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Can you recommend an upholsterer for a prewar project in the south?


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I've not found a shop in the Texas area that is comfortable with taking on a prewar project unless it's a street rod. Looking for era correct materials, no foam, no vinyl, no short cuts.

 

One shop told me specifically, "doing an authentic interior is impossible, interiors have advanced and old materials are obsolete and completely unobtainable". Needless to say that shop won't see any of my business.

 

Prefer Texas, but willing to travel. Let me know who you use.

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I appreciate your search for good work.  Not sure what car you are looking to do, and I do not suggest it to replace original leather, but flexible vinyl was in OEM use pre-war in some applications.  The material was commercialized in the late 1920's.

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37 minutes ago, bryankazmer said:

I appreciate your search for good work.  Not sure what car you are looking to do, and I do not suggest it to replace original leather, but flexible vinyl was in OEM use pre-war in some applications.  The material was commercialized in the late 1920's.

Thanks for the input, but the original interior was indeed leather in this vehicle. Vinyl and more contemporary materials would make this task so much easier though.

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Well, not really..vinyl just makes it easier on the trimmer, since they don’t have to think about how best to use leather, just pull the vinyl off a roll.  That’s a shame that someone told you that.  Hope you find someone who knows what they’re doing.

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1 minute ago, trimacar said:

Well, not really..vinyl just makes it easier on the trimmer, since they don’t have to think about how best to use leather, just pull the vinyl off a roll.  That’s a shame that someone told you that.  Hope you find someone who knows what they’re doing.

Hoping I can find someone too! 

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The trouble with Vinyl is, it in no way resembles the artificial leather products used before and just after the war. Those products were not made of Vinyl (PVC), and are not available anywhere in the world as near as I can tell. In my opinion real leather is the only practical substitute. Vinyl makes it very difficult to get the right look in the first place, and as it starts to age, cannot hold up the prewar illusion for long. Within a couple of years it will look more like Grandma's 1970s recliner than prewar Leatherette.

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The thing is that there are a lot of people doing upholstery work.  The problem is that very few do it correctly  on older cars.

 

Correct material availability is another subject entirely.

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46 minutes ago, Bloo said:

The trouble with Vinyl is, it in no way resembles the artificial leather products used before and just after the war. Those products were not made of Vinyl (PVC), and are not available anywhere in the world as near as I can tell. In my opinion real leather is the only practical substitute. Vinyl makes it very difficult to get the right look in the first place, and as it starts to age, cannot hold up the prewar illusion for long. Within a couple of years it will look more like Grandma's 1970s recliner than prewar Leatherette.

not talking about top inserts, but what materials for upholstery are you talking about as prewar "leatherette."

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2 hours ago, bryankazmer said:

not talking about top inserts, but what materials for upholstery are you talking about as prewar "leatherette."

 

Fabrikoid (USA) and Rexine (UK) are pyroxylin/nitrocellulose based and the most likely suspects. There were others such as oilcloth as it existed in those days made from linseed oil, and at least one artificial leather, the name escapes me, that was supposedly non-flammable. They kept the formula to that one a trade secret. Leatherette was also a trademark for some sort of artificial leather in the pre-vinyl days. I'm not sure what that one was made of. There were others.

 

Most if not all of these are thin, fairly stiff, and hold lines along edges pretty well. The pattern of the backing cloth telegraphs through the front a little in addition to whatever grain they pressed in. When Fabrikoid types start to fail, they craze like lacquer, because that is basically what they are. Eventually the covering starts coming off revealing the fabric behind. They don't get shiny spots and hard spots out in the middle, and everything pulling out of line along the edges like PVC/Vinyl does when it ages. You can tell the difference from 20 feet away.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Quite a bit of discussion so far, but nothing

yet giving the answers Mr. Griffin needs!

 

Mr. Griffin, if there's no good specific shop

in your area, you might consider shipping your

car a few states away to have the work done.

"Willing to travel," you say, and that's good.

Since that's a possibility, it might open up more

sources for you that others could recommend.

 

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Any mention of" naugahyde" artifical leather? it was the go to for years.

 

Mr.G. says "prewar" prewar WHAT!

The job of finding the right guy to do a 1916 open Pierce Arrow  verses a guy doing a 1938 Buick sedan .

 

 

As said before the use of not 100% authentic or best replacement modern Material is one thing ,but paying attention to high detail and proper period installation is quite another.

The good old timers with 40 and 50 experiance years are passing fast and near gone. 

Most of the talented fellows that can do the right work today you will find(if you can find them)are our ethnic brothers and sisters from South America or Europe .

 

Who ever said"you can't do an authenic upholstery job" because of this or that, certainly should be taken off any list. Just like a automoblie refinisher/ painter...

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A few (5 - 10?) years ago Barry Wolk from Chicago rebuilt a Lincoln coupe and shared its progress here on the Restoration section of AACA site and the car was ultimately destroyed in a bad crash.  He sent his car to an upholster in Miami ? ( I think) and the progress photos of it being done were about the best that I've ever seen.  I belive that the name of the upholstery shop was Dan Kirkpatrick Interiors or similar. It could be worth checking them out.

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10 hours ago, DavidAU said:

A few (5 - 10?) years ago Barry Wolk from Chicago rebuilt a Lincoln coupe and shared its progress here on the Restoration section of AACA site and the car was ultimately destroyed in a bad crash.  He sent his car to an upholster in Miami ? ( I think) and the progress photos of it being done were about the best that I've ever seen.  I belive that the name of the upholstery shop was Dan Kirkpatrick Interiors or similar. It could be worth checking them out.

Dan Kirkpatrick Interiors is in Chouteau, Oklahoma, and he does beautiful trim work.  Many of the cars he does are for Pebble Beach or similar high end events.

