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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 Tools And Workshop Requirements

( Originally Published 1961 )

Compared with other trades like cabinet-making, plumbing, etc., the upholstery trade requires few tools.


Perhaps the most important one is the upholsterer's hammer. Upholstery hammers are specially made for this specific craft. There are three types, the favourite one

(a) Ringed shaft upholsterers hammer (b) Head of cabriole (c) Pear shaped shaft

being that with the round ringed shaft. This is the better designed and balanced hammer and has a hardened steel tipped driving face. Another type has a pear-shaped handle and a more square-cut steel head. Both these are known as tack hammers. The remaining pattern is called a `cabriole' hammer, the main difference being a much smaller driving surface-about a quarter of an inch in diameter, whereas the average tack hammer is about five-eighths of an inch.

The `cabriole' is used mainly for 'show-wood' furniture where great care is needed when tacking, not to bruise or damage the surrounding woodwork. Hence the reason for the small head of the hammer. It is also used for `gimping', the fixing of a finished braid or gimp by the use of gimp pins.

Cutting tools

These consist of scissors and knives, the former should be about nine or ten inches in length and of good quality. A first-class pair of scissors will last an upholsterer all his working life. Here again we have a choice of design. One type has a square end finish to one of its blades and the other type has a pointed end to both blades. The lastmentioned are particularly useful when cutting loose covers and usually are a little dearer to buy. A knife is an essential tool for `trimming off' after the cover has been tacked on-particularly for hide and leathercloths. What kind of a knife doesn't matter, as long as it has a good sharp edge-any straight bladed knife made of good steel. Sharpen when necessary on an emery paper or whetstone.

Web strainers

The thing that puzzles nearly every amateur upholsterer is how to stretch the webbing tight. This is done by a web strainer or stretcher. There are one or two different types of these.

All are made of hardwood, the simplest being a piece of wood with a groove at one end which fits over the edge of the frame being webbed. The webbing is brought over the top and under the grooved end which is placed against the frame. With a firm handgrip it is levered downwards until the required tautness is reached. Another version, mostly used in America, is the one that has four or five spikes in the levering end. This does away with having to pass the webbing under the grooved end, but it can damage and weaken the webbing. The type of strainer that has the slot in the main body of the wood and a piece of dowelling or rod attached is one of the most popular. With the handle upright the webbing is passed double through the slot to form a loop. Through this loop is placed the dowelling or rod to hold it and the strain is applied in the same way. The last version is known as the lever-type strainer. This is a quick and easy method of web stretching. The webbing is passed over the lever and allowed to hang, the leverage is then taken up in the same way with the rebated end against the frame side and a downward pressure. Another form of stretcher is the web or hide pincers. This tool, made like pincers, has wide serrated jaws and is useful for straining short ends of webbing or hides.

Ripping-out tools

These consist of an upholsterer's ripping chisel and a wooden mallet and are used to prepare the frame for a repair. The chisel end is placed against the tack and given

one or two blows to remove same; always with the grain of the wood, otherwise you may crack or chip the woodwork. A `wood rasp' is for rounding off corners of the frame where an `edge' has to be tacked. Screwdrivers, pincers, and a bradawl complete the general tool layout.

Upholsterers' needles and stitching tools

These are essential requirements. They consist of mattress or stitching needles and are from 8 to 16 in. in length. They have double-pointed ends with an eye about an inch from one end and are round in section. An exception is the one that is shaped triangularly for about a third of its length. This is called a bayonet point. It is most useful for stitching built-up stuffed edges as the bayonet point is stout enough to use as a regulator-a `regulator' being the tool used for trimming or regulating the stuffing to the required place beneath its hessian covering. It is an extra-thick needle-like tool with a point at one end and the other ends played out flat to help leverage against the side of the palm when using it. Another tool for adjusting stuffing is the stuffing iron. This is a metal tool with a fork-like end and mainly used in America.

A `packing' or `spring' needle and a half-circular needle will complete the stitching tools, a further addition being three or four dozen steel skewers. These are used to hold hessian or covers in position until they are stitched.

Machinery required for the workshop includes a heavyduty sewing machine and a carding machine. The latter is used for `teasing' and cleaning various stuffings from repair jobs. A cushion-filling machine is needed if a large volume of this work is done. Factory machines usually include mattress-making machines and a loose-seat machine, a fairly recent innovation.

A linen tack bag with three or four sections is required to hold the different sizes of tacks, and an upholsterer's apron which has a capacious front pocket. This pocket is invaluable to the `ragtacker'. Tacks are held in the mouth and it is quite a shock when one first sees a handful of tin tacks thrown into the mouth. They are brought to the lips by teeth and tongue and taken by the thumb and forefinger of the hammer hand, still holding the hammer. Experience has proved that this is the fastest and most suitable method. The advent of the hammer with the magnetic head prompted some to alter their technique by placing the hammer head to the lips and carrying the tack to the job direct. Whilst talking of tacks it is interesting to note that in most workshops they are cleaned before use. This is one of the first jobs the apprentice is required to do thoroughly. A canvas bag is made about 2 ft. long and 6 in. wide. The sewn-up end is tacked against the wall somewhere about waist height. The tacks are put into the bag and then, gripping the open end in his fist to keep them from falling out, the boy shakes the bag to and fro for approximately ten minutes, very much in the same way that the ostler cleans harness parts. A good cleaning will bring the tacks out bright and free from rust. Telling the apprentice to sharpen the points was one of those old gags that every workshop played on its beginners.

There is a combination that is essential for each man in the workshop. This is a pair of trestles and a bench. The trestles are of the usual variety but with a beading round the top. This to prevent pieces of furniture with castors fixed from moving off. The bench is usually about 4 ft. square and is placed on the trestle tops for doing loose seats or cutting out, etc. The old-type Gladstone bag was a favourite for carrying the tools in, and a hair cushion tacked upon the wall near the bench took care of the needles and regulator. A tape measure is often found draped around this cushion ready to hand when needed.

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