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Old 05-27-2007, 12:40 AM
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recovering seats

I want to reupholster the seats in my bu and need to know
how hard is it to take apart bucket seats and recover them?
I can buy replacement covers but don't want to get into it
and find i can't get them back together.



79 Cruising
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Old 05-27-2007, 03:00 PM
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I just did the seats in my 69 Corvette.
Put new covers on with new foam as well.
Put them on my 66 Corvette a few years back also.

It's a pain and definitely a 2 person job.

If you have patience, a patient helper, and the right tools, you can do a good job.
You need to have hog ring pliers (get straight and angled ones) and a needle/hook tool. Suppliers of your seat covers will have the tools too.
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Old 05-27-2007, 03:24 PM
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I just bought a set of used buckets out of a 1993 Chevy 1/2 ton.

They were FILTHY, but the seat-backs had a zipper on them ... which might lead you to believe that it's as easy as un-zipping them and throwing them in the washing machine.

NOT so!

After dissasembling the seat back from the seat bottom, and removing the release handles etc ... I discovered that the fold-down armrest has some kind of mystery retainer that can't be seen ... and that the covers are GLUED to the seat foam padding as well.

Discovering that, I hauled out the old Bissell Power Steamer and the upholstery tool.

Hours later ... they are cleaner, but tat still didn't fix the cigarette burns or the broken welds on the seat frame.

Maybe they'll end up at the upholstery shop, or maybe they'll just get a nice set of seat covers.

Last edited by 66GMC; 05-27-2007 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 05-27-2007, 08:53 PM
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Well i ordered seat cover swatches to try and find the
factory color. I am gonna give it a try and see what
happens. Thanks for the answers back.


79 Cruising
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Old 05-27-2007, 11:28 PM
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I understand that covering the seats with "painter's plastic" (very thin drop-cloth plastic ... like the stuff you get from the cleaners) makes putting the new covers on *much* easier.
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Old 05-28-2007, 06:14 AM
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79 cruisin,

roger1 said it right....patience, patience patience!!!!......can be 4 hours to do just one seat back to get it perfect with no experience(me!).....by the time it's done there are 100+ "blind" fabric to frame connects on each piece

the best suggestion I can give you.....forget the hog rings.....use zip ties* and a awl to punch the fabric.....they allow you to tighten a little at a time as you stretch each area to remove wrinkles and keep all aligned really nice (and if you have to "redo" for alignment, just snip them and thread in new ones)

after doing my whole car....I have a whole lot more respect for upholstery guys....my interior turned out totally "WOW" but wow what a challenge to get it perfect!

*1000 zip ties at HF=$10?
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Old 05-28-2007, 06:45 AM
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For those of you who want to do your own seats, here are some tips from someone who does it for a living. This advice is for copying the old seat:

Take the old seat apart, paying attention to how it came apart and documenting the process with paper and pencil and digital camera. For a front seat, the back has to be taken off the bottom seat. Mark any screws, bolts, handles, etc. so you know how to put the seat back together. (old Chinese proverb: the palest ink is better than the best memory) If you're doing bucket seats, leave one seat together, and take apart the seat in the best condition to make patterns from. That way you can look at a finished seat to see if you're putting it together correctly. Begin taking the seat cover apart, after making witness marks on both sides of the fabric (so you know you're sewing them together correctly when the time comes) Most seat manufacturers have their own witness marks (also called position notches), just use those if they're there. The seat back comes apart as follows: 1) rear back 2) side bands 3) seat front. The seat front will be divided up in various configurations. Take the pieces apart and mark how they were sewed together. Do the same with the seat bottom. It come apart as follows: 1) side band 2) seat top. Once again, the seat top will be in various configurations which should be taken apart the same way as the seat back. Keep following this post.

