How many people do their own upholstery? For me, the chair frame is
the easy part. Yesterday I spent six hours upholstering the seat of an
easy chair that I designed, prototyped and built in less than 100
hours. I still need to upholster the back. The final seat looks good,
but the first shot looked like something Homer Simpson would have
done. Let's just say I've got a lot of respect for upholstery
At one point, I wanted to look at making upholstered furniture. My wife
had bought a recliner at a garage sale and was reupholstering it. I
thought I could perhaps make a couch, or something.
Anyway, I found very, very little on the subject of building frames for
upholstered furniture. Lots on upholstery itself, but nothing of the
building and, more importantly, the design of the frame. Do you have any
No. I'm working from "Upholstery: A Beginner's Guide" by David James.
It's a very well-done book that focuses on re-upholstering furniture.
My goal is to use upholstery where the Danish moderns used woven cane.
So I'm just padding and upholstering frames. Despite the book's best
efforts to teach me how to upholster, I remain an upholstering moron.
I'm applying fabric with staples. I couldn't even imagine trying to
Ever watch Norm do an upholtery job on a NYW episode?
Personally, I'd rank doing upholstery right up there with laying concrete
and brain surgery as things best left to others.
SFWIW, some high schools offer evening adult education classes in
Maybe something is available in your area.
I might be able to help. A bit of history: After 30 yrs of
woodworking, I had a mild stroke in '01. Didn't think I'd ever get
back into the shop. After 3 yrs and lots of therapy, I'm well enough
to do something productive again. I went back to school in '05....
in upholstery. Since it complimented woodworking, that was about the
only thing reasonable, at the local tech school, for my continued
rehab. I graduated this past July. Feels pretty good to be back in
the shop. Feels pretty good to be back, anywhere!
As for as making couch or chair frames, there are some areas that need
attention, so that you can pull fabric toward the back, sides, down
the side-bottom (and back, somtimes). Conventional furniture is
slightly different than older furniture, but basically the same.
Bergere style, and the like, have an extra feature for fabric
alignment along the side-front-bottom... behind the arm at the seat.
I have several pics, for demo, and I can find other examples, I'm
sure, if need be. I have several ongoing projects that may give some
of these examples, as well. I can help with that hand stitching,
Have a specific question? Send an email (and pic?) and I'll be glad
to reply, with pics, explanations, etc.
Glad to hear that, sounds like a tough row to hoe.
One question that comes to mind, in the areas of the furniture that don't
show, is it preferable to use a wood that is more amenable to upholstery
staples? It would seem that woods like poplar would be more conducive to
good connections than some of the harder woods. Or is that simply a
function of good technique and a good quality staple gun? More fundamental
question, what is the tool *real* upholsterers use for anchoring the cloth?
If you're going to be dumb, you better be tough
It's not so much the wood that's the problem with frames or stapling.
Wood jointery is often an issue, though, as for as wood, itself. Many
cheap pieces are poorly butt-jointed and stapled together. Like
anything else, it depends on who made a piece, as to whether it is
soundly constructed. I have two German chairs whose internal
constructions are finger-jointed together. For this discussion, I
suppose we are to consider we are making our own piece to be
upholstered, so any good, sound wood and good, sound construction is
Attaching fabric to wood is a matter of being able to staple in a
convenient place so that the staple is imbedded well. The frame
construction is designed for this attaching, also. Good technique, to
me, is not pulling fabric too much in one area, such that there is a
disfigurement in the looks of the finished upholstery. Good technique
is also the way you fold around corners, curves, etc. for good looks
In many cases, there may be more than one wood member to attach a
particular fabric section to. Attaching to the wrong wood member will
affect the finished upholstery, hence, the frame design is
significant. Frame design accommodates bulk padding, in some cases,
as well, not necessarily just for the convenience of stapling.
Staples are the tool of choice, today. Don't buy China staples, if
you can help it, but any staple will break if it's embedded in a hard
wood or knot. Tacks, these days, are used where a staple gun can't
reach, like under or behind hardware of a recliner or in angular
areas. When restoring antiques and the like, some customers want
everything original, so tacks, as original, will be used instead of
staples, no matter if you can see them or not.
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