Lesson 3: Tools for Upholstery Work 2

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In the previous section, I considered the tools used by the upholsterer to do measurement, layout and cutting. In this section I will consider another four important tools used by the upholsterer.

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At the end of this section you will be able to:

  • identify and describe the hammer, webbing stretcher tools as well as ripping and claw tools
  • describe the uses of the tools mentioned above.

Upholsterer's hammer

Upholsterers use different kind of hammer for different operation in the process of making an upholsterers furniture. Examples of this hammer are the tacking hammer and the mallet.

Tacking hammer

The upholsterer’s hammer is used for several tacking operations at different stages in upholstery making. They are made in several sizes and styles. Because of it use for lighter works they are made light in weight ranging from 6 to 9 ounces. The handle is also made with quality wood. The nylon tipped hammer, shown in Fig 3.1a, which has a nylon covering at the head is specially designed for inserting decorative tacks in fancy furniture without marring their finish.

There are other upholstery hammers with metal tipped heads, which are meant for driving different types of fasteners. In some cases the heads are curved (Fig 3.1b) to enable the upholsterer to tack in corners that are not easy to reach, without damaging the furniture frame.

Generally the tip of the upholstery hammers comes in different sizes. The smaller tip, which has a diameter of about 8mm, is slotted and magnetised. This enables the upholstered to pick up tacks and start them into the wood without having to hold the nail. The other end that is used for tacking has a diameter of about 13mm.

In using the hammer it is best to hold it closer to the end of the handle. This ensures effective hammering and also reduces the effort required to drive the tacks.

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a.Under what condition would you prefer a nylon tipped hammer to that of the ordinary hammers?

b.The slightly curved double head hammer is useful for?


Upholsterers use mallets with head made form rawhide, wood or rubber for striking the handles of the ripping or claw tools in stripping operation Fig 3.2. Mallet with rubber or rawhide head is most useful when knocking apart frames that are in need of regluing.

Webbing stretchers

Webbing stretchers are used to stretch webbings to make it taut across furniture frames for stapling to be done. Webbing can be stretched by using webbing stretcher or webbing stretcher pliers.

Webbing stretcher

The webbing stretcher consists of a wooden block with six steel points called prong on one end, which act to pierce the jute webbing. It also has a corrugated rubber on the other end to prevent damage to the wood surface and prevent it from slipping when in use. The webbing stretcher can either be designed to have it handle being part of the stretcher body or being separated from the stretching body as indicated in Fig3.3a and Fig3.3b. The webbing stretcher is used predominately on jute webbing. Holes made by prongs in jute and similar woven webbing do not significantly weaken it. However serious damage can be done on rubber and most decorative webbings.

Webbing tensioner

Steel webbings, which cannot be perforated with the webbing stretcher, requires the use of special tensioning equipment called the webbing tensioner (Fig3.4) This special equipment has a slotted end which grasps metal webbing firmly without danger of slipping. When using the webbing tensioner one need to place a block of soft wood or pad in between the device and the frame in order to prevent damage to the surface of the frame.

Pliers for upholsterer’s work

There are several pliers used by the upholsterer for making upholstered furniture .Examples of such pliers are the stretching pliers, spring clip pliers and hog ring pliers.

Stretching pliers

This tool is used for stretching webbings when constructing a new upholstery chair or restretching sagging webbing during reconditioning of an upholstered chair (Fig 3.5). The webbing plier is most suitable to use when the webbing to be installed is short. They are designed to grasp the material between it wide, grooved jaws, which also make it a useful tool for stretching burlap, leather and other materials.

Using the webbing pliers

To use the webbing pliers Pull the webbing to be taut as much as possible by the use of the hand. Grip the webbing with plier at a distance close to the frame. Place the point of fulcrum against the frame and push down the end of the handle to stretch webbing. Always place a piece of wood between the frame and the fulcrum to prevent idenlations on the frame.

Hog ring and spring pliers

There are other kinds of webbing pliers like the hog ring pliers Fig 3.6a and the spring clip pliers Fig 3.6b.The hog ring pliers is usually used to install burlap over springs or to fasten covers and other upholstery materials. The spring clip pliers are used to close the special steel clips, which fasten spring edge wire and the top edges of coil springs.

Ripping and claw tools

Ripping and claw tools are used to perform similar operations. Both are used to remove tacks when replacing old upholstery covers. However the major difference between the two is that the claw tool Fig 3.7a has a notch for gripping the tack whilst the ripping tool, Fig 3.7b does not have a notch. Although as indicated earlier the claw tool has a notch, which promotes better gripping of tack, this may reduce the efficiency of the removing operation since there is a high tendency of the tacks sticking in the notch. Thus most experienced upholsterer does not prefer using it since it slows down work.

The ripping tool has a length of about 19cm and a blunt chisel edge designed to slide under the head of the tack. The shank has a double bend which allows the upholsterer to easily elevate his hand therefore providing comfortable angle above the frame during use. The hand of the ripping tool, which is about 9.6cm, is made from either wood or plastic and is designed to be comfortable in the palm when used.

The plastic handle is more durable because of it high degree of toughness which enables it to withstand high load without breaking. Ripping tools with wooden handle has a ferrule, which prevent it from splitting when struck with mallet. To use the ripping tool slide the blunt edge of the blade under a tack head. Then hold the flat side of tool against the wood. Tap of the handle quickly with a mallet to get the tack nail removed.

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In this section I have looked at:
  • The different types of hammer used by the upholsterer. All the hammers have one end of the head magnetised, which is used for picking nails and the other end, which is not magnetised for tacking.
  • The different types of webbing stretchers. I also considered the webbing stretcher, the tensioner and the stretching plier, which is very useful when installing short webbing.

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  1. Why are tacked hammers designed to be lighter in weight?
  2. Differentiate between a webbing stretcher and a stretching plier.
  3. What is the major difference between a ripping tool and a claw tool?
  4. Visit an upholstery shop in your area and familiarise yourself with the tools discussed above.