Re-upholstering Poker Table Rail

Irish

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After spending several months remodeling my basement & getting in my custom CPC order in, I wanted to complete the poker room overhaul by re-upholstering my poker table with a new chanman cloth and new texuede rail covering. I get requests from folks from time to time about doing this on existing tables, and they're often very put off by the price tag as it's often not a whole lot less than buying a new table. And there's a good reason for this - I'm hoping this illustrates it, and provides a primer/guide for anyone else looking to tackle the project on their own table. :)

Here's my table:

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It's a little less than 10 years old, and the cloth is about 7 years old. I've quite honestly done a piss poor job in taking care of it, not cleaning up crumbs and covering it after every game, so all the dust in my basement had really taken it's toll on the cloth and padded suede rail. Since building this, I've also discovered that YAT carries texuede, which is a really nice upgrade from the standard padded suede.

Once you've unbolted the rail and separated it from the table base, you flip it over and lay on the ground with the underside facing up.

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My table has a solid raised rail, so I had to take the riser out in order to get to the staples on the inside of the rail:

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Lots and lots and lots of staples. You can try to simply cut off the old rail covering, but leaving that many staples behind will typically cause issues in re-covering the rail. If you don't remove the staples, you'll need to staple the new covering down in a different line than the existing, which is especially tough around the outer lip, and especially so when you have cup holders (very little space to staple). It's a lot of work, but I recommend removing the staples. YAT sells an excellent staple removal tool that makes this task a little easier. A good pair of needle nose pliers is also a must to pull out the staple legs if the connecting bridge breaks.

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I did the first half one evening....

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Then finished up the next morning.

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Depending on the staples originally used and how far they were driven in, you may find that many staples will break during the removal process, leaving a stray staple leg embedded in the wood with not enough meat to grab and pull out. This usually doesn't present too big of a problem, you'll just have to pound any exposed portions back down, otherwise you'll end up with a bunch of cuts on your hands/arms (and potentially scratches on the new cover) when re-covering. This is a full size 10 man table, it took me about 3 1/2 hours to pull out all of the staples, not include the overnight break I took to give my hands a rest.

Here's what it'll look like after you're done.

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Once you have the covering off, you can elect whether or not you want to replace the foam. The foam on my personal table was fine, so I didn't replace it, but if it's in bad shape, removing the foam is pretty straight forward but takes a while. Start by pulling off whatever pieces you can by hand, then use a putty knife and/or paint scraper to remove any leftover chunks still glued down. Here are some pics from a rail I re-upholstered a few years ago.

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Once the majority of the foam chunks are off, use a sander (I used a random orbital for this one) with a heavy grit sandpaper (60-80 grit) to remove the rest of the foam & adhesive. You don't need to get to bare wood, you just need to get it smooth so you won't have bumps under the new foam.

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At this point you're ready to re-foam and re-upholster like you normally would.

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The process for re-cover the playing surface is similar, but you often don't need to remove the staples because there aren't as many and you have more room to shoot a new line of staples. For this table, I utilized a foam rubber called ensolite for the playing surface. This stuff is awesome and feels great (tough to find nowadays), but one issue with it is that the skin of the foam will often peel off when you remove a cloth that is installed using the light haze method (where you spray a very light mist of adhesive to help set the cloth). Tony's cloths are awesome, but soft/pliable enough that you can see these areas of peeled foam skin once the new cloth is installed. So in this case, because I didn't need to replace the foam, I simply installed the new cloth directly over the old cloth.

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And ready to go after a bit of trimming and re-assembly.

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Williak7

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Really appreciate this thread, looks like I’m going to be tackling my table soon as a complete amateur so this will really help.

:) :) :)
 

MoscowRadio

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As usual, great job, @Irish! I've built probably over 120 tables now, and not once have I gotten the opportunity to do a suede rail. :(
 

DoubleEagle

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Since @Irish is sharing his table upgrade, I thought some folks might find this useful. This is a diagram posted by a user at ScottKeen that went by the name zerolux. This is his guide to stretching the rail covering, showing which points to attach in what order. It was very helpful to me many years ago when I first started building tables.


