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An Upholstery Primer #1: Strip the old stuff!

Blog entry by MarkTheFiddler posted 10-25-2012 01:33 AM 2059 reads 1 time favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of An Upholstery Primer series Part 2: Prep the furniture »

Aside from a piece of furniture to strip, you’re going to need some tools.

A little introduction here.

Wire cutters – I didn’t actually use those pliers. I found a very old, dull and loose pair of wire cuters. You are going to pull thousands of staples, dull (not notched) wire cutters can grab staples without cutting the in half. Don’t bring out your best!

Rubber mallet – That sucker is as heavy as a carpentry hammer. Unless you are used to chiseling or stripping, you may end up missing one of the hand held tools and hitting your hand. Do you want to hit it with rubber or steel? ;)

Staple/tack puller – That yellow handled tool is fine for staple although it’s not the best. If I’m removing a lot of upholstery tacks, That’s the one I grab.

Stapler Puller – This is the tool I used extensively. I think it was between $18.00 and $25.00 at an uholstery supply store. Here’s the deal you “can” used a flat head screw driver. You “can” use a scratch awl which is better than a screwdriver. They are not made for this work. The staple puller is. The first time you strip a piece of furniture – It might take you a day. Double that with an awl and triple that with a screwdriver. On top of that, the staple puller doesn’t gouge the wood like the awl or screwdriver. Finally, you will injure yourself far less often.

Caveot – don’t pull tacks, nails, or framing staples with the staple puller. You might break it.

Work Gloves – I had 5 bleeders today. In addition – unless you use a chisel all day long, you might get blisters.
Safety glasses.
Scissors – maybe.
Tetanus Shot – interesting tool?? ;)

Off we go!

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.



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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 10-25-2012 02:37 AM

Let’s start on the bottom.

Arrange your furniture upside down on the work horses. You want easy access. Since the arms don’t like to stay on the horses. You may need and extra pair at the front and back of the furniture.

Grab that staple puller and aim one of the prongs at the center of a staple. Give the puller a tap with the mallet.

The prong should be underneath the staple now. That puller has a buillt in angle so you just press it down and pull up the staple.

There is no need to pull the staple completely out. That’s what the dull wire cutters are for. Just work around the bottom and get those staples up so you can grap them easily.

As you work, move in the opposite direction you are pointing the puller. Otherwise, you will be fighting the staple that you already lifted.

You might be able to lift some staples with out the use of the mallet but that involves pushing with your hand. Consider the mallet your blister protection.

In my picture, that black stuff is called dustcover. That card board is called tack strip. The rounded edge of the fabric is called welt or cording. It’s all got to come up. You want the bottom as clean as possible. If you find a staple that is flush to the wood and is not holding onto bulky fabric, you can leave it. All the bulk has to go.

You might be able to grab the cording and tack strip and give it a quick jerk. That may take the staples completely out or lift them so you can skip a long tedious step. If your just ripping bits of fabric off and most of the staples are staying put. Stop trying to rip and take out the staples one at a time.

A little video to remove lifted staples.

Another video for a rolling and ripping technique.

Getting all the junk off the bottom may seem like it takes for ever and you’ll wonder how you’ll ever finish. Take heart. You are 1/3 complete.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 10-25-2012 03:11 AM

Let’s strip the outside arms and back now.

You can keep the furniture upside down for this. Use the same techniques as before. Be careful, there is a differnt kind of tack strip here. It’s full of nails. Watch the rolling and ripping technique get rid of it.

After you have removed the outside back and arms take a tour.

There are tiny bit’s of dustcover and dacron still clinging to the wood. The staples are flush and the matter will be covered with padding later. Notice the cardboard repair covering the knot hole. You can use the same method.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 10-25-2012 03:17 AM

Been a long day and I have more information to post. I’ll try to finish the striping blog this week.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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GaryL

206 posts in 1421 days

posted 10-28-2012 07:05 PM

Ahh…this sounds like tedious, get down and dirty, demo work. Just on a smaller scale..lol
I’m sure putting it back together is more complicated than tearing it apart. Keep it coming.

-- The difference between a pro and an amateur, an amateur points out his mistakes

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 10-29-2012 02:36 AM

Howdy Gary – it’s been a little while my friend. Good to see you!

