Upholstered furniture can vary widely in price and quality of construction. All upholstered furniture is basically a frame with interlaced webbing that supports a group of coiled springs, which are covered with some kind of padding. However, the craftsmanship involved in creating a quality piece of upholstered furniture is in the secondary members, or those parts that are not visible. Essential to a quality piece of upholstered furniture is the frame, which should be made of strong hardwood that is properly seasoned and kiln dried, and free from warping and splitting. The frame construction should feature dowel joints that have been glued, and corners reinforced with blocks and bracing. The legs should be squared and sturdy to prevent wobbling.
Higher end furniture uses strips of webbing that are at least four inches in diameter interlaced between the front and back seat rails, and the side rails. This forms the base. Then coiled springs are attached to the webbing with ties. Less expensive pieces use latex or twine, but better pieces use a material called "Klinch-It" to secure the springs to the base. The more springs there are, and the more densely they are arranged is an indication of quality. The springs are then tied down with upholstery twine in one of two ways - four way and eight way ties, with eight way ties being superior. In four way ties, the springs are tied down from front to back and from side to side. In eight way ties, the springs are tied down from front to back, side to side and diagonally. This results in a more uniform cushion, and prevents sagging and distortions caused by use. The seat will continue to retain its shape and return to its original form.
There are two types of seats, spring edged and hard edged. Hard edged seats have a roll of burlap attached to the seat rail, while spring edge seats, as the name implies, have the top of the spring extending over the seat rail. Both types are covered with a layer of burlap stretched between the seat rails and tacked down. Burlap covers that are not sewn to the springs are an indication of lower quality pieces. The burlap is then topped with a layer of cushioning, which is in turn covered with a layer of cotton. The material used for cushioning should be cotton, down or foam rubber. Cushioning made of hair or other similar material is an indication of inferior quality. The bottom of the piece is also covered in cotton to present a finished appearance. The seat back is upholstered in much the same fashion as the seat, and the arms are covered in a layer of cushioning, padding and a covering. The padding on the seat, seat back and arms should all be hand stitched.
The entire piece is then covered in upholstery fabric and tacked down with upholstery nails, which are made of brass, bronze or chrome. The seat is usually fitted with a loose cushion made of foam rubber, or innersprings. Upholstery fabrics cover a wide range of materials, and include Jacquard weaves such as damask and brocades, plain weaves such as muslin and satin, plush weaves such as velvet, printed fabric, and leather.
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