Replace foam on old curved rocker

A once lovely 1970’s era curved rocker is tattered inside and out, with hopelessly limp, cracked and crumbling padding. It’s high time for some replacement foam and fresh upholstery.

Let’s tackle the cushion support first. We’ll need to cut two layers of foam that will overlap along the back and seat. That’s where we want extra cushioning. To duplicate construction, we can use two-inch thick foam.

Note however, that the bottom foam slab is NOT the exact shape as the upper, just minus the leg section. If the two pieces were to lay flat, then they would be identical. In this case, the bottom wraps under the curved inner piece,  so therefore the bottom piece will be elongated along that stretch. Just like the outside lane of a running track. Nor would I switch to using a solitary four inch slab. A wider slab would be tougher to bend, and might pop up from where it was glued into place.

Tear away the decayed old foam and prepare a clean surface.

Tear away the decayed old foam and prepare a clean surface.

Step 1  Clean the surface

I scraped the glue and foam remains off the curved rocker hardboard base using a small putty knife and gently rubbing with stiff wire brush, cleaning away all sawdust.

Choosing glue

When you need glue, first try what you have on hand. If you go shopping you will find six shelves of products in the adhesive aisle. I was lucky to find one type of glue in my own cabinet that had not hardened to a solid mass. It was the kind that comes with a dual plunger, applies clear and is best a bit tacky on each surface before you put them together. It worked fine but was not enough to finish the job. Next I bought a white glue with a reasonable price and a non-toxic label. Hunt for something that doesn’t dry too brittle, that can be a bit flexible at the bond. This needs to be comfortable where you join foam to foam. I did have to go back to the store as the 60ml bottle was not enough.

I bought some interfacing with grid lines to help me line things up symmetrically.

I bought some interfacing with grid lines to help me line things up symmetrically.

Cut first foam layer

Start with the bottom section. This is the shorter piece that provides the deep base of padding for seat and back. For my pattern, I’m using interfacing with grid marks.  I placed the old foam on top and traced the shape with a black marker.

Then I laid the interfacing with marker outline (uncut yet) on top of the foam. I pinned it with T-pins and I cut through both template and foam with an X-acto knife, basically a razor blade style box-cutter.

I glued this directly to the hardboard frame at the head and the seat. I laid weights on the seat and clamped the head section with hangers. After a full 24hrs, it was dry and I could add the second slab on top.

Be patient and let the glue dry for the full cure time noted in instructions.  I used coat hangers for clamps here.

Be patient and let the glue dry for the full cure time noted in instructions. I used coat hangers for clamps here.

I laid the second block on uncut, a big 73″ by 30″ rectangle. This I glued to the foam below at the head, and directly to the hardboard frame at the foot. Once dry, I sliced all around, precisely to match the slab below.

I could have pre-cut the upper foam before placing and glueing, but worried that it would be hard to align. And yes, when I trimmed the upper foam, I cut too close and ended up with a missing chunk (of foam).

I could have pre-cut the upper section of foam before gluing, but I chose to glue and then trim in place.

I could have pre-cut the upper section of foam before gluing, but I chose to glue and then trim in place.

Repairing missing chuck in foam

If you cut foam with a razor-edged box-cutter it will slice easily through the foam. It’s fast, for sure. But a novice like me, will soon get cocky and go off-course, and be left with a deep gouge. This is the reason some folks choose a bread knife to cut foam. It’s a little slower, but offers more resistance and control, and likely fewer injuries to self and foam. Anyway, if you DO cut too deeply, make like a first-aider and find the missing bit and glue the section together right away and secure with upholsterers T-pins. Any fabric store will carry these. Just sink those T-pins in deep and plenty and let the glue set for the full amount of time. Patiently allowing glue set time is especially important with a porous subject.

Use upholsterers T-pins to fix accidents while cutting.

Use upholsterers T-pins to fix accidents while cutting.

Measure for upholstery fabric needed

Now the foam is laid you can have fun picking a nice upholstery. Use a seam ripper to separate the pieces of the original but beat-up slipcover, this way the allowances are intact. Once taken apart, the pattern seems simple enough: top, bottom (in two halves, left of zipper and right of zipper) and shaped sides put together out of three sections. Keep the zipper. It will be re-used.

I laid all pieces out end to end between two open tape measures set to 22 inches, a typical width for a folded fabric bolt.  Lay down a piece once, and it is mirrored a second time on the folded piece below. The large top and bottom are folded and run along the edges.  So my estimate is 3.3 yards (10 feet). You can do a ballpark estimation laying the pieces out on a kitchen floor as as tiles are usually one foot square.

Laid out between two 22-inch measuring tapes the pattern pieces cover 3.3 metres. That's what I'd need from a 44inch bolt of folded fabric.

Laid out between two 22-inch measuring tapes the pattern pieces cover 3.3 yards. That’s what I’d need from a 44inch bolt of folded fabric.

Judging by my slasher with hiccups technique with the foam, I better make a mock-up slip-cover next, and not risk messing up the good grey corduroy I purchased for the chair.

…to be con’t

aug ’13

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