You hit it on the head. It’s small scale demo. It’s the part everyone wants to skip but pays for if they don’t do it right.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 10-29-2012 02:57 AM

As promised.

It’s time to finish. Now that you got the outside and bottom pieces off the furniture, it’s all downhill from here. It may look you have most of the work left to do. You actually have less than a third so enjoy.

Inside backs and arms are attached to the couch right under the outside arms and back for most part but they are attached at the bottom and sides through the guts of the furniture. The fabric is typically pulled through gaps and stapled to some wood on the inside.

Take a look at this shot:

What you are looking at is the fabric from the inside back and right arm (as you are seated). Grab you pliers or dull wire cutters and give a good yank. You can tear up this fabric and leave staples behind. You don’t have to get everything. Just be careful that any staples that came partially loose are waiting to cut your hands. Check for those protruding staples carefully and remove them.

Here is a shot of the fabric securing the bottom of the inside back and the deck. The deck is the part that goes under your cushions.

Grab and tear it off.

This spot is where you might find loose change. That’s all well and good but I find far more science experiments.

I did say that you could get lockljaw. I didn’t? Oh – sorry. Wonder why? This happens to everyone’s furniture. Just get to ripping all those tucked in places the head on down to the next comment in this blog.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 10-29-2012 03:07 AM

The fun part is next. All that patience is about to pay off as you do your most damage with the least effort.

Go around to the front of the couch and grab a hunck of the inside back fabric next to one of the arms. Pull….


The fabric comes out of the gaps and pulls away. Woo Hoo!


Here goes the fabric off the arm. Remember the fabric is still attached at the tops but your best chance of yanking loose a whole bunch of staples and fabric with one pull is right here.

No that the arms are off, get the deck. Usually the deck is hand sewn down with a tough nylon chord. And up comes the deck. Guess what – clean up your staples and you May be done with the stripping.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 10-29-2012 03:21 AM

What about all this padding? Do I leave it or take it off?

Depends – Did you find the couch next to a dumpster? ALL the padding comes off. Does it look like a buch of springy horse hair? It’s either brown or tinted green. The green is a newer version and it usually hase a mesh holding it together. It’s not new enough – out it goes.

How about cotton? I usually pull all the old cotton off. It absorbs all the wonderous smells you can possibly put into a couch.

How about dacron? It’s looks like the spider web you are about to use to decorate for the trick or treaters. If it’s as flat as a pancake. Off with it.

How about foam? Take your finger and rub a line across it. Does your finger have dust on it. Did the foam feel hard in places. Off it goes. Otherwise – you can reuse it.

All of this can be torn off but go back and get those staples. You should just be able to grab enough of that padding with the wire cutters to pull the staple out quickly.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 10-29-2012 03:26 AM

What about this other stuff? Most upholstered uses a form of burlap to provide a base to rest the padding against. If it looks like it’s made out of man made fiber, see if its loose. If it is, you might be able to pull some of it up and restretch it.

If it’s natural fiber like burlap or jute. try to grab a piece and tear it. If you can tear a piece of burlap with your bare hands, It is long gone. Off it goes.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 10-29-2012 03:34 AM

What about this twine that’s tying the springs together?

Look at those springs. Are they coiled with a spider web of jute tying them together? Bad news for you. There is no way I can tell you how to redo an eight way hand tied seat. IF I get to do one in the near future, I’ll post a bog about it.

If the springs are are a sreies of curves going from the front to the back? You can tie those. You need tough stuff at least an eighth of an inch thick. The springs need to be tied firmly together without pulling to one side or the other. Again – I’ll post a blog If I get someZig zag springs to tie.

The only thing is that we are starting to talk about rebuilding the furniture. That means part 1 of this blog is finished.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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BillyJ

258 posts in 1892 days

posted 11-01-2012 01:54 AM

Wow – talk about labor intensive! And here, after all these years, I thought tearing a deck apart was a job. You’ve done a great job teaching this subject. I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

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MarkTheFiddler

448 posts in 857 days

posted 11-01-2012 02:50 AM

Thanks Billy. You already know that with a bit of practice, it goes a lot faster. Plus, the absolute best tools for this job are thick callouses on your hands. You probably wouldn’t have much of a problem at all.

-- Working on my home for 2 years and counting.

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