How to attach leather seats with brass tacks

Written by louise harding
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How to attach leather seats with brass tacks
Brass tacks can be used on other items besides leather furniture. (Chinese Drummer image by Yali Shi from

With the plethora of brass-tack designs available, it seems like upholstery tacks are a new concept, but according to Furniture Restoration Tools and Supplies in the article "Guide to Purchasing Upholstery Nails," upholstery tacks have been a furniture accent since 1560. Lucky for you, you don't have to be Louis XIII to successfully attach leather seats with brass upholstery tacks. Once you have positioned the padding onto your chair frame and laid your leather over the seat, you are ready to begin installing upholstery tacks.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Staple gun
  • Wood staples
  • #4 by 7/16-inch aluminium tacks (optional)
  • Tack hammer, nylon-tip
  • Cloth measuring tape
  • Masking tape
  • Chalk
  • Brass upholstery tacks, 1-inch length
  • Pliers (optional)

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  1. 1

    Position the leather seat piece over the padding. If the leather wraps the chair frame, you'll need to staple the leather beneath the frame. Proceed to Step 2. If the leather stops on top of a wood apron (wood that frames the outer chair beneath the seat cushion), you'll need to fold the leather edge under. For leather and an apron, proceed to Step 3.

  2. 2

    Turn the chair over, laying it horizontal on its back. Place the front edge of the leather seat piece beneath the wood frame. Staple through the left corner beneath the chair. Staple the right corner. Staple the centre. Place a staple every 1 inch. Rotate the chair so the back is at the top. Pull the back edge of the leather seat piece taut beneath the chair. Staple the leather beneath the chair as you did for the front edge. Rotate the chair to staple the left and then the right sides of the leather beneath the wood frame. Turn the chair right side up. Proceed to Step 4.

  3. 3

    Fold the leather edges under. Hammer an aluminium tack halfway into the wood frame every 4 inches. Your leather seat piece should be cut to the exact measurements, including the extra leather needed to fold the edge under according to the fold width you prefer. Don't hammer the tacks all the way in; you'll remove them as you install the brass tacks. The aluminium tacks will hold the folded leather edge as you work.

    How to attach leather seats with brass tacks
    An apron is wood that frames the outer chair. (Chair image by sister from
  4. 4

    Wrap a cloth measuring tape around the chair about ¼-inch lower than where your brass tacks will be installed. Tape the measuring tape to the chair. Make a chalk dot every 1 inch to mark where the brass tacks will be installed. Remove the measuring tape.

  5. 5

    Count the chalk marks to determine how many upholstery tacks are needed. Buy extra tacks, as shafts tend to bend while being installed.

  6. 6

    Begin at the back of the chair seat. Position a brass tack over the centre chalk dot. Hold the tack with the head facing you and the shaft touching the dot on the leather.

  7. 7

    Hammer the tack through the leather and into the wood frame. According to Furniture Restoration Tools and Supplies, using a nylon-tip hammer protects the tack head from damage. Brass tacks are available in a wide range of diameters and embossed designs.

  8. 8

    Continue hammering brass tacks through the chalk marks on the leather and into the frame. If you're working on a folded leather edge, remove the aluminium tacks with pliers by grasping the head and pulling out the tack, as you continue hammering brass tacks along the chalk marks.

Tips and warnings

  • All upholstery supplies can be purchased at furniture upholstery stores, some fabric stores, and home improvement stores.
  • You may choose to use a nailing guide to nail your brass tacks into place. This is a paddle device that has slots for five or more tacks perfectly spaced. You hold the nailing guide in position, hammer the tacks, slip the device from under the tacks, finish hammering and proceed to the next series of tacks.

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