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Brief History Of Upholstery
Tools And Workshop Requirements
Types And Styles Of Frames
Springs And Spring Units
Stuffing Materials
Cover Materials
Measuring, Cutting, And Preparing Covers
Basic Principles Of
Types Of Stitched Edges And Fronts
Making An Easy Chair With Cushion Seat
The Arm
The Back
The Seat
Second Stuffing-Calico Covers
Pin-Cushion Seat-Stools
Dining-Chairs-Loose Seats
Cable Springing And Latex Cushions
Occasional Chair-Cable Sprung
A Bedroom Chair
Modern Tensile-Sprung Easy-Chair
Adaptable Settee Unit
Upholstery Repairs
Upholstery Terminology

Upholstery Springing

( Originally Published 1961 )

The hand-sprung job, particularly today, is a fair guide to good-quality upholstery. One could almost describe it as the bespoke part of the trade. This of course does not mean that other forms of springing don't produce goodquality furniture. Quite the opposite, in fact, for not only do the manufacturers turn out good-quality upholstery, they also combine it with excellent framework, particularly with show-wood settees and chairs.

However, in building a hand-sprung job the craftsman can make himself a foundation exactly to his design or liking and to match the type of upholstery he has in mind. The combining of different-size springs and different gauges gives a flexibility to the creation of the article. For not only does the springing give shape and body, it also decides the amount of `give' to weight upon the different parts of the article.

After deciding how many springs are wanted for the seat and back, and sometimes the arms, together with the various gauges, the sewing-in of the springs can proceed. In the case of a seat they are placed upon the webbing and evenly spaced, the edges of the top coils being approximately two inches apart. A point to watch for here is to see that the `knot' that finishes off the making of a spring is facing towards the centre of the area being sprung. This of course applies to the outside rows of springs mostly. When these `knots' face outwards they are liable to tear the spring canvas that eventually covers the springing and is tacked down on to the bottom rail. In springing chair or settee backs the springs are usually placed a little farther towards the top rail which brings the bottom row just above the level of the seat. Also this bottom row of springs can sometimes be longer springs and a stouter gauge, depending on the design of the back.

Having placed the springs in position the spring needle is threaded with a medium twine and the sewing-in started. At this stage upholsterers sometimes mark the webbing where the springs are standing and remove them from the webs, as they are usually knocked over in the process of sewing-in. They then place them one at a time as required. This is much easier and also allows you to start from the back of the farthest point away from yourself. The `spring' needle, or `packing' needle, is passed from underneath to come out close against the spiral coil and then returned on the other side of the coil and a slip knot tied, and pulled tightly, firmly holding the spring to the webbing. Each spring is caught at three points in this way, being tied with a single knot at each point and a double knot at the end or whenever the twine runs out. When the area is completely sewn in, the springs should be quite firm and unable to turn. They are now ready to be laced together with a laid cord. The object of lacing the springs together is threefold. It stops them moving about; it puts them under tension and they are tied or laced just in the right position. The springs on the perimeter when laced are leaning slightly outwards but with the compression of the springs when any weight is upon them, they compress to an upright position. The lacing is started from the back rail and tacked off at the front, and in lacing `back' springs, from the bottom rail to the top rail. In the case of arms springs the procedure is from the inside to the facing, longways.

Assuming we are lacing the seat of an average easychair, there will likely be nine springs in three rows of three. Cut off three lengths of laid cord, the distance from back to front, and approximately half as much again. Fix three temporary tacks (tacks only half driven home) in the back rail in line with the centre of the spring row. Loop the cord once around the tack leaving a tail end long enough to reach the top coil of the spring and to knot it off, and then drive home the tack. With the three lengths of cord now anchored in this fashion, come to the front of the job to start lacing. Pass the cord around the third rung down of the back spring and pull back the spring until it is leaning towards the back rail. Hold it in position by the cord and then place the palm of your hand on top of the spring and compress it to a distance it will be likely to take when anyone sits on it. At this point of compression the spring should be upright and it is then secured by the knot. From that position the cord is brought up inside the spring to the top spiral, knotted again and thence to the next spring. The centre springs of course need less tilting back and the spacing between the top knots of twine are about an inch apart or equal to the spacing on the webbing. As the front row of springs is reached, the procedure is reversed with that spring leaning towards the front and dropping the cord inside to the third rung down. The whole row of laced springs is then pulled taut and tacked home, the end of the cord being looped around the top coil and knotted. The ends of the back springs can all be done together after the completion of the lacing. The lacing from side to side serves the purpose of keeping the rows of springs straight with a slightly less bias towards the sides. As the laid cord crosses the long lacing from back to front, give a loop over the cord just to make a firm entity to the whole thing. It will now be seen that with any weight on the centre of the seat the whole spring foundation compresses but the springs revert to an upright position. This is the method of creating firm seating foundations that last for years and give lasting comfort. The springing is not allowed to buckle or twist and the maximum life is gained from the temper of the spring. The same basic operation applies to the other parts to be sprung but with a lighter touch. For example, back springing is carried out with lesser-gauge springs for softness. Every effort must be made to retain this softness. By putting too much tension on the springs or by too tight a lacing this softness can be lost.

