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Master in Upholstery How do you know? Bad day with a bad job.

Started by OneBoneHead, November 27, 2011, 08:43:02 am

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I'm angry as I write this.

Master in upholstery is a none element. There is no standard to which one has to conform. In other words anyone can claim to be an upholsterer and even a Master.

I am shocked at how much freedom there is in upholstery to do just about anything to a chair or boat or auto. It's amazing to open up a chair and find plumbers tape, metal plates, egg boxes, Old quilts, old blue jeans.  I love to see 10D nails splitting the frame as they are  jammed in to joints as an instead to glue. It's amazing how what is under the cover is hidden and unknown to the customer. And how much so called upholsterers get away with.

They say Dr can bury their mistakes; Upholsterers just cover them up.

Look at accountants or plumbers or even dairy farmers. They all have standards to follow. Upholsterers can pretty much put an old dog bed in a seat cushion and it's fine. Their is no standard to follow. It's as if upholstery is the nations number one lest regulated industry. It's amazing to me.

What frustrates me the most is when I get the old quilt padded seat with yarn as spring twine, plywood for webbing, and a 10 D nail in place of glue, I realize this has to be fixed. Some one has to pay the price, and it's me. It's mind blowing to see what crappy work some shops get away with. But now that it is in my shop and on my bench, I have to make it right because I don't want it coming back or making my shop look bad. So I fix what someone else could not or was not willing to pay the price to do right.

In price I'm not just talking about the customer paying for it. I'm also talking about the upholsterer taking the time to do the job right with the right parts and not taking short cuts. Also I'm talking about the upholsterer paying the price in education and training. Their are a lot of books and videos and web sites that offer a lot of furniture and sewing, and upholstery lessons. But one has to be willing to pay the price in time and study. I'm so sick of the quick fix foolishness.

Some times I think the advice I got from a shop that went out of business within 18 months of opening is a good example of a bad example. They said, "Don't wast your time fixing it when you can just shove a piece of foam in their." 

The greatest lesson I ever learned in upholstery is the right way is the easy way. I hated learning the right way to fix furniture. In my late teens and early 20s, I thought there has got to be an easy way then this hard work. But... over time I realized that I was learning the easy way. Once I learned how to tie springs, glue a frame, pad a seat, cut foam, cut fabric and so forth, I got faster and faster and my work got better and better and better.

I remember the "Shove foam in there" guy told me not to wast my time rebuilding springs but to use foam. I tied the spring anyway and in an hour had it looking great. He on the other hand tried to make foam look like springs. He spent hours and hours fussing with it, and it kept coming back over and over and over. Finally he gave the customer back their money. Good lesson. Do it right once, or take a short cut over and over and over again.

But now where did the customer take the chair? And what did they say when they saw the crappy job from the shop down the road?
Well it seems they now take it to me and I'm getting fed up with it.

Amazing how low price inexperienced fools can effect a business so much. And how hard it is competing when you insist on doing a good job that will preserve the furniture and it's looks and feel and will last years.

I often hear from customers that,"I spent a lot of money on this and the guy did a really bad job." "how do we know you will do a good job when the last guy assured use he know what he as doing."

Perhaps upholstery should have a code of conduct like lawyers and doctors. I feel I need to do something to stop fools from ruining our business. 

We have enough problems with new furniture being so cheap and poorly made. Now we have inexperienced posers destroying high quality furniture using Machiavellian upholstery methods to make a buck by any means necessary.

Sorry for my going on. I'm just fed up fixing rotten work that takes my time and raised my prices.

If we want to keep prices down and production up, shouldn't their be standards we uphold?  We can charge more as experts and have less frustration fixing other shops mistakes.

Hope you understand and thanks for letting me vent.  I really want to profit from and enjoy the work I do. I just can't stand fixing substandard work anymore. It's taking all my time and taking a 2 day job and turning it into a 3 or 4 day headache.


 had a friend who said a doctor has a licsene to practice.
My brother went to have a tooth pulled awhile ago and said he felt worse afterwards then before and had remaining tooth pieces cmming out for weeks after.  He won't or ii be going there again.


