Captain's Table

Mark Austen

2020.12.19 - New Living Room Furniture

Mum & Dad have moved house. The large four-bedroomed detached house in which they lived for the past 52 years in easy commuting distance from London has been exchanged for a medium-sized, three bedroomed detached house in a rural Norfolk town. After all, Mum & Dad have been retired for years and us children moved out long ago. Now it's just too big. So after some thought and discussion, they decided to move.

Apparently after 52 years there was a lot of junk and this was all thrown away, but some things were not junk but would not fit in the new house, such as the three-piece suite. It's a lovely set of furniture, G-Plan, bought a some years ago now, but in superb condition and it was going to be thrown away.

By chance Mum told me about this before that happened and I said that we would have it to replace the Ikea couch and chair that we currently have. Ikea is alright but G-Plan is much better. That's a bit like saying a Rolls Royce is a bit better that a Nissan. Anyway, our furniture is going to a charity shop or a resell shop at one of the local recycling centres and will be replaced by the G-Plan suite.

We went down to the old house a couple of weeks or so ago and picked up one chair and the couch. The second chair is going to Norfolk as a temporary one until the Parental Units buy a new suite. Apparently, you no longer go to a showroom, decide what you want and have it delivered the next day. These days, you go to a showroom, decide on what you want and an order is paced with the manufacturer who then build it for you and finally deliver it. This can take several months depending on the workload. We will go and collect the second chair when their new suite arrives.

Anyway, we got the chair into the living room without any problems, but the couch is too big to fit through any of our non-standard sized doors. Having gone to all the trouble of getting it we were not going to throw or give it away, so decided to take it apart into small enough pieces so that it will fit into the room and then put it back together again in situ.

Having turned the couch upside-down and removed the castors, the next job it to remove the black covering plastic. You'll notice that we have placed the couch on a wooden frame so that the concrete floor in the workshop doesn't damage the upholstery.

The remove of the plastic and the subsequent upholstery, padding and other sundry items over the wooden frame involves the removal of about a million staples.

I'm telling a bit of a fib there, there's probably only 900,000.

Using a small flat-bladed screwdriver you insert the tip under the staple and lever it up. You use a pair of pliers to pull it out and move onto the next one.

With the covering plastic removed you can see some of the construction of the couch. It is very well built. The stringers into which the staples are driven are a hardwood, it looks like beech, and the longitudinal reinforcing panels are 1" thick shuttering ply. Really solid but not too heavy.

The next job is to remove the trim piece at the bottom of the couch seen here at the top.

This consists of these half-round foam inserts with upholstery fabric wrapped around.

The fabric is unstapled from the bottom of the couch and folded back so that the foam can be removed. The fabric itself is unstapled and removed. All the staples are in the light-orange coloured tape which serve to give a straight edge so that the stapes are all in a straight line.

With the trim completely removed, the main upholstery fabric is then unstapled from the bottom of the couch and along each vertical side. The back piece comes off in one part, thankfully, but the rest is put on as a very tight fit and we had to remove as many staples as necessary to be able to peel back the fabric to expose the arms and view the construction. We were able to do that without having to totally remove the fabric.

The construction is mostly glued although there are a few screws here and there and also some hardwood blocks that have been stapled through with large copper staples about 1 1/2" long. Now, the gap through which the couch must fit is a mere 73cm or a shade under 29" and I think that we can achieve that by removing the arms of the couch.

If you look at the photo above, the line drawn from the top right corner, sloping down is approximately 24" long. The line from the bottom of the photo sloping up to the left shows the smallest part of the arms that will need to be removed so that the maximum width is 24" which will fit though our front door.

Now, we could dismantle the arms of the couch but this has two drawbacks. The first it that it requires breaking half-a-dozen glued joints at each end and then the reassembly of these joints in the house. The second drawback is that looking forward in time, at some point the couch will need to be removed again and if we go down this route, the joints will need to be broken again and reassembled.

The alternative is to simply cut the arms off along the line shown and then fashion a strong butt-block that will screw across the cut to hold it back together again. If done correctly, this will be as strong as the original and will allow the relatively easy reversal of getting it out again. Mind you, we'll still need to remove all the staples we will be putting back in again.

The procedure will be like this: Cut and shape four butt-blocks of the appropriate size, clamp them in position across the point where the cut will be made, drill suitable holes for six to eight long screws and screw them in place. Remove the pads and carefully cut through the wood. Once cut, the butt-block is screwed back in place to hold the join together.

Oh, there's another disadvantage to the disassembly of the arms and that it the time it would take. I estimate about a week in total and that assumes that the joints can be taken apart without damaging the wood and, more importantly, can be easily accessed to be able to break the glue line. I'm not sure that this last requirement is possible.

This is what the end of the couch looks like once the upholstery is removed.

The two blocks you can see in this photo are the ones that are fastened with massive staples.

I would have preferred not to have need to take the back off, but this panel goes on last and covers up all the staples and edges of the rest of the fabric.

I clamped a batten where I want to cut the front of the arm. This is a low as I can get and still cut the arm easily. Any lower and it gets complicated.

Resting a straight(ish) batten on the low cut and resting the top end on the wing gives me the reference line.

Measuring the widest point of the couch from the reference point.

That give me 68cm of about 26 1/2", well within the limits of our door. So I mark the top edge of the arm as the cutting line where the batten crosses the wood.

Now I need to make four butt-blocks but I don't have wood that is sufficiently think for this so I have to laminate some. However, the glue is too cold in the workshop, so having cut the pieces I have to warm them and the gluepot.

Whilst the wood and glue are warming up on the Rayburn, I have another cup of tea.

The four pads are laminated up and clamped and put back on the Rayburn to start the curing process, and I finish my cup of tea,

Back in the workshop I remove the clamp...

...and separate the individual pads.

One of the pads is drilled for the screws using the drill press and then this is used to drill the holes on all four parts where the cut is to be made.

Using the one block as the reference means that the screw holes are all drilled in the exactly the same place meaning that I do not have to remember which block goes where due to inconsistency.

The holes are then countersunk and the screws driven in.

This is repeated for the front of the arm.

The two butt-blocks screwed into place. This is repeated for the other end of the couch.

Not so easy to see, but the arm has been cut and the butt-block screwed back in place.

A slightly different view of the same cut.

Here I have removed the piece of the arm completely.

The butt-blocks are glued to the cut arm pieces and a thin spline of wood glued on the end to fit the gap where the saw cut was made.

Next we need to test it to see if it will now fit through a 73cm doorway. We propped open the workshop doors to the correct aperture and tried it out.

Success! We put it back into the workshop and prepared the living room for the new arrival. The old couch & chair went into the container to be dealt with later and the new couch was carried up the driveway and in through the front door. No problem, it was an easy fit.

The cut-off arm pieces were unclamped and the shims trimmed flush with the rest of the wood.

Here is the couch in the living room. Looks a right mess, doesn't it?

First step is to screw on the arm pieces. The upholstery & foam around the arms was stapled where necessary and the main upholstery pulled back in place. The sides and edges were stapled to the frame and the back put back on.

It took about 30 minutes to get it to this stage. Next the trim fabric was put on and the half-round foam.

Like this. The fabric was pulled up over the foam and stapled to the underside of the frame.

Nearly done.

All that remains at this point is the bottom cover and the castors. We used the castors to hold the cover in place and then carefully stapled it to the bottom of the couch.

We took particular care to ensure that there were no wrinkles in the plastic and it came out quite well.

Finally the cushions were zipped back in place and voilà, a reassembled couch.

Thanks, Mum and Dad, this is a really great Christmas Present!

Time for a cup of tea.