I will soon be doing the upholstery for my late 1911 touring.
I know that horse hair was used for original cushion and backrest padding. I know that rubberized horse hair is sometimes used today, although I'm not sure how one would do a diamond tuft with rubberized horse hair (?) I know that dense foam rubber is also used for tufting.
Can anyone one share some positives and some negatives of each?
This will NOT be a trailer queen show car. I am trying to do an historically accurate restoration, however I plan to drive and enjoy it as well.
: ^ )
Foam rubber does not look great. It typically makes the upholstery look too smooth and often balloon like in appearance.
Poly fill is used quite a bit now but it packs down after a while and doesn't look good.
Rubberized horse hair is not used for diamond tufting that I know of.
Generally curled horse hair or a mixture of hogs hair and horse manes or hogs hair and cattle manes are used. The horse or cattle manes are used to hold the hogs hair somewhat together. The curled horse hair is the most expensive, but most desirable. The hogs hair is cheaper. I use a mixture of 85% hogs hair and 15% horse hair. It runs about $8.00 per pound. 50-50 hogs, horse hair is also available. It takes around 20 pounds or more to do a touring car.
Diamond tufting takes a lot of patience along with learning how to be constantly checking to see that each pocket is stuffed correctly and that there are no voids as you proceed. There will be lots of voids, guaranteed, and they must be corrected before too much progress has been made and it becomes difficult to get to them.
The button layout you show looks good on the sides but I think they are a bit low on the back. On the 1911/1912 cars There is a 1" or so high roll over the top of the seat back that makes the buttons appear lower when finished. I would suggest upholstering a portion of it using an old sheet or whatever and see how it looks before punching holes in the leather, which is also expensive.
Keith, I understand the horses hate that hair rubberizing process as well. Looking good. Can't wait to see it, and hear it.
For longetivity I say foam. But how bout a mix? A thick foam pad down first and horse hair on top to take up the tufts? Or....maybe that poly fill that they use in pillows and dolls would work on top of the foam? The white cotton looking stuff.
I don't know, I don't have one of these years (would like to ) but it would seem the horse hair would settle and break down over time and you'd be left sitting in a flat spot?
HEY HEY KEITH! CHECK THIS OUT!!!!!!
This is the same stuff that cam with my upholstery set. It pulls apart like cotton. I wanna say it's called Dacron.
Also you might try a high density foam on the bottom with a low density eggshell acustic foam on top. I only say that because I used the same setup on a straight pleated set of seats I was working on and it's been 10 years later and it hasen't gone down a bit and my father drives the car frequently.
The stuff I'm taliking about lookd like the inside of a egg carton. I wanna say it's called "eggshell acustic foam". Every fabric store will have it. The one on the bottom I used was a big yellow high density foam which I also bought there (I wanna say Hobby Lobby?) and was about 5" thick and came in a 2' by 4' rectangle. I had to heat a piece of wire and use it like a cheese slicer to cut it.
Foam for longevity? I haven't studied horse hair to make a comparison, but foam rubber does deteriorate. I'll make a wild guess based on casual observation and suggest that depending on conditions foam may last a couple of decades before it starts to disintegrate. Of course there may be different varieties of foam with differences in longevity.
I concur with Steve J.
We have some chair cushions (not auto) that have received light to mediuim use.....foam deteriorated to annoying "dust" after maybe 12-15 years. (Did not turn 100% to dust, just the surface of the foam next to the cover...and onto the floor.)
Perhaps there is a more durable, longer lasting foam available....we just used what the store sold.
There are Model T's with 90 - 100 year old horse har upholstery that is still serviceable. No way any foam rubber is going to last more than a decade or two.
Talk to JV Group. They will supply a nice interior kit for your car that includes the proper horse hair stuffing, looks great, and fits great. Contact information is on the part suppliers page of this web site.
