Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

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Spartan95
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Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby Spartan95 » Sat Jan 19, 2019 9:41 am

Hello all and thank you In advance for any help anyone can provide. So here is my dilemma, I inherited a dining table and chairs from great grandfather and I sent the chairs to a refinisher to be stripped so I could refinish them. The refinisher stripped them and discarded the old seat bottoms and now I don’t know what to do for bottoms. I wish I would have had him save one seat bottom for reference, but I didn’t. All I remember about them is that they were lightly padded brown leather-type seat bottoms. I have done a chair bottom before, but I’ve never seen this double-shoulder type arrangement on these seats and I am not sure if the padded solid seat bottoms that were in place were original to the chairs or not. Any assistance you could provide on what I have here and how I should go about rebuilding these seat bottoms would be greatly appreciated. I believe these chairs came with the table as a set and came from the Grand Ledge Chair Factory in Grand Ledge, Michigan, USA.

Andy

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby Spartan95 » Sat Jan 19, 2019 9:43 am

I screwed up attaching pictures. Standby...

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby Spartan95 » Sat Jan 19, 2019 10:10 am

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby AsonnyA » Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:26 am

I suspect the original seats had decorative tacks around the edges of where the seat cover laid. Seems the nail holes suggest this.

Lightly padded seat bottoms? I kinna wonder if they had leather.... they may have had leather, but they may have had oil cloth upholstery. Oil cloth gives the appearance of leather. It is made by coating a thick cloth with repeated coats of lacquer, building up layers into a somewhat thick "upholstery fabric". For a nice set of old dining seats, using real leather would be my option for recovering. The padding under neath the oilcloth (or leather) would be a layer or 2 of cotton, or a layer or 2 of horse hair, or a layer or 2 of excelsior (shredded wood).... of maybe a combination of these, but usually only one type of material padding. An original oil cloth upholstery would have been trimmed with an oil cloth strip (folded oil cloth into a 1/2" wide strip) and tacked along the seat edges, again the nail holes suggest this type of trim attachment. A leather upholstery could have been attached this way, also, but a different kind of trim ( not oil cloth made trim) would be used. In either both cases leather or oil cloth, the trim nails would be spaced, as the nail holes suggest. The "upholstery" and its padding would need a support structure.

I suspect the seat support structure would be jute webbing or some sort of strong or stiff fabric/canvass.... more likely jute webbing. Again, the nail holes on the second tier suggest a thick cloth type "fabric"/jute webbing was attached along the second tier of seat frame. I may have a similar type seat to take pics and demonstrate an upholstery technique, rather than try to describe what you might need to do. A few pics with description would be more instructive for you.

Spacing decorative nails: Nails directly adjacent to one another would look too busy for that sort of seat, but there's another reason for spacing the nails. One has to be careful about installing nails adjacent to one another in that sort of frame, such that, the repeated perforations could very well cause the wood to split along the nail line, hence, nail installation is spaced apart. Do you understand this concept, of preventing the wood from splitting? If you elect to install decor nails, back onto the seat, and your replacement nail enters a previous nail hole (fitting loosely), then pull the nail out, insert a tooth pick plug (or 2) into the hole, then re-drive your decor nail into position.

Additional comments: The chair seems to be made of red oak, in the mission style. My "mission style" opinion is more from your square leg stretchers, otherwise I would think the stretchers would have been rounded (spindles). The simple backrest splat, as best I can tell that it's simply configured/shaped, is another indication of the mission style. Oil cloth is more applicable to mission style, also, as oppose to leather, for this sort of old mission furniture that is upholstered.
*Today's mission style furniture is different. The seat and (thicker) padding would be raised well above the seat frame, today..... not flat, as you describe your original seats. Your seat construction ( 2 tiered edging) accommodate the flat seat/padding. It does not readily accommodate today's raised seat/padding upholstering, i.e., raised seat/padding might look awkward and be too high from the floor. The tops of dining seats are generally about 19" from the floor.

Sonny

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby Spartan95 » Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:12 pm

Wow! Thank you Sonny! I would love to see a picture demonstration as you suggest. It would be awesome and much appreciated. I absolutely understand the technique of spacing the nails so as not to split the wood and also the toothpick method you describe. I believe these chairs did have a leather or leather-type seat. I have a few oil-cloth hunting articles, a Filson game vest and a hat, socI am familiar with that material, but not sure where I would acquire it. I’ve never done much upholstery or fabric shopping before. Again, thanks for the info and if you want to share any more knowledge...I am all ears!

Andy

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby AsonnyA » Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:03 pm

I don't have a chair/seat exactly as yours, but I'll do a mock up of an upholstering procedure. I've been busy with other folks' furniture/upholstery, but haven't forgotten about you. I'll try to squeeze in the mock up in the next few days, maybe this evening if I can get into the wood shop.

Sonny

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby Spartan95 » Mon Jan 28, 2019 9:20 am

You rock...thanks.

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby AsonnyA » Mon Feb 04, 2019 6:24 pm

Okay, I have 7 pics, with comments. Your seat frame has 3 tiers 1) the top surface, 2) the first tier is for your fabric and padding, and 3) for your seat support and padding, also.

