Steel Spring Constructions

Sorry for the lull in blog postings; it’s been hectic around here!  Let’s get onto talking about steel spring type constructions, there are essentially 2 types to consider, although there are variations of both.

Sinuous springs, sometimes called “zig zag” springs or “ziggers”, are the most commonly used springs because of their low cost.  A sinuous spring is a long piece of steel wire that is shaped into many “S” shapes so as to resemble a snake laying across the ground.  These springs have no real height; they are essentially flat.  Sinuous springs are attached to the wooden frame from front to back.  So the question is whether sinuous springs are good or bad?  Do you know the answer?  Time’s up, the answer is neither…or both!  There’s no black and white answer to this question.  So I guess your answer was correct, and wrong.  Let’s clarify and figure out what really determines the answer.

Better, stronger springs would naturally start by being made of heavier gauge wire.  But that alone is not the key here.  Many very cheaply made, inexpensive sofas are made of sinuous springs, and many very well constructed and pricey ones are as well.  Remember that the main function of any spring is to create a base of support for seating comfort and stability.  Imagine a fence that was built with few posts, that were set say 20 feet apart.  Now think of a second fence built with it’s posts only set 3 feet apart.  Which would be the stronger, more durable?  The fence with the posts set 3 feet apart of course!  More strength and stability is created within any structure by building the supports closer together.  The same principal applies to a sinuous spring leather sofa base.  A quality sinuous spring construction would have heavier gauge springs set more closely together.  A sofa made with only low cost manufacturing in mind would use lighter gauge wire, and set the springs further apart so as to use less of them.

This same principal applies to coil spring constructions as well.  More springs means more support and lasting comfort.

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Leather Sofa Base Springs / Suspension

This is another area that can be con­fus­ing for the aver­age con­sumer. Most folks don’t even know that some leather sofas don’t have steel springs in the base, and that even those that do are not nec­es­sar­ily of qual­ity. There are 3 basic sus­pen­sion sys­tems uti­lized by 99% of the fur­ni­ture indus­try. They are, in no par­tic­u­lar order of qual­ity, syn­thetic web­bing, sin­u­ous steel spring, and 8 way hand-tied steel springs.

Today we’ll take a look at syn­thetic web­bing, which we’ll refer to as “web­bing.” These web­bing con­struc­tions will most com­monly be found in Ital­ian made leather fur­ni­ture, and some­times in Chi­nese fur­ni­ture. I guess the best anal­ogy that I can make for web­bing sus­pen­sions would be to have you imag­ine lawn fur­ni­ture with it’s inter­wo­ven web­bing strips. In the man­u­fac­tur­ing of leather sofas this web­bing is typ­i­cally sta­pled to the wooden frame cre­at­ing a tram­po­line of sorts. The pro to this type of sus­pen­sion is that it is inex­pen­sive to man­u­fac­ture. The cons start with the web­bing stretch­ing out over time, just like a rub­ber­band would. As the web­bing stretches it cre­ates a “hammock-like” effect in your seat­ing where every­thing tends to sag to the mid­dle. Not a great prospect when you’re sit­ting toward the arm sink­ing toward the mid­dle. The loss of sup­port will wear out the seat cush­ions pre­ma­turely. Also, over time the web­bing strips can tear from those spots where it is sta­pled to the frame.

For those rea­sons noted above, web­bing sus­pen­sion in a sofa is gen­er­ally a sign of infe­rior qual­ity. To ver­ify it, just take a look at the man­u­fac­tur­ers war­ranty in regard to the sus­pen­sion sys­tem; it will typ­i­cally be five years or less.

Next entry we’ll take a look at the steel spring type suspension.

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Leather Sofa Frame Construction

We’re con­tin­u­ing our dis­cus­sion of Chi­nese and Ital­ian leather fur­ni­ture imports today with frame con­struc­tion. Let’s pref­ace this dis­cus­sion with the idea that these types of imports are being made for the masses in large quan­ti­ties, and more impor­tantly, to hit cer­tain price points, to be appeal­ing to the masses. Cost cut­ting in all areas is of key impor­tance in hit­ting those lower price points. Keep in mind that the cost of ship­ping that leather fur­ni­ture from over­seas has to be absorbed into the cost, as well. So now you start to see how para­mount cost cut­ting becomes.

