapling the batting into the sides of the board

When I had one side stapled down, I turned the board 180 degrees, pulled the batting tight and stapled the other edge, also into the side of the board. I started in the middle of each edge and worked out to the corners, smoothing en pulling taut as I went. Then I did the same for the short sides.

The batting stapled to the board

The batting stapled to the board

Then I laid the board back side up, and carefully, with the scissors, trimmed the batting level with the back of the board (so no overlap from the sides to the back).

The batting before trimming

The batting before trimming

The batting after trimming

The batting after trimming

Last of all, I trimmed off the dog ears of batting at the corners, where they would otherwise cause bulk.

The insul-bright folded over the sides and up to the back and stapled in place, the batting stapled and trimmed and the dog ears cut off

The insul-bright folded over the sides and up to the back and stapled in place, the batting stapled and trimmed and the dog ears cut off

Then I checked the front of the board again to be sure that everything was nice and taut and smooth.

The front of the board with batting

The front of the board with batting

I laid the Iron-quick, aluminium side down on the table and laid the batted board on top of it. I cut the Iron-Quick a more generous size than the Insul-bright, with an overlap to the back of a couple of inches, but that had more to do with the size of my piece, than that it was necessary. A 2″ overlap would have been fine.

The board lying on the Iron-quick

The board lying on the Iron-quick

Starting in the middle of a long side, I pulled the Iron-quick taut and stapled it to the back of the board. I was beyond the Insul-bright line, so no risk of hitting existing staples.

The Iron-quick and the first round of staples

The Iron-quick and the first round of staples

I did both long sides, with a staple about every 5 inches, then the short sides, leaving enough room free near the corners, so that I could neaten them and fold them in. Before doing the corners, I checked on the front of the board that the Iron-quick was smooth and taut. I stapled the Iron-quick down near one edge of the corner, and them trimmed away the excess before folding the other edge of the trimmed section and stapling it in place. That was a bit fiddly, but take it steady and it works okay!

Stapling a corner: stage one

Stapling a corner: stage one

Stapling the corner, stage two: excess fabric trimmed away

Stapling the corner, stage two: excess fabric trimmed away

The corner stage three: stapled down

The corner stage three: stapled down

After I had stapled all the corners, I went and put a second row of staples along all the sides, spaced between the other staples, to get the cover nice and tight and secure. See the photo above.

Now the board is basically complete, but, there are nasty scratchy staples on the underside: that is where the felt comes in: it provides a non-scratchy non-slip surface, so the board won’t slip about when you are pressing. Cut a piece of felt slightly larger all around than the board (if your board is small enough, you could cut the felt precisely to size, that is, slightly smaller that the board surface, but because my board was so big, I couldn’t stick the felt with the necessary degree of accuracy, so chose another method) and lay it aside. You can stick the felt to the back side of the board with glue or with double-sided carpet tape: I used tape, I didn’t have to wait for it to dry, and it will be easier to remove the felt if I want to replace the cover at some point.

Don’t be stingy with the tape! I used two rows on the long sides, one row on the short sides and a bit in the middle. The tape is toothed at the edges, which makes it really easy to align two rows right next to each other. Tape about 1/4 of an inch in from the sides of the padding: you don’t want the felt to stick out beyond the padding when the board is finished.

The board back with the carpet tape ready for sticking the felt to

The board back with the carpet tape ready for sticking the felt to

Lie the felt on the board, so that it covers the whole back, and then, lifting the felt nearest to you, remove the covering from half the tape, (the tape nearest where you are standing): the tape in the middle, half of each short side and one long side. Hold the felt with one hand: the rest can rest on the tape that still has the covering,  and then moving from the middle smooth the felt into position, working towards you. When the first half is stuck down, lift the other half of the felt, remove the covering tape and smooth the rest of the felt down and press it into position, again moving form the centre to the edge.

Then turn the board over, right side up: there should be a line of felt protruding round the board. Very carefully trim this away, without cutting the Iron-quick, you can use a pair of scissors, or the point cutter and self-healing mat, but be careful: you don’t want to spoil it at this stage and this is tricky!

Trimming the felt at the edges after sticking

Trimming the felt at the edges after sticking

Because the felt is not glued right up to the edge, there is room for the blade to slice of cut along, but Iron-quick doesn’t respond well to abrasion, so watch out with protruding screws etc. on knives and scissors. I’m talking from previous experience here, in case you hadn’t guessed!

The completed padded pressing board

The completed padded pressing board

Congratulations: your padded pressing board is finished, lay it on your pressing station or table and enjoy!

The padded pressing board in position

The padded pressing board in position

List of tools and materials:

Marine plywood board, already cut to the size you need, and with the edges lightly sanded.

Insul-bright: sufficient to cover the top and sides of the board and overlap onto the back.

Warm tater batting: sufficient to cover the the top and sides of the board and overlap onto the back.

Iron-quick: sufficient to cover the the top and sides of the board and overlap onto the back. (All three of these speciality fabrics are available from Nancy’s Notions. http://www.nancysnotions.com

Thick felt: sufficient to cover the back of the board, with a small excess round the edges.

An ironing board with iron and pressing cloth.

Scissors and (optional: an Olfa point cutter and self healing mat).

Quilters pencil and 1 1/2″ wide ruler.

Staple-gun with RVS staples the correct size (so they won’t got right through the board! I used 14mm on 18 mm board). Use RVS so they won’t rust.

Small hammer and a pair of pliers.

Double sided carpet tape (or all purpose glue).

A table or similar to work at: sturdy and well lit.

Eye protection goggles.

A steady hand and eye and enough time to take it steady!

Ready for quilting and pressing action!

Ready for quilting and pressing action!

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