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MissyBoling

Upholstering with leather on 1960s shell chair seats

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MissyBoling

This kitchen dining set was made for me by Michael Yurkovic for my Dick Van Dyke Show kitchen.  I thought I'd show some of the pictures that demonstrate my learning curve as I attempted to upholster the seats.  I've also included a color still that was taken during rehearsals.  I've toned the color down a bit - I don't know if the colors were really that bright on the show to make the set look better in black and white, or if the picture is over saturated.   When I de-saturated the picture, I came up with the typical salmon pink and turquoise that I associate with kitchens from that era (early '60s).  I found two pairs of leather gloves on ebay (new in box with tags!), one in pink and one in turquoise, so I'm using the turquoise on the chairs.

 

At first I had a very hard time thinning the leather and keeping it an even thickness without holes, so I finally tried upholstering the first chair without thinning the leather.  I wrapped the leather around a partial piece of an unfinished chair shell that Michael sent me so that the cushion would fit the contours of the seat.  Because the leather was relatively thick, I had to cut notches around the curves, and the result was pretty messy on the bottom.  I decided to hide the notched edges by keeping them between the cushion form and the chair seat.  I wasn't satisfied with the final appearance though, so I continued to attempt to thin the leather, aided by Debora Beijerbacht's information on her leather lined chess set storage drawers elsewhere on this forum.  (Thanks, Debora!)  I finally found that a chisel with very slightly rounded corners worked very well in thinning the leather with almost complete control.  (The straight edge chisel corners caught the leather and made holes.)  Once I got the feel for using the chisel, it worked very well for these small pieces.  (I've also ordered a blade like Debra used for larger pieces of leather.)

 

When the leather was paper thin, I was able to wrap it around the front and sides of the chair as was done in the full size chair without cutting any notches.  The leather molded very easily to the curves, and was still thin in spite of the gathering around the curves.  The second chair I did, on the right in the picture, shows the difference that the thin leather (and slightly less padding) made.  For the padding, I used very thin sections of batting from a jewelry box.  On the first chair, the batting went all the way to the edges of the seat, but on the second one, I cut the batting leaving about an 1/8" of bare seat around the edge.

 

I will do the first chair over again, and hopefully by the time I finish the fourth one, I'll know what I'm doing.

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Bill Hudson

I don't get this.  640 views and not even one reply.  What is going on?

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miraclechicken

I remember Missy talking about a Dick Van Dyke roombox  but again I don't recall ever seeing the pink furniture. I am sorry...I am always in the forum and always try to comment whenever appropriate. 

Great job upholstering this perfect set of furniture---

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Mesouth

Very interesting, Missy! Can you share a little more about thinning the leather? And please do share your progress on the next 2 chairs.

Martha in Louisiana

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MeezerMama

Interesting process with the chisel.  I guess that makes sense ....  it's kinda like the skiving knives used on full scale leather thinning.  Thanks for sharing!

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MissyBoling

I'm just now seeing these comments. Thanks for the kind words. Yes, the chisel is being used as a miniature skiving knife. I finished all 4 chairs in the method I used for the 2nd one. Martha, do you have specific questions about thinning the leather?

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Mesouth

Have never tried it, so don't know enough about the process to ask specifics. Do you know of a basic tutorial?

Martha in Louisiana

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