I'd recommend you get some jute webbing for your seat support. A whole 72 yard roll will cost about $40 on Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Mastex-Jute-Webb ... WV6W1NE2HW

Your local fabric store should have jute webbing. You will weave your webbing over the seat frame - https://www.flickr.com/photos/43836144@ ... ed-public/

Extend the length of the webbing about 3/4" beyond the perimeter of its tier. Staple or tack it down.... 4 or 5 staples or tacks - https://www.flickr.com/photos/43836144@ ... ed-public/

Fold back the extended end and staple it again 4 or 5 times - https://www.flickr.com/photos/43836144@ ... ed-public/

Next, lay some heavy cloth (like denim) or burlap over the webbing and attach along the tier edges. Pic shows synthetic burlap, but any heavy strong cloth type material will do. Also, my pic of burlap only covers part of the edge. Your burlap needs to extend to all edges. Attach top and bottom centers to align it, pull it snug and staple/tack it about every 2 " all along the edges - https://www.flickr.com/photos/43836144@ ... ed-public/

Next is your padding. Pic shows cotton padding. any good seat padding is fine, just make sure it's not too thick. Attach the padding every so often along the very inside edge of the next fabric tier. Don't attach your padding too close to the upper surface of the seat.... attach it closer to the webbing/burlap edge. Do you understand this? If not, I'll take another pic or two. You don't want the padding right where you will attach your fabric. That fabric tier is to share space for your padding and for your fabric, so divide that tier for attaching each. Understand? My pic doesn't show the actual attachment. https://www.flickr.com/photos/43836144@ ... ed-public/

You want to attach your fabric right up against the edge of its tier. You might want your fabric to extend over the edges, a bit, then cut off (razor blade/knife) any excess after you finish installing the fabric. Attach the top and bottom centers of the fabric first, aligning your fabric if it has a pattern or if you are centering a print or design. Don't stretch your fabric, but you do want it fitting snug across the span. After the first top and bottom center attachments, make one attachment each side of the top, then one attachment each side the bottom. Repeat this process as you work across the seat, then attach your sides similarly. When snugging your fabric across, make sure you apply tension not only front to back, but also side to side.... apply all of this tension evenly. It takes a little practice to get the hang of it, so that your fabric/pattern (if applicable) stays straight, firm tension, feels right, etc. In a way, the type of padding sometimes dictates the tension/tensions to be applied. Use your judgement as to what may be a good fabric tension for your particular seats. https://www.flickr.com/photos/43836144@ ... ed-public/

Once your seat is done, you may want to apply a dust cover on the bottom side of the seat. Usually a black cover is used. Install it fairly snug across the span. Probably most of your upholstered furniture has dust covers on them. Look at them to see what it is and how installed.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/43836144@ ... ed-public/

For the edges of your finished fabric install, you can install nails. *I haven't reread your previous posts... did you want to reinstall leather, or will you install cloth fabric? If you install cloth fabric, then gimp might be best for your chairs. The nail holes in your chairs looks like nails may have been installed initially, spaced about 1.5" apart. That was fine for what I suspect was your previous oil cloth or leather.

A note about leather: leather is sold by the hide or half hide, not by the yard as cloth fabric is sold. Calculate your needs as per fabric yardage or by leather square footage. Hides are measured and sold by square foot. Not all leather outlets sell half hides, only some do.

Probably some of the pics and/or explanations are vague. Ask for more info if need be. Your local fabric shoppe should have all supplies needed, except for leather, maybe.
Sonny

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby AsonnyA » Mon Feb 04, 2019 6:43 pm

After initially installing your fabric, sometimes, for a DIYer, it's not uncommon to go back and snug up your fabric more, i.e., detaching each staple/tack one at a time, then reattaching a little more snug, i.e., working your way around the seat one attachment at a time. The more you practice the upholstering technique, the more you get the feel of what is the right fabric tension, hence the less likely you would need to repeat the snugging/tension process. One important thing when applying tension - apply equal tension up and down (top to bottom) as you apply tension side to side.... i.e., keep the fabric and/or pattern/print/design straight by applying even tension in both directions. This repeat snugging is more applicable to cloth fabric, hardly ever when applying leather.

Sonny

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby Spartan95 » Wed Feb 06, 2019 9:39 pm

Wow...I'm amazed. Very informative. Looks like I have my work cut out for me. I will get to work now and hopefully follow up with a progress pic of my own. Thanks again Sonny.

Andy

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Re: Newb - Chair seat bottom refinishing question

Postby AsonnyA » Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:37 pm

A comment I forgot about your jute webbing. Pull it as tight as you can across the span. Upholsterers have a webbing stretcher tool for pulling it tight. For your seats, hand tightening should be fine, just pull it tight as you can. For your seats, you might want to run the webbing 2 strands front to back and 3 strands side to side.

Prior to installing your fabric/leather, hand press your padding down onto the support. Compress it and get a feel of how thick you want your seat to be. Keep in mind, your fabric/leather will apply some pressure onto the padding, once installed, so get a feel of the bulk that is suitable. You don't want too much padding on a seat as that. A bulbous seat looks awkward for that kind of chair.

Don't be intimidated by the tasks. It's not that hard, just a bit time consuming. Lay out each layer with proper tension and staple, i.e., you'll be doing the same thing (routine) to each layer, just take more care when installing the fabric. With a number of chairs, the same routines will be much easier toward the end.

Sonny


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