If you’re at all into upholstery, then you probably already have quite a sizable tool kit. When sitting down for your first project, many of us come to realise that there are a lot of different items needed to get a job done both properly and thoroughly.
If you haven’t tried to upholster anything before, but would like to try, you’re probably a little apprehensive about buying the upholstery tools you’ll need, or maybe just confused as to why you need specialised tools in the first place. It’s understandable. Unfortunately, a lot of the items you need you probably won’t find in a conventional toolbox. Reupholstering a chair is a lot different from putting up a shelf or fixing a broken sink, so the process needs its own special tools.
If you’re wondering about which tools you’ll need for your project, fret not. While there are many different kinds, we’re going to cover the basics that should help you get through most simple projects.
The Basic Tools
There are a lot of different tools that can be used for upholstery projects, but these are the most commonly used.
Dust Mask. First things first, we want to keep you healthy and happy. Use a dust mask to avoid breathing in any debris that might come off when crafting.
Utility Gloves. Gloves often reduce dexterity, but more heavy-duty ones are great for stripping or moving bigger pieces of furniture. It’ll save you the hassle of dealing with cuts and splinters later.
Sewing Scissors. Different from regular scissors, these are used to cut things a little tougher, like fabric, foam, thread or batting. You can get these at any reputable craft store. Make sure not to confuse them with pinking shears, as these cut in a zig-zag pattern as most upholstery projects are going to need straight slices.
Chalk. Very helpful for marking patterns before cutting. For more precise marking, sharpen the end of it to a point with a knife.
Tape Measure. For measuring chair parts. It’s better than a ruler, especially if you’re dealing with curved pieces of furniture and need precise measurements.
Glue Gun. Mainly used for sticking piping before it’s permanently placed using staples. There are a variety of different kinds, but always go for the best quality you can get. Many cheaper glue guns will get clogged up quickly and not be able to keep piping stuck down for very long.
Nose Pliers. You’ll need these to pull out broken staples. You’ll be doing that a lot more than you might think, especially if you’re upholstering very old furniture.
Stapler. This one is fairly obvious. They’re used to attach fabric to the frame of the furniture. It’ll be easier if you use an electric or pneumatic stapler, but any kind of high-quality staple gun is also fine. If you’d prefer, you can instead use a tack hammer. These are magnetic and keep tacks in place while you hammer them in. Keep in mind that this kind of hammer is usually used for decorative purposes.
Rubber Mallet. Used for knocking apart wooden frames. The normal mallets you may have in a regular toolbox could damage the furniture, so the softer head of a rubber mallet is much better for these kinds of jobs.
Upholstery Needle. Used to sew on buttons or create what are known as rolled edges. You won’t be able to use a regular needle as fabric for upholstery is often a lot more heavy duty. An appropriate tool is needed, and these kinds of needles are made of steel. If the material is really thick and strong, then you can always try a mattress needle instead.
Claw Tool (Staple Remover). Used for carefully pulling out tacks and staples while causing minimal damage to the surrounding wood. These are the best tools to use when removing old fabric as you don’t want to risk splitting or scratching your frame. It may look a lot like a screwdriver but is used in a very different way thanks to the end being a prong rather than a flathead.
Webbing Stretcher. Probably the strangest one on this list if you aren’t familiar with upholstery. This is used to tighten and/or stretch seat webbing so you can staple or tack the fabric down without hurting your hands.
If you’re familiar with the basics and are looking for other upholstery tools that might come in handy, try the ones on this list.
Straight Ripping Chisel. Used carefully with a mallet or hammer to knock out more stubborn nails or staples. Be very careful with these and only if you can’t pull them out with pliers or the claw tool. If misused, a chisel can cause severe damage to the surrounding woodwork.
Curved Needles. For hand stitching hidden seams.
Adhesive Spray Gun. The best tool for applying adhesive spray accurately. It’s more heavy duty than aerosol cans, so only purchase if you know you’re going to need it. It needs an air hose and a 1 to 4-gallon air compressor to work.
L-Shaped Marking Square: Used for marking out square corners accurately. It’s one of the best ways to create a perfect right angle.
If you’re contemplating any kind of upholstery project, make sure to do your research first. There are plenty of tutorials online as well as lists of the tools you need to get projects down effectively. If you’re planning on doing many upholstery projects in the future, then it’s always best to have an adequately stocked toolkit.