This article is a chapter of a four-part series named “Anatomy of a Chesterfield”.
Here are the links to the other chapters:
The tools of the trade. Worn yet valued,
simple yet beautiful. The upholsterers’ apron,
the mallet, the measure and, above all, the hands.
All play a part in the craft of upholstery.
Marking chalk, also known as “Tailors’ Crayons”, is delicately used to outline the larger shapes such as the cushions, borders, seat lips and arms.
Just like a tailor marks out the suit, the cutter outlines the patterns. A simple antiquated system. A keen eye and a steady hand.
Always kept sharp, the upholsterer uses his shears to cut webbing, padding, hessian and other heavy covering material.
The bent handle design helps to prevent lifting the material too high off the table which can result in a crooked cut.
An average Chesterfield requires more than 1000 decorative studs. Each one is individually tapped into place.
The tack hammer is also used for securing upholstery fabric to the frame using tacks or small nails. One face of the hammer is magnetized to aid placement.
The ultimate tool. Even with today’s technology, nothing surpassed the skills of the master craftsman.
An upholsterer specialising in the Chesterfield is also known as a “deep-buttoner”. The pulling, tugging, and stuffing. The high tension in the pleats and folds. Far too intricate for a machine.
OTHER TRADITIONAL TOOLS
There are plenty more tools used to make a chesterfield, which you would not see in any other workshop.
This solid beech webbing stretcher is used to strain webbing across the frame in an interlocking pattern as the base for other layers. Simple to master with practice, this upholstery tool allows you to tension the chair or sofa webbing with one hand whilst delivering a tack or staple with the other to secure. Some upholsterers like to soak this tool overnight in linseed oil before using, and it should last a lifetime.
Upholstery Needle Regulator
An upholstery regulator is an upholstery tool which smooths irregularities in the stuffing beneath the coverings. Whilst it looks similar to a needle it is heavier; like needles the regulator comes in various gauges and lengths. It is used to poke through the various layers to adjust the stuffing before the final cover is put in place.
A standard tack lifter has a “V” shaped vanadium steel blade and shaft and a hard plastic handle. This tool is used for removing upholstery tacks.
Jaw Hide Strainer
Made with a hammer jaw, the hammer acts as a lever if a strong pull is required. Excellent tool for stretching canvas, leather or webbing.
‘The Anatomy Of A Stuffed And Stitched Chair’ by Fleming & Howland
‘The Anatomy Of A Stuffed And Stitched Chair’ by Fleming & Howland is a book designed to offer a behind the scenes artistic view of traditional upholstery. An endorsement of British manufacturing, the book captures, in step by step format, how an object of beauty and great design is lovingly crafted. An image led book, it depicts how labour intensive and time consuming the process is with each chair taking 258 hours to create from start to finish. Click here to purchase online.