The reader by now will be able to appreciate the tremendous difference in `work time' between the handsprung job and the patent-sprung suite. The units of patent springing which have been decided upon, for size, number of layers, etc., are fixed in a few minutes by half a dozen clout nails driven through the holes in the steel webbings. Despite the fact that there is little variation in tension over the whole spring unit, the double layer minimizes the weight and distributes the pressure. Of course a good percentage of upholstered furniture still incorporates spring units for its springing foundation and it is very comfortable indeed.

Tensile springing

This is in the form of a cable spring (see Fig. 9) and also a rubber webbing. It was first used on fireside-type chairs and is now used for almost everything but the heavier-type suites. It is a most relaxing and comfortable springing used in conjunction with a foam-rubber cushion or a cushion with a pocketed spring interior. The side rails are built up to the correct height to take the cable springs which can be fixed in various ways.

One method is by inserting the hooked end of the spring into a `grooved' side rail and driving a nail through from the top of the rail and through the hook. Another way is to fix metal plates on to rebated side rails. These plates have holes already bored at intervals to carry the hooks of the cable spring. Eyelets punched into a stout tape with a covering tape attached is yet another system of suspending this type of springing. This tape is nailed around the eyelet holes with a small-type nail. This form of springing is stretched across the side rails but a radial-type unit is available whereby the cables radiate from a centre boss to all four rails. The rubber-webbing type of springing can be fixed either from back to front or between the side rails and of course both ways together, interlacing as in normal webbing. This webbing is usually finished with right-angled metal clips on the ends which are held between a supplementary inside rail, and the chair frame.

The main difference in action between this type of springing and the coil spring type is the stretching of tensile springs against the compression of the older-type spiral spring.

Spring edging

I have left the skill of spring edging until last for this part of springing is a little more complex and should be studied separately. Almost every easy-chair and settee is now made with a spring edge and only the cheaper grades and pieces like dining-chairs or office chairs lack this type of edge. It is remarkable how many people sit on the edge of a chair in preference to the main body of the seat, but no matter where they eventually settle down the spring edging takes the initial brunt of the weight, and also gets probably forty per cent more wear than any other part of the seat. So it will be seen that this is a job that mustn't be skimped for time.

The springs used for edges are shorter and of a heavier gauge than those used in the main body of the seat. The principle remains the same, however. That is, when one sits on the edge, the springs will depress to an upright position. Firstly, tack a piece of felt or webbing on to the rail carrying the spring edge. This stops any noise against the timber when the coils hit the rail on depression. Place the springs in position and secure them with three or four staples. The bottom rungs may protrude over the edge rail in front; if so, hammer flat against the face of the rail. Each spring is now pulled forward towards the edge about ten degrees and fixed there. This is done by a length of webbing of half-width (approx. 1 in.) which is tacked against the front rail, left of centre of the spring, passed over the centre rung and the other end tacked off this time slightly right of centre (after the necessary 10 degrees tilt, of course). The whole row is treated in the same way, and is now ready to be pulled back to an upright position. A medium twine is used of sufficient length to come completely over the spring allowing for three knots. Tack these lengths of twine on the inside of the front rail and in line with the centre of the spring. Loop the twine around the centre rung and pull until the spring is almost vertical, knot and carry twine to top rung, knot and across the top of the spring to be hitched again and then taken down to front rail where it is tacked off. Every edge spring is treated thus. The next operation is the one that actually creates an even line and the means by which the covers and other materials are attached. This is the fixing of the cane on to the top rung of the springs. It should be long enough to go along the front and return around the end springs about 4 in. The thickness is about $ in. It is bent to return at the corners by notching the cane with a sharp knife and holding a flame under the notch, bending slowly. This will ensure that it doesn't break or splinter. The cane is now ready to be laced to the top rung of the springs with fine twine. Lengths of twine about 10 in. are doubled and looped over the cane and top rung. Hold the cane in position by attaching all the twines with a few loops and then complete the stringing. Each spring should have a length of looped twine of about 1 in. wrapped tightly around the top rung and cane. Tie off securely. To complete and make a firm job it was the habit to wipe the long knots over with the glue brush.

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