Tips for choosing an upholstery staple gun and staples.

Many of our membership and workshop students will ask us, “which staple gun is best, and what do I need to be able to complete my upholstery project?”

There are pneumatic staple guns, electric staple guns, and hand-held staple guns. Any of those could work, but the ones that I feel work best for upholstery are the pneumatic staple guns. The difference is the pneumatic staple guns have more power. I find the pneumatic staple guns to be more consistent, and the staple goes all the way into the wood. The handheld and electric staple guns, or at least the ones I’ve experienced, don’t have the power to get the staples all the way into the hardwood frames. A hand stapler would be great for a dining room slip-seat project, but they’re not meant for upholstering a fully upholstered chair.

My first staple gun was a FASCO long nose. I like the long nose for getting into the areas that can be more difficult for a short nose staple gun.  Areas like deep channels along decorative wood, and the top of the rails underneath your liner board.

So what do I mean when I say crown?

The crown is the width across the top of the staple. That’s the part of the staple that still shows once it’s in the project holding the fabric. The width of that crown is made to fit the staple guns.

So let’s talk about the different staple guns and how to make sure you purchase the staples to fit the gun you buy.  Different brand staple guns often take a different size staple crown. The Fasco model I have takes fine wire staples, which are 22 gauge staples, and has a three eight-inch crown. The three eight-inch crowns are also called number seven staples or 7 series staples.

Buy the staples that fit your gun.

My new favorite gun is the Sailrite longnose staple gun.  It’s a pneumatic staple gun that takes 21 gauge staples that have a half-inch crown. You can see that the Salrite staple crown is larger than the Fasco in the image above. If you are using vinyl or leather, the Sailrite gun is a great option. The reason why I say that is it uses the heavier 21 gauge staple, and it won’t tear these materials as oftentimes happens with other staple guns.

The Arrow staple gun (it’s the red one in the image above) is a great little stapler, but it won’t work for every upholstery project, because of the safety feature on the nose. This Arrow staple gun takes a T-50 staple, which is a little bigger gauge than the 21 gauge staple the Sailrite gun uses. The T-50 staple has a, 10-millimeter crown width,  just a hair over a three-eighth inch and not quite a half-inch width. So you can see how the crown of each staple varies. In the image above you’ll see all three staple crown sizes that I’ve mentioned.  Now, do you see why you can’t interchange these staples between the different staple guns? It’s important to look at the specification sheets or manuals that come with your staple gun so you can be sure to buy the staples that are right for your staple gun. You can also print these specification sheets out online from their websites. Sailrites specifications list shows what other brand staples are compatible with their staple gun. ( B 80, a FASCO 80, and a Bostich AZ 33.)

The staple leg length is not the same as the crown of the staple.

You will also hear me refer to the leg lengths of the staples in the membership videos. I use 1/4,  3/8, and  9/16 inch long staples. This number refers to the depth that the staple goes into the wood, not the size that fits the gun. When talking about the size staple that fits the staple gun we are in referring to the crown of the staple.

Not all staple guns are made for upholstery!

Another thing that students sometimes show up with at my workshop, which unfortunately they can’t use for upholstery is crown molding staplers. These staple guns have itty bitty crowns and the staple leg length is super long, you definitely don’t want to be pulling those out if you make a mistake.

Staple gun safeties are a good feature but can sometimes get in the way when you are upholstering.

Another thing that I wanted to mention in regards to this arrow pneumatic staple gun is the safety on the front end of the gun.  This safety mechanism is what allows the staple gun to actually shoot staples.  In order for it to release a staple, the safety needs to be pressed completely in as you hold the staple gun down against the surface area you’re stapling to. For example, if you’re working on an area such as the top of the bottom rail underneath your liner boards, where you need to get your staple gun in at an angle, your safety would be in the way.  So it is a good staple gun, but it may not work for all upholstery projects. Now, most likely you could find a way to disable this safety if you choose to use this for your upholstery projects.

What Size staples are most commonly used for upholstery?

(this refers to the leg length of the staple and not the crown.)
  • 1/4″ – used to attach your fabric to the end panels for arms of the furniture. We use two layers of panel board or 1/4″ luan and longer staples would go all the way through.
  • 3/8″ – used to attach your fabric and padding to the frame.
  • 9/16″ – used for attaching your jute webbing strips and sagless that are supporting your body weight. I would also use this longer length when going through multiple layers of material and cardboard tack strips. I would also use these for attaching skirts to an upholstery project.

Let’s have fun shopping for an upholstery staple gun!

So when you’re purchasing your next staple gun, be sure that the brand you’re getting will work for upholstery.
There are many good brands out there, don’t feel like one brand is going to be a lot better than the other. Buy what’s within your budget, and available to you, but make sure that you buy the staples that go with that staple gun you purchase.

I hope this information will be helpful to you when you’re shopping for your upholstery staple gun and buying staples.

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See you on the inside, Kim