By Terri Madden and Alayna Wool
What do you do when a customer requests something that is outside your realm of experience? How do you elevate your skills in order to work on the type of projects you love? How do you learn about new product offerings and materials from suppliers? By reading columns like these and attending Marine Fabricators Association conferences and events of course.
Here are some new products and materials that can help you hone your cushion skills, expand your business and widen your scope of opportunities.
Ink and foam options
Consider adding some decorative zing to your projects by trying out the newest venture of longtime marine sales representative Derek Robinson. He is the owner of Fabric Tattoo (www.fabrictattoo.com), which offers outdoor graphics on materials for marine cushions, pillow covers, awnings, banners, etc. These graphics can be an inventive way to add a decorative flair to your upcoming projects.
Robinson is also co-owner of Eqodry® (www.eqodryusa.com), a company offering a reticulated marine-quality smart foam available in blocks, sheets and slices in soft, medium, firm and super firm. The open-cell structure of the foam allows water to pass through for zero water retention and fast drying times, making it an excellent option for custom upholstery projects from seating to bedding. According to the company, the foam’s antimicrobial protection results in 99.9 percent fewer bacteria and fungi compared to untreated foam. The company also offers semi-finished cushions and pillows in standard and custom-sized inserts. Eqodry foam products are fire retardant and come with a five-year limited warranty.
Zipper mounting hardware
We recently stumbled across a sturdy nickel-plated zipper jig with great reviews online. We’re curious whether fellow fabricators have tried out this tool and are wondering how we’ve managed so long without it.
It’s advertised as being for projects that include several cushions requiring the addition of a zipper slider to a zipper. The lower clamp firmly secures the zipper jig to your work surface, and the upper clamp is used for locking the jig rod in any direction. With this tool, you can put your zipper on forward or backward.
The jig was designed to hold YKK® zipper sliders, sizes #2.5 to #10, for easier and quicker assembly to your zipper teeth. This is appealing because it is often challenging to secure the zipper slider to the zipper chain. This C.S. Osborne zipper jig is offered on several websites, including www.csosborneupholsterytools.com and www.sailrite.com.
Speaking of hardware, it’s smart to keep a stock of hardware and fasteners on hand for standard projects. We stock zippers, sliders, hook and loop, staples, snaps, adhesives, double tapes, etc. This not only allows you to take advantage of vendor discounts, but bulk orders save time and shipping expenses compared to frequent reordering.
One of the simplest ways to add extra protection against moisture to your upholstery projects is to offer a moisture barrier beneath cushions in tight quarters where airflow is inconsistent. Low-cost underliners create a moisture-free barrier between the cushion foam and fabric cover. Underliners can save boat owners from having to deal with a damp, musty or moldy mattress by drying the bedding above-deck in the sun.
HyperVent® (hyperventonline.com) is a practical way to prevent dampness because it separates mattresses and cushions from any moisture on fabric covers where mold or mildew might form.
It’s made of a durable spun polymer woven into a large open configuration with a noodle-like appearance. The ¾-inch-thick polymer mesh is lightweight and flexible. It does not compress, which allows an open layer of air to form, yet it’s rigid enough to hold its shape indefinitely. The texture of HyperVent cannot be felt even when it’s used beneath a thin mattress.
Another type of moisture barrier designed for use beneath fabrics is Silk Film, also called EZ Film. This is a moisture barrier that you wrap around your cushion foam. It’s a lightweight plastic material available by the yard or roll from many sources including Amazon and Sailrite.
Try this product on cockpit cushions, saloon cushions and mattresses made with polyurethane foam. It’s designed to wrap around the foam before you insert it into your outer decorative cover and helps protect the cushion from moisture.
The best way to insert foam wrapped with Silk Film into your fabric cover is to use a vacuum to shrink the foam, then insert the cushion into the cover and remove the vacuum to allow the foam to expand and evenly fill the cover all the way to the corners. Check out the Sailrite website for a video that demonstrates the process.
*Note: Silk Film should not be used on Dry Fast foam or reticulated foam. These foams function differently by allowing water or moisture to pass through the foam.
Give the hardware and materials mentioned above a try and continue to evolve your patterning skills, explore new ways of executing projects, and search for new designs and materials offered within this unique industry. A willingness to experiment and push boundaries is what propels fabricators, suppliers and marine manufacturers to find solutions and inspire one another.
Terri Madden (LegendTerri) and Alayna Wool (Ms. Alaynious) are a mother/daughter team who co-own Sand Sea & Air Interiors Inc. in sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico.
SIDEBAR: Fitting cushions into unique cabin spaces
To produce perfect cutting sides on foam with angled areas that aren’t 90 degrees, use a standard angle finder along with a hull angle template and hull angle calculations. The steps below will help you create complex-looking, form-fitting projects for unique hull contours.
Obtain your site-specific pattern for foam edges that require beveled edges.
Calculate the percentage difference from 90 degrees along four to six points on your pattern, keeping in mind the hull angle varies from the center of a vessel toward the bow or aft spaces.
Determine the final height of the new foam. For example, on 4-inch foam, the hull difference could extend outward 2 3⁄8 inches along the top of the foam. Use an angle finder to indicate the change, such as 120 degrees versus 90 degrees. Mark the hull angle variation changes along your pattern template.
Mark the larger side of your foam with the variation calculated from the hull angle calculations chart to cut the wider foam measures off the top side of your foam.
Place your pattern and mark the bottom of your cushion with the hull variation for extending the top foam, usually extending along only outer walls. Carefully cut the tapered side of the foam with the hull angle.