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Outsourcing Part of the Job

a couple of years ago

How many of us got into this because we saw a piece of furniture and thought,

“I can make that better myself”

Once you make the decision to build your own furniture you get this feeling that your projects don’t have to be limited by anything other than your imagination. There is also a strong sense of independence that comes from this. You see something you like and you go make it. So giving up part of the build and outsourcing it to someone else is painful to do. But where do you draw the line?

danish modern rockerLook at this scenario. I’m really taken with this chair. I don’t much care for the color of the upholstery but it is a classic Danish Modern example that poses some cool challenges yet is also very timeless and could fit anywhere in my house. I have started down the design path in figuring out dimensions and shapes and joinery but I’m staring at the upholstery and wondering if it is a rabbit hole I want to go down.

I know nothing about upholstery other than helping my wife recover existing seat cushions with new fabric and a heck of a lot of staples. In theory I understand how it is done but I also know that I don’t have any of the materials or tools of the trade. I love learning new things and part of me would love to give it a try. But another part knows full well that I don’t have the time to venture down a side road from woodworking that could lead to buying more tools and material. Moreover, after sinking a lot of time into the woodwork do I want to compromise the entire build with a hack job on the upholstery which will be very visible? In this project I’m not talking about a separate slip cushion but rather upholstery that is integrated and attached to the frame itself.

I’ve done this enough both in woodworking and other interests to know that I will quickly end up with additional tooling and a need for space to stick my new materials and tools. I also know that this side interest will start to compete with woodworking which is what I wanted to do in the first place.

I think it is these same questions that drives some woodworkers to send their furniture off to a professional finisher to make sure the job is done right. But that guy who stood in the furniture store years ago and said “I can make that” is screaming at me right now for taking the shortcut and not actually making the entire piece.

I wonder can you still claim to have made the piece yourself if one of the focal points of it is someone else’s work? I guess upholstery is just part of the furniture making skill set and eventually I will need to tackle it just like I would with a subset of woodworking like marquetry or carving.

So anybody have any good resources for learning about upholstery? I guess I can learn what I’m getting into and then decide to outsource the job when I know more clearly what I’m avoiding.

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