Upholsterer Types

 The Ways That Upholsterers Do Their Jobs

by Stephen Winters for WR115

     Some of the biggest misunderstandings may develop between an upholsterer and a client when there is a mismatch between the type of upholsterer and the type of client. Each client has their own set up expectations, preferences, things they consider important, quality awareness, and cost preference. Similarly, each upholsterer has his own set up skill levels, preferences, supplies, tools, experience, integrity, quality awareness and prices. As long as there is not trickery or deception involved, there is a good match up when a client and an upholsterer both are "on the same page". For instance, some clients consider all upholsterer "the same". This client has no awareness of the variations of quality or experience. So, this client just looks for the "cheapest price". She should find a worker who specializes in working cheap. This would be a good match up. Similarly, a client who is aware of differences in quality and experience and who is expecting top quality should find a skilled craftsman who is quite experienced and focuses on quality work. This would also be a good match up. However, there would not be a good match up if either of the aforementioned clients went to the other type of upholsterer. Although this article (below) is kind of a spoof (fun) writing, it carries a lot of weight. Make sure that your expections of both quality and price line up with the upholsterer.

Since my immersion into the trade in 1966, I have come to realize that there are many different skill levels in the upholstery trade. I have been through many skill levels myself, and I have known other upholsterers at different levels. Those who are just beginning into the trade have very limited skills; to attract clients some of these often use such gimmicks as: having the “cheapest prices”, using flattery or smooth talk, “doing it fast”, or claiming to be “the best.” Those who use these tactics may never advance to higher skill levels. But those who are truly learning the trade avoid these tactics as they learn better skills. In order to become a true craftsman it takes a lot of hard work, diligence, experience, admitting and fixing countless mistakes, asking advice, experimenting with different methods, and constantly looking for better ways to achieve higher levels of quality. The true craftsman doesn’t need any gimmicks to get customers; his workmanship and reputation speak for themselves.

      Like any profession, there are types of upholsterers at many different skill levels. There is a good match-up between upholsterers and clients when the right type of upholsterer does work for the corresponding right type of client. Those who work cheaply are best suited to those clients who, unconcerned about quality, want a cheap price. The fast upholsterers are good matches for those clients who want it “NOW!” The average upholsterer is good for most average clients with average expectations. The Perfectionist finds his niche in doing work for people who want to think that they are getting “the very best.” The harder-to-find craftsmen is a good match for those who value their furniture, and who truly appreciate his fastidious attention to the fine details of putting out a true work of art. Those who claim to be “the best” seldom are; those who are the best don’t need to say it.

     Those who value this profession will keep learning and persevere through the many difficult times. They will continue to improve their skills as stay in the trade through many years. Those who charge a realistic price for the level of quality that they produce, and deal straightforwardly and honestly with their customers will gain a following of loyal client that will keep them in business for many years.

Note: See the links below and in the left side menu for descriptive paragraphs about each type of upholsterer.

Agreeable Ager

"Yes, Maam, I can to exactly what you want!" says Ager as he smiles. He is so agreeable and has such a pleasant personality that you don't even bother to check his credentials or the quality of his work. You assume that because he speaks so well and seems to listen to what you want that he must be a qualified professional. However, the quality of his workmanship can vary quite a bit.

Here are a couple things to remember. Always check the quality of his work. Look at a job that he is doing, or look at pictures of his work.

Secondly, if you have any special instructions that you tell him, make sure he writes it on his Work Order or Contract. Remember, if it is not in writing, it didn't happen (legally speaking). If you told him something specific, rememer, he has many other jobs on his mind. Don't expect him to remember it unless it is in writing.

Average Avery

Average-Avery is a fairly likeable fellow. Having successfully been in the upholstery business for a number of years, he does a pretty good job, and most of his repeat clients are reasonably happy with his work. He has learned from experience that it doesn’t pay to do sloppy work, but he is not interested in doing, or even learning about, high quality work. There’s not much unique about him; he’s just about average. Average-Avery does an OK job for an OK price.

Cheap Charlie

Cheap Charlie, “the cheapest upholsterer in town,” gives no thought about quality because he believes that most people are looking for the lowest price. He takes pride in giving people “real bargains.” As an example, unconcerned about how long something will last, he continuously searches for the lowest priced materials that he can find, and he uses the quickest and simplest methods of doing the work. Without checking, he just assumes that the frame, the springs, and everything else under the cover is ok, If he does find anything wrong with the frame, springs, or padding, he'll do a quick patch that will hold up long enough for him to get paid. He'll leave most of the old cover on the sofa, adds a layer of padding when necessary and puts the new cover right over the old cover. He uses the cheapest of threads and spaces his staples much further apart while attaching the fabric to the frame. He’ll change the style of the furniture to make it easier to do. He keeps his word; he’s the cheapest! And you shouldn't complain about what you get. You got what you paid for, the cheapest job.

Craftsman Craig

Craftsman Craig is a rare find, but those who do find him remain immensely loyal. He truly loves people and sees each of his clients as unique human beings, each having their own individual set of needs, desires, and wishes. He treats each customer as he would like to be treated, with great dignity and respect, dealing honestly and truthfully with them. He carefully listens to what they say, and he writes out complete and detailed estimates or work orders, (which he follows meticulously when he does the work.) He clearly explains each charge to the clients, and openly answers any questions that they may have. He never says how honest he is, but he is very careful to live it out.

