Upholstering an Inset Leather Seat

DSC_0740 A lot of people have old chairs that need reupholstering for different reasons. The closing out of making the dining side chair is often of course doing the upholstery. Craftsman rocker 3 2004 I’ve used this method for over two decades and it works well whether you use fabric or leather. I like leather for its durability and quality look and it’s also relatively inexpensive at around £10 per chair including foam, plywood and leather. DSC_0404

The chair series was another one of those unique teachings I did from my school and is one of my favourites for that reason alone. I developed this chair just for woodworkingmasterclasses.com but as with all of the tool and technique aspects of the videos we make we give them for free. Once they have aired on WWMC for a season we post the tool and techniques to YouTube too, to help the wider audience of woodworkers. I hope that you enjoy this two part series. Here is the video.


  1. Leather can be outrageously expensive…..
    It would help us here in the UK if we knew where to get seat-leather for ten quid!
    Literally money-in-the bank with me if you divulge your sources!

    1. No problem, but why do you say it’s outrageously expensive. In 20 years I have never found hides to be expensive at all never mind outrageously so, but that’s me.
      I knew this would come up. Go to eBay and put in Upholstery hide. An average full size hide is approx 50 square feet. Mostly they cost around £70. That’s £1.40 per sq foot. The chair in the video takes 3.66 sq ft per seat so that’s £5.13 per seat plus foam at £2.60 and plywood at £2 so £9.73 plus a stick and half of staples at 25p per stick so 37p, totalling out at £10.10pence UK. A dining suite of eight chairs comes out at £80.80p for a set including foam, 3/4″ plywood and staples.

      1. Exactly.

        That’s £70 a chair if you only do one. I don’t have a need for half a dozen or more chairs in leather.
        I’m not a commercial chair-maker like you are.

        1. So, do a search for 18″ square leather offcut approx 1-1.2mm thick (upholstery thickness). It’s not very difficult, neither is it very expensive. There’s plenty there for £10-12, delivered. How cheap do you think it’s going to be??

        2. You can buy pieces new and secondhand and I’ve used leather coats and bags too. Remnants in bundles. All kinds of options really.

  2. What kind of foam should I search for? No stores around here with upholstery foam on the shelves (as far as I know).

    Cheers, Kjell

    1. Dunelm, formerly Dunelm Mill, has a 100 stores across the UK and sell single seat size but I buy 8′ x 4′ by 2″ or 3″ depending on seat type. For the dining chair I used 2″ firm density also called high density in some cases. Ebay again gives good pricing and fast delivery. An 8′ x 4′ is vacuum packed so comes a fraction of the size. When you slice it out of the shrink wrap package it regains full size in a minute.

  3. Does leather or fabric have a “grain” to it? If so, how do you figure out what direction it is going and how do you want to orient the grain relative to the work?

  4. Many woodworking projects sky away from upholstery so I am happy to see you including it and passing on the techniques for free.

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