diy projectsfurnitureUpholstery Basics

Upholstery Basics: Tool Time

by Amanda Brown

It’s about this time every year that things come back to life. Flowers are in full bloom, and kids spend their hours out of school in the pool. You’ve probably completed your annual spring cleaning and noticed that a few pieces of furniture are beyond the capabilities of the vacuum and 409, so isn’t it about time you bring them back to life, too?

I’m Amanda Brown, and I’ve resurrected countless pieces headed for the dump into showstoppers at my Austin-based upholstery shop, Spruce. Before I became an upholsterer, I was mystified by the skills of upholstery. “Where do you hide all of the staples? How do you make cording?” It is amazing to me how much time I spent with my furniture yet how little I actually knew about putting it together.

Step into the sunshine and spend some time with me the second Thursday of every month. I’ll shed light on the skills I’ve learned from my professional training and tricks I’ve picked up along the way that will have you creating your own Before & After beauties. Today we’re making a shopping list of the tools we need and learning how to set up an air compressor and pneumatic staple gun so they’re locked and loaded for our upcoming activities. — Amanda

Read more about the tools you’ll need to start upholstering after the jump!

Image above: 1. Pliers; 2. Staple Remover; 3. Webbing Stretcher; 4. Curved Needle; 5. T-pin; 6. Rubber Mallet; 7. Magnetic Tack Hammer; 8. Edge Roll Cutter; 9. Carving Knife; 10. Square; 11. Hot Glue Gun; 12. Scissors; 13. Button Needle; 14. Regulator; 15. Yardstick; 16. Screwdrivers; 17. Measuring Tape; 18. Utility Knife; 19. White and Yellow Chalk; 20. Permanent Marker

I can see your wheels turning already. Don’t worry; you’ll be properly introduced to this group as we use them. For now, just be sure they’re in your tool bag and ready for action next month. Items that can’t be found around the house or at a local hardware store can be ordered through an upholstery supplier.

One of the best investments in upholstery is pneumatic tools. It may be intimidating to make the switch to an air-powered staple gun, but I guarantee you’ll be kissing your old staplers (and worn out hands) goodbye with one pull of the trigger.


  • (2) pliers
  • air compressor (6-gallon pancake-style tank is best for one user)
  • 1/4″ polyurethane air hose with threaded ends
  • pneumatic upholstery staple gun
  • (1) 1/4” industrial male sleeve coupler
  • (1) 1/4” industrial female sleeve coupler
  • (1) 1/4” industrial female plug
  • (1) 1/4” industrial male plug
  • Teflon tape


1. Cut a 2” piece of Teflon tape, and wrap it in a clockwise direction around the threaded end of the industrial male sleeve coupler. For every attachment, we’ll be wrapping the threaded end with Teflon tape to get an air-tight connection.

2. Screw the coupler into the outlet on the air compressor. Use your pliers to get it really tight.

3. On the air hose, attach the industrial female sleeve coupler to one end and the industrial female plug to the other. Use one pair of pliers to hold the air hose stationary while the other pair tightens the attachment.

4. Now that we have the attachments on the air compressor and the hose, screw the industrial male plug into the bottom of the staple gun. Some guns may come with this attached already.

5. It is important for your safety and for the longevity of your tools that you operate within the air pressures recommended by the manufacturer. For this gun, the maximum air pressure is 100 psi. The lower limit can be determined by the minimum amount of pressure that will operate the tool. The lowest pressure at which my staple gun will shoot staples is about 65 psi, so I operate my tool between 65 psi and 100 psi.

6. Once you’ve determined the correct air-pressure range, you can hook up your tools and get to work. Hold the sleeve back on the air-compressor coupler, tightly push in the plug end of the air hose and release the sleeve. Repeat these steps between the other end of the air hose and the staple gun.

7. Power on the air compressor and allow the tank to fill up (it will stop automatically). Turn the pressure regulator knob to the right to send air from the tank into your hose and tools. There are two pressure gauges: one tells you the pressure in the tank, and the one closest to your hose tells you how much pressure is going to your tools. A slight turn to the left will stop the flow of air from the tank, and a sharper left turn will let air out of your hose, lowering the air pressure in your staple gun. Adjust the knob until you reach the desired air pressure. The compressor will turn on automatically when the pressure in the tank dips below a certain psi. Some machines have the option of setting automatic start and stop levels, but a small compressor like this one comes with these levels preset. Your only job is to manually regulate the air pressure going into the hose.

8. At the end of your workday, always drain the air out of your hose and the water out of your tank. Turning the pressure regulator knob all the way to the left will slowly release all the air out of the hose. Moisture can cause the inside of the tank to rust and ruin your tools, so loosen the screw on the bottom of the tank to let it all drip out.

Assemble your goodies, and meet me back here next month as we begin our first transformation. Your furniture is waiting!

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