Sunday, August 23, 2020

The dining chair redo.

 It appears it's Sunday night. That means I owe y'all a blog post. What to write about, though? 

My brain is full of politics, what with the Democratic National Convention last week and the Republican National Convention this week. But this isn't a political blog, so I'm not gonna write about that.

The part of my brain that's not full of politics right now is full of setting up La Casita Cantwell. One big advantage to a 500-square-foot living space is that it doesn't take long to set up. I've unpacked all the boxes and put up all the pictures (except for one -- the glass broke during the move). I've even assembled the ginormous loom that my attorneys gave me as a retirement gift. Now I'm down to doing little chores to make the place, y'know, perfect. Or as close to perfect as one can get in a rented apartment.

So today, I began working on recovering the dining room chairs. As I have nothing better to write about, I'm writing about that tonight. And since I know some of y'all like those step-by-step things with a million pictures, well, here you go.

First, a baseline photo. The bench is built in. I'm borrowing the dinette set -- the table and two chairs -- from the apartment building. I'm told the furniture is the same vintage as the building, which was built in '85. If the chair seats have been reupholstered since, it's been quite a while -- the foam has deteriorated to the point where you feel like you're sitting on a board. Also, you might have noticed that none of the upholstery matches. The blue material is from the second chair; I'd already removed it before I thought to take the photo. (I'm really bad at this.) Taking the old cover off took forever. Whoever did the upholstery job really liked using the staple gun.

Here are the tools I'm using for this project: New upholstery fabric, a couple of screwdrivers, pliers, staple gun, Sharpie (neon green was the only one I could find), rotary cutter and self-healing mat, 6-inch chef's knife, fabric shears, pins, and your choice of beverage. (You may not need the hammer. I'll explain in a sec.)

Not shown: two paper bags, regular scissors, and two squares of 2" thick high-density foam rubber.

So we've skipped ahead a couple of steps here. (I did say I was bad at this.) 

For these types of chairs, the seat is typically held in place by four long screws, inserted in the corner braces on the underside of the chair. I've already removed those screws and set them aside. I've also removed the old upholstery and foam by pulling out all the staples holding the fabric in place. That involved prying them up with my smaller screwdriver and, where necessary, pulling them completely free with pliers. I do kind of wish I'd taken a photo of the sad remains of the original foam rubber. Suffice it to say it was gross and I threw it out. 

What you're seeing here is the wooden seat base. This particular one is particle board. The circular gunk is some kind of adhesive they used to keep the foam rubber in place. No clue why they did that -- once the fabric is on the seat, that foam is going nowhere.

I mentioned that I tossed the foam rubber, but I did not throw out the original fabric. Instead, I used it as a pattern for the new upholstery. I cut open a couple of grocery bags, taped them together, drew the outline of the old fabric on them, and cut it out with regular scissors. DO NOT USE YOUR GOOD FABRIC SCISSORS ON A PAPER BAG. I hope I didn't actually have to tell you that, but just in case.

Now I've folded the fabric in half, pinned the pattern to it, and am cutting it out. I'm using a rotary cutter, but you can use regular scissors if you'd rather.

Now that the fabric is cut, I've moved on to cutting the new foam rubber. I've drawn around the wooden seat with my Sharpie but I've left the seat in place -- it makes a nice straight edge for the chef's knife. A number of online sites said to cut your foam with an electric knife that you might use for carving your turkey, but I don't have one, and the chef's knife worked just fine. DO NOT use scissors -- they'll compress the foam and you'll get a weird jaggedy edge. (I don't even know why the scissors are in this shot. Ignore them.)

So our foam is cut and our fabric is cut. We're ready to assemble the seat. Yay!

First, I put the foam on top of the seat and laid my fabric out on top with an even amount sticking out on all sides. I centered one of the stripes by measuring the front and back of the chair seat, dividing that measurement in half, and marking that measurement on the edge of the foam. Then I centered the stripe on the mark, front and back, and stuck in a pin to keep it in place. Then I turned the whole thing over and stapled the fabric in place, folding the corners semi-neatly. My staple gun wasn't behaving, so I kinda had to hammer down the staples so they'd stay. You probably won't have to do that.

Now I've removed the straight pins and put the seat back on the chair frame, and I'm using those long screws to reattach the seat.

Oh, right -- try not to cover the screw holes on the seat with your fabric. It's easy to screw through the fabric, but it's easier to see the screw holes when you're putting the seat back in place if they're not covered.

(That pinkish diamond on the floor is part of the carpet design.)

It's done. And when I sit down, I can't feel the wood anymore. Go me!

The other chair's not done yet because I stopped to write this blog post. It won't take long to do, once I get the 1,001 staples out...

I also need to sew the seat cover for the bench cushion, but that's a project for another day this week.


These moments of how-to blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Wash your hands! Wear a mask!

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