Upholstering 2 Chairs For My Living Room #10: Shaping the Arms

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Blog entry by MarkTheFiddler posted 01-30-2014 01:40 AM 1320 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Upholstering the Seat - A bit more Part 10 of Upholstering 2 Chairs For My Living Room series Part 11: Padding the Arms »

Let’s upholster the arms in three stages. This stage, shaping the arms, is most often skipped or ignored especially in these days of Quick Buck furniture. There is no need for that especially if you want your chair to look really good.

On top of that – it’s Easy!!!

On top of that – Spend time on the foundation and the rest will be easier.

That’s “Two On Top of that’s.” You can’t loose!

Take a look at the bare shape of these arms.

Without doing something to add shape to the arms, I’m going to have a diamond shape when I try to roll the fabric around it. Most manufactures use stiff cardboard to give the arm shape. It’s not bad and it’s fairly tough. How many times have you sat of the arm of a piece of furniture? Just once can crush the cardboard. Don’t do that unless you know how it was shaped. If you knock on the curve, and it makes a sound – It was shaped with cardboard.

Some manufactures do something worse, they pull jute webbing of synthetic strap very tightly from front to back and staple it down. Well – The straps stretch over time or tear loose from the staples. Saggy arm. I won’t tell you how to test for this because you can destroy the shape of the arm and the sales staff won’t like you.

Some manufacturers do something worse. The just stretch burlap over it which is not near as tough as the jute webbing or the straps. If you feel any of that wood through the fabric by pressing down firmly – just say no.

I’ll show you my shaping technique. Again – easy to do.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

7 comments so far

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2217 days

#1 posted 01-30-2014 01:51 AM

Let’s change those gaps into curves. I grabbed some 2 inch foam and cut it into strips about 2 inches wide. No need to be precise and measure it out then cut it on the band saw. Just hack away.

I the stapled the foam into the gap on the top outside part of the rolled arm.

I gave it shape by compressing the foam into the slot and stapling top and bottom. I beveled it toward the back as the board diminished to meet the back. Beveling just meant compressing the foam a little harder.

Underneath the outside roll I took some very stiff Dacron polyester scraps, 2 inches wide, and stapled them to the underside of the outer curved board. I left the bottom of the Dacron hanging in the wind. On the inside of the arm, I stapled another two inch strip of foam to the top side only. The bottom was hanging in the wind.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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2068 posts in 2217 days

#2 posted 01-30-2014 02:16 AM

Now I want to add a layer of burlap to my arm. Again – a Good sturdy fabric will do fine.

Just toss a hunk of it on the arm. Make sure it reaches front to back and all the wall around the arm curve. Go ahead and position it so you can staple it under the outside roll and the bottom rail inside arm.

Staple all the way around the front of the arm.

On the outside arm portion of the cure pull very firmly the back and fairly firm downwards. Add a few staple to the outside arm near the back of the chair. Once you do that. you can tug the rest of the burlap and staple it down the rest of the way to complete the shape of the outside arm curve.

Warning!!! When I stapled down this section, I stapled high and grabbed as little of the wood as I could. In addition, I didn’t catch the shaping Dacron underneath. We want all of this work to be out of our way and as thin as possible. A big part of upholstery is bulk management.

Now let’s work on the inside of the arm. Pull the burlap down firmly until our piece of shaping foam look like a curve. Staple the burlap to the bottom on the inside arm.

Snip the back corner were the back bottom of the arm meets the inside back bottom wood. Tuck the burlap in to the slot between the back and the arm.

I didn’t take a picture of this part but I made a snip near the upper brace as well. You can see where I tucked the burlap through the slot I was describing from the back of the chair.

Go ahead and pull it as tight as you can through the slot and staple it in place. JUST – keep that slot open.
Trim off the excess and you have something that looks rolled.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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2068 posts in 2217 days

#3 posted 01-30-2014 02:25 AM

I didn’t include this in the rest of the post because it is optional. I wanted to make the front of the arms look a little more tailored so I added edge roll all the way around the front arm. It’s the white stuff in the following picture.

That edge roll is going to keep my padding from compressing down to a very thin layer as I upholster that section. I was out of edge roll so I cut a two inch strip of that super stiff Dacron. I doubled it over and stapled it down with the fold toward the front to the chair.

This is a ‘me’ thing and It may make your life difficult, I overlapped the front wood by about an eighth of an inch when I staple the edge roll down. I’m going to have come back later and add a picture that show you why. Remember – The edge roll is optional and I don’t always use it.

We have formed the arm and are ready to go on to add padding. Part 2 of the amazing inside arm series. LMAO

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View NormG's profile


6156 posts in 3032 days

#4 posted 01-30-2014 02:46 AM

Very insightful. When I do my Morris chair, I want to try the upholstery myself. Though I may ask my mother in law.

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View MarkTheFiddler's profile


2068 posts in 2217 days

#5 posted 01-30-2014 02:58 AM

That’s awesome Norman. A lot of the better generation know how to sew. It’s becoming a lost art.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10123 posts in 4081 days

#6 posted 01-30-2014 05:23 AM

This is very interesting & educational…

Thank you very much.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3241 posts in 3741 days

#7 posted 01-31-2014 05:09 AM


I haven’t commented because with this dial-up, it times out before all the photos open and I haven’t had the time to open them all individually. When I have a little more time and am able to get to a WIFI hotspot, I’ll review your tutorial (and save to my computer) so I don’t have to worry about my slow connection speed.

Thanks for all the effort you’re putting into this.


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

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