Who Doesn’t Love Buying New Tools ? !!!!
Yes I definitely have an obsession with tools! How can you not?! There is nothing better than bringing home that new shiny addition to your arsenal of equipment and putting it to use.
BUT…. It is important that we don’t get crazy and break the bank…. I know…
That’s why I created this guide. To help any one that is new to upholstery or wants to learn upholstery. To show you all the awesome tools of the upholstery trade. You won’t need all of these tools to get started but its good to know what is available to make the job easier as you progress. Use your best judgment and accumulate the tools over time as you need them.
I have included photos of all the tools I talk about in this guide and if you click on the image, they are linked to a site that has more specific info and pricing so that you can get an idea of the cost. Also don’t forget about CraigsList! You can find some great deals there.
Industrial Walking Foot sewing Machine
This is your first and most important tool you will need to start learning upholstery. When you are shopping for a machine you need to make sure it is a walking foot machine. The walking foot feature is what allows us to sew multiple layers of fabric and foam together with ease. The non-walking foot machines are meant for light weight applications and will not work for what we are doing. Industrial sewing machines come with two options of motors. Clutch type and servo type. The most common is the clutch type motor. (see picture below).
Clutch type motors work by a clutch that engages the motor to the machine when the pedal is pressed. They are considered to be more powerful out of the two options. Clutch motors can be difficult to control sewing speed because the motor spins full speed all the time. If your machine has a clutch type motor I would suggest getting the smallest pulley available to reduce the speed and make it easier to control. I use a clutch type in the videos because it is the most common and most likely what you will be starting with.
Above is a servo type motor. These motors are electronically controlled and don’t start spinning until you press the pedal. The best feature about this type is you can control the speed with a dial on the motor witch gives you much more control over your machine. They are thought to have less power than a clutch type but I have not found this to be an issue. I prefer servo motors over clutch type. It’s not likely to find a used machine with a servo motor for an affordable price but if it is in your budget I would recommend getting a machine with this type of motor. You can learn on a clutch type just fine so don’t worry about it too much.
Shears are another important tool you will need. You will use these for cutting everything. You want to get a nice heavy duty set. I prefer the heavy duty style above compared to the lighter more expensive styles because the weight of the shears actually helps cut through material so you’re not using as much of your hand strength. This makes a big difference when your cutting fabric for long periods. You don’t need to spend a lot on a top of the line set, around $40 will get you a set that will last your life time. It’s also important to keep your shears sharp so you can cut accurately. Most large upholstery supply shop will sharpen them for a few dollars and if you become a regular they will usually do it for free.
You will be using rulers all the time for marking, layout and measuring anything square, pleats and other designs. I suggest getting 16”, 48”, 72” rulers and also a large carpenters square. You will see me using all of these rulers in different ways throughout different videos.
You will be using staple guns a lot. I strongly suggest buying a quality air staple gun because you will literally be using 1,000s of staples on some projects. This is one tool you don’t want to buy the cheapest you can find because you will be using it so much. I have had a lot of issues with the cheaper ones malfunctioning and it’s very frustrating when you have to remake something because of your staple gun. You will also want to get an inline regulator so that you will be able to adjust air pressure at the gun.
Staple pullers are an important tool to have for removing old upholstery. They are inexpensive and come in a few different styles. Try them out and see what works best for you. I have a few different types that I use for different jobs.
You will be using contact cement a lot so its important to have a gun to spray it with. The first gun is a spray gun made for spraying thick material like house paint. I recommend using this style. It’s what I have been using for years. They are only about $40 and very easy to clean.
The style on the bottom is called a pressure pot. They are a lot more expensive. They hold 2 – 5 gallons of glue at a time witch can be nice because you don’t have to refill it in the middle of a job. I would only recommend using a pressure pot if you will be using a lot of contact cement every day because I have ran into problems where the cement will dry in the lines and it’s impossible to clean once this happens.
This is a great tool to have. You probably already have one. You will see me using a few different air tools in the videos. I recommend having at least a 30 gallon air compressor, bigger is better if you have room. Anything smaller won’t be able to keep up with your glue sprayer and you run into problems not being able to glue larger sections.
Hog Ring Pliers
Marking Pencils and Chalk
You can find most of what you will need at the upholstery store. I am always searching for different things to use to mark on fabric because some things work better on different types of fabric than others. The most important thing is to make sure that whatever you are using can easily be removed from the fabric when you are done!!!!!!! (Learn from my mistake…) The above picture is what I use most often. They are just called upholstery pencils.
This is a Space Pen. It works well for marking on Vinyl and LeatherTrimmers chalk. I use this mostly on carpet because it marks well and comes in multiple colors witch comes in handy for different colors of carpet. Charcoal pencils. These work great for marking on the back of vinyl. You can buy them at any art supply store.White Chalk also come in handy on many fabrics and is what most traditionally is used in this trade. Above is the best brand I have found.
Sometimes if I don’t have anything that works well on the color of fabric I am using I will go to the art store and can usually find something new that works well. Just be sure you can remove your marks after you’re finished.
Small Bolt Cutters
These are a great tool for removing hog rings. Most people use side cutters for this but your hands will be killing you after removing just one seat cover. These make the job much easier and are inexpensive at the hardware store.
This tool is used for cutting canvas, webbing, rope and any synthetic materials. It melts whatever your cutting so the edge wont fray.
This is a must have tool when it comes time to installing your upholstery. We use this to relax fabric. Steaming covers will make them much easier to install. It will remove wrinkles from covers once you install them. You can use it to bring the life back to old foam. You can wrap shapes you wouldn’t think possible by steaming fabric to make it more pliable. Once you learn all the ways to use this tool it will be your best friend!
There are many different types of needles you can use in upholstery. The above are the type of needles you will use in your machine. For everything we will be doing you will be fine with a size 17 or 18 universal needle. There are specific needles that fit in different manufactures of sewing machines. Be sure to check your manual for the proper type. If you would like to read more about the many different types of sewing needles read this article from “Threads Magazine” http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/3752/sewing-machine-needles-an-overview/page/all
You probably won’t be using tufting needles or hand sewing needles unless your doing something special but it’s good to know what’s available.
Press n Snap Tool
This tool makes installing snaps and grommets fast and easy. If you have a project that requires installing snaps or grommets I would recommend getting this tool. It is a huge time saver compared to using the hammer and die alternative.
Above is and electric carving knife that you can buy in the kitchen section at most home stores. This is what I use in the videos. They are inexpensive and work surprisingly well for cutting and shaping foam. This is what I would recommend.This is a foam saw designed specifically for cutting foam. They do work very well but I would only recommend it if you are going to be cutting a lot of foam because they are a little expensive but they are really nice!
This is used for pressing fabric in to corners, channels and under panels without damaging the fabric. You will also find lots of random uses for it as well. This is a good tool to have around.
You will see me using this tool in many ways in the videos. It’s very useful to have around. This is the Snap On part # SGA173BR
This tool is used to wrap buttons with any fabric you are using. You won’t need to own one of these unless you are doing a lot of projects with buttons. Most upholstery supply stores will make buttons for a small price or will let you use theirs if you buy your supplies from them.
Baker Clip Pliers
This tool is used to install baker clips. Baker clips are what we use to repair spring seat frames.
Go get some tools!
Make something awesome!
I cant wait to see the projects you all come up with!