In 1980 I had to replace the foam seat bucks in our 66 Jag XKE Roadster. The back of the seat was made out of O-rings and hog ring clips and we had to replace that too.
Where do you purchase horse and hogs hair, Jack?
I've been told by an upholsterer that the foams don't hold up over the long haul.
A quick search on Google found this co in Garner North Carolina with horse and hog hair mix.
I will agree, foam plastic, foam rubber, all those synthetics will degrade much quicker than horsehair/hogshair.
The Autowa body is 90 years old, and that stuffing of horsehair was still fine, kept it for some use, got a big garbage bag full.
All the hip panel pads, front and rear seat were padded with horsehair.
I purchased a full sack of the coiled hair in 1980 for $200 and it did two touring cars. My Moline and Bob Walter's Locomobile.
Is the JV Group still in business?
When a person orders an upholstery kit from Classtique, does the kit provide all of the materials needed including the horse hair?
Iím curious because Iíll be purchasing a top and seat kit for my Runabout soon.
I was running a restoration business and had a re-sale number back in the 1980's. The upholstery supply house would not sell retail because they were not licensed to collect sales taxes. If you have a friend with a business license you can buy with their license but must pay the sales taxes to the friend with the license. At least in California that is the way it is. If a florist buys horse hair the nasty boys ask why. Welcome big brother. I sold the horse hair I didn't use on work projects to Bob walter and collected the sales tax from him and reported it. No foul no harm.
Some times you can buy by mail and have things shipped from out of State and that way you don't pay sales tax but you do pay shipping.
Keith and All,
I didn't mean to derail Keith's question with my question. I also didn't mean to point out Classtique.
While visiting a friend at Thanksgiving in Buffalo, he took me to see his non-Ford classic touring car being reupholstered. The upholsterer was using something that looked like monofilament fishing line that was tightly curled like horsehair. This was a diamond tufted leather interior and it looked great.
A later car like yours with leatherette (imitation leather) upholstery did not utilize horse hair. The upholstery at that time was stuffed with cotton batting.
When I read the title, I knew what I would say. The horsehair will not only outlast the foam, it will outlast the the leather. There are many eighty to hundred and more year old cars with perfectly good horsehair. Most of them, the original leather is probably not serviceable. I, like others above, have had to deal with foam in furniture or cars that after a couple decades was dusting all over the floors and flattening down. Personally, I like the feel of the horsehair, and can tell the difference when I sit in a car. I am, at this very moment, sitting on a foam-filled cushion. It is about four years old, and breaking down.
I would add, if you or your descendants hope to be driving that car thirty or forty years from now, use horsehair. Besides, it is correct.
Happy Holidays! And drive carefully, W2
Orlando, if you replace your top and seat, please keep the originals for future reference. They are getting harder and harder to find. Yours will be great for restorers in years to come. Dave
On my unrestored 1907 Model R the horse hair is still good. The original leather is not in very good shape.
The "Marriage Carriage" I built a couple of years ago has seats upholstered by Ernie Romero. He used real leather and real horsehair for the job. If I were considering redoing seats for a very early T, I wouldn't use anything else.
Those are beautiful seats and a beautiful car.
Wonderful workmanship with both.
I will add a follow-up comment regarding what Art noticed about the height of the buttons along the back of the rear seat. They do seem a little low to me, but perhaps it is a photo distortion. Here is a picture of the rear seat in my May 1911 Touring.
The ruler is sitting on the seat base. The top row of buttons is 15 1/2 inches up, and the overall height of the seat back from the base is 20 inches. Considering that the seat back is padded to about 1 inch above the wooden seat back, the buttons would be located about 3 1/2 iches down from the top of the wood seat back prior to the upholstery being applied. At least on this mid 1911 example.
There may have been little changes in tufting pattern or button locations during the early years, or variations from one car to the next. But I would re-check your layout and make sure the buttons are correctly located for a late 1911 Touring. But again, they do appear low on the paper template to my eye.