Last edited by DanTwoLakes; 05-28-2007 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 05-28-2007, 06:52 AM
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Next step: Once the pieces are apart, make chipboard patterns from the old parts. Some pieces are just rectangles, which only require you to measure them and document their size. The other pieces need to be flattened to make good cutting patterns. I soak the fabric in hot water and flatten them with a steam iron. I then put the pieces under plywood and add weights on top. This works even for vinyl, but only iron vinyl from the reverse side. ( WARNING do not soak leather parts, this process does not work for leather. You can flatten leather with a dry iron from the back side. ) Once the fabric is dry and flat, copy the pieces onto the chipboard. The picture shows a pattern traced onto the leather which has been glued to 1/2" sew foam. (I use K-Grip foam glue to put the pieces together. It holds without being too permanent like contact adhesive, and only needs a few seconds to set up) Sew foam has a backing glued to it which holds stitching without cutting the foam. See the attached picture, and keep following this post.
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Old 05-28-2007, 07:01 AM
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The next step is to sew around the line traced on the leather. (This is my own process developed over the years, if you don't want to do it this way, don't, but for me it works very well.) I sew as close to the traced lines as possible, and then sew around the piece again, 1/4 " in from the first stitch line. If you choose to use 1/4 " sew foam, the second stitch line is not necessary, but when using 1/2" sew foam, it makes the sewing of the final product much easier. The next step is to cut off the excess leather as close to the stitch line as possible. (Notice the silver witness mark on the piece.) See photos and keep following this post.
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Old 05-28-2007, 07:12 AM
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The next step, after cutting out all the required pieces, is to sew the outside perimeter pieces together. This seat requires French seams, so the parts are sewed together, the seam is flattened in both directions away from the center seam, and then topstitched on both sides of the original seam. I glue the seam down, and then glue a piece of 1" twill tape over the seam on the backside , and then topstitch. (Yes, I know you can do this without having the sew foam underneath, but I like the look, especially in leather) See photos and keep following.
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Old 05-28-2007, 07:16 AM
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The next step is to do the insert. On this seat, the insert is fabric. I glued this to 1/2" sew foam also and sewed around it just like the leather pieces. I then sewed in the design. After the insert was ready, I sewed it into the center of the seat top.
This gives you the completed seat top. I sewed the topstitching and the design in the insert 5 stitches per inch with polyester 138, and the rest with polyester 92. The stitching around the traced lines is nylon 69. See photos and keep following.
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Old 05-28-2007, 07:22 AM
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The next step is to sew on the side bandings, and then the rear back of the top seat. Start from the top middle and sew in one direction to the end. Then flip the cover over and sew from the middle to the other end, all the while following the witness marks. The next step is to topstitch the side bands to the seat top. See photo and keep following.
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Old 05-28-2007, 07:29 AM
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If you follow all the steps, and have the right sewing machine, thread, foam, glue, hogrings, handtools, skill, and luck, your seat will come out like this too. I'm including a picture of the original seat. ( I know....you're asking yourself "why would you want to replace this classic old vinyl seat with the new leather one?") O.K., I didn't just copy this seat, I improved on the original a little bit. Good luck.
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Old 05-28-2007, 10:28 AM
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First of all, GREAT WORK DAN!!!! THANK YOU FOR THIS SERIES OF POSTS!!!!

It's always a true pleasure to see a master at work! (Jon! We need a "Blown Away" smiley!)

I have a question for you now, Dan. Years ago I did a bit of upholstery work, although I never sewed. I upholstered the seat bottoms of dental chairs - yes, the big swoopy seat that the patient sits in. It was basically a wooden frame with foam glued to it for padding. Before I pulled the vinyl cover onto the frame, I covered the frame with a thin plastic sheeting, kind of like those plastic "bags" your dry cleaning comes from the cleaners in. This kept the woven backside of the vinyl from sticking to the foam so that I could pull the vinyl tight and get a nice tight seat with no wrinkles. I've heard that some furniture manufacturers now use a type of silicone spray for the same reason.

My question is, do you use anything like that on automotive seats to make the vinyl or leather slide onto the foam padding easier?

Oh, and just for the record, I haven't given up on sewing. In fact I've enrolled in some Automotive Upholstery classes at the local community college, although I won't start those until this August. These classes focus on disassembling and making patterns from an old seat cover, rebuilding the seat frame, sewing new seat covers, and installing those covers on the seat frame. In the mean time, I'm still plugging away, learning the feel of the machine, and getting to the point that I think I may have finally got it. We'll see...

EDIT: I found a picture of one of the chairs I upholstered. I did the seat bottom only, and again, I didn't sew the cover. The clear plastic cover ar the toe is a slip on thing to protect the vinyl, and was added by the customer as an option. Man this brings back memories...
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Last edited by Dusty82; 05-28-2007 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 05-28-2007, 12:35 PM
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Thanks for the compliments, Dusty. What you used on the dental chairs (which is still used today) is called silk film. There are different grades and thicknesses of the stuff. I have never found it necessary to use it on seat bottoms, but I can see where it might help slip a seat back over the frame. It would only need to be put on the very top of the seat frame to accomplish that purpose. It is used a lot on boat seats, and I have seen it used on car and truck seat backs. What I do on seat bottoms is to glue a padding material on the metal frame around the bottom. This accomplishes two things: 1) it makes the seat cover slide on easily 2) it protects the vinyl or leather from dings. What I prefer to do on seat backs is to glue on dacron polyester wrap, which is what I did with these seat backs. That makes the seat cover slip on easily, and also adds a little more padding. As far as silicone goes, I use that all the time to fill cushions, and it works great. It would help in the same way the silk film does, but the silk film would work much better.
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