hi thanks for stopping by, I love a good French chair upholstery project and from your comments on my previous work, it seems that you do too. Today I have a beauty of a makeover and as well as sharing how I did it, I was recently asked by Bosch to review their PTK 3.6 LI Cordless Tacker, so I thought I'd also share my thoughts on this nifty power tool.
I bought two French Louis chairs years ago on eBay and only ever got around to upholstering one of them. The other has sat in our shed for ages. Part of my hesitation was that I wasn't sure if I should keep the chairs as a pair or if I should use a different fabric. In the end I decided to use the same fabric (that I'd luckily bought enough of initially for both chairs, as it is now no longer available).
The chairs were originally pretty ugly - pink and tapestry, but were in good shape. The young guy I bought them from said they'd sat in his great-aunt's "good room". I'm surprised they weren't covered in plastic but then they'd be Italian chairs and not French! Ok so they are most probably Australian - French reproduction, but these are good solid vintage chairs with a nice heavy weight and well built. The foam and webbing was all in extremely good order so I decided to keep it all and reuse - hence my title "Easy Upholstering". Really it is more recovering than re-upholstering. This how the chair looked after I removed the tapestry and back foam.
One of the hardest parts of upholstering is removing all the old fabric and staples. When I was in the US last year I bought a handy staple removal tool that is like a screw driver but with a curved forked end. It is fantastic for removing staples and I wish I could direct you to one in Australia but I have yet to find one here. I then painted the chair and antiqued it - which I will walk you through the process in another post but I have to say I think this is possibly my best effort yet. Antiquing wood with lots of ornate carving definitely makes it easier and I love how the dark wax makes the details pop on this chair.
I then cut out the fabric into a rough shape of what I would need - you can use the old fabric as a guide. Start your upholstery project with the seat first as I think it's the hardest. I forgot to take photos of this as it is very fiddly. However the Bosch Tacker made this fiddly job a lot easier. With the first French chair, I used a hand staple gun and it is really the wrong tool to use as you can't get close enough to the edge of the wood and also with a hand stapler your staples don't go into the wood far enough and are very easy to prise out - you really want something with a bit more "oomph".
The most difficult part of this whole process is getting the fabric to sit nicely on the seat especially around the arms. I think the easiest way to deal with this is to gently snip a slit along where the arms go and tuck it under so there is a neat hem along the arms. A lot can be covered with the gimp braid so don't get too stressed. The worst error is to cut the fabric too far into the seat part as that will show and you'll need to start again. If you have the old fabric that you removed, this will act as a great guide. I just forgot to keep the seat part of the fabric so that didn't help me. Once the seat is finished start on the back.
First you will need to staple on the fabric that is seen from the back of the chair - so it needs to be in reverse. Staple it on and then cut to size.
and from the back, make sure it is firm but not so tight that it puckers.
If your fabric puckers remove a few staples around the puck and re-stretch your fabric then re-staple. You may need to form little pleats to make the fabric sit nicely. If you do need to use pleats, then make sure they are symmetrical on both sides so it looks intentional and not just puckered. I find that upholstery is a tricky balance between not pulling the fabric tight enough and pulling it too tight.
Once the back fabric is in place, reinsert the back foam and then making sure your fabric pattern is aligned with the seat fabric, staple in your front fabric to the timber and backing fabric. I usually do a few scattered staples and then come back and insert extra staples. This way if I have to re-align my fabric it is much easier as it is pinned into place rather than pulling out fifty staples.
If your chair has padded arms, then staple fabric on them also. I made sure the stripes on my fabric align on both arms so it's all symmetrical. You know that the French are the Kings of Symmetry!
Then comes the wonderful part that will cover all your mistakes and make the chair look very professional. Gluing on the welting, or in my case, the gimp braid. I use a hot glue gun, rather than my low-temp glue gun, as the glue bonds stronger. I used approximately 5m of gimp braid in this chair.