Sorry if I added to any confusion, my picture above is of the rear seat area, and Keith pictured a front seat. However, the button height is similar front or back. The top row of buttons is 4 1/2" down from the top as upholstered. They would be about 3 1/2" down from the top of the wooden seat back, similar to the rear seat. ----- ward
Thanks everybody for sharing information.
I got a couple of different button height measurements. I put the pattern with the middle buttons at 10-3/4" and the top buttons at 13-3/4".
Ward says his front seat middle and top buttons are about 10-3/4" and 13-3/4"
Art says his are 10-1/2" and 14"
Willard says his are 11-1/4" and 14"
You can see my top button is currently located about 4-3/4" down from the top of the wood.
When counting the "rolls" from the front armrest, around the back to the other front arm rest Ward's car has 20 on the front and 19 on the rear.
Art has 21 on the front and 21 in the rear.
Are there any other button heights or roll counts to add?
: ^ )
Gidday Keith, I have just finished helping re trim my Canadian, Australian Holden bodied T. I went for copying the original leather,coconut fibre and horse hair trim. The feel of horse hair is really different from foam. The horse hair cost me $117 for a 15 kg box and worth evey cent. Also we used it all as well, even in the padding on the top. As far as long life the hair and coconut fibre were still OK. Although my T hasn't been used much since 1939 only the leather was beyond repair. The coconut fibre was the hardest to source for me. We used 2 layers of hessian on the springs and then layed out coconut fibre with a layer of flok ( a bit like cotton waste). The hair was stuffed into the leather with a cloth backing. Mine was straight parallel sewing with 3.5 inches on the backing and 4.25 looped into the leather.(used a sort of mitre box with 2 pieces of stiff metal to spread out the hair,One uder them the other held on top then pushed into the gap.)
Attached is a picture of the original leather on the back of the rear seat of our 1913 Touring. It is still in excellent condition and very usable. It did take a few applications of LEXOL to soften it up. I would recommend using horse hair since it is authentic and you know if will be around 100 years from now!
Is the JV Group still in business after the sudden death of the owner last year?
I talked with family members last summer. They do not have plans to continue the VJ Group business, so that option is no longer available.
: ^ (
Pay attention to what Art Wilson says. I've helped him on a couple of upholstery jobs, and he knows what he is talking about. I would also contact Kim Dawson up by you, he has been doing diamond tufting forever. Whatever you do, don't use foam, you'll be sorry. Keep in mind too, that the body companies that were making bodies for Fords had dozens of upholstery men employed. Each one of them had their own way of doing things, but the end result was pretty much the same. What I'm saying here is no two are going to be exactly alike. I've also noted in recent years, a number of people have been using satin finish black leather. This is not correct. You should have shiney leather, with a faint grain to it, and uncoverd buttons.
I think the horse hair will outlast any foam, the foam at best will last about 20 years.The horse hair sits better and looks better. I have the last 1912 touring kit that Vince (J V Group) completed before his death. Our 12 is in progress , and if things go as planned will get the upholstery completed later this winter.
I have saved the upholstery , tacks etc from this car,I am guessing it was done 40-50 years ago,it is not leather,it is very serviceable. If someone would be able to use this could email you some pictures and information. I will not give it away, way to good to put in the trash would sell it very reasonable.
When I did the naugahide seat covers on my '15, i used some synthetic fill (like cotton candy) on the front seats, and went to pure cotton batting on the rear seats. The cotton "feels" right....like good old furniture. The synthetic feels cheesy under the armrest areas....I may redo it. It looks great, though, because I sewed each pleat up and filled each one individually. I added padding to the bottom cushions, too. I did all this about 5 years ago, and if I'd known at the time that the hair stuffing was available, I would have used that in a heartbeat. Synthetic fill, even under the upholstery, feels wrong. I tried to post a photo,but as usual, that's even harder than trying to post anymore....it's too big, again.