How To Work With An Upholstery Tack Strip

Many years ago, upholstering was done with a hammer and tacks, from beginning to end. New supplies make the job much easier these days. Instructions included.

Upholstery tack strip is used to cover up the staples of the underlying work and when it's impossible to put the fabric on without staples showing. An outside back of a chair is a good example of why tacking strip is necessary. By the time you have upholstered a chair and are preparing to put the last piece on - the outside back - there are staples showing from where you've secured the inside back, the arms and the side panels. While putting the outside back on, it's impossible to reach under the outside back to staple the sides of the outside back, and have it look smooth and tight. Instead, staples are put across the top of the outside back, and tacking strip is used to secure the side pieces of the outside back.

The chair should be laying with the inside back down with the top of the outside back already secure. Using cardboard tacking strip, cut two sections of strip, one for each side of the outside back. To make the task easier, staple the center of the cloth for the outside back, at the bottom of the outside back. This prevents pulling too much fabric one way or the other while inserting the tacking strip. Lay the first strip, tack side up, down the side of the back of the chair, with one end only an inch or so away from the top outside back staples, and the other end near the leg of the chair. The tack strip should be an inch or so shorter than the actual outside back is when completed.

Push the fabric onto the tacks, a couple of inches from the edge of the material. Keep the material vertically taught as you push the material onto the tacks. After the tacking strip has been inserted into the cloth, turn the tacking strip upside down. Now the fabric is wrapped around the cardboard of the tacking strip and the tacks are pointing downward. Use a rubber mallet to hammer in the tacks, beginning with the top and working your way down to the bottom. After inserting the tacking strip on both sides, staple the remainder of the bottom back piece. It's not necessary to hide the staples on the bottom back piece if the chair has a skirt that will be put on next.



A different type of tacking strip is a metal strip called ply grip. It looks like a piece of silver metal, scored and bent slightly in the middle, lengthways, with built-in metallic "tacks" which are very sharp metal spikes. The metal for the strip bends easily to allow you easier handling of curves and corners. It works basically the same way as the cardboard strip, but isn't as stiff and straight. To install it, first staple the top of the outside back. Find the center of the back piece of cloth, at the bottom, and staple it to the center of the bottom back of the chair. Cut 2 pieces of ply grip, each the length of the side piece for the outside back. Lay one piece down the edge of the back of the chair, with the "mouth" of the ply grip facing the outside edge of the chair. Staple the poly grip to the chair, from top to bottom. Now fold the back cloth piece over the metallic strip, inserting it into the mouth of the ply grip. Use a rubber mallet or tack hammer to close the mouth of the ply grip. Work from top to bottom, making sure the fabric is caught in the jaws of the ply grip all the way down. Do the other side in the same manner and finish the chair as needed.

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