Qual­ity leather fur­ni­ture is built only with frames made from kiln dried hard­woods. Use of hard­woods is pre­ferred for their last­ing strength and dura­bil­ity. Kiln dry­ing fur­ther hard­ens those woods and helps them to keep from crack­ing or split­ting. The major­ity of leather fur­ni­ture imported from China and Italy is not built with these qual­ity, kiln dried, hard­woods, but rather from chip­board and ply­wood. These are not the best choices in build­ing a piece of qual­ity leather fur­ni­ture, but is a great choice for keep­ing the cost low.  The other issue is how these frames are affixed. Qual­ity leather fur­ni­ture frame con­struc­tion would include screw­ing and glu­ing the joints, and uti­liz­ing a cor­ner block for sta­bi­liza­tion, as well. Most imported leather fur­ni­ture has sta­pled frames, and rarely are cor­ner blocked.  The prob­lem that arises with sta­pling is that even­tu­ally those sta­ples tend to work them­selves loose caus­ing insta­bil­ity in the frame, loose arms, etc.

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Chinese & Italian Leather Furniture

Imports, espe­cially those from China and Italy, make up the major­ity of the leather fur­ni­ture being sold here in the United States. Unfor­tu­nately most of those leather fur­ni­ture prod­ucts are mediocre, at best. They are built with infe­rior mate­ri­als, lack­ing in solid kiln dried hard­woods; most don’t even uti­lize steel coil springs (or any steel) for their sus­pen­sion sys­tems, and going back to our ear­lier post, they do not even use 100% top grain leather for their upholstery.

In our next few posts we’ll break down the var­ied aspects of imported leather fur­ni­ture con­struc­tion, and show why it cre­ates poten­tial prob­lems and is not con­sis­tent with qual­ity leather furniture.

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What is top grain leather?

Our topic of the day is top grain leather ver­sus split grain leather. In my expe­ri­ence most folks do not under­stand what top grain leather really is; what top­grain means. The major­ity think that the word “top” in top grain means that it is the top qual­ity or best leather. In a gen­eral sense top­grain is best, but that’s not what the term really means.

A cowhide is gen­er­ally thicker than what you would think it is; and thicker than what is used for fur­ni­ture uphol­stery. A hide has an approx­i­mate thick­ness of a nickel. By nature, all hide has a denser cell struc­ture at the sur­face, on the top, than they do deeper under the sur­face. Now know­ing that, let’s go to the tan­nery where they will shave/cut the typ­i­cal hide into three lay­ers in order to cre­ate a leather that will be of suit­able thick­ness to be of use for fur­ni­ture uphol­ster­ing. While all three of these lay­ers are con­sid­ered to be leather, only the top layer, the dens­est part of the hide, is con­sid­ered to be top grain. Top grain leather is the strongest uphol­stery mate­r­ial in exis­tence. The under­cut­tings, the other two lay­ers, are referred to as split grain leather; these are weaker, lesser dense parts of the hide which are not suit­able for use in pro­duc­ing qual­ity leather furniture.

Many of the over­seas imports com­ing into the United States today are built with a large por­tion of the piece uphol­stered in these weaker split grain leathers. Using split grain leather will cer­tainly lower man­u­fac­tur­ing costs, which will result in a lower pri­ce­point at retail, but it lessens the over­all qual­ity of the fur­ni­ture as well. Shop­ping for a qual­ity piece of leather fur­ni­ture means accept­ing noth­ing less than 100% top grain leather.

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Leather Furniture South Intro

Wel­come to my blo­gos­phere!  I’m Tom; I am the Founder, Owner, and Pres­i­dent of Leather Fur­ni­ture South, which is the old­est Inter­net based seller of residential/commercial leather fur­ni­ture. I have been in the busi­ness of leather fur­ni­ture, in one capac­ity or another, for over 25 years. Famil­iar­ity with all of the lines cur­rently being sold here in the United States, com­bined with work­ing with many man­u­fac­tur­ers and tan­ner­ies, gives me a unique per­spec­tive within the leather fur­ni­ture industry.

In the com­ing weeks and months we will tackle areas such as what con­sti­tutes qual­ity con­struc­tion, leathers, war­ranty how to shop for value in qual­ity leather fur­ni­ture, etc.  It is my expe­ri­ence that most folks in shop­ping for leather fur­ni­ture are doing so for the idea of qual­ity, longevity, and last­ing beauty.  Unfor­tu­nately the major­ity of leather fur­ni­ture being sold in this coun­try is made in Italy and China, and is of gen­er­ally poor qual­ity.  Here we will learn the dif­fer­ences between those types of prod­uct and what really con­sti­tutes qual­ity in leather furniture.

We wel­come your ques­tions; you can email me here at info@LeatherFurnitureSouth.com, or call toll free at 877.670.7845.

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Welcome to Leather Furniture South

Wel­come to our blog where we will share valu­able info about leather fur­ni­ture. Visit us reg­u­larly for infor­ma­tion on learning/purchasing/maintaining leather fur­ni­ture. Make sure to visit our web site.

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