Zerolux Rail Installation.jpg
 

Irish

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Since @Irish is sharing his table upgrade, I thought some folks might find this useful. This is a diagram posted by a user at ScottKeen that went by the name zerolux. This is his guide to stretching the rail covering, showing which points to attach in what order. It was very helpful to me many years ago when I first started building tables.


View attachment 281927
I believe I have all the text & pics from his guide saved somewhere, I'll have to see if I can dig it up.

BTW, what color of texuede did you use?
Black
 

msuroo

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Since @Irish is sharing his table upgrade, I thought some folks might find this useful. This is a diagram posted by a user at ScottKeen that went by the name zerolux. This is his guide to stretching the rail covering, showing which points to attach in what order. It was very helpful to me many years ago when I first started building tables.


View attachment 281927
Oh man, I remember this from a decade ago, but never would have been able to find it. Super helpful, thanks!
 

Williak7

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Suede is a breeze compared to vinyl, even whisper. There's no stretch, but it's really workable, I love building suede rails.
Could you re upholster suede over vinyl? I’m guessing I know the answer to what’s for the best and to remove it all .. but something I might consider.
 

MoscowRadio

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Since @Irish is sharing his table upgrade, I thought some folks might find this useful. This is a diagram posted by a user at ScottKeen that went by the name zerolux. This is his guide to stretching the rail covering, showing which points to attach in what order. It was very helpful to me many years ago when I first started building tables.


View attachment 281927
There that is! I remember looking at these instructions when I first started building, but haven't been able to find them anywhere! If you do have them, @Irish, I think they should definitely go into the resources as I remember them being super helpful. The whole "split the difference" approach made my second tables vastly better than my first.
 

Irish

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Could you re upholster suede over vinyl? I’m guessing I know the answer to what’s for the best and to remove it all .. but something I might consider.
You can sometimes get away with covering over for the playing surface, but I wouldn't recommend upholstering anything over the existing covering for the rail. You can replace the vinyl with suede, but the old vinyl has to come off before any new covering goes on.
 

Williak7

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Thank you, I’ve heard a few people talk about texuede on here .. is this something I could source from the UK or is it called something else? Is this something I need to be looking for to wrap in the rail in because suede is 100% the look and feel I want.
 

Irish

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Found it, here's the original zerolux "for those who need help covering rails..." guide from the scott keen days,

edit to add - I guess scott finally got his site cleaned up, the original guide and subsequent discussion is available here.

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please read this entire guide before attempting to cover your rail. i have no dreams of being a writer so my thoughts, ideas, and cautions are scattered throughout.

ok, i assume you are using 1 sheet of foam to do this, if you are using multiple sheets (ie. joanns green foam) please skip to the covering part because i will not address piecing foam together. i did it once, and will never do it again. suck it up, pay a little more and get a full sheet, it will save you time, and will look better.

now get to work….

first, clean the wooden rail, brush or blow all of the sawdust and crap off of the wood. also, make sure you are working in a clean area. if you get a piece of sawdust under the vinyl, stretch it all to hell, put in 600 staples, and then turn the rail over to see a nice "bump", your gonna be pissed.

lay out the sheet of foam, lay the rail on the foam. make sure you leave enough extra foam on the inside and outsides of the rail to cover the wood. make a rough mark with a marker, do a few marks in the curves and a few on the long strait sections. this just helps to line things up after putting the glue on.

fyi: if you made your rail in the "junell" style, meaning you have a small rail lip on the bottom of your large "rail piece", you should only factor in enough extra foam to cover to the edge. for example, if using 2 sheets of 3/4" ply, and having the "lip" on your rail, you would have a total height of 1-1/2". you can cut the foam, leaving only 1.5" of excess on the out side. remember, you will be stretching the vinyl and the foam. leaving too much foam can cause wrinkles when the foam compresses.

