upholstery basics: constructing coil seats — part I


When I’m out scouring for diamonds in the rough, one of the first things I do is take a look under the hood, or seat in this case. Coil springs are to chairs as horsepower is to engines, and while you could make it to work in a golf cart, wouldn’t you rather arrive in a Ferrari?

This month on Upholstery Basics, we’ll be completing lap one of our coil spring Grand Prix. Over the next three lessons, we’ll accumulate the tips and tricks needed to rejuvenate coil seats and transform them from lumpy to comfy. Put on your goggles, and let’s tackle some coil-spring tying! — Amanda

See the full how-to after the jump . . .

Materials

  • goggles
  • pliers
  • staple remover
  • scissors
  • air compressor and air hose
  • stapler
  • 1/2” long staples
  • jute webbing
  • webbing stretcher
  • ten 12 oz. upholstery tacks
  • magnetic tack hammer
  • Klinch-It tool and fasteners
  • button needle and button twine (can be substituted for Klinch-It)
  • spring twine

Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.

Instructions

1. Make sure your chair is stripped to the frame and all fabric, padding, staples and tacks are removed. While you’re taking your piece apart, put your coil springs aside for later. It may also be useful to take notes on how the coil springs were arranged in the seat.

2. Turn your chair upside down and plan out where and how many webbing strips you can fit on the bottom of your seat without overlapping. The more strips you have, the stronger the seat will be.

3. Staple the webbing to the middle of one side of the chair, leaving a few extra inches beyond the staples. Do your best to attach the webbing to the middle of the frame where the wood is strongest.

4. Fold over the excess webbing and staple again.

5. Bring the webbing past the frame on the opposite side and around the teeth of the webbing stretcher. The rubber part of the webbing stretcher should be resting against the frame with the handle angled up at about 30 degrees.

6. Once you have the webbing and stretcher in the right position, slowly bring the handle down until the webbing is taut and staple. The webbing should be tight enough to barely flex when you push on it.

7. Cut the webbing off of the roll, fold over the excess and staple again.

8. Repeat these steps until you’ve stapled all of your vertical strips. Then do an alternating basket-weave as you attach the horizontal strips.

9. Reinforce the webbing by putting three upholstery tacks in every strip with a magnetic tack hammer. The magnetic side taps the tack in place, and the other side hammers it down.

10. Decide how to lay out your springs. The springs should be evenly spaced around the seat for maximum support, and placing them in rows and columns will make spring tying easier.

11. Look at the end of the spring. If it’s bent, place that side up, and orient the springs so the end is in the same position on every one.

12. Once you’ve decided where to place the springs, attach them to the webbing with a Klinch-It tool or use a button needle and button twine to tie them to the webbing. If you are using a Klinch-It, refer to the instruction manual for how to operate your tool. Every spring should be attached in three areas.

13. Place two tacks, half-way in, at the end of every vertical and horizontal row of springs.

14. Now we’ll attach spring twine to the tacks at the back and left sides of the chair. Measure a piece of twine that is twice the length of the row plus 15 inches. Fold the spring twine in half, and place the middle in between a pair of tacks. Then loop the twine around each tack.

15. Pull the twine tightly around the tacks and hammer down all the way. Repeat this for the rest of the tacks at the back and left sides of the chair.

The goal with spring tying is to shape the seat and connect all the springs together so they move as one unit. As you’re learning how to tie springs, you may find you’ll need to retie the springs several times to get them in the appropriate position and tight enough so they don’t feel bouncy when you sit on them. Don’t worry — practice makes perfect, and you’ll soon be tying springs in your sleep.

16. With the first strand of spring twine on every row, start with a knot on the second rung from the top. This helps create the domed shape we’re looking for on a tight seat. Starting with the back spring on the middle vertical row, pull the first strand of spring twine under the second rung and tie a single knot around it as you hold it tightly in position.

17. Move on to the other side of the same spring, and tie a knot around the top rung.

18. Continue tying a single knot on the top of both sides of each spring. When you reach the last side of the last spring, drop down to the second rung again.

19. Once all the springs are tied together in that row, wrap the spring twine around the closest tack, pull out any slack and hammer down. Staple down the loose end of the spring twine for extra security.