 

His work is beautiful, his shop is spotless, and if you want to hire one of the top trimmers in the country for pre-war cars, get on his waiting list.

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Simple, talk with Walt and read his thread “Period images to.....”. I’m sure he can recommend a number of books. If possible meet Ed -“ Edinmass” as he is also a wealth of knowledge and he like Walt shares it with anyone willing to listen. 
dave s 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, trimacar said:

Dan Kirkpatrick Interiors is in Chouteau, Oklahoma, and he does beautiful trim work.  Many of the cars he does are for Pebble Beach or similar high end events.

 

His work is beautiful, his shop is spotless, and if you want to hire one of the top trimmers in the country for pre-war cars, get on his waiting list.

BREAKING NEWS

 

I spoke with Dan briefly a few moments ago. He has closed his shop and is now retired.

 

It appears the pool for talented upholsterers has dried up a little. 

Edited by a griffin (see edit history)
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15 hours ago, Flivverking said:

Any mention of" naugahyde" artifical leather? it was the go to for years.

 

Mr.G. says "prewar" prewar WHAT!

The job of finding the right guy to do a 1916 open Pierce Arrow  verses a guy doing a 1938 Buick sedan .

 

 

As said before the use of not 100% authentic or best replacement modern Material is one thing ,but paying attention to high detail and proper period installation is quite another.

The good old timers with 40 and 50 experiance years are passing fast and near gone. 

Most of the talented fellows that can do the right work today you will find(if you can find them)are our ethnic brothers and sisters from South America or Europe .

 

Who ever said"you can't do an authenic upholstery job" because of this or that, certainly should be taken off any list. Just like a automoblie refinisher/ painter...

The type of car in this instance is irrelevant, but for the inquisitive, lets say it's for a Lincoln, or Pierce, or Stutz, or Cord. While one car may be more intricate and involved with original accoutrements, finding an upholsterer willing to take on a concours interior while using original style materials and designs is what is being discussed. 

 

And trust me, anyone who says the job can't be authentic is quickly pulled of my list. In the last 2 weeks I've spoken with shops that are either interested only in contemporary hot rod interiors or everyday Toyota and Ford trucks. One guy even mentioned I contact those people on that tv show to do my interior............ugh.

 

Thanks to all in this discussion. I appreciate everything.

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3 hours ago, a griffin said:

BREAKING NEWS

 

I spoke with Dan briefly a few moments ago. He has closed his shop and is now retired.

 

It appears the pool for talented upholsterers has dried up a little. 

Wow, didn’t know that, thanks for update.  He did great work.  Yes, trimmers who can do things correctly on early cars are getting scarce...

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Posted (edited)

There are a few out there, but the best are booked up, and don't advertise because they don't need to.

Here are a few wild-ass suggestions if you are desperate enough;  (1) Go to a meeting of the local Model A club, and see who is doing their work.  Your car may be higher end, but the guy you are looking for might be doing his volume in A's and T's.  (2) Go to a Concours or CCCA GrandClassic  and chat with some of the owners of cars similar to yours (esp. the "fresh" restorations) , and see if they have a recommendation.  (3)  Do you have any Amish communities in your region?  They are still building buggies and carriages for themselves old-school, and they run the gamut from vinyl to leather .  (4)  Look for an antique or high end furniture restorer or re-upholsterer.  I am not an expert, but I think that pre-1930's upholstery more resembles furniture than it does post-war auto upholstery.   I am sure some will disagree, but again, just some thoughts out of left field.  Good luck!

Edited by Akstraw (see edit history)
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Here in  Mass from the 1950s in to the 80s Henry Desantis had a shop next to Union Station in Worcester and did all our work.   Fortunately,   Jonathan Chase trained with Henry (Jonathan started out making pianos and is a GREAT wood worker) and he did all work up until very recently.   He trained another young man who is around 30 now and is fully booked.     It is almost impossible to find a really good upholstery guy now.    Just like a chrome guy,  body guy, and there are a few more mechanics, but those are retiring out also.   

 

If one of my kids was good with their hands and wanted a trade,  I would pay for them to work with one of the remaining upholstery guys to learn.   They would be busy for the rest of their lives.

 

I wish I could recommend someone to you.

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5 minutes ago, alsancle said:

If one of my kids was good with their hands and wanted a trade,  I would pay for them to work with one of the remaining upholstery guys to learn.   They would be busy for the rest of their lives.

This is absolutely true.  The basic skills to do upholstery work on antique cars are simple to learn.  What must be brought to the table first, though, is patience and an "eye" for doing things correctly.  Hard to explain the eye, but one must be able to envision what the final result will look like and be able to figure the steps to get there.  If someone has that and learns the trade correctly, no doubt business would come knocking.

 

A couple of general comments.

 

The Amish do beautiful work at prices that are more than reasonable.  My experience with some Amish is that they do things the way they've learned, and don't necessarily do them the way that the factory or previous trimmer might have done.  In other words, you might work with them to do this or that, doesn't matter, they're going to do it their way.  Not all bad, just something to be aware of if you're a purist.

 

As to furniture upholsterers, they do a LOT of things differently than an automotive trimmer.  It's just the nature of the furniture business.  I'll also bet you have a hard time getting a furniture person to work on a car, it's just not what they like to do.  No offense to those in that trade, but putting a cover on a sofa is easier than trimming a car, even though it IS labor intensive.  I've done a few sofas (for my wife, and one other for a boss who wouldn't take no for an answer), and on one of them, spent a solid day just taking off the old cover and removing, literally, thousands of staples.  Thus, the reverse is true, most car trimmers won't, or don't like to, work on furniture.

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