Start at the back of the chair and work your way around, gluing only about 2-3 inches at a time and pressing the braid in hard with your fingers. Watch out for burns. As you glue, tuck in any fabric or snip it off if you've left too much and make sure the braid covers the fabric edge and the staples. On the arms I shoved down a lot of glue into the hollow and braided over the join. It finishes it off nicely.
I love this chair now.
And then stand back, or even sit down, and admire your handy work.
To be highly critical of my own work, I am not entirely happy with those pleats along the front of the chair but I am sure I'll be reupholstering this chair down the track sometime. I used curtain backed fabric for this chair and it was hard to work with as it's very stiff. When you see the chair in the room as a normal chair rather than inspecting photos, you don't really notice any issues with it. However I'd really like to see this chair in a dark grey linen or a vintage grain sack. One day...
I was sent the Tacker from Bosch - "gifted" it - such a strange term gifted - why do bloggers use the term gifted?? Actually I was given it to trial and keep. I am happy to share my review with you as I think it's a handy addition to my tool kit. I think you know by now that I'm honest with my opinions and recently I turned down another brand's offer of being in a television commercial to promote their DIY tool as I thought it was crappy and not what I stand for. All opinions below are my own.
So besides loving my new old French chair for my bedroom, what are my thoughts on the Bosch PTK 3.6Li Tacker? To sum it up quickly, if I hadn't been given one, I'd be buying one!
Packaging: Yes! I love how it comes in a metal case rather than a cardboard box. I know that is a funny thing to like about a tool but the packaging is excellent and means that the tool and power cord will be easily kept together and safe in my messy shed. I find that power tools in cardboard boxes are much harder to keep neat and to keep all the bits together. (However that might just be me as I am not very good at putting things away where they belong).
Ease of use: The Bosch tacker is cordless which I found to be a very useful feature. I have used a cheaper electric tacker before and it was very cumbersome with the cord getting in my way. Upholstering a chair like this is fiddly enough without having to worry about the length of an electric cord and being near a power source and then getting the cord tangled up the the chair legs etc. I have also love being able to just grab the cordless Tacker out of it's case, still charged, for quick and easy jobs around the house.
The staples get punched in very firmly with good pressure - it is much easier than using a hand-held stapler and it meant that the chair was upholstered much more quickly and I didn't end up with sore hands as a result of using a hand staple gun. With the Bosch tacker you can use staples up to 10 mm in length so I think that would work well with a variety of DIY. Also the staples still work well till the very last staple. When you use a hand gun or cheaper Tacker they will often get caught up inside near the end of the strip.
The design of this is what you would expect from Bosch. The front arrangement of the tacking nose is excellent for tacking close to edges and it means you can get into tight places with the staples which meant that I could secure the fabric onto the chair in the correct position. The soft grip handle was nice and easy on my hands. If you've ever used a staple gun to upholster a French chair you'll understand.
Battery Life: you just plug it in to the power point to recharge for a few hours so it is very handy. With the 3.6V Lithium ion battery you get very good power usage. I was able to tack the whole chair and a few other projects without recharging it. Actually I have now been using it for several weeks and not had to re-charge it - I am only using it intermittently but still it is impressive.
As a brand, I have always been impressed with Bosch power tolls, I have many other of their tools that I have bought over the years and they all still work very well. I am a bit of a fan off the saying "buy once and buy well". The Bosch tacker retails for $99 so that is pretty good value for a keen DIYer. I know I'll get very good use from mine.
I hope you've found this review and tutorial useful if you are attempting any upholstery.
So that's one less French chair in my shed - actually I'm all out of French chairs now as I sold 2 more on the weekend to a guy who is upholstering them with a zebra hide. He's a taxidermist and a hunter and I'm pretty sure he killed the zebra himself. I was very relieved when he said he wanted the chairs to do himself and not me to do it for him. I've killed and eaten one of our own chickens but handling a huge zebra hide is probably more than I could deal with!!
let's stick to nice striped fabric or vintage grain sacks here, ok?