Sorry to hear your frustration with lesser quality work. It has been around for ever. The guy that did a seat for a friend now becomes an Upholsterer. Ruins furniture and goes out of business. It is frustrating. Even people that have been in business for years will do the 10d nail thing. Disgusting! You are correct in doing it right. That's the way I was taught and find it hard to do it any other way. It just doesn't make sense.
  When I lived and worked in NY there were some standards set down by the Bedding laws. no more than 3 pieces of foam in a cushion, and others. I guess this went by the way side. As for Master I don't remember any real standard.
 I hope you next job doesnt uncover any hidden rags used as filling. I've seen the same things through the years and wonder "Why" would someone put this in here? Just doesn't make sense.
 Have a better day OBH
Minichillo's Upholstery


I don't know if this is true or not but I heard that there classic car guys taking their cars down to Mexico to get all new upholstery. The prices were outrageous but then I heard these guys would find out they were using straw and anything else they could find to stuff seats and such with. I heard the same thing about furniture being done in Mexico. Like I said I do not know if they were stories made up for entertainment purposes or not or if they were actually true.

I myself do things the right way the first time and give my customers the best product I can turn out and the best for their money. I base this on being a customer myself for other products and I would be pissed if I was getting screwed. It doesn't feel good.

It is all about standards.



I usually assume that the shoddy work was done previously by the owner, and not a professional. But I guess you never know.
One of my favorite techniques is the hand-tied springs using wire from the hardware store. And I love it when they try to repair a broken No-sag spring by tying the 2 broken ends together with wire.
Shredded newspaper, old blankets, etc.
I once had a cushion that was stuffed KOTEXES (new ones, thankfully).
"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban


 Amen to that brother.
  Currently in the process of covering four antique-ish dining chairs. Simple enough deal......one of the four has gotten more than it's share of use over the years. All the glue joints on that one were coming apart. Mortise and tenon construction. It had been re-glued before. Had to ever so carefully remove glue from repair as well as the hide glue.
On the bright side........the owner covered em last go around. All I had to do was look at the old stuff and it came off. Including the webbing in the seat.
Paul has it right though, there has always been hacks. Always will be. You just got a bad run of em.


I see a lot of the same issues in new furniture from Asia.   Or as I say, "The same person that upholstered your sofa was planting rice last summer and will probably be back there summer after next."

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas A. Edison


Mexico has always been know for tuck and roll jobs, (roll and pleat). They are good. Well I should say they were good back in the day. I'm sure they still have good ones.
Minichillo's Upholstery


Just got a job from a new decorator. Two armless chairs, no skirt. Easy right? So she decided to save a little money and do them herself. She used a carpenters staple gun. 1" staples. Now you would think she would stop when she saw how bad the seat came out. But noooo. She upholstered the whole chair. Then brought it to me.
Thank god she didn't start the second chair.

Reminded me of Hammerandhand's "sign" post. Rate: If you worked on it yourself $50
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.


Kotexes?  Wow.  (note to self:  check retirement portfolio for the presence of Kimberly Clarke stock).  I'm always sorry to hear frustration in my friends' voices.  It must have been a pretty bad day to get you that riled up.  Today will be better. 

Too bad she didn't send those armless chairs to me, eh Kody?  But it really does show you that upholstery is a lot like an archaeological dig site (crime scene) once you get inside the piece.  Drives me nuts when I get an alteration that some hack has "worked on" before it gets to me... allowances trimmed tooclose, work done at the wrong site (which is why the fit is wrong), or about a million stitches/inch.  It's irritating to have to pick out crappy work so you can replace it with good. 

I replaced the tattered lining in 4 drapery panels yesterday.  A lot of stitch picking, but the work went quite smoothly.  I used my blindstitch to run the side hems and to my surprise it worked perfectly (haven't tried that before and was afraid the bulk would require a lot of machine fiddling.  But the job was done lickety split, looked great, and I was thrilled.  The moral?  owning the proper tools, knowing how to use them, adding a skill is what elevates us from "hack" status. 


