Midwest #17: The "In Good Form" Project

Midwest #17: The "In Good Form" Project

Janel Laban
Jan 31, 2008

Name: Brandy
Location: Austin, Texas
Time: About 4 evenings and 24 beers
Cost: $47

Gator clips? Who knew that they were the secret to excellent diy upholstery results? Obviously Brandy did! Jump below for all the pics, tools, her full-of-great-tips instructions and VOTING...


Tell us the tools and resources you used for the project:

Tools: hammer, flat & philips screwdriver, 8mm socket, regular & needle nose pliers, one plastic shim, sewing machine , iron, electric knife, lots of gator clips


Share step by step instructions for how you completed the project:

1. Pop the wheels off the base with the claw end of a hammer
2. Slide the
backrest off the pivot posts with a screwdriver.
3. I peeled the old vinyl off the backrest, it was glued down with a contact/rubber cement. The foam underneath was still good, so I didn't have to replace it.
4. Remove the 4 bolts that attached the chair bottom with an 8mm socket. Save the bolts in a labeled Ziploc bag.
5. Flip the seat upside down and you'll see two bumpers, attached with 3 screws each, remove them and seal the parts in separate baggies labeled left and right.
6. You now have access to all the metal clips that hold the vinyl to the seat. Pop these off with a flat head screwdriver, and yes, save them in a separate baggie.
7. The foam seat for mine was rock hard, crumbly, and stinky. Hopefully you're lucky and yours is in great shape, if not, take the plastic shim and scrape all the old seat off. A shim makes a great flexible scraper that won't gouge or scratch. Then soak and scrub all the old glue off, and dry the metal well. Set aside.
8. Clean all the aluminum parts with 2, 00, then 000 steel wool, I also used some Barkeepers Friend for the stubborn spots and the metal upholstery clips.
9. The steel parts for my base were pretty rusty so I cleaned them up with steel wool, then spray painted them with Rustoleum. I let them dry for a couple days while I worked on the rest.
8. Use the old vinyl as a pattern for your new covers, make sure to copy the flap cutouts too. You want to stick with thick upholstery fabrics, trust me.
9. The backrest requires no sewing, yea! But lots of gator clips and rubber cement, uck. When all the regular upholstery books say, "pull the fabric to the back and staple it to the wood frame", we're doing the metal chair substitution, my version at least, gator clips. So take your new fabric and center the backrest on it. Use the gator clips to clamp the fabric all around the edges. Then go back and one by one, working the opposing sides (top then bottom, left then right, diagonal etc.) pull then fabric tighter and reclamp. Do this a couple more times to get it really snug and wrinkle free.
10. I used tiny paperclips to hold the flaps of the fabric up to the arms of the gator clips so I could put the contact cement on both the metal and the fabric and keep them separated for at least 15 minutes.
11. One by one, take off the clips and smooth the cured contact-cemented-fabric-flap to the contact-cemented-metal. Screw the aluminum back cover on.
12. For the seat- Take the new fabric and pin and sew together, wrong side out. Clip the inside corners of the turns, flip it right side out. I ironed the seams, then topstitched the seams so it looked like the old one. I also made little copies of the bumper piping.
13. I used 3M FoamFast 74 adhesive to attach a square of 1" high density green foam to the seat. Trim the foam edges flush to the seat with an electric knife. Because of the contours of the seat pan, I thought trying to cut it first then line it up would be a nightmare. This worked well, except the knife gets a bit bogged down by the glue.
14. Now put a layer of batting over the foam seat and stretch the new cover over it, be careful to keep the front seams even. This is the sandwich you will wrestle with for the next hour. Bring this to the couch with 2 beers, a bunch of gator clips, and your scissors. Gatorclip the fabric all around the edges, then keep pulling and stretching and reclipping, flip it over, check your front seams, tug some more, reclip etc. When it's finally perfect, one by one, replace the gator clips with the original metal clips.
15. Put it all back together like you found it! But first clean the old grease off the center shaft and the wheel stems and regrease them, it makes swiveling and rolling so much sweeter.
16. A simple hack, if your black rubber stoppers for the backrest are hard and crumbling like mine are, is to cover them with ½ screw protectors from HDepot. They fit perfect.

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