Having had many years of successful experience he is very confident in his abilities. Since he realizes that he isn’t perfect, he is continually striving to improve the quality of his work. Taking the extra time to do the careful planning, watching for mistakes as he works, and his meticulous attention to details are key to doing his very high level of craftsmanship. He doesn’t give any thought to whether he’s the best; he just tries to do his best. He has the highest level of quality and is perhaps the highest priced of all the upholsterers; those who value their furniture and truly appreciate quality craftsmanship are more than willing to pay it. “You get what you pay for.”

Craftsmen versus Workers

What is the difference between a Production Worker and a Craftsman.



 Production Worker


 Definition  one that works especially at manual or industrial labor or with a particular material <a factory worker>(Webster)

 one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity especially in the manual arts (Webster)

a professional whose work is consistently of high quality, a creator of great skill in the manual arts(WorldNet search)

 Focus  This may be a low paid entry job. He may not be able to get any other work, or It may just be a temporary job until he finds something better. He just wants his paycheck.  This is often his life's work. He has spent many years learning and developing his skill and his craft. He is highly skilled and takes joy in producing high quality work.
 Training  A production worker only has to learn his part of the job, and to do it in the way that he was taught, using the materials supplied to him.

 A craftsman has to learn all parts of every part of the job. He also has learned why work is done a certain way. He is always striving to improve the quality of his work.

 Client Relations  He rarely, if ever, sees the client.  He often works directly with the client, is able to help determine best materials and proceedures to meet client's needs.

 Uses specific materials that are supplied by management.

 Has to have a working knowledge about a wide variety of materials. S/He has determine best materials for each job. Orders materials from suppliers

He has to be able to hunt down unusual materials, or when the original or specified materials are not available, to find alternate materials

Often times the original materials may not be available any more, so the craftsman has to be able to find substitute materials, or even remanufacture the original materials himself.



 A craftsman is often working with furniture that was designed and manufactured 20, 50, or well over 100 years ago.
 Financial  Gets paid a set salary for his work. Gets paid whether job turns out right or not.  Pays for all materials, has accounts with all suppliers. Is financially responsible for every job. If the job is done wrong, repair comes out of his pockets.

 Because s/he does the same work over and over again, s/he can become very fast in that area.


 Planning  No need for much planning ahead, just do what is set before him/her each day.  Plans work schedule, does cutting layout jor job. 
Quality Control  

He knows that his name and his reputation goes out with each piece. He uses the finest materials. He carefully examines each piece as he does it. He readily fixes his mistakes as soon as he finds them.  

 Keeping Interested in His Work  Since the worker often does the same thing over and over day after day, he can easily become bored and lose interest in what he is doing. Consequently quality can suffer greatly  Because of his wide range of skills, the craftsman tackles a wide range of projects. He is constantly honing and improving his skills and his knowledge of his trade. He confidently tackles the toughest of projects.
 Reputation  He is anonymous, nobody outside the factory knows who has done his work  



































Fast Freddie

Fast Freddie may be the hardest worker of all the different upholsterers; while using his speed to get things done quickly he tries to do what he thinks is a reasonable job. Although he is not as sloppy as Cheap Charlie or Smooth-Talking Sam, his focus is not high quality work; he gets things done fast. Many customers think his work “looks good” and never notice that he took a few “shortcuts,” such as, leaving some of the old cover on or “making a few minor changes.” He thrives on trying to meet tight deadlines.

When he talks to the customers, he doesn’t spend much time with them. He subtly hurries them into making a quick decision. He promises quick delivery times and rushes like crazy to meet his often self imposed tight schedule. Most of the time he succeeds; he’s fast!

Perfectionist Pete

Perfectionist Pete is proud of, what he thinks are, his “superior abilities.” He has been doing upholstery for many years and perhaps learned his trade from a craftsman. Since he views himself as the “expert,” he is not open to receiving criticism or advice from his customers or other upholsterers; (although he is quick to point out "flaws" in other upholsterers' work) consequently, long ago he stopped learning to improve his skill level. While he does an above average job, he has an inflated perception of his skills. Thinking that his work is “nearly perfect,” he doesn’t see many of his mistakes and imperfections. Having relied upon his workmanship to gain a following, he never bothered to learn many sales or communication skills; he is often ill tempered and irritable. Many people put up with his abrupt and often rude attitude because his higher level of workmanship is harder to find.

Smooth-Talking Sam

Smooth-Talking Sam is proud of his sales ability; using the “bait and switch” method, he can easily get his foot in the door “to give a free estimate.” He can make a sale most of the time. If he gives the client anything in writing, it may only be a “receipt” scribbled on a scrap of paper or, if he wishes to further impress a client, the indecipherable receipt will be on “his letterhead.” His wide smile and flattering words help to mask his pushy and manipulative ways. Once in the home, he’ll find that “the sofa needs extra work he didn’t know about.” Mainly interested in making money, he claims to use only the highest grade materials and the finest workmanship while using the very cheapest materials he can find. When he finally delivers the hastily slapped together sofa, he sweet-talks and flatters the customer to mask his inferior materials and his shoddy workmanship. He gives the upholstery trade a bad name.