Week 20, 9 April 2012
05 April 2012
Contrary to many of my fellow students studying the Foundation Degree in Furniture Design & Make at Rycotewood Furniture Centre, I did not embark upon this adventure to become a craftsman; I wanted to learn how furniture is assembled to realise a greater vision of manufacturing furniture.
Certainly I have been influenced by my experiences at Rycotewood and have managed to build on my already established skill set in CAD, and have gained a considerable amount of knowledge about batch production. I am very grateful and fortunate to have recently been accepted onto the MA in Furniture Design at Bucks New University from January 2013, which will further my knowledge and take me closer to my goal.
My girlfriend, Orawee Choedamphai, who I met on last year’s National School of Furniture trip to Manchester (mentioned in my previous blog) completed the Bucks MA earlier this year and gained a distinction, and together we have been exploring one of the short courses offered at Bucks New University, namely an Introduction to Upholstery.
Although the course focuses on traditional techniques, I felt it would still give me some good background knowledge as to how upholstery and wooden furniture interrelate and so I tried to find some furniture with a range of elements that I could learn from. I acquired a pair of Louis XV style chairs from the Amersham Auction Rooms that were in a state of disrepair, and stripped them down to the basic frame. I then took the chair frames and sprayed them with a white patina effect, as advised by the upholstery teacher, Gregory Cupitt-Jones himself a former Rycotewood student.
Using a webbing stretcher we re-tacked new webbing to the base of the frames using 16mm tacks, and attached the original springs with upholsterers’ twine in three separate places to ensure a secure holding.
There seems to be quite a range of tack lengths in this game - 6, 10, 13, and 16mm – the use of each depending on how much strength the tack needs to hold both in the wood and whatever it is holding down. Using 13mm tacks we partially hammered in a range of handles to tie laid cord to, so that the springs could be held in place and not buckle or alter the shape of the seat.
We then laid a hessian layer over the top of the springs, cutting it to fit around the frame and securing in place with 10mm tacks. Again upholsterers’ twine is sewn through the hessian with curved needles so that it goes round the springs in three separate places.
A layer of hessian was also tacked onto the back of the chair and we laid the wadding that was part of the original chair onto it. A barrier cloth called Calico is then temporarily stretched and tacked into place before being fixed down with an air-powered staple gun, knocking the temporary tacks out as we went along. The same technique is used on the armrests.
More upholsters' twine is sewn through the top hessian layer to provide a housing for the hair (a combination of pig and horse hair), that has to be pulled apart to give a better consistency before it is tucked into place.
With an even layer of hair prepared, a layer of scrim is set over the top and again cut so that it fits around the frame and is temporarily tacked down.
Using a spring needle, twine is fed right through all the layers, including the webbing, to ensure an even fixing. Then with a rather large amount of fiddling, poking and adjustment of the hair packing, the scrim is anchored into place with 10mm tacks.
As yet we have not completed this project but I hope to exhibit the finished chairs along with my other projects at the Rycotewood exhibition between 19-23June, and then sell them on.
(PHOTOGRAPHS BY SAM BRADLEY)Contact Sam Bradley