Before getting to the pillows and cushions, we must talk about the springs and spring deck (the area under the cushions where the springs or spring device are positioned in the chair sofa.)
In the best and most expensive items, the springs rest on an interlaced arrangement of propylene webbing straps. These go from front to back and from side to side. The springs are placed on this foundation, clipped to it with insulated clips to reduce the potential for noise, and tied with poly twine to each other and then to the rails of the frame. This, when done properly, is called an eight-way hand-tied base, or deck.
The eight-way tie has become a hallmark of quality in the trade. However, its definition has been so stretched you can hardly take it to mean anything of value when comparing one item to another. “Eight-way” has never been protected trade-name or even a technique demanding strict legal protocols. Almost anyone can use the term – even if they just drive eight different ways to work in the morning, or tie one spring eight ways and the rest six or four ways, they still call it an eight-way tie.
The unit in question can also have a machine-tied eight-way system. In short, what used to be an important indicator of quality is now almost no indication of anything. You will find retailers selling different sofas, at different price, claiming that they all have eight-way hand-tied spring decks, when many of them have no such thing.
However, the question may be of little importance today for a number of reasons besides just the corruption of the term. In all fairness – and most importantly – present-day materials and techniques make the eight-way hand-tie system less essential than it used to be. In days when natural twines were used to tie the springs, it was found that these twines would dry out, rot, or be eaten by the house mouse, so a system was needed to ensure that, when the twine failed for any reason, the position of the spring would remain the same.
Therefore, the eight-way system came into being virtually as an insurance policy to keep springs in position. Manufacturers who used natural twine that eight ways worked far better than four or six, but ten was overkill – thus the eight-way system became a hallmark of quality.
Now the ties used to secure springs are almost always a polypropylene product, and simply do not wear out, rot, smell or get eaten. They just do not fall. However, top upholstery producers still use the eight-way hand-tie spring deck, primarily to control the way the item “sits” - by utilizing different springs in different locations and tying them together into an integrated system that meets their standards, they can make a more comfortable sofa and a better quality product.
This is a very important quality point – the best manufacturers use heavier springs towards the centre of the frame and lighter-gauge spring near the front edge. The producers of less-expensive items are simply looking for ways to cut labour costs, and this is an area in which they have a great opportunity to really cut down on labour.
So look for the eight-way tie, but do not be a slave to it. Today it is simply one of the multitude of features that make the difference between the best and the rest.
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