How to Keep Your Studs In Line (some upholstery advice)

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Did you ever wonder how an upholsterer gets those decorative studs to line up just so? Probably not, unless you’ve tried to do it yourself. They aren’t like regular nail heads; they are rounded. Therefore, if you haven’t had some practice, your DIY chair could end up looking like, well…a DIY chair.

I know there are strips of fake studs available, where you only have to nail one stud in 5. But to me (go ahead and call me a stud-snob) nothing screams second-rate job! quite like a row of fake studs.

If you want a custom look, learn how to place real studs.

20130325-211456.jpgI have upholstered six Parsons dining chairs (click here for that post) which require studs around the base. Probably about a thousand in total. I made this jig to make light work of this project. Ha!

To make a jig, you’ll need a piece of rigid cardboard, a few studs, a yardstick or other measuring device and a pen.

A standard stud is just a smidge smaller than 1/2″ (Yes, that’s how I take measurements, sue me). I find it’s best to space them at 1/2″ intervals. So, mark 1/4″(radius of the stud) from the bottom edge of your cardboard and draw a line.

20130326-083224.jpgNext, Mark 1/4″ from the side edge of the jig, and then every 1/2″ along the entire length of the cardboard. Place your studs at the intersecting marks.

20130326-083424.jpgRemove the studs, and cut very carefully straight lines just to the tiny holes you just made.

20130326-083546.jpgThis is your jig. Unfortunately, that was the easy part.

20130417-084722.jpgYou will absolutely need a proper upholstery tack hammer for this project, and some studs. Mine have a 1/2″ shank.

20130417-073721.jpgNext, measure your chair, so you know where to place the first stud.

20130417-073922.jpgPlace your jig on the edge and begin nailing your studs. Make sure the posts are straight. You don’t want to nail them in all the way, yet.

20130417-074401.jpgOnce you have filled your jig, pull it out, and nail the studs in completely. I find it helps to hold them in place while hammering, until they are secure. Even so, some will stray.

20130417-074515.jpgThey probably won’t be perfect, but you can now fix them.

20130417-075917.jpgYou can use your tack hammer to manipulate the studs into alignment.

20130417-080022.jpgThey can also be adjusted using your staple remover.

Care should be taken to keep the all the gaps the same.
20130417-080338.jpgUse this method around the entire chair.

20130417-080441.jpgMake sure the corners have roughly the same gap spacing as the rest of the studs.

It may seem difficult to begin with, but dining chairs such as these are perfect for practicing your stud skills. Have fun, and let me know how you did!


23 thoughts

  1. Well, there’s the answer to the question, “How did they DO that?” Thank you for giving us this wonderful “how-to”. Great post!

  2. Fantastic advice! Thx, too, for all the pics! This will make my project so much easier to finish!

  3. I foolishly thought I could upholster my 6 dining room chairs with silk and am having trouble around the curved legs in the front of the chair…. the leg is not straight like this one. The original ones were made by Vogel who only make chairs and they are the most comfortable chairs you have ever sat on and at the corners they had a v but I am having trouble getting that V even from one side of the chair to next. Any suggestions? Also I have sent an request about having you upholster my living room sofa.

    Also watching on You Tube they are recommending putting a plastic sleeve over your long tack strip on the sides is this necessary?


    1. Silk is definitely a tricky fabric to work with. Pleats at the front corners (the v you are referring to) can only be even if there is the same amount of fabric to work with on both sides. Perhaps you have more fabric on one side than the other.

      As for the plastic sleeves on the metal tack strips, this is more necessary with thin fabric than on normal upholstery fabric, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’d attempt to use metal tack strips with a delicate fabric like silk. But if you give it a go, using the plastic sleeves, or adhesive foam strips may protect the fabric from tearing. If the fabric is very thin, I would blind stitch the back in place.

      Thank you for contacting me, I hope this helps!

      1. Just going to do it this morning but I read that you prefer Vintage this is not Vintage but will send it anyway and a picture of the silk velvet that I bought. I actually bought 3 different orders of velvet from ebay so have to use this latest one as I have 16 meters of 2 different fabrics sitting in my basement!

  4. Thanks for posting this! Whats the size of the nail studs you used? Also, where did you buy the large box of studs?

  5. I just bought a loveseat and couch that have studs around the front of the arms and the bottom of the seat. Can these studs be reused when I remove them or should I buy new ones? and Is there another way to go without using the studs?

    1. If you take them out carefully enough, you may be able to reuse them. You’ll know once you get them out. The shafts will have to be pretty straight to use again. If you don’t like the look of the studs, you can make double piping…(hey, there’s an idea for a post!) or use decorative trim (aka gimp). Both of these are hot-glued on after the fabric is stapled in place. Hope this helps!

  6. I m new to upholstery and I m learning lots, I’ve learnt lots reading all about your stud jig, and I’m very grateful. Di :)

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