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Boat project, first time upholstering

Started by slow96z, May 18, 2011, 03:19:54 pm

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May 18, 2011, 03:19:54 pm Last Edit: May 18, 2011, 03:55:44 pm by slow96z
I know this is a bit of an ambitious project, but I'm going to do the best I can with what I have since I cannot afford to have it done professionally.  I have lots of experience in several fields, the largest part in car audio so I have done lots of custom boxes and panels; cutting and gluing carpet and vinly is not new to me, building upholstery is another thing completely and this is new.

The boat is a 1998 Starcraft Aurora deck boat that we just picked up in S.W. Florida and hauled back to Houston 2 weeks ago.  This thing is in great shape but has sat uncovered in the sun its entire life so the interior is completely trashed.  These are the before pictures:

First cushion I did

others I will do...

Here is what I did last night with the front cushion:

Removed cover

Bad shape!

Broke cover down for patterning

Made patterns, transferred to new vinyl and cut out new pieces (No pics...)

new cover stapled on:

Installed in boat

I know this would have turned out better if I had used an industrial machine and an air stapler, but all I have is my euro-pro home machine with a walking foot attachment and an electric staple gun.  I'll likely redo this one because I don't like that the seams are not straight, but other than that I think it turned out nice for a first run.  I'm also definately going to source an air stapler, this electric one just doesn't have the guts...


Looks like a good start. Take your time, have fun and you'll do all right. I'm not a boat guy but it's my understanding that in salt water use stainless steel staples.
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.


Stainless steel staples are a must for salt applications. If you are looking for a low cost air stapler Harbor Freight has a 20 gauge stapler cheap. I have one and it works fine.
Gloucester Canvas
I can be found on Facebook and Google+ as Gloucester Canvas


Yeah, I went to Harbor Freight to buy that stapler and the register popped up a message saying not to sell the item and to pull them from the shelves.  I was pretty upset about that one, but I got a better one at Northern Tools for $37.  It's not as nice as some of the high end guns but it got a lot of good reviews and for the price it's hard to beat.  It'll almost be a wash by the time I return the electric stapler ($30) I bought when I couldn't find an air stapler.

Now I just need to find a place with stainless T50 staples.

I was going to do another cushion last night, but I'm getting a boat wrap and we decided to see what the wrap looks like before redoing the interior, so we can match vinyl colors to the exterior.  Probably be a couple of weeks, but likely worth the wait.  I'm probably going to start working on the drivers seat in the meantime, it'll probably take that long to do anyway.

More to come.


May 19, 2011, 04:42:06 pm #4 Last Edit: May 20, 2011, 01:51:49 am by kodydog
Once again I'm not a boat guy. Whats a boat wrap?
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.


I'm sorry, I should have explained.  A boat wrap is essentially a big vinyl sticker that covers most of the boat hull.  This is a lot cheaper and more durable than custom paint, is easily repaired and can be removed with no damage to the boat.  It is a perfect solution for boats like mine that have some sun damage on the gelcoat (boat "paint").  We have pretty heavy oxidation of the gelcoat and wet sanded / polished most of it off, but it's still not perfect.  It is good enough to be wrapped though!

Here is an expamle of a wrapped boat:

As you can see there are a lot of possibilities in doing this and to stay with the factory colors just because they match the side graphics is no longer a logical decision.  I do not know yet what my wrap will look like, but a friend of mine is in the sign business and his wife is a graphic designer; they are designing and installing it for me.  When I get some pictures from them I'll post them up for you guys to see.  I'll also make my interior vinyl decisions at that point. 


Just out of interest, can the "boat wrap" be sealed in and finished over the top to make it a hard finish that's durable or will it have a limited life span with normal uv exposure, salt / wave abrasion / strap(winch) damage and so forth?


Since the wrap is made from sign grade vinyl it's my understanding that they can last up to 10 years, but I have no idea about coating over it.


I got my new (to me) machine today, have folks coming over tonight to help break the seats down and get patterns made.  Hope to make some good progress!

New machine thread w/ pics:



I did one cushion on my new machine last night and it sewed awesome!  I hope I run as well when I'm 100.  We did decide on a different interior color scheme to match the wrap we are planning; design will stay the same.

Thanks to my friends Ed and Jim for helping out with disassembly and pattern creation, you guys made it go a lot smoother!


Here is a source for SS staples, the ones that fit Harbor Frieght's stapler are at the top of the page:



I actually just saw that on another post about 10 minutes ago.  I found stainless staples for my Northern Tools staple gun at Home Depot fo $10 per box of 1000.  The Northern Tool stapler I bought takes a standard T50 so they're readily available.

Thanks for the heads up though!


Did another cushion and the piping for all 3 last night, it was a late one.  For the piping material I'm using weed eater string because I couldn't find nylon welt cord locally and didn't want to use cotton for a marine application.  Here are pics of the 3 I have done so far, one of these is the first one I did but redone in the new colors.  It's slow work only doing it after everybody goes to bed but it's coming along.  Going to try to do the remaining front seat top cushion and 2 bottom cushions tonight so I can have the front completely done.  The back doesn't seem like it's going to be too bad, still scared of the driver's seat...

And this is where it all happens...I'm surprised my kids don't want their play room back yet!

Comments or concerns?


Looking good! I hate to say anything now that your so far into it ;) but I probably would have top stitched those swoopy curves. I think you might find it sort of, 'mellows out' the curves. Don't start now, but for next time. Now you might try nipping the selvedge every 1/2" or so, or maybe trimming it away. That'll help the curve lay the way it wants to.

Don't get me wrong, you're doing great! Quite an ambitious project for a newby! Keep at it!
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I'm about to start on the seat bottoms, but I'm a little concerned as they look to be considerably more complex then the backs.  The back of the bottoms is wrapped separately from the front piece, looks like I will need to make the front and rear pieces complete, sew the piping to one and then sew in the other.  Then the rear goes on first and gets stapled down under where the front foam goes, front foam gets inserted and vinyl pulled over it.  Make sense?  Any tips or pointers?  It's been slow going lately, Fire Academy had been killing me in this heat!