remove the rail, and spray it with your glue, i use 3m 77 but most spray glues will work i guess. i only spray the wood, it will work fine. now, grab the wife and lower the rail onto the foam using your guides to line things up. evenly press the wood into the foam. it will have time to dry while you mark the foam for cutting.

fyi: the 3m glue is tested and works, the rail is going to be the hardest part of your build, spend a little more and buy good foam, glue, and vinyl. if not, you will spend it again later when you re-do it.

more fyi: there are 3 sides of the rail that will be covered with foam. the top (duh), the inner side nearest the playing surface, and the outer side facing the players. the bottom is for staples and will not normally be seen. like i said, you really want to avoid having too much extra foam on the "bottom", because when you staple, the foam will compress under the staples and can cause some major wrinkles.

find a piece of wood, a roofer's square, anything that you can use to guide your marker around the outer part of the rail with. you want to make sure you keep the sides of the foam consistent, if not this can cause wrinkles and lumps. i found a plastic roofers square at home depot for like $2 and cut some notches in it for my 2 rail cuts.

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just drag the maker and your measuring device around the outer part of the rail. it's ok if you screw up, of course no one will see the foam. just try to keep it strait, any problems will show up later after you cover
it with vinyl.

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for the inside, measure and mark a line 1" from the rail. i like to have a little extra on the inner lip, this will help to keep cards from sliding under it. any lumps in the rail will be hidden on the inside, you have the “give” of the playing surface foam to help you out.

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now cut the foam on your nifty lines. you should use an electric knife for this, you know, the turkey carving ones, it cuts the foam like butter, keeps the cuts cleaner and will make the final product even better. if you have to use a utility knife, make sure it is super sharp. you can also use a hot wire coat hanger, this will make nice clean cuts but the electric knife is easier. if using ane electric knife, you dont want to have too much excess hanging off after you cut a section, this will stretch and pull the foam causing it to be uneven. make sure to cut the excess off often, and when you do, make sure to back the blade out of your cut, then cut the excess off (like pic). this will help to keep thing neat without bumps where you started to cut again. see below.

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now lay out the vinyl, put the foamed rail onto the vinyl, make sure you leave enough extra vinyl on the ends and sides. you have to stretch this stuff and the more you have to hold onto, the easier it will be.

once the rail is in place, grab the wife again and stretch the vinyl length wise, and then width wise, this will help to remove any slack. this may seem minor but it will pay off in the end.

pick one of the long sides of the rail (a non-curved side). right in the center of this long section, grab the vinyl, pull it strait out, then up and over the foam. have someone hold the opposite side to keep it from shifting. you want to pull tight, then put about 3 staples in the center of the rail.

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fyi: when stretching vinyl, make sure you pull the vinyl "strait out" first, then up. this will keep the foam uniform. also, pay attention to how much force you use to stretch the vinyl, it will become habit after a while but it must be uniform throughout the entire process.

move to the spot on this side, right before the rail starts to curve, stretch and staple. (see the pic below for a diagram, the numbers show the order of stapled sections.

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now do the same thing to the other side.

you should have 5 stapled spots on this side.

move to the other long strait side, have someone hold the rail on the other side and stretch the vinyl to keep the tension on it. this will help when stretching the curved sides.

stretch and staple in the center and then do the same as the other side.

once you have the 5 sections done on this side, pick a spot right between staples on this side, stretch and staple. in a sense, split the difference. keep this up until you have filled in the blanks. then do the other strait side.

fyi: you should always "split the difference" when you have blanks to fill in when stapling. split, 2 staples, split 2 staples, and so on until you fill in the gaps. there should be no more than 1/8" - 1/2" between staples when you finish. don’t put in to many to start, if you do have wrinkles or problems you will have a ton of staples to remove. this is the best way to keep excess vinyl to a minimum, that is what causes wrinkles.
staple where my thumb is, right in the middle between the already stapled sections.

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now, we can do the outer rounded edges. grab the vinyl lengthwise and stretch again to remove slack. on one of the sides, right in the middle of the arch, stretch and put 2-3 staples.

