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Seeking Xray vision of your upholstered projects


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I see so many finely finished upholstered chairs. But I'd love to see some of these creations undressed so to speak. I'd like to see the way people are handling the underlying frame works. Are you making it out of chunks of foam board or balsa as a lot of the books show, are you filling your base with sand, a rather (to me at least) odd method in a book I have, or are you making a mini version of what a real world chair fame would be like?

I have just discovered Kari Bloom's work and am inspired but also somewhat lost at how the underlying structures on some of those more unusual arm profiles are created.

Which method do you use for your base?

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Petrik I try to stay as close as possible to original methods or what would give the look of authentic upholstery. I do draw the line at using springs and horse hair though. In real life they would use nails for the straps etc, I just use a good white wood glue as I feel my frame doesn't need a lot of holes with nails in, I think it wouod weaken it and I am also concerned that the brass will eventually discolour my petit point or fabric. 

I lbuilt a wooden frame and glue cotton straps to it, I wish I could find narrower ones. Next I glue on very thin cotton lawn, followed by my filling which is usually cotton quilt batting, you get these in different thicknesses and I use whatever will give me the desired thickness which can vary from chair to chair. Next I glue my petit point on and cut the gauze after the glue has dried to the same width as the seat frame.

I haven't done a fully upholstered chair yet but plan on doing it at some time in the furture. 

Here are some photos.


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I usually shape my seat cushions from basswood; then use a layer or two of batting to make it softer for upholstery.  I haven't been in Kari's classes, but I would attempt to shape upholstered items the same way it is done in real life.    When I first started in miniatures I did not know about the Guild, so my first attempts of building furniture were with the House of Miniatures kits.  These kits used a hard foam for the seat cushion, but they were not sculpted to show a rounded off edge, so even in the beginning I had cut out my cushions from basswood and shaped them with an electrical sander - any variation of sanding equipment will work depending on your ability to control it.  I like our large disc sander for sanding off edges for a cushion.  You can also shape with a band saw.  I need both hands to shape, so I wouldn't try to use a jewelers saw, as I think you need a third hand. 

I had purchased Nancy Summers kits at the miniature shows and this was reinforced because this is the same type of cushion that she supplied in her kits.  

I really appreciate the accuracy of the bands representing the burlap straps under a chair, but I've never attempted to track down the supplies to do this.

The sentiment for Xray vision is understandable, but all you really need are a bunch of books from the library on upholstery - or watch the videos on the internet. 

Miniature magazines are an excellent resource for how-to(s).  I think the best resource for Fine Furniture making in Miniature is the Scale Cabinetmaker, but all of the miniature magazines that I have seen in the US have been happy resources for inspiration.

I have never looked for a video on miniature upholstery, but I bet they are on the web somewhere.


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@ElgaKoster Thanks for the detailed description of your chair seat. I am looking more for detailed skeleton builds of the fully upholstered chair frames as per sample chair attached. I am wondering how this underlying structure was done (especially those pointed arms). I would like to see the skeleton of this so to speak. Also to work out how to go about getting the fabric in place properly so it is all covered. It looks like there is a V gap between arm and seat back in this sample too so interested to find out how that gets dealt with. As usual I am probably over analysing things but that's my FOF (Fear of Failure) coming through. I always like to have everything clear in my head before I start so I don't mess up. It's crippling.

@WeekendMiniaturist I have seen some mini upholstery videos but not seen many where they show the making of more complex frames. Most, that I have seen, seem to work with profiled blocks of balsa or foam core and don't have much in the way of fancy shapes.

I have tried to contact Kari, through Facebook and website email, but so far no response.

Kari Bloom Sample 19.jpg

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I would Shape arms for this chair from a thicker piece of wood, use my bandsaw to take the bulk of it, and then my belt sander to help, and finally sand by hand for final shaping.  The key to chairs is to have matching parts for the left and right - which is a most humbling experience to do by hand with sandpaper and files. You can shape the arms with jewelers saw or a drum sander on a drill press.  There are a lot of ways to create this chair.   

I would use basswood in the US; limewood in the UK.  Basswood is technically a hardwood, but it is very easy to work with in miniatures, and perfect for this kind a scratch building project.  

<smiling> I'm an experienced lifetime subscriber of paralysis by analysis... I suspect this is a very good characteristic for people who love details and fine miniatures.  In my 2 decades + of participating in this wonderful art form, getting myself out of the paralysis by analysis did require money spent on classes and tools, and as projects that pique my interest continue to be fed, I haven't found a way for me to get rid of this condition.  Instead my projects got more complex, which required more study, and more classes, and more tools = all equal more $$.  So, I continue to work in real life to support my hobby.  

I usually do something from scratch at least 3x to get the desired results - sometimes I do a lot more than 3... it just depends on what I want to accept in terms of my own ability to create.   If it gets extremely frustrating I am thankful that our artisans sell their work, and I don't have to create it myself.  If for example I want 250 matching stair spindles, I may have to make 500 of them and choose the 250 that match the best - this requires getting over my fear of failure, too - and guess what I haven't started - maybe this year...?

You just cut the 'v's into the back of your chair's arms.  I think you are referring to the intersection of the front of the cushion and the back of the arm.  The V, may not actually be there.  Upholstered items can have the effect of the V - by removing the padding in that area. Or, she purposely designed it with the lack of wood when she sculpted the arms, if she glued up various thickness of wood to construct the arm.

To understand a chairs construction there is a wealth of information of a chair's frame in upholstery books... I would suggest reviewing You Tube Videos for upholstering a chair, or the library or bookstore.  Once you review them at the library or bookstore, you can decide that book is of good value and can purchase it.  I have found in my quest that most of the info I seek has already been published in a life size version; I just have to find the information and miniaturize it to a scale of 1" to 1'.


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@WeekendMiniaturist Yes, I think I'll take the route of working from the full size products. Wood wise I am still trying to locate a good source at an affordable price. Here in New Zealand it's limited. I have been thinking of getting a small bandsaw to make my own.

Oh, a REAL job. I need to get some real life work. I've been out for two years now, not good. Film extra work, which I have signed up for in the interim, is too few and far between to be able to pay the bills.

Lots of job applications but yet to get to interview stage, let alone an actual job offer. Hopefully that will change soon.

I love your description of FOF as "an experienced lifetime subscriber of paralysis by analysis." Hopefully I'll be able to get started soon. The internet has been a blessing and a curse, easier to do research but now I get into the research loop instead of making.

Thanks for all your help and hopefully soon I can offer you a range of upmarket furniture to save you making it. 😉 

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Well I just heard from Kari, with the simple message, sorry, but I have retired from Miniatures. (EDIT: Turns out it was a short simple message as she was out and about at the time she sent it.)

The research continues. Time for some trial and error as soon as I can get over my paralysis by analysis (love that description of what I call FOF [Fear of Failure]).

EDIT: After letting her know what I was looking for she has sent me some fantastic photos and upholstery instructions that should help me on my way.

It's a real shame she's left the miniature world. Her knowledge and resources are brilliant.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

PetrikNZ, I know you are more interested in fully upholstered pieces, but I would like to offer one more detail to Elga’s webbing support in her fabulous chair. Even fully upholstered pieces have supports. I took a class from Elga at Guild School and created a wonderful chair at her instruction. I did manage to create a more narrow webbing strap by weaving the tape myself. I used a Greta loom and the technique learned at another Guild School class with Bonni Backe. It really is a most wonderful week! 

Martha in Louisiana 



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