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I'm reupholstering a dining chair that has a hardboard seat base.

My manual upholstering stapler doesn't stand a chance against it. Most staples don't even penetrate the surface.

I know I'm not supposed to ask for specific product recommendations on here, but are electric staple guns generally any more powerful than manual ones? (I'm not about to invest in a compressed air gun for this job).

How would you suggest I attach the fabric to the hardboard base without buying industrial equipment?

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    How about RENTING the right equipment? – jwh20 Oct 24 at 9:50
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    A power stapler has a stronger impulse than a manual stapler. You might consider investing in a small compressor and a pneumatic stapler/brad nailer. 1/4 inch (top width) crown staples are a bit stronger than regular staples. They're easily capable of penetrating over an inch of oak and should sail right through hardboard. – NothingToSeeHere Oct 24 at 10:55
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People don't realize it because the T50 staple dominates so much in home stores and staple guns, but true upholstery staplers typically use Series 71, 22 gauge staples.

Series 71 use a thinner wire and drive easier into more materials. The Home Depot near me does stock some Series 71 (if you're trying to buy locally), but I didn't look to check if they sold a hand operated stapler for them. I happen to have a pneumatic upholstery stapler and I was surprised at how easily it drives staples into a hard wood like Oak after having fussed around with manual and electric T50 staplers.

For your other question - If you're stuck with T50 staples, I don't think the electric models will give you any more power. They are easier to use on larger projects and can work a little better because you can hold them more straight and steady, but the one I tried didn't seem to have more power.

  • Thanks. I did end up buying a better (manual) staple gun. +1 for answering about electric models. – Tim Oct 24 at 18:09
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What I have done in a similar instance is to replace the hardboard base with a piece of 3/16" or 1/4" thick plywood. The wood plywood is better able to take up a staple...still not really easy but better than hardboard by a mile.

  • Thanks. I may consider that, but the job is escalating now. I have four to do and I don't have a workbench or a jigsaw here. I was a really simple stapling job, until it wasn't – Tim Oct 24 at 10:44
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A few ideas:

  1. Glue strips of wood an inch or so in from the edge, and staple to that. 1/4" x 1" strips would be fine.

  2. Set grommets into the edge of the fabric (Gromets and setting tool are at any fabric store) and lace the fabric in place

  3. Check for a local Maker community. See if someone in that community has either an electric or pnuematic stapler that you can use on site there.

  4. Phone the rental shops. Here an electric finishing stapler rents for 22 bucks a day. This is Canada, so rates in the U.S. are probably half that.

  5. Don't finish underneath, but instead finish at the edge of the chair wood using a fancy headed tack.

  • Thanks for the ideas. No.1 in particular is good lateral thinking. – Tim Oct 24 at 18:10

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