Common spring types

Coil springs are cylindrical, hourglass-shaped metal springs that are generally sewn or clipped to a webbing base. Then the springs are tied to each other in eight different directions in a process called an eight-way hand-tie, in order to give them tension, order, and neatness.

Most upholsterers believe that this is the best way to create a stable, durable seat, because the coils distribute a person’s weight evenly.

“Generally, you’ll find it in antique furniture,” says Reg Gervais, vice president of George N. Jackson Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. “There are also some customers, and certainly some upholsterers, that want to have the eight-way hand-tied coiled springs. I think it does provide a nicer cushion.”

Gervais says a thicker wire coil, such as an eight- or nine-gauge wire, provides optimal firmness. Placing coils close together adds consistency and support. However, Lanowski notes that most people want nine- or ten-gauge, depending on the firmness they prefer. There’s not a lot of difference between the gauges, he admits. Nine-gauge coils are arranged on jute webbing before being attached. Photo: Upholstery Shop Oregon Inc.Nine-gauge coils are arranged on jute webbing before being attached. Photo: Upholstery Shop Oregon Inc.Zig-zag thread pattern shows how coils are stitched to webbing. Photo: Upholstery Shop Oregon Inc.

The other most commonly used type of springs are zig-zag springs, also known as “no sag” or “sagless” springs. These S-shaped linear springs are available in pre-cut rolls, generally from eight-gauge to 11-gauge, and are attached to the frame with clips. They’re a common modern alternative to coils.

“You’d be hard-put to find a new piece with coils in it today,” says upholster Claudette Sandecki, former owner of Pioneer Upholstery in Thornhill, B.C., Canada. “It takes longer. They don’t want to do anything that takes any time anymore. Mostly it’s just flat springs.”

But not every modern piece can accommodate zig-zag springs. In the cheapest, flimsiest frames, you may be constrained to using only webbing because the frame would buckle under the spring tension.

“Some of it has to do with the frame,” Gervais says. “If you have a really, really high quality frame, you’re able to use stronger springs. The springs put a lot of stress on a frame.”


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