Chris, You're right about the "Tijuana Tuck n Roll" jobs. A lot of guys would go across the border to get an interior done. Some were done correct, many were not. Anything they could find to stuff the pleats and or padding with was used, Old rags. straw, animal hair, Etc.
  Back to the mastery subject; Obviously, anyone can place the term "master" onto their credentials just to gain notoriety. When I hear the word "master" I always think back to a guy I used to know who was an excellent musician. He could play a guitar like none I've ever heard before and just hear a song once and copy it note for note by ear. He spent A lot of time practicing, studying, and even went to Nashville taking lessons from Chet Atkins. One thing he told me he picked up from him was that to be a master of the guitar (this applies to any subject), you need to devote at least 10,000 hours in practice. Think about that, At 24 hours in the day that adds up to 416 days total. The fact that no one can devote the Whole day to any subject means that years, possibly decades need to be employed to obtain the level of master. Now take into consideration if you were taught wrong or been doing it wrong all of that time. You've become nothing more than a master of shoddy work.

Like everyone else has stated on here, It pays to do the job correct the first time.


Just finished a very old, beautiful sofa. 90 years of just cover over the old fabric. The customer said the last (so called) upholsterer only charged $300. We did a total restore.

It had six feather cushions. The odd thing is the last upholsterer put buttons in them. Kinda defeats the whole purpose of feathers. When I took the buttons out the cushions puffed right back up, like after 10 years they could finally breath again.

When I opened the cushion I could see what happened. The baffled lining was falling apart and the buttons were there to keep the feathers from migrating back and forth.

My wife called the customer and told her the buttons weren't original to the piece. She said they were always there and she doesn't like having to fluff them up all the time.

We rebuilt the linings and much to my dismay we put the buttons back in. It made those poor cushions hard as a rock.

I just know the next upholsterer is going to wonder why I did all that work rebuilding the sofa and then put buttons in the feather cushions.
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.

Joys Shop

Under those circumstances, I put a note in the inside back before I close it up. 
It explains why I did something in an unorthodox way

Customer insisted!!!


Quote from: Joys Shop on November 28, 2011, 08:38:01 pm
Under those circumstances, I put a note in the inside back before I close it up. 
It explains why I did something in an unorthodox way

Customer insisted!!!

I'm glad someone else does that  :D

why dont you guys and ladies set up a self regulating trade body like the ones we have here in the uk? I appreciate its a blooming huge country your side of the pond but there must be a way to do it and the internet will help. This forum alone shows how communication is easier in 2011.

sent from my phone whilst on a train talking to you guys  over 3000 miles away( if scotty mc reads it then thats half the world away)





why dont you guys and ladies set up a self regulating trade body like the ones we have here in the uk? I appreciate its a blooming huge country your side of the pond but there must be a way to do it and the internet will help.


while sitting on my high horse with coffee to light the way.

Right now I am building a code of ethical business practices for the upholstery business that are self adopted. Since I can not force everyone or anyone to follow them, and many will not or can not with their knowledge and skill base, I will post it online and link my site to it with an ethical agreement to my customer to uphold these ideas and value to my customers satisfaction.

In essence it will be a sellers agreement and buying criteria to my customer that will not only help them choose an upholstery shop with a set standard of value and quality,  but will help them choose an ethical, highly skilled upholstery shop that will preserve their quality furniture investment with out taking liberties with the customer lack of knowledge of what is really under the cover. 

In this, it will outline what expectations a customer should have in order to receive quality work and raising the standard of what one should look for and ask when choosing an upholstery shop.

Example would be:
Years in Business
Materials used
Warranty of work
Warranty of supplies like foam and fabric
where the work is done, in shop or outsourced to lowest bidder.
Production Practices
Professional Association

to name just a few.

I realize I can not change the world  of upholstery, but I can raise the bar of expectations that customers should have.

The goal is to make the customer aware of the difference other then price so they can become an expert in buying upholstery services based on quality, value, and longevity over simply "How much?"

What is the number one question I am asked?

"How much is it to upholstery a..."

This is all they ask because it is all they know.   Once they know the difference they will know better.

PS after the coffee buzz if over, I may rethink.