Thursday, June 3, 2010

Anatomy of a Chair

I have been taking an upholstery class at the local technical college since 2006. I collect old pieces of furniture and redoing them. This blog is about a beautiful wing chair I found on Craig’s List last spring. A wonderful lady decided to post it for free since the chair needed to be completely redone. I believe she inherited from her family, and thought she find the time to reupholster it but never did. When I saw it on Craig’s List, I knew this was a really find. The chair is from around the turn of the century 1890’s to 1900’s. It was upholstered in black mohair with a floral pattern mohair on the inside back and one side on the seat cushion. There was a braided cord running along upper edge of the arms and the seat cushion. The seat cushion was stuffed with down. The cushion was missing but the seat cover was kept with the chair, the past owner knew you need to keep it to use as a pattern for the new cushion. The old seat cover had a feather attach to the inside. Here a picture of the chair when I picked it up. The chair may look in bad shape but if you ever upholstered a chair, you know the bones are good.

The tools you need to remove the old fabric are leather mallet, tack lifter, staple puller, and pliers. The place to start removing the old fabric is the last piece attached to the chair when it was new. This is the dust cover on the bottom of the chair. I also took a lot of pictures at different stages in the deconstruction. They came in handy when I was trying to remember how the chair should go back together.

The center picture is how it looked when I first brought it home and the first two pictures in the upper left are close up of the carvings. As I stated to take a chair apart you remove the dust cover first. Be sure to mark all your pieces as you remove them and save all the horse hair and cotton padding pieces too. All the old pieces will be used as a pattern when putting the chair back together. Once the dust cover been removed, move on to outside back followed by the left and right outside arms pieces.

Now I started removing the right and left inside arms pieces. Both the inside and outside arms were made from two pieces sew together. The upper arm or wing section is one piece and the lower arm is the other. The arm on this wing chair had another piece I will call the cap. The cap is the arm rest part on the lower chair's arm. There were hints of a braided cord wrapping around the cap. After I finished removing all the padding on the inside arms and back, the springs in the back were removed from the frame. Do not remove the springs from their backing wait until it is time to remount the springs on the new backing. The picture in the lower left hand corner shows the back springs.

Finally it is time to put off the seat and nosing off the chair. The nosing is the fabric covering the front bottom of the seat area. The seat also has springs in it. These seat springs were wrapped and sewed in cotton fabric as a single unit and attached to the broken webbing.

I made sure all the tacks were pulled out of the chair's frame and then filled the many holes with wood filler. Later I sanded down some of the high area created by the wood filler. The chair's finish was cleaned with a 3 in 1 solution. Now it is ready to put back together.