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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 Springs And Spring Units

( Originally Published 1961 )

The ordinary coil spring made of coppered steel is probably still the best and most efficient way of building a sound foundation. It is also the most adaptable unit in the comfort of an upholstered job. These are made in a long range from 3 in. in height to as high as 14 in. They are graded in gauges or thicknesses of the steel. The 3 to 8 in. are usually made in six gauges and the longer springs in four gauges and are the heavier types. The description given is `three by fourteen' up to `three by nine', the lower the gauge number, the heavier the wire, and consequently the harder the spring. For example, the 3 in. spring by fourteen gauge is much lighter than the 3 in. spring by nine gauge.

The coil spring or double-cone spring has the centre, or waist, narrower than the ends. These ends of the wire are knotted to give a firm tidy finish. I mentioned the knotted finish as in America they also use open-ended springs quite a lot. Their system of cataloguing is usually from No. 00 to No. 6, representing springs from 4 in. to 14 in. high. They are classified as `Furniture Springs', for seating, and `Pillow Springs' for arms and backs; `Cushion Springs' or `Auto Springs' being used for car seating. The English system of gauging springs allows a greater degree of judging how hard or soft a seat or back should be, according to the type of furniture being made -the lower-gauge and stronger springs for the seating and the lighter springs for the arms and backs, etc.

In the United States they are sold by the pound, a bundle weighing about SO lb. This then is the "common or garden" upholstery spring.

With the advent of mass production and prefabrication came the `spring unit'. This is the complete foundation either for the seat, back or arms and is made in single, double or even triple layers for the seats at least. The spring unit is composed of single-cone springs riveted on to a base of thin steel laths. The tops of the springs are held in an upright position by a wire mesh with a heavier wire around the edges. Another method of joining up the springs is by metal clips. The second layer is usually comprised of ordinary coil springs directly over the singlecone springing and fastened in the same way. The metal laths or `straps' are bent over at the front to fix on the face of the front rail.

The upholsterers' supply store has these units in a variety of sizes and components, depending on the quality of the finished job. An average price for a unit today might be $1.50 for a chair and $3 to $5 for a settee. Of course a great deal of layout time is saved by fixing the spring unit, and this coupled with their cheapness makes them popular with manufacturers. However they have their disadvantages. Perhaps the basic fundamental difference between these and a hand-sprung job is this: The coil spring is so laced together that when it takes the body weight the springs revert to an upright position. The unit springs do the opposite except at the point of impact of the weight. Thus if one sits in the centre the centre springs will depress straight down but the springs around them are pulled from the upright position because of the wire mesh or metal clips connecting them together. This tends to buckle them more quickly. Another fault seems to be the early tendency to squeak, and the bottom layer of springs hitting the metal webbing. This can be remedied however by stuffing a webbing or felt between the coils. Another type of spring unit of course is the cushion unit and the spring-interior mattress unit. These are usually pocketed in calico, the springs being 3 in. in diameter all the way down and clipped together. They are made up to any required size in multiples of 3 in. This is where the unit excels, as in these circumstances they are supplementary to a spring foundation and do not carry nearly the weight.

Other forms of springing widely used by all upholstery manufacturers are the cable spring and the tension webbing.

The former is made in the style of a cable and is anything from 8 in. diameter to about 4 in. and in gauges from fourteen to eighteen. It is obtainable in uncovered steel or plastic covering, and one well-known manufacturer has these springs cloth-covered together with a tape that covers the hooks after they are in position.

This form of springing is fixed to the side rails of the chair or settee which have been rebated or have had grooves put in to take whatever type of fixing is necessary. If there is a groove in the side rail then the hook of the cable spring is inserted and a nail driven from the top of the rail passing through the hook and groove. Metal plates can be used with holes already drilled; these are fixed on to the rebated edge of the rail. The tape method has eyelets already in the tape and this is attached to the rail by small nails around the eyelet. The hooks of the cable spring are then attached and the top tape covers the whole fixing, making it very tidy.

The tension webbing is about the same dimension as any other type and is made of good-quality rubber. The number used depends on the type of area to be sprung or the use it is going to be put to. This can be fixed in various ways such as tacking, screwing down under a plate or between an additional rail on the inside of the frame. Perhaps the main difference between the orthodox springs and the ones just mentioned is that the cable and tension springs take the weight by expanding, whilst the coil-type springs compress when any weight is put upon them. However the cable and tension method is invariably used with a spring-interior or foam-rubber cushion and mostly on smaller-type furniture.

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