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now, move left or right, split the difference, stretch and staple. do the same on the other side. you should have 3 spots stapled on this curved side. then split the difference and fill in the blanks. when you pull to staple, make sure you have an equal amount of vinyl on both sides of your center point, see pic below.

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also, see number sequence pic below. the pic shows to alternate from one curve to the other, you can do it either way, it doesn’t matter as much, the large center section has tension and will keep things ok for ya.

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fyi: when doing the curves, this is where the wrinkles will show if not done right. because of the curve, you will have more excess vinyl and this will cause the wrinkles. splitting the difference will allow you to keep the excess more uniform. if you started one on side of the curve, and then stapled your way around the curve in one motion, you would have a bunch of excess when you got around to the long side section that is already stapled.

more fyi: you will see how the wrinkles form when stretching around these curves, if you see that your going to have too much, you can change the angle you are stretching (left to right), this will pull the wrinkles out as you go. you might have some wrinkles on the bottom here, but if done right they will not show on the edge that faces the players.

even more fyi: you can use a hair dryer to soften the vinyl and make it stretch more. be careful if you do, don't heat one area for too long, it can deform and/or discolor the vinyl. i don’t use dryers but they do work. and can help if your having trouble with these curves or are using a low stretch vinyl. a hair dryer will work fine, heat guns can do damage in the wrong hands.

now, stretch out the slack and do the other outside curve. same way, take your time, this is the hardest part of this rail covering operation.
now grab a sharp blade. we are going to do the inner side of the long section.

before that, turn the rail over and check things out, make sure nothing is caught between the foam and vinyl (sawdust, staples, fingers, ect. ) things should be fine if you let it get this far. when stretching, you can tell from the bottom if things are not gonna look right before you flip the rail over.

now, go at least 2-3" from the foam, start your cut right where the rail begins to curve, and cut towards the other side, ending where the curve begins. then do the same thing to the other side. see pic.
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now, cut a rectangle out of the center, leaving too much excess makes working hard, just make sure to leave enough. pic.
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***once you make the above cuts, try not to move the rail too much, the vinyl can move and the outer side that have been stretched can lose tension.***

now pick a long strait side and do the same split the difference thing, make sure to start in the middle though. i like to get this stapled before moving on to the inner curve sections, like i said, you can lose tension on the already stapled outer side. the foam can "creep out" and cause some nasty wrinkles.

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of course, do the same on the opposite strait side.

now the inner curves. we have to cut the vinyl into triangle or pie shaped sections, this helps with stretching and makes things look good. ***important, when cutting these triangles, you must leave enough uncut vinyl to stretch or the foam will show when done. when i cut, i stay at least 1.5” - 2” from the foam for marine vinyl ( harder stretch, tears easier) and 3-4” for whisper (easy stretch/ resists tears better) . it is better to have too much, if anything, when stretching, the vinyl might “tear”, but only when it needs too and it will not effect the quality of the finished product.

i like to have 16 “pie shapes” for each curve before stretching, if done right, this is all you will need.

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pick one of the pie sections near the middle of the curve, stretch and staple, and the follow the split the difference rule and finish the rest.

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like i said before, you should get used to pulling the vinyl with the same amount of force for each stretch, this is important in the curves to keep things kosher.

do the other curve the same way.

now, check once again to make sure the rail looks good from the top side. this is the side you will have to live with while losing all of your chips to your father in law.

things look good? make sure to flip the rail over and check it out good, if there any areas that are “over stretched” or look sunken in compared to the rest of the rail, fix them now while you still have some of the excess vinyl to help you. done now? great, now hammer in any half driven staples and put more staples in if you think the are needed. now show it off to your wife like she really cares, call the kids, your ex
girl-friend, whoever.
 
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pbraves

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What a great write-up and resource, really appreciate the documentation. And it's a beautiful table, I hope you have great games on it.
 

MoscowRadio

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@Irish, this really needs to go in the 'Resources' section! I'm not sure how one would go about that, but this was hands-down the most informative guide to upholstering rails that I've ever read. It's so good to see it back!
 
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