20. For the second strand in each row, repeat these steps but remain on the top rung all the way across.

21. Repeat steps 16 through 20 until all of the vertical rows are tied. Then tie the horizontal rows.

22. Repeat steps 13 through 20 for diagonal rows that go across all springs in both directions. When you’re finished, there should be a slight curved shape to your seat, and none of your springs should move independently.

I think I’ll stop for now before our engines overheat. Meet me back here next month as we pad our seat and get ready for fabric.

  1. Geri Belt says:

    I’m up to this spot, but am having trouble with putting the fabric on. can you tell me where to go to see that?

  2. Marg says:

    This is just what I have been looking for, clear photos, and basic instructions step by step, I hope you will show us how to do a curved love seat.

  3. Roberta Noll says:

    I have a chair quite similar to the one shown. I would like to know more about it. Can you help me? Thanks.

  4. John says:

    Question about twine. Hardware store sisal twine versus hemp twine, is there a huge difference? The rating on twine is either ply or pounds, what’s the correlation? Thanks.
    John

    1. Amanda Brown says:

      John,
      I’ve used the sisal twine when I’ve been in a pinch, but I find it to be very rough on your hands. I’ve never used hemp twine, but I would imagine it is similar to jute. Ply refers to the number of strands in the rope and pounds refers to the strength of the rope. I don’t believe they correlate to each other. I picked up a 7lb. jute twine that seems about half as durable as it needs to be if that helps you gauge twine strength. The Ruby Italian jute twine is five ply and has worked great for all seat spring tying I’ve done in the past. I would suggest it over any twine you find at the hardware store. Bottom line, the twine should not break when you pull as hard as possible (the 7lb. twine did), and it’s best if the rope has a smoother exterior so your hands don’t get cut up with hours of spring tying.

  5. LeAnne says:

    Amanda, Thank you so much for the great tutorial! You commented in your post to Naomi that the springs should be compressed when tying, but there isn’t any mention of compression in the tutorial. Can you elaborate on that? Also, I have a friend with a sofa that needs the springs worked on. Can you provide/add a diagram of what the tying would look like on a larger piece-like a sofa? I can’t visualize connecting the diagonals with a piece that has more vertical rows than horizontal rows.

    BTW- gel nails rock!

  6. Jojo says:

    Just found your tutorial, Amanda, THANK YOU! I’ve just finished the painstaking deconstruction on an antique seating stool, and was trying to imagine where to begin, and now I can follow this very well done instructional. It appears in the deconstruction my seat was tied from the underside vs the sitting side.

  7. Julia says:

    I LOVE this tutorial.. GREAT JOB!! How do you know what size springs to use. My chair doesn’t have any because all I bought was the frame. I need to buy some and I don’t know how tall they should be. I think I need 9 gauge because its for the seat of a queen anne type chair. Any thoughts?

  8. Cynthia Kane says:

    I agree with sooooo many of the above comments….did you publish a book yet? With your simple and clear way of teaching and pictures you welcome others to want to get started on a project if they don’t already have one to work on!!!! Thanks for making this available to all of us….keep up the fantastic work!!!…:)…:)

  9. sheila says:

    execellent examples and thank you

  10. sheila says:

    thank you execellent examples and attention to detail on how to reupolster with springs. Very helpful

  11. Candi Simmons says:

    This is very clear but where is part two?

  12. Graham McMillen says:

    Great. Well done. Comes at a perfect time as I am attempting to redo a chair.

  13. Graham McMillen says:

    Part 2?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Graham

      Here you go- they’re all under Upholstery Basics if you click the heading

      http://www.designsponge.com/2011/09/upholstery-basics-constructing-coil-springs-part-2.html

      Grace :)

  14. Jema says:

    Will this basic tutorial work for the coil springs in a vintage wingback chair as well?

  15. Fiona says:

    Fantastic tutorial – really easy to follow and has got me started on a long awaited project!

  16. Tim says:

    Hint: use beeswax on the Ruby Italian Spring Twine. Makes it easier to work with and protects the twine. I also used plastic wire ties to compress the springs until I had them tied like I wanted them.

  17. Sharon says:

    Great tutorial. Glad I found it when I Googled how to tie springs and attach webbing on an antique